How Much Does Digital Marketing Really Cost? (And How Much Should You Spend?)

How Much Does Digital Marketing Really Cost? (And How Much Should You Spend?)

The answer to this question is a simple, “It depends,” but we know that’s never helpful. So, let’s dig a little deeper with a few other questions to find the answer. Questions like:

  • Are you in a mature industry?
  • A new niche?
  • A very competitive category?

**This is an excerpt from the complete guide for preparing your next digital marketing budget. Download it for FREE, here.

Established brands can spend less than startups because they should already have loyal returning customers. A new company, or one that’s in a very competitive space, needs to allocate more. If you’re a CPG company, you’ll be at the top of the budget spend list.


Although there’s no definitive percent of your gross revenue that you should spend, this should at least give you a few benchmarks on where to start.

There are a few areas to focus on as you plan your digital marketing budget. To get your content found and consumed online, it really boils down to allocating budget for these four things:

  • Creating the right content that resonates with your audience
  • Optimizing the content for high search visibility
  • Promoting the content to drive your audience to your site
  • Distributing the content to drive new audience discovery

There are three ways to accomplish these four tasks: You can do it all yourself, collaborate with an agency or hand everything over to an agency.

Which Option is Best for You?

Each approach has its own advantages and disadvantages along with associated degrees of expense. While turning all your content marketing over to an agency could be the costlier approach, it could also be the fastest to implement and see ROI.


Doing it all yourself can be the least expensive, but it will likely take the longest to implement. You’ll also be limited based on your digital marketing expertise and availability of your resources.

The third way to deploy a digital marketing strategy is to do it in conjunction with an agency. Piggyback on their expertise and resources, while learning and implementing best practices across your organization.

We think this third way is the sweet spot; no one knows your business better than you do, but the agency can strategically turn your expertise into deep, targeted content.

Is there a correlation between how much I spend on digital marketing and how effective it is?

According to Content Marketing Institutes 2018 Trends report, the average organization is spending 28% of their overall marketing budget on content marketing. There was also a correlation between the most effective programs and the percent of spend.


How Can You Justify Your Digital Marketing Budget?

Visitors that find your website through a branded search likely already know about you and your organization’s offerings. Since they’ve done a direct search for your name, we can assume they either already know and trust your brand, or are in the consideration or decision-making stage and you’re in the running for their business.

On the other hand, someone that gets to your site through an unbranded organic search didn’t know where they would end up when typing their search query. Because your website showed up in the search results, your content marketing efforts have been proven to cast a wide net and attract top-of-the-funnel (awareness stage) prospects.


It’s important to capture these non-branded organic metrics as they will help you justify and potentially expand your digital marketing budget. Remember, once your content starts resonating with search engines, this traffic will continue, include paid advertising and you can dominate search completely.

The fact is, you can gain new customers by providing useful, helpful and entertaining content consistently. Someone that may have never found your site can be nurtured over time and drawn through your customer journey for a conversion.


“Investing your resources (i.e., time and money) into content marketing will reduce your costs, while simultaneously generating up to 3x the leads you’d have gotten with native or traditional advertising.”

– Neil Patel, Entrepreneur, Investor, Influencer via

How to Find Hidden Funds for Your Digital Marketing Budget

There are two ways to find funds for your digital marketing budget. One way is to just add dollars as newly available funds. The other, and more practical way, is to take funds from marketing strategies that are no longer effective. For example, many companies are taking dollars away from their traditional advertising and moving them to digital marketing.

Once you have an idea on where you are going to allocate your budget, you’ll need to determine the overall budget needed and, in some cases, where you’re going to find the investment dollars. But first, decide on how deep you want to go.

There are three levels of involvement and commitment in digital marketing. Where do you see yourself?

  • We are novices and are just getting our feet wet.
  • We know it’s important but not everyone is on board yet.
  • We are ‘all-in’ and on our way to creating a culture of digital marketing.

NewsCred suggests that you start looking to fund your marketing budget by advocating for a small piece of a larger, already established budget…like an advertising budget.

Asking for a small percentage of a larger advertising budget for short-lived campaigns is a good place to start looking for budget donations.

If you’ve already allocated funds for marketing, look to see what channels have become ineffective, and move those dollars to your digital marketing budget. We work with many clients that have reallocated funds or who are considering adjusting funds based on reviews of their current results. It’s a great way to start to make a case to the decision makers who need to see hard numbers.

Attribution is becoming more and more important. What channels are working the best and giving an assist to the conversion? It’s not always first or last touch that should get 100% of the attribution.

  • Did content assist in the sale?
  • Did a video assist?
  • What about traditional marketing like newspaper, radio or outdoor?
  • What impact do they have on conversions?

Without looking at attribution, you won’t know what is driving conversions and you won’t know where to allocate budget based on the actual results of the tactic or channel.


How Much Should You Budget for Digital Marketing This Year?

This was an excerpt from the complete guide for preparing your next digital marketing budget. Continue reading by downloading our free eBook and start growing your business like never before.

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Mike Huber

As the Director of Business Strategy at Vertical Measures, Mike Huber works with potential clients to determine if they are a good fit for our team's expertise and capabilities. He's constantly on the phone or exchanging emails that are full of ideas and thoughtful recommendations based on the potential client's current situation. Mike has a wealth of experience in marketing and advertising. Starting out in newspaper advertising, he has seen the transformation of print to digital. For the past 15 years, he has been involved in online marketing, developing extensive PPC programs and organic SEO tactics, resulting in a significant growth, traffic, and revenue for clients. Mike is an accomplished public speaker and presents frequently on advertising and online marketing topics. When he's not at work, you can find him out fly fishing, hiking or enjoying his log cabin in the mountains north of metro Phoenix. + Mike Huber