Content marketing establishes your expertise, provides value to your customers, and keeps your business at the front of customers' minds when they're ready to make a purchase. Because of its many benefits, content marketing is foundational to a solid inbound marketing strategy. Although content marketing is significantly less expensive and more effective than traditional marketing — generating six times more leads at 62% of the cost — it can still be a significant expense.
According to Forbes, you should invest 25% to 30% of your marketing budget into content marketing. Although you probably feel like that's plenty to budget for the labor and promotion costs associated with creating content, it may surprise you to find out about the hidden costs of content marketing that you'll have to account for in your budget.
7 Hidden Content Marketing Costs
Analyzing and cutting down on the hidden expenses related to content creation can help you get more out of your content marketing budget and increase your return on investment (ROI). Content cost, meaning all the stages of research, creation, and development that create valuable content for your audience.
1. Project Management
A successful content marketing plan takes the skills and contributions of many people. And there are several necessary steps in executing it. Simply adding some keywords to a few blog posts won't get you very far. Your content marketing needs a backing of methodical, data-driven planning to be effective.
Efficient project management will save you money by keeping your content marketing campaign running on schedule and making sure you're tracking all of the different elements in real-time. An editorial calendar will also ensure you time your content publication to get maximum engagement and impact.
You need a project management tool that can coordinate all of the different tasks associated with implementing your content marketing campaign, from your initial brainstorming sessions to measuring the results of your efforts. Of course, you can do a lot with free tools like Google Calendar and Google Drive, but that's probably not enough to handle a full-scale campaign.
Instead, you'll have better results by combining free Google tools with a dedicated project management solution like Asana, which has pricing options that range from free to $24.99 per user per month. CoSchedule is another project management software that specifically aims to benefit marketers. The basic marketing calendar is free and the Pro Plan, which has more features, is $29 per user per month.
2. Content Audit
Before you can set meaningful goals for your content marketing strategy, you need to know where you stand currently. Unless you're starting from scratch, you probably already have some content on your website and social media channels. Having some starting metrics in terms of traffic and audience engagement will help you set goals and measure the success of your content marketing plan.
Google Analytics is an excellent free tool to analyze the performance of your website's content. You can also use tools such as Hotjar or Crazy Egg to better understand how visitors behave on your site and do A/B testing to improve your website's performance.
A lot of research goes into creating a good content marketing strategy. Fortunately, in this era of big data, most of the information you want is available somewhere. Unfortunately, it's probably buried in an impenetrable wall of data. Finding it can be a challenge. Content marketing generally involves the following types of research:
Target Audience Research
Before you can design content that will amaze and delight your target audience, you need to understand them. If your target audience is looking for in-depth, well-researched guides and you give them slick Tiktok memes, you'll miss the mark.
You can use several free tools to do audience research. For example, Google Analytics will give you data about what content on your site has been attracting the most traffic. In addition, Hubspot's free tool, Make My Persona, will guide you through creating a buyer persona.
Analyzing your competitors' content and determining what's performing well for them can give you a head start in creating your content. There are several premium tools you could use for this, but if you're on a budget, Ahrefs lets you access some tools for free. You can also learn a lot by analyzing your competitor's website yourself. Make a note of factors such as:
- How often they post content
- The topics they cover
- Audience engagement
- Writing style
- Channels they use the most
Keyword research involves figuring out the specific phrases your target audience is using. Then, when planning your content, you can optimize for these keywords to deliver the content your audience wants. You can use several free tools for keyword research, including Google Trends and Ahrefs Free Keyword Generator.
If you search for a keyword on Google, the People Also Ask box and the Related Searches options are all related keywords that people often search.
4. Graphic Design
No matter how valuable your content is, you'll lose a significant portion of your audience if it's poorly designed. Hiring a graphic designer is expensive, but there are DIY options if you're trying to trim your budget. Canva is one of the best graphic design programs on the market. Many professional graphic designers use it for its simplicity.
You can take advantage of their free option or access more features starting at $9.99 per month for up to five users. They have a large selection of professionally designed templates that you can use to create graphics for social media posts. You will also have access to a large selection of stock photography.
Over is another option for creating stunning visuals. You can customize one of their templates or create your own graphic with their elements. You can try out their free option or upgrade to the Pro plan for $69.99 per year.
Good photography is a crucial element in appearing professional. For general photography, there are many options for free stock photos. For example, Unsplash has beautiful free images. Pexels is another free site for gorgeous photography.
Most of the images on free stock sites will be lifestyle photos, which is helpful if your topics are broad. If you have an unusual niche, you'll have a more challenging time finding appropriate free images. Sites that charge for stock photos will have a more extensive selection and more specialized topics. Shutterstock offers a subscription-based service for $29 per month for up to 10 images per month.
5. Interviewing and Hiring Writers
In addition to paying writers to create content, you also have the hidden cost of interviewing, hiring, and onboarding writers if you're hiring them as employees. If you're using freelance writers, you still have expenses for interviewing them and determining if they're a good fit. Talented writers can be hard to find, and freelancers who write as a side hustle can be unreliable.
In most cases, your most important content will come from your writers. There's no point in spending your budget on research, design, search engine optimization (SEO), and other periphery tasks if you aren't going to provide your audience with top-notch, stellar content. If your audience finds your content through your promotional efforts but it's poorly written and riddled with mistakes, you'll repel them.
Overall, it's worth spending a little extra on professional, reliable writers. However, there are still ways you can save on interviewing and hiring writers. Outsourcing content writing and editing through content writing services can reduce the cost of producing your content and ensure you get the high-quality content you need.
Content creation rates will vary based on your services, but you'll pay more for specialized writers and editing services. Compose.ly offers competitive rates and professional, experienced content writers trained in SEO best practices.
6. Content Optimization
Content optimization is how you ensure that your content will achieve its goal. SEO is a part of content optimization, but it isn't the whole story. If you focus too much on SEO tactics, you may decrease your content's relevance because search engines are constantly updating their algorithms to more closely match user intent.
Keyword-stuffing is an outdated strategy that was never very effective. However, many marketers still try to optimize their content for search engines rather than humans. In their State of Content Marketing 2022 Global Report, Semrush analyzed 24,000 articles ranked in the top 10 by Google. All of these articles shared four common characteristics:
- A consistent tone of voice
- SEO best practices
Writing in a natural tone of voice and structuring your article to be comprehensive, easy to understand, and original should be your primary focus. Once you've done that, you should optimize it for SEO by adding a meta description and including metadata in your title, photo descriptions, and page URLs.
You can use Grammarly to optimize your content. This AI-powered writing assistant goes beyond merely spell-checking to help you identify readability issues in your content. The basic plan is free, or you can pay $30 per month for the premium plan, which offers more robust grammar checks and additional features like a plagiarism checker.
If you have a WordPress website, you have access to free SEO tools to analyze your content and offer suggestions for improving your SEO. Yoast is one of the most popular WordPress plugins and has a free option. If you opt for the paid version, it's $99 per year.
Finally, the MozBar is a Chrome extension that helps with content marketing for pricing pages or any other kind of webpage. It's a free tool that is good for analyzing the SEO of your websites and any page you're visiting.
7. Video Content Creation and Production
Video content is viral right now. People watch an average of 19 hours of video weekly online. It may be a holdover from the pandemic or a fundamental shift in content consumption, but online video viewing has almost doubled since 2018.
Videos encourage social selling and increase engagement on all social media platforms. For example, Instagram, which originated to share photos with Polaroid-style filters, has evolved to focus on sharing video content.
Thankfully, you don't need a lot of expensive equipment or editing software to produce high-quality video content. You can create shareable videos on your smartphone. However, creating video content does have a learning curve.
If you want to save money on video content creation, plan on starting small and learning as you go. Here are some tips to get you started.
Planning out your shots is one of the most significant ways to save on video creation and production. Planning your script will save you time because you'll shoot without wasting time with filler content. You also won't have to spend as much time in post-production because you won't need to cut out as many "ums" and "uhs."
Focus on Sound and Light
Shooting in natural, even light will enhance your lighting and improve the quality of your videos. Avoid harsh light or light with a lot of contrast, because it will interfere with your phone's ability to focus. Invest in a decent microphone before you upgrade your camera. Poor sound quality can ruin a video, so check for annoying background noise.
Use Free Tools for Post-Production
Adobe's Premiere Rush is a video-editing app that lets you clip, connect, and perform other edits right on your phone. You can upload your videos to YouTube and other social sites directly from the app. If you're just starting with video content creation, it's an inexpensive, intuitive solution.
Maximize Your Content Marketing Budget
Reducing hidden content marketing costs will give you a better ROI on your budget. However, it's important not to skimp on your actual content. Many free and inexpensive tools function just as well as their more expensive counterparts, but you also have to consider the labor cost involved in DIY solutions.
A comprehensive step-by-step plan for your content marketing strategy will keep you on track and point out areas where you can cut costs by using cheaper options. Your first step will be determining who is on your content marketing team and their talents and skillsets.
Once you know that, you can decide when a cheap or free option is best and when it's worth bringing in experts. Regardless of what you ultimately choose, intentionally allocating your content marketing budget will ensure you get the best results.