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The Cost of Marketing — A Complex Marketing Budget Breakdown

When planning your marketing, one of the most important considerations is your budget. Your budget determines how much you invest in each channel, and optimizing your budget helps you maximize your strategy's results. Learn more about the cost of marketing and how to create the ideal marketing budget for your business below.

Every company, regardless of size, location, or industry, relies on the same thing to succeed: Customers.

Because of that, every company needs a marketing strategy to grow brand awareness and attract new customers.

This might sound straightforward — but if you have experience with marketing, you know it’s anything but. Considering the hundreds of different channels available today, simply choosing which ones to use can be quite a challenge.

Then, planning and managing campaigns is even more time and resource-intensive.

But if you’re in the process of creating a new strategy for your company or exploring your options, one of your main concerns is likely what’s included in a marketing budget, and the cost of marketing as a whole.

Breaking down the cost of marketing is a complex process, mostly because there are so many ways to promote a business. On this page, we’ll discuss several of those options and what your company can expect to pay for each.

If you want to get started with managing your marketing budget, download our free step-by-step guide. If you’d like to speak to a specialist about a custom digital marketing strategy or what’s included in a marketing budget, feel free to email us on

If you’ve done your research online, you know that it can be difficult — if not downright impossible — to get a concrete answer about the cost of marketing.

This is because there are many different channels that you can use for marketing, and it’s up to each individual company to determine which ones are worth their time. As a result, there are as many unique marketing budgets today as there are companies.

Unfortunately, this means that it’s challenging to come up with an across-the-board estimate. But on the flip side, it also means that marketing budgets are highly customizable. Your company can pick and choose the strategies that you want to use and then figure out how much you can spend.

Below, we’ll take an in-depth look at some of the most popular online marketing options today: SEO, web design, content marketing, social media marketing, and email marketing. We’ve provided an estimated cost for each and a breakdown of where those costs come from.

So if you’re looking to create a marketing strategy that works within your company’s budget, or just looking to gain a better understanding of the cost of marketing, you’re in the right place!

Let’s get started.

Cost of search engine optimization (SEO)

Estimated cost: $1500 – $5000 per month What’s included: Keyword research, on-page optimization, analytics setup & reporting, copy additions & updates, technical SEO, and link building.

SEO is everything your company does to improve its rankings in search engines like Google. In a day and age where the majority of consumers research their options online before making a purchase — and many even make those purchases online — it’s absolutely necessary.

When your site ranks well for searches that relate to your industry, you have the ability to reach customers who may have never heard of your company otherwise. But unlike traditional advertising methods, like radio and TV ads, you reach them when they’re already looking to make a purchase.

Instead of interrupting their day-to-day activities (like watching TV or flipping through a magazine), you can use SEO to be there when they’re actively searching out a product or service. This is not only more helpful, but in many cases, more cost-effective.

There are many SEO and Internet marketing agencies that offer search engine optimization, and each has their own way of determining the cost of marketing.

Your company’s SEO cost depends on several variables, including:

  • The number of pages on your site

  • How many keywords you want to target

  • How much site copy you need

  • How competitive your industry is

Most agencies require a startup fee to cover the research and planning that goes into creating your strategy, then charge on a monthly basis.

The pricing is typically customized based on the variables above, and may also vary by the experience level of the agency.

The majority of agencies also offer different pricing options based on how competitive your company wants to be. If you operate in a niche industry and only want to target long-tail keywords — or hyper-specific keywords that imply customer intent — your monthly costs will be lower than if you want to target broad, high-volume searches.

That being said, marketing cost shouldn’t be your only concern when selecting an agency. As you research your options, be sure that you understand the specific strategies each one uses.

An “agency” that builds links from spammy, low-quality sites may be able to achieve results at a low cost in the short term, but they can wind up causing your company the hassle of a search engine penalty. These penalties will remove your site from search results altogether and make it impossible to attract customers online.

On the other hand, an agency that works with your company to earn links from reputable, high-quality sites can help your business gain visibility and grow your business for years to come.

Cost of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising

Estimated cost:$9000-$10,000 per month What’s included: A PPC campaign with varying monthly PPC spend, access to Google Display Network, customer and audience match, and more.

PPC is a great way to bring traffic to your site in a hurry, and it’s a great companion to SEO. Whereas SEO can take a while to produce results, PPC is essentially immediate. As soon as you place PPC ads in search engines, you’ll start driving traffic to your website.

PPC campaigns work on an auction system, so you always know exactly how much you’re paying for an ad, because you decide. You bid on the keywords that you want your ad to rank for, and if you outbid your competitors, you’ll get ad space that targets your specific keyword.

Another great thing about PPC is that you’re only charged when someone clicks your ad. Unlike newspapers or billboards where you pay for ad space, with PPC ads, you only pay for clicks. This makes PPC one of the most cost-efficient Internet marketing strategies out there.

The cost of your PPC campaign depends on the following:

  • How many keywords you want to target

  • How much you want to spend monthly on PPC networks

  • If you’re interested in banner ad design

  • If you’re interested in social media PPC advertising

  • If you’re interested in Google Shopping Management

  • If you need an international campaign

  • And more

The more money you bid for important keywords, the more likely you’ll be to grab an ad spot, but it’s important to make sure the keyword is worth the money that you bid.

You can also decide how many keywords you want to target, if you’re interested in remarketing, social media PPC advertising, or Google Shopping Management. These will also increase the price of your campaign.

Cost of web design

Estimated cost: $1000 – $100,000 (one-time project cost) What’s included: A website built to your company’s specifications.

As the centre of your company’s online presence, your website needs to not only be an accurate reflection of what you have to offer, but also show potential customers why they should choose you over your competitors.

If your company’s site doesn’t accomplish both of these goals (or if you don’t have a website at all), it’s time to start looking for a web design agency. And although web design used to be a highly specialized industry, with only a handful of reputable companies, it’s come a long way in the past decade.

Today, there are thousands of design and development companies that can help your company create a website — meaning that one is bound to be perfect for both your project and budget.

Much like SEO, web design cost depends on several factors. The most important are:

  • The number of pages you need

  • The functionality you want (like ecommerce)

  • The CMS you want to use

  • Whether you need database integration

  • Whether you need copywriting

  • Whether the designer uses a template or makes a website from scratch

Because of the many variables involved, the cost range for a new site is huge. However, one of the most important factors is the last on our list: Whether the designer uses a template.

It’s easy find a decent-looking template online and install it on a server, and that’s exactly what lower-end “web designers” do. And to be fair, many of these templates look professional — but most of them are already being used by hundreds of other businesses and site owners.

If your site is indistinguishable from other companies’ — especially those within your industry — it won’t help you build your brand. So even if you have a unique colour scheme and your logo is everywhere, your site won’t stand out or help potential customers remember you.

On the other end of the spectrum, a talented design and development team can build a site from the ground up based on your company’s branding and goals. They can also make it an integral part of your marketing strategy, and add in all the custom functionality you need.

Cost of content marketing

Estimated cost: $2000 – $10,000 per month. What’s included: Research and development of content ideas, content creation, content distribution & promotion, and link building.

Content marketing refers to the process of writing and publishing text, graphics, videos, downloads, and other materials on your company’s website. It goes hand-in-hand with SEO, and it is one of the most effective ways to attract visitors and links to your site.

However, there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to writing and creating successful content.

In order to attract people to your site, you need to identify topics that your audience is genuinely interested in. Then, the material you create needs to be researched, written, and promoted better than any other content on the same topic.

To accomplish this — and make your content marketing strategy worth it — you’ll most likely need to hire an experienced agency.

A constant stream of content is only effective if it’s high in quality, though, which is why there’s such a wide range in terms of content marketing costs.

Here’s what to consider as you research your options:

  • How much assistance you’ll need with strategy & planning

  • How much content you want to publish per month

  • What formats you want to use

  • How much promotion do you want for your content

At the higher end, a full-service content marketing agency will get to know your company and industry, identify topics, create content to address them, and publish it on your site. In many cases, these agencies also have experience reaching out to well-known sites and blogs in order to gain relevant traffic and publicity for you.

Cost of social media marketing

Estimated cost: $4000 – $7000 per month What’s included: Strategy development, account setup, social media monitoring, writing and scheduling social media posts, and ad campaign management.

When it comes to social media marketing, many companies take a DIY approach. And when companies were just beginning to use platforms like Facebook and Twitter to reach new customers, DIY was often all that they needed.

Now that virtually every company has accounts on multiple platforms, it’s increasingly difficult to stand out and reach customers. Combine that with Facebook’s dismal organic reach, and it may not even seem worth your time.

Fortunately, that’s not the case. Social media can still be a great way to grow brand awareness and attract new customers — it just takes a little more time and effort than posting an update once or twice a month.

That’s where hiring a social media management team can be extremely helpful.

Much like any other marketing channel, your company’s social media strategy depends on your industry and target audience.

Here’s what to consider when determining what you need:

  • How active your audience is on social media

  • What your social media marketing goals are

  • How many platforms you want to advertise on

  • What kind of posts you’re interested in

More expensive social media agencies typically assign fewer accounts to each of their managers, though, meaning that they’ll have more time to spend researching your audience, coming up with a unique social strategy, and creating content that drives engagement. Then, they’ll respond to your followers in a way that aligns with your overall brand.

Cost of email marketing

Estimated cost: $300 – $1500 per month What’s included: Strategy development, template design, copywriting, landing page creation, and testing.

Despite the hundreds of marketing strategies and tactics that have developed since email, it remains one of the most effective ways to market a business.

This is partly because of its low cost and high ROI, and also because it gets your company directly into subscribers’ inboxes. And thanks to the advanced email marketing platforms available today, we’ve come a long way since the days of generic email newsletters.

Your company’s email marketing strategy can be as simple as a monthly list of announcements or as complex as automated campaigns that respond to users’ actions on your site in real time.

Here are the variables you need to consider:

  • The size of your current subscriber list

  • Whether or not you want to segment your lists

  • How often you want to send emails

  • Whether or not you want to automate your strategy

The first step to any successful email marketing strategy is building a strong list of subscribers. These are the people who have opted into hearing from your company, meaning they’re much more likely than the average Internet user to be interested in becoming a customer.

If you don’t have a decent number of subscribers, your email marketing manager’s first priority will be creating a strategy to change that. And even if you do already have a solid list, they’ll still most likely want to develop a strategy to ensure that it continues to grow.

Marketing cost FAQs

How much does digital marketing cost?

Small-to-midsized businesses (SMBs) typically spend from $2500-$12,000 per month, $50-$500+ per hour, and $1000-$7500 per project on digital marketing.

How much does digital marketing cost per channel?

Here are typical estimated costs for some of the most popular digital marketing channels:

  • SEO: $1500 – $5000 per month

  • PPC: $9000-$10,000 per month

  • Web design: $1000 – $100,000 per project

  • Content marketing: $2000 – $10,000 per month

  • Social media marketing: $4000 – $7000 per month

  • Email marketing: $300 – $1500 per month

How much should you budget for marketing?

Companies often spend 7-10% of their overall revenue on marketing. This is just a general rule of thumb, however, and each company should create a strategy tailored to its unique needs.

Want to learn more about what is included in a marketing budget?

There are more ways than ever before to spread the word about a business, both online and off. And while there are certainly companies who spend hundreds of thousands of dollars reaching new customers, that doesn’t have to be the case. If you’re still curious about the cost of marketing and how it applies to your business, RUBYLANEE can help.

Contact RUBYLANEE today to find out how we can help you.

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