SEO – How much should you budget for content?

SEO - How much should you budget for content?


As you build a content marketing strategy for your brand, you may encounter one key area that stumps you – especially if you’re new to content.

Budget.

How much should you budget for content?

That’s a great question with a kind of disappointing answer. 

It depends.

Thankfully, this guide will explain all the various factors that will affect your budgeting decisions:

  • Business size
  • Industry
  • Overall marketing budget
  • Competition
  • Goals
  • Tools
  • Insourcing vs. outsourcing

I’ll also give you some benchmark budgeting numbers that could help you determine where your brand (or your client’s brand) should fall, plus some tips for smart budgeting.

What should be included in your content budget?

First, let’s talk about some basics. You know you should set a budget for content, but what exactly should you budget for? 

At a minimum, this is what you need to produce great content:

  • Content team (either in-house or outsourced)
    • Content manager
    • Content strategist
    • Writers/editors, videographers and graphic designers
  • Tools (monthly/annual subscriptions)
    • Editing and design tools
    • SEO tools for keyword research and rank tracking
    • Analytics tools
    • Content management system
    • Project management system
    • Content calendar tool 
  • Website (your content house)
    • UX design and development
    • Fees and maintenance

And if you’re more advanced in your content marketing, consider budgeting to level your team.

  • Training (for investing in the talent of an in-house team)
    • Courses
    • Workshops
    • Live events and conferences
    • Books and resources

Budgeting benchmarks: What do average companies budget for content?

Now let’s look at some benchmarks. What do most marketers budget for content marketing? 

Most (26%) marketers said their quarterly budget hovered between $40,000 to $80,000, according to a HubSpot survey of over 1,000 respondents. 

The second-largest chunk of people (15.8%) said they spend $101,000 to $200,000 quarterly. And the third-largest (11%) said they spend $1-11K.

Overall, 51% of marketers spend $80,000 or below on content marketing quarterly. However, this data mixes responses from all business sizes and industries, so keep in mind that the average might not reflect the reality for large-scale enterprises, start-ups, or solopreneur brands.

Additionally, most marketers don’t devote 100% of their budgets to content marketing. Most have an overarching marketing budget of which a percentage is allocated to content. 

The majority allocate 10-49% of their total marketing budget to content, according to Content Marketing Institute’s yearly report.

Percentage of total marketing budget spent on B2B content

While all this data might help you narrow your options, don’t set your budget based solely on what others are doing.

For example, if most other brands in your space only set aside 5% of their marketing budgets for content, that’s a great opportunity to differentiate. You could set your business apart by investing more in content.

I always err on the side of investing more vs. less because I’ve seen and experienced how well content marketing can work to grow a business.


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Content budgeting by industry

What does content budgeting look like across different industries? Which industries invest more, and which invest less?

Gartner’s Annual State of Marketing Budget and Strategy and Deloitte’s CMO Survey answer these questions.

First, know that marketing budgets overall are climbing again after a pandemic dip.

Here’s the average per industry, with numbers representing the percentage of total revenue companies spend on marketing annually:

  • Service consulting – 21% of total revenue
  • Healthcare – 18%
  • Retail wholesale – 14%
  • Manufacturing – 13%
  • Financial services – 10.4%
  • Technology – 10.1%
  • Communications media – 10% 
  • Travel and hospitality – 8.4%
  • Consumer goods – 8%
  • Transportation – 6%
  • Consumer services – 6%
  • Education – 3%
  • Energy – 1%

Content budgeting by business size

Most businesses budget 8.7% of their total revenue for marketing. However, this number drastically changes depending on the business’s size, age, and industry. Let’s look at the most common categories to see how budgeting works for each.

How much should new businesses budget for content?

New businesses – especially those new to content – should start on the low end of the budget spectrum and scale up as you find what works and what doesn’t.

  • Before you budget anything, make sure you build a content strategy that will guide the direction of your efforts. Set goals for your content, and look at what you’ll need to invest in to meet those goals.
  • Look at the average spend for your industry and figure out how that would translate to your brand. For instance, a solopreneur consultant with an annual revenue of $50,000 might allocate $10,500 per year, or about $2,600 per quarter, to their marketing budget based on the industry average.

Remember, a budget isn’t a spending imperative – it’s a limit. Setting that limit doesn’t mean spending every cent of it. Instead, find ways to save money as you start.

For example, new business owners might start by managing content themselves and hiring a contractor to create content on a regular, if pared-down, schedule.

Invest in the “starter” plans for most tools. Keep it to the essentials only: a keyword research tool, a free analytics tool like Google Analytics, a content management system, and a content calendar.

As the business grows, the budget might also grow to include hiring a dedicated content manager and in-house creator or hiring a full-service agency. 

How much should small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs) budget for content?

More established companies with more employees can afford to make some extremely smart investments in content marketing. 

Businesses must determine whether to build a content team in-house or outsource at this level. Either way, you can afford to have dedicated people working on your content creation and managing your campaigns. Forget hiring individual contractors. Invest in consistency for your content, as it’s a big success factor.

The total amount to budget per year or quarter depends on lots of individual factors. Look at the average spend for your industry, but also look at what your competitors are doing. What amount will you need to invest to get on the same level – or better?

Most small businesses budget $5,000 to $15,000 monthly for marketing, with content taking up 25-30% of that total.

Small business marketing budget

How much should large enterprises budget for content?

Large enterprises – generally, businesses that boast over 1,000 employees – have the means to go wild with content marketing. 

They could go all-in for fast but lasting results. After all, publishing more content often equates to increased traffic and leads. And investing more in content leads to more success.

What does “going all-in” look like for your budget?

  • Building a fully-stacked, in-house, expert content team with a content manager, strategist, web developer, editor, graphic designer, videographer, and writers/creators who can publish 2-5 high-quality blogs per week.
  • High-level development and training for your team to produce their best work in the long run.
  • Additional agency help to fill in gaps (promotions and outreach, paid media, etc.).
  • Top tools, including nice-to-haves like editing tools, AI content tools, and anything else that streamlines or automates your workflows.

What about numbers? If we go by the average percentage of yearly revenue most companies budget for content – 8.7% — that means an enterprise that nets $10 million would allocate $870,000 to marketing per year, with 25-30% of that going toward content initiatives (around $217,000). 

Or, if we look at self-reported numbers, most enterprises’ average annual content budget hovers around $425,000.

Unfortunately, there’s often a lot of pushback and hesitancy in larger companies toward content as a vehicle for growth.

For this reason, marketers working within a larger company may need to work harder to earn buy-in for their content activities. They may need to outright prove the worth of content to various levels of higher-ups to get the kind of buy-in their enterprise is capable of.

So, in reality, many marketers in large enterprises are actually working with a budget that’s more akin to a small-to-mid-sized business. But you can do a lot with a little – as long as you have a content strategy.

9 key tips when budgeting for content

Budgeting for content is never as straightforward as you would hope. But that doesn’t mean it has to be a painful process.

Use these tips to make it more seamless – and make your budget work for the brand.

1. Set goals and build a content strategy, first

The best way to define your content budget is to set goals first. Clarify what you want to achieve, and then you can calculate your budget accordingly so you can reach those objectives.

And don’t forget that goal-setting is the indispensable first step in building a content strategy.

The other steps involved will also help you with budgeting, including defining your audience and researching their preferences. This will help determine the channels you invest in and the types of content you create and publish.

Define your goals, create a strategy, and you’ll have a much easier time setting up a budget. You may find that your budgeting decisions are made for you once your strategy is in place.

2. Look at past spending

If you’ve been in business for over a year, you have data you can look at to inform your content budgeting decisions going forward.

  • What did you spend last year on content?
  • What specific areas did you focus on (e.g., content creation, promotion, strategy, etc.)?
  • What results did you generate from those efforts?
  • What investment will you need to make to increase your results and meet your goals this year?

3. Low budget? Focus on organic content

Organic content marketing is low-cost marketing (it costs 62% less than traditional advertising!). That makes it a great time/effort investment for bootstrapped businesses.

Even starting small is better than doing nothing at all. And, once your budget increases, you can ratchet up your efforts accordingly.

Lastly, another low-cost way to up your content marketing is to invest time and effort into repurposing and updating old content. Every content piece you create is fodder for creative rejiggering, from turning a blog post into an infographic or video to creating show notes from podcast episodes and posting them on your blog or website.

4. Invest for the long-term

Content is a long-term game that’s more cost-effective the longer you do it. That also means you’ll need to swallow some up-front costs to get the results you want.

For example, you can’t budget for one month of SEO content and expect to get anything from it. You’ll need to implement your SEO strategy for 6-12 months before you see any gains, so you must also budget with that expectation in mind.

5. Don’t be afraid to hire expert help

Feeling out of your depth with content budgeting? Hire an expert to help you unravel it all. For example, a content strategist can look at your strategy in-depth and create a proposed budget that aligns with your needs, resources, and goals.

Or, if you want to take the entire content process off your hands, from building a strategy to budgeting to content creation and distribution, consider hiring a full-service content marketing agency.

6. Don’t treat the content budget as ‘leftovers’

Your content budget should not be comprised of whatever is leftover from all your other business spending.

If your budgeting is random, your results will also be random.

You also shouldn’t ballpark your budget. Don’t throw out a number because it “sounds good” or makes you feel comfortable and safe.

Instead, your budget should be rooted in your content strategy and goals. It should support them, so that none of your actions toward your goals are underfunded or incomplete.

Remember, budget for the success you want to achieve!

7. Look at what your competitors are doing

What are your competitors investing in content? This is a good way to judge what you should be doing (or maybe even surpassing).

For example, look at your competitors’ blogs, social media presences, and other content channels.

  • How much are they publishing per week, per channel?
  • What kinds of content are they producing?
  • What might you need to budget to reach this level or surpass it?

8. Don’t spread your budget too thin

While investing in establishing a presence on every channel possible may seem like a great idea, that’s not the best use of your budget.

Instead, hone your focus on one or two channels and invest in growing in those places. For example, spend your budget beefing up your website with content and building your SEO rankings.

Give your attention and budget to the channels that make the most sense for your industry and audience. Attempting to grow on every channel spreads your resources too thin, so you’ll end up with lackluster results. 

9. Continually review and evaluate the budget

A content budget should never fall into the category of “set it and forget it.”

Instead, you should be revisiting your budget regularly and evaluating whether it’s still working to grow the business effectively.

If, after a solid chunk of time, one of your investments isn’t producing results at the level you’d expect, pivot with your spending. Cut the dead weight and funnel that money elsewhere.

Your budget isn’t engraved into a stone tablet. Instead, it’s an ever-evolving, flexible limit you can edit as needed. 

How much you budget for content depends on your unique circumstances

Budgeting for content is an extremely individual process for every business. No two budgets will ever look the same.

For this reason, never assume that what works for others will work for your brand. 

Sure, examine benchmark numbers and your competition to find a starting point.

But, after that, take a deep look at your industry, audience, goals, content strategy, and revenue/resources to determine the best content budget to grow your unique brand.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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