How Much Should I Spend on Content Marketing in 2017?

How Much Should I Spend on Content Marketing in 2017?

As we are winding down the year, many companies are planning their digital marketing budgets for the next year. Within that budget, they are wondering: how much should I spend on my content marketing budget in 2017?

Putting together a digital strategy that includes content marketing can be a daunting task. To some it might seem like putting together a 1,000 piece puzzle with pieces from 5 different boxes with 5 different scenes.

Let me offer up some ideas on how to build your content marketing budget, where the money might come from, and how to allocate your budget across the different items you’ll want to include to be successful, including these major elements that you should consider for 2017:

  • A documented content marketing strategy
  • Topic ideation and a content calendar
  • Keyword mapping and optimization of your content
  • Content development
  • Content amplification including both promotion and distribution
  • Lead nurture
  • Measurement

Content Marketing As a Digital Strategy is Maturing

We travel throughout the world doing content marketing workshops. When we started presenting these workshops about 5 years ago, most of our audience wasn’t familiar with the concept of content marketing. Now, almost the entire audience is familiar with the concept and already participating in content marketing to some degree.

In fact, according to a recent survey by CMI, 88% of organizations said they are using content marketing. (2016 B2B Content Marketing Trends —North America: Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs).

The biggest concern now is, how can you get your content marketing to produce results?

Content Marketing is maturing as a digital marketing format.

First of all, you want to make sure what you’re doing is actually content marketing. Some companies are unclear about what content marketing really is. They get it confused with branded content. In content marketing, you should be answering questions, solving problems, and reaching your audience at every stage of the sales funnel. If you’re just talking about yourself, you’re doing it wrong.

david beebe

“Content Marketing is like a first date. If all you do is talk about yourself, there won’t be a second date.”

– David Beebe, VP of Global Creative and Content Marketing, Marriott International via LinkedIn

In order to truly create content that moves the needle and reach your target audience where they hang out online, you must increase your budget.

Here’s a question you need to ask yourself, ‘What did you spend on paid search because you don’t rank for your keywords organically?’ That is a place to start to determine the scope of what your content marketing budget should be for 2017. You will also need to ask some other questions like:

  • How much of your overall marketing budget are you spending on content marketing?
  • Will you spend more or less on content marketing in 2017?
  • Is your content marketing program effective? How do you know?
  • Where can you get the additional funds you need to increase the frequency of publication?
  • What will you measure in 2017 to determine if your program is successful?

Let’s go into some of these questions in more detail…

What should my content marketing budget be for 2017?

There are a few areas to focus on as you plan your content marketing budget for 2017. In order to get your content found and consumed, it really boils down to allocating budget for these four things.

  1. Creating the right content that resonates with your audience
  2. Optimizing the content for high search visibility
  3. Promoting the content to drive your audience to your site
  4. 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 turn it all over to an agency.

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

diy agency content marketing

Doing it all yourself can be the least expensive, but it will take the longest to implement. You’ll also be limited based on how much expertise you have directly related to content marketing and to the availability of your resources.

The third way to deploy a content 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 because no one knows your business better than you do, but the agency can strategically turn your expertise into targeted, deep content.

In-house vs. agency content marketing. Why not both? The relationship drives the best results. Click To Tweet

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

In a recent survey, 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. B2B marketers that allocate 42% of their budget to content marketing were the most effective while marketers that spent 15% were the least effective with their content marketing programs. Of those companies surveyed, 51% said they will increase their content marketing budgets in the coming year.

CMI statistic

Source: 2016 B2B Content Marketing Trends—North America: Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs

How to Find Hidden Funds for your 2017 Content Marketing

There are 2 ways to find funds for your content 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.

Now that 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, make a decision on how deep you want to go.

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

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

content marketing budget
NewsCred, in a great slide deck they’ve posted on, suggests that you start looking to fund your content marketing budget by advocating for a small piece of a larger, already established budget….like an advertising budget.

If you’ve already allocated funds for marketing, look to see what channels have become ineffective, and move those dollars to your content marketing budget for 2017. 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.

Michael Brenner

“Content marketing allows you to gain additional reach, engagement and conversion without having to pay for it. You can literally earn your audience’s attention vs. buying it.

– Michael Brenner, Marketing Insider Group, via CMI.

How can I justify my content marketing budget?

Justification for expanding a content marketing budget first and foremost has to go hand-in-hand with an understanding of how content marketing works. Most importantly, organic search is going to be the potent source of data to tell the success (or failures) of your program.

Visitors to your site that find you through a branded search likely already know about you and your company’s products and services. 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 phase of their conversion process, and you’re in the running.

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

It’s important to capture these non-branded organic metrics as they will help you justify and potentially expand your content marketing budget. Remember, once your content starts resonating with the search engines, this traffic will continue, unlike paid advertising that stops when you stop spending. 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 down your sales funnel for an ultimate conversion.

Neil Patel

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

Here are a few answers to questions that will come up with justifying your content marketing budget.

How can I calculate the value of my organic traffic?

Look at your analytics and first filter out all traffic except for ‘organic.’  Then filter out all your branded searches. Look at the volume of search after you excluded all paid traffic and apply a cost per click to that traffic. What you are trying to do here is to figure out what that organic traffic would have cost you if you had to pay for it.

What is a good ROI on content marketing?

A 5:1 ratio is considered to be in the middle of expectations. A 10:1 ROI on content marketing is awesome. The bottom line is your ratio will be dependent on the length of your sales cycle and your ability to establish and  track conversions. It will also depend on the competitive nature of your industry.


In this example, 5,500 visitors came to your site through organic, non-branded search. If you had to ‘buy’ that traffic it would have cost you $6,500. So, your content earned that amount of traffic and the good news is that it will continue to do so, and hopefully even grow over time.

5,500 visitors X 1.25/click = $6,500

Now extend that value over an entire year. The value of that content is now worth $78,000. Once you start tracking and reporting these numbers. it’s easy to justify and expand your content marketing budget.

Again, remember this keeps on working for a long time, unlike a paid program that stops producing results once a campaign is over.

Customer Acquisition Cost from Content Marketing

Want to take your calculations a step further and understand your customer acquisition cost from content marketing? It’s easy to measure paid advertising results since you can drive clicks to landing pages and measure conversions. However, it’s a bit more difficult to track conversions from content marketing. Not impossible, just more difficult.

As content marketers, it time to ‘back up our CAC.’ Can you determine and justify your customer acquisition cost?

Devesh Khanal, describes in great detail how to determine the Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) of content marketing. This will give you some very solid ideas on how to track and quantify your results.  He also includes a downloadable customer acquisition calculator to help you organize your data. If you really want to dig in, he also has a webinar that walks you through figuring out the customer acquisition cost.

Here’s a recording of the webinar that he did to supplement the CAC of Content Marketing post. Jump ahead to about 7:25 to skip past all sorts of intro stuff.

devesh khanal

[Customer acquisition cost for content marketing] depends on the value of a single customer to your company, which is most often represented in two ways: 1) Monthly recurring revenue of a single customer: MRR or 2) Lifetime value of a single customer: LTV.

– Devesh Khanal, Co-Founder of Grow and Convert

How Much is Enough for Your Content Marketing Budget?

Although, he doesn’t include any budget numbers here, Adam Erhart walks you through what you should be thinking about as you deploy your content marketing strategy, including the challenge that you should spend only 20% of the time creating content and 80% of your time promoting and distributing your content. His hypothesis is that the market is saturated with so-so content and you’ve got to create some really great, epic content and then promote the heck out of it. I agree.

There are massive amounts of content being published every day. You’ve got to create content that stands out and you’ve also got to amplify your content. We have an 8 Step Process at Vertical Measures. Two of the eight steps that are really important to make your content marketing effective are:

  • Content Promotion
  • Content Distribution

Both steps are designed to increase the reach and audience of people that will interact with and share your content.  Don’t miss these important steps.  Make sure to include adequate budget for these in your overall plan.

Do you have a plan and the funds to effectively distribute your content?

You’ve got to create some really great, epic content and then promote the heck out of it! Click To Tweet

How to Allocate a Traditional vs. Online Marketing Budget

Don’t fall in love with the medium you’re currently using. You need to spend 5-20% of your time or money to new innovative things, says Gary Vaynerchuck, and content marketing can be one of them. Traditional marketing doesn’t work as well as it used to. You also need to be where your customers are consuming content. Check out this video from Gary V. He’s motivating to watch and most of the time his vocabulary is NSFW.

How Much Should I Spend On Online Marketing in Total?

If you need some ideas on where to spend your general online budget, this video is for you. It will help you by showing all the different content formats. This is a great motion graphics video on how to allocate funds for digital marketing and all the different aspects to be thinking of while you’re creating the budget.

If you’re creating a budget from scratch, it might make sense to see what other businesses are spending. You can use their spend to help justify the budget you will be requesting. Consider your space and how competitive it is. Consider the length of your sales cycle and other aspects of your business that might cause you to increase or decrease your budget compared to these averages.

Although the data is from 2016, it will give you a good idea on where to start with your 2017 content marketing budget.

forrester interactive marketing forecast

Image source: Snap Agency

Make sure as you’re putting together your editorial calendar and deciding on what to create content about, also consider the formats of the content and what channels they will be published in.  Here are some ideas of the kinds of content you can publish.

  • Lists
  • How-to’s
  • Q & A
  • Testimonials
  • Case Studies
  • White Papers
  • Blog Posts
  • Videos
  • Infographics
  • Interviews
  • Curated posts
  • Free Guides
  • Templates
  • Calculators
  • Checklists

Check out this blog post that has 105 Types of Content Marketing.

Hopefully, this information made you think about what to include in your content marketing budget for 2017.  Download the calculators, watch the videos and read the blog posts that are linked to this post to get a more in-depth background on how to go about building your budget. If you have more time, look below for more information on content marketing.

Resources for your 2017 Content Marketing Program

If you need any help in creating a content marketing budget for 2017, I’ve listed some great resources below to help get you started.  Of course, you can read and subscribe to our blog and download some of our great free guides. Or, you can check out the list of resources below:

How to Convince Your Boss

If you’re like most of us, you need to convince your boss to spend more on content marketing.  This website is all about the tools, stats and advice you need to convince your boss to allocate more dollars towards content marketing.

Setting Up Your Budget Plan

Then there’s the actual budget. You need to determine where to allocate funds for 2017. Conveniently, HubSpot just published a template for your digital marketing budget. You can download it here.

How do I create content that ranks well in search engines?

You don’t want to create content just for content sake. You want it to resonate with the search engines. We spend a lot of time considering the keyword focus, URLs, titles and other aspects of  the content we are creating.

Realize that your content will be found for other keywords than what your content focuses on. In fact, even Google stats reveal that over 70% of the organic traffic they send your site will come from ancillary keyword phrases (known as semantics), and not your main focus keywords.

Use Google autocomplete to give you ideas for titles

We use Google as the source for many of our titles.  We start with keyword phrases and see how Google autocompletes the search. We form questions and around the results that search engines are showing us. We also take an additional step and search the actual title we are considering using. The search results page will show if anyone has created that exact title. If not, and we know there is a good search volume, we will definitely consider this title.

What are others saying about content marketing?

One way to learn more about what other companies are focusing on with their content marketing is to look at the presentations they post on Slideshare. Here are some I reviewed as I wrote this post:

Content Marketing  ROI – What’s your formula? – Michael Brenner walks you through how to determine your content marketing ROI.

Content Marketing – Hub Examples – Hub and spoke content marketing is very effective.  Here are some ideas for hubs.

Turn your Brand into a World Class Publisher – News Cred puts out some very good content and you’ll find some great ideas here about developing and publishing some great content.

How Much Should You Spend on Content Marketing? – This presentation answers that question.

Need experts to help craft your 2017 content marketing strategy? Check out our content marketing services.

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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