How Much Does Content Strategy Cost?

A breakdown of prices for small vs. big websites

Andreea Macoveiciuc

Written on 22nd August, 2020 |

8 min read

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One thing that I dislike when searching for a service or a product is to not find the pricing information easily.

That's why when a connection reaches out for advice on content strategy and asks how much they should expect to pay, I try to estimate as accurately as possible, based on their project description.

While the specifics vary depending on the project, the big picture is usually similar, so they’ll know what to expect at least in big lines.

I’ll split this article into two separate parts, to make it easier to follow.

Part 1 will discuss the cost breakdown for developing a content strategy, to give you an idea of what you can expect when hiring someone for this purpose.

Part 2 will discuss the ROI of content strategy and how to calculate it.

Let’s jump directly into the first topic.

What are you paying for when hiring a content strategist?

The development of a content strategy is quite a standard process, once you have a framework. However, the time and effort that goes into it vary greatly, depending on the niche, the size of the website you’re analyzing, and the business and marketing goals.

To keep things easier to follow, I’ll detail a generic content strategy development process with the respective prices. I’ll use our hourly rate, which is 100€/hr, but if you’re working with a freelancer, this price can go lower.

So what goes into a content strategy, and how much should you expect to pay for it? Here’s the summary, and below the details.

This table assumes that the consultant or agency is working on your project 4-8 hrs/day, which, in reality, will rarely be the case. So the turnaround times will be longer in most cases unless you have a dedicated person to take care of your project only.

The content audit and inventory

Together with the customer and competitor research, this is the most extensive and time-consuming part of the process. Auditing the content means:

  • inventorizing it,

  • analyzing the performance based on analytics data,

  • analyzing the structure and quality of the pages,

  • finding the gaps

For a website of around 1000 pages, this process can take 3–4 full days, while for large and very large websites it can take 7–10 full days, depending on the initial findings and on how much you narrow down the scope.

A common approach that I use is to split the pages into three buckets: high-, medium- and low-traffic, after the initial inventory, and dive deeper into one of the buckets as initial scope.

So for example, if a website has 10.000 pages, I don’t analyze all 10.000 at once. This would take way too long and it’s not necessary since you won’t be able to optimize, repurpose, or distribute all pages at once.

As the audit takes a lot of focus, I usually split the work into multiple days, and take breaks to let the brain detach and look at things more objectively. The typical turnaround time for a small website would be 1–2 weeks, while for large websites it can take up to 4 weeks.

So to sum it up:

  • Cost to expect: between 2400€ - 7200€

  • Turnaround time: minimum 1–2 weeks

For large websites, the content audit can be performed in multiple iterations, while for small ones I recommend doing it once, at the beginning of the project. Another milestone is usually at 3–6 months from starting the content creation/optimization.

Note: In most cases, because of the amount of research involved in this step, you will be asked for an upfront payment.

Customer research, target audiences, and persona development

Some consultants or agencies might prefer to split this into two separate tasks, but I like to keep it as one. Deliverables can include the research on customer profiles, job titles, pain points, and reasons to buy, as well as the audience segmentation.

The depth of this analysis depends on the stage your business and website are in. If you’re just starting, you will not have so much customer data, so the analysis will be based on potential customer profiles.

On the other hand, if you can provide the content strategist with access to actual customer information, or even better, to customer interviews, that makes the process easier and much more accurate.

Depending on your niche, the service or product offered, and the customer or user data available, this phase can take from a few days to a few weeks.

For a small website, I usually take 3–4 days for research and 1–2 days for persona development. This is full-time work, so in most cases, it translates into a turnaround time of 2 weeks for the customer.

As for costs, the minimum is 3600€ for the audience research, and 1600€ for personas.

Now, if you have a large website and you offer multiple services and products, this step will require a lot more work. Each audience has its specifics, pain points, barriers, and reasons to buy. So expect the time and costs to increase for larger websites with a more complex offer.

If you need help in researching your ideal customer profile, get in touch with our team. We'll audit your content, research competitors and target audiences, and develop your personas.

Themes to cover, based on pain points

Extracting the pain points and themes to cover in your content is, in most cases, part of the previous step. However, for large websites, these two phases can be separated.

If the research is done thoroughly in the previous step, this one should take less time, so for a smaller website, 4–16 hours should be enough. This means a cost of 800€ -1600€ if you have only 1–2 target audiences and personas, and higher if you’re targeting multiple audiences.

Competitor research and content gaps

In the initial gap analysis, we look at gaps in terms of pages, funnels, and user journeys, as well as topics in big lines. However, the competitor content analysis will reveal other gaps for sure.

These can cover topics, content formats, keywords they rank for, etc. The depth of this research will influence the turnaround time and costs, but in most cases, this step, too, requires at least 2–4 days of work.

For this analysis, you usually start with a tool and dive into the findings after the initial scan. Then, you check the content types, structure and quality, the channels where the competitors are present, and so on.

So you can expect anywhere between 2400€ and 4800€ for the competitor analysis. Please note that this depends less on the size of your website, and more on the niche and the number of established competitors.

If you’re the only one promoting a service or product and there’s no competition … there’s still competition if your target users have a problem that you’re trying to solve. So even in that situation, you still need to research the solutions that they’re currently using for solving their problem or need.

Roadmap and tickets

This is not a standard deliverable, but I prefer to include it, to give the client a clear understanding of what to expect and what human resources are needed.

Developing the roadmap is less time consuming, but creating the tickets for each task does take time. So I usually prefer to do only the roadmap myself and to work with a content manager for translating the steps into tasks.

For this, you can expect to pay a minimum of 400€ – 1600€, if tickets are done in-house.

Content model and funnels

The most basic content model and funnel development take 1–2 days, depending on the size of the website, business/marketing goals, and offer — services, products, features.

If you’re selling a single product, and need a single funnel with multiple acquisition channels, then it’ll take somewhere around 8-16 hours, so you can expect a price of 1200€ - 2400€.

This will go up significantly when you have multiple products, each requiring a separate funnel and different content types.

Please note that this step doesn’t include the actual development of the content, it only defines the funnel, identifies the pages and content types you can reuse, and highlights the gaps. The development itself is incorporated in the content creation part and is paid separately.

If you need help in mapping content to your sales funnel, get in touch with our team. We'll audit your content, research your ideal customer profile, and develop funnels that support your goals.

Content templates/frameworks

Depending on your content model and the CMS that you’re using, you might prefer to have some standard templates that you can reuse for each type of content. For example, a template for landing pages, a template for an individual service or product page, a framework for blog articles.

The effort and price are directly dependent on the number of content types needed. If you’ll only create videos, blog articles, and service pages, plus the homepage and contact page, you only need 3 templates and 2 frameworks.

In terms of costs, this varies a lot, but for the minimum package described above, you can expect to pay around 1200€ – 2400€. The more structured your data/content is, the more granular the content model and templates need to be, so the price will be higher as well.

Distribution channels and flows, content lifecycle processes

Researching the distribution channels is partly done when researching audiences, as you need to find out where they go for information, where they search, and which types of content they consume in those channels.

The more time-consuming part of this phase is putting together detailed distribution flows. For smaller websites, it makes more sense to keep this a bit less detailed, as the team size and goals will dictate how many channels can be covered.

For example, if you have a new website and you haven’t done any promotion or distribution, you may prefer to target only 2–3 channels and master them.

If you have the budget for automation tools and paid ads, this makes the distribution model more complex and increases the cost of developing it as well. You can expect to pay a minimum of 1200€ – 3600€.

For a smaller website looking to distribute in 2–3 channels, planning the promotion flow and the lifecycle processes shouldn’t take more than a few hours. So you can expect to pay a minimum of 900€ – 1800€.

However, note that this price will increase if you skip the previous steps, as the content strategist will have to do all the research from the previous phases in this step.

Keyword research and content calendar

Finally, a content strategy document can include some query targets and ideas or recommendations for initial articles, blog posts, landing pages, or gated content.

You can opt to have this done by an SEO specialist, separated from this process, but to me, it makes more sense to include it in the content strategy development.

Reasons behind this:

  • An SEO specialist will look mostly at traffic volume and care less about the target user profile. He may prioritize keywords that can generate traffic over conversion-focused ones. Of course, if you make your marketing goals clear, this can be avoided, but the opposite happens more often.

  • A content strategist is more likely to start with the user in mind and think of the pain points first. So from this point of view, a content strategist will recommend starting with topics that are more customer-centric and more likely to encourage conversions.

How long does this take and what can you expect to pay? Again, it depends on the niche, topics, audience, and depth of the research. You can spend anywhere between 1 and 4 days researching queries, ideating, and coming up with ideas for content.

If you’re not doing this full time, it’s more realistic that you’ll need at least 2 days even for a small website. So a minimum price here would be around 1200€ - 2400€, for 1–2 audiences and a limited offer of services and products.

I hope this gives you a bit of direction and helps in managing expectations when searching for a consultant or agency to help you develop a content strategy for your project.

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