CSS Inspire – Weigh costs of digital marketing before making decision | Expert column | Inside Business Columns


Before outsourcing your digital marketing, it’s important to understand the costs. The costs vary widely in the industry. You can outsource or hire within.

Digital marketing encompasses many different services such as search engine optimization, social media, content marketing, pay-per-click advertising, email campaigns, web design, web analytics and RSS. Each digital marketing agency or consultant offers varying combinations of these services and prices will be higher with additional services.

Most digital marketing consultants and agencies use one of three common engagement models: project-based fees, monthly retainer contracts or hourly rates. We’ve included a fourth one – employment – to ensure you know all your options.

The following engagement models are sorted from potentially least expensive to most expensive. Keep in mind your cost and experience will vary based on your industry, region and specific needs.


Entrepreneur.com surveyed freelancers from 16 countries and found they typically charge $50-$100 per hour. Every hour spent on your project is billable, regardless of the task performed. So answering email, time in meetings, etc, will end up on your invoice.

The upside of hourly work is you only pay for what you use. The downside is the number of hours could spin out of control if you don’t keep a watchful eye on progress.


A monthly retainer contract fee typically ranges between $1,000-$3,000 in the U.S. Larger agencies will offer more services for higher prices to larger clients. A survey by SEOmoz found the most common price brackets for monthly retainers range between $251-$500 a month (13.8 percent of respondents) and $2,501-$5,000 per month (11.3 percent of respondents).


An informal survey by SEOmoz found that project pricing is very popular in the digital marketing industry, and prices per project tend to range from $1,000-$7,500. This is the price for a one-time project.

Follow-up work requires an additional engagement and thus more work and cost for you.


Companies often believe full time employees are the most cost efficient way of getting the digital marketing needed. This typically results in one person being hired to fulfill all of the responsibilities.

This single person bring a single set of experiences and technical experiences, so they will be limited in what they can contribute. They also represent a single point of failure – if they get hit by a bus or win the lottery, then you’ll have no backup.

You will pay the employee for every hour of the day plus benefits such as health care and paid time off. Employee salaries range from $35,000 a year to more than $100,000 depending on the experience level. Benefits typically boost the cost by 15 percent or more, not to mention the cost of a computer, IT support, cell phone, etc.


It is important to understand how whatever the cost, there should always a return on investment. Today it is much easier for marketers to measure the impact of campaigns, so it should be relatively easy for a digital marketing agency to provide metrics to ensure you’ve made a valuable investment.

Your ROI is what you should focus on while keeping your costs to a minimum.

About the Expert

Jake Maines is the Digital Marketing Manager at Array Digital. Companies come to Array Digital when their software holds them back from growing. Reach him at [email protected] or at 888.338.5252 x 2.

Jake Maines is the digital marketing manager at Array Digital, which designs, develops and promotes digital products. Reach him at [email protected] or at 888-338-5252, extension 2.


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