A Helpful Guide to the Cost of Digital Marketing

When you’re a small business or a start-up, or perhaps even an established business starting to get your feet wet in digital marketing, it can be hard to know what specifically to invest in— especially if money is tight.

The good news is that it’s not as expensive as you might think, and there’s also a lot you can do on your own or in-house. The following is a breakdown of digital marketing as an expense to your business.

Your Options for Execution


The great thing about digital marketing is that you can do much of it yourself. Most businesses opt to manage their social media accounts as this is the easiest of the digital marketing strategies and there’s not much of a learning curve.


Hiring a freelancer is a helpful option when you’re looking for guidance in creating a digital marketing strategy for your business. A freelancer with expertise in this industry can also be of assistance with the more complex digital marketing tasks with a higher learning curve, like designing a digital sales funnel, creating social media and search ads, SEO, and link building.

Some freelancers will offer more comprehensive services to execute a digital strategy or be able to refer you to other freelancers with expertise in content marketing, social media management, web development, or graphic design.

Digital marketing freelancer rates in the US start at $50 an hour. Most US-based freelancers prefer the hourly model while UK and European freelancers tend to prefer either a project-based payment system or a monthly retainer fee.


Many agencies offer more all-inclusive packages for your digital marketing that do everything for you from creating your custom digital marketing strategy to executing on that strategy. If you don’t have the resources to execute digital marketing in-house, then this might be the best option for you.

According to a survey featured on Entrepreneur, the most popular services that clients of agencies seek are:

  1. SEO
  2. PPC Management
  3. Social Media
  4. Content Marketing
  5. Analytics & UX

It’s common for agencies to use monthly-retainer contracts, and the average industry fee for one of these contracts comes to about $1,000. The bigger the agency is, the more services that they provide. If you lack the resources to do your marketing yourself but have the funds to do out-source it, then hiring an agency is ideal for your business.

The Price Guide

When it comes to digital marketing, many businesses say they’re either going to do it right or not at all. There are so many elements to digital marketing that it can be difficult to judge what exactly it takes to do it well.

We put together a supplement post about “4 Important Ways to Build a Website that  Works for You” that can help with the web building process.

Moz has a visual guide that helps you to understand what digital options are best suited for your business:

Moz digital marketing


As you can see, all digital marketing efforts either require your (or someone else’s) time or money or both. So there’s no easy answer to how much you should budget for marketing your business— every business has different digital marketing needs and priorities, and different skill sets in-house.

But what exactly is the breakdown for each of these digital marketing tactics?

Content Marketing

While content marketing may not seem like a high priority, it’s proven to have one of the highest ROI’s out of all the digital marketing strategies.

This survey by Econsultancy in 2014 affirms this as content marketing is just behind SEO and email marketing regarding effectiveness:

 digital marketing services


Content marketing is rather inexpensive compared to other digital marketing tactics. However, it is rather time-consuming. If you’re in an industry or business that can benefit from content marketing, then it might be best to outsource writing jobs to a freelancer.

There is no shortage of writing freelancers out there. You can connect with quality, reliable, inexpensive writers on freelance platforms such as Upwork and Fiverr fairly quickly. Some freelancers will offer their services for as low as $1 per 100 words written!


It’s the most in-demand service and also one of the most proven digital marketing methods out there. Because of this, it’s also one of the more expensive digital marketing services.

There are many agencies out there that offer SEO services, and the monthly-retainer fee often covers the cost of SEO.

However, if you are keen on executing SEO strategy in-house, there are a myriad of software created specifically to help you with SEO. Monthly software plans can range anywhere from $90 to $1,000.

Social Media Marketing

Many marketers don’t find social media marketing to have as good of an ROI than other digital marketing strategies. However, as search engine rankings become more and more saturated and difficult for smaller businesses to break into, social media marketing is becoming more important for reaching relevant audiences.

In fact, many would argue that social media ads are far more cost effective than, say, Google ads. And why is that? Because of social media, Facebook, in particular, is very good at reaching targeted audiences for cheap. That being said, you can’t invest in all the social platforms.

Instead, it’s best to invest in one or two platforms. We won’t tell you which ones to invest in, but if you look at this chart, it’s pretty clear which ones will get you the most bang for your buck:

social network users


In addition to investing in social media ads, it’s also a good idea to invest in a social media management software. Many software will offer versions of their management services for free, such as Buffer, HootSuite, and Iconosquare. But there are of course paid versions as well that allow you to do more, with plans ranging from $9 to $500 per month depending on your needs.

For a detailed price listing, check out this spreadsheet.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is still, by and large, the most effective of digital marketing strategies. It has the best ROI out of all the marketing options and is also simple to do in-house.

There is a plethora of email marketing SaaS to assist you in automated campaigns, creating segmented lists, A/B testing, and providing analytical feedback. As with social media management software, there are also free versions of email marketing software such as MailChimp and ActiveCampaign.

Pricing models for paid versions of email marketing SaaS are either based on emails sent per month, a number of subscribers, or credits. You can find more detailed information on software and pricing here.


PPC (pay-per-click) is a service provided by many freelancers and agencies alike. Like SEO, this is a service that is in high demand and has a decent ROI. The average cost of conversion from Google Adwords in 2016 according to Hochman Consultants was $33.

Again, as search engines become more saturated, it may be wise to invest more of your marketing dollars in social media, but for now, it remains a useful marketing tactic.

Analytics & UX

Though it’s a positive thing that businesses are interested in user experience design and continuously updating their strategies by measuring them with analytics, this is not necessarily a service that needs to be outsourced to an agency.

There is plenty of software out there that can assist you in creating the best user experience on your website— like HotJar, Crazy Egg, Unbounce, and Optimizely. In many cases, buying a plan for some software is more affordable than outsourcing UX to an agency. The software can cost between $25 to $2,000 monthly depending on the services you’re looking for.

Check out a more detailed price listing for this kind of software here.


Whether you choose to outsource your digital marketing to a freelancer or agency, or you opt to do it in-house, you will find the cost of digital marketing is far less than the cost of traditional marketing. In any case, it’s always best to assess your business needs and do some research before deciding on how to spend your marketing dollars.

For assistance with your digital marketing needs, check out the services we offer at Bright Vessel.