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  • Bob Dumouchel

How much do digital marketing services cost?

When a company markets a service or product without a published price, the most common question is the dreaded: “How much does it cost?”. It is very rare that this question isn’t addressed in some way during the first call. Many agencies loathe getting into this conversation but we have always been very transparent because we know how valuable we can be to your team. Let’s take a deep dive into this topic.

It’s the Wrong Question

This is often the first question, which is always answered with “it depends.” We are not being evasive but rather, don’t have enough information to answer the question properly. This is the equivalent of calling a car dealer and asking them how much a car costs. There are different criteria that dictate the price of the vehicle, the same with our services. This is the wrong first question because you have to qualify the pricing model and scope of services first.

Pricing Models

Different agencies have different pricing models and the two big ones are hourly or a percentage of advertising spend. The spend percentage comes from the old world marketing agencies that were accustomed to that model. Today when the agency is managing the cost per click it seems out of sync with the market. Pricing on spend incentivizes the agency to spend more and when an agency is setting your bids this is a potential conflict of interests that is hard to miss. In our business, we use an hourly fee for projects and a fixed fee for account maintenance.

Professional Services We Provide

Like all agencies, we have a variety of services depending on what the client wants and needs. Here are the common ones:

  1. PPC Account Management (Google Ads/AdWords)
  2. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) Services
  3. Reputation Management
  4. Social Media Account Management
  5. Conversion Optimization and Response Consultation
  6. Marketing Coaching

Each service listed above has a common cost range. They can range from small budget to infinity and everywhere in-between. The key is to define the scope, duration, and intensity of the effort.

How much does a PPC Expert Cost?

The hourly range is from $125 – $150. This depends on the scope of services and the level of the experts providing services. Small business budgets range from $350 to $1,000. The big variables are the expected number of hours that it takes to professionally manage the account and the amount of reporting the client wants. Account size, complexity, competitiveness of the industry are all variables within the scope. Competitiveness is a variable because the tougher the competition the more time it takes to win. High maintenance industries include Personal Injury Lawyers, Bail Bonds, and Garage Door Repair because of the very high click costs. While diets, Miracle Products, and items on the edge of policy problems are more expensive to manage. Other variables considered are the networks being managed. Because of the dominance of Google in PPC, we always start with Google Ads but it’s common to add Bing Ads, Facebook, LinkedIn, Amazon, and others as the account matures. Each network adds to the time it takes to manage and the monthly retainer cost.

How much does an SEO Expert Cost?

On an hourly basis, the range is $125-$250. SEO is different from other services because the time required to manage the account is higher at the beginning. The cost decreases because the work to maintain position is less than the work to improve it. We treat the first stage as a project that is quoted based on the amount of content to be optimized. To win SEO requires a continual investment in content at a level that beats the competitors. Once you win the top position, you have to continue the content generation to hold your position. Small business budgets generally start at $1,200 for the initial review, recommendations, and changes with a $360-$500 monthly retainers to hold a position. Your industry is a big variable in deciding the cost as well.

How much does Reputation Management Cost?

Wrapped into these fees are two items, the monitoring and alerting of your reviews across all relevant sites, and the time spent with our consultant who responds to reviews and provides strategy with obtaining more positive reviews. A Reputation Manager is vital for those stressful times when the reviewer slams you with a 1-star reviews with a description that says nothing less than you should be out of business. Your coach will walk you through how to make your business look good in these frustrating situations.

How much does a Social Media Expert Cost?

On an hourly basis, the range is $95 – $150 and the variables are the size of the project, complexity, and volume of content. This service can go to infinity but never does because business economics stops this from getting out of control. The high range for Social Media are experts that help craft the strategy, while the bottom end are content creators and placement personnel that execute the plan. For small business budgets generally, range from $400 to $1,200.

How much does a Conversion Optimization Consultant Cost?

A Conversion Optimization Consultant starts with a traffic source such as PPC and then reviews the current web experience to ensure that it meets a specific goal such as a Sales Lead. This is not web design, although they use web design components for the experience path. The objective of this process is to funnel traffic from source to goal. Hourly rates for a Conversion Optimization Consultant ranges from $150 to $250 hour. Conversion Optimization is typically done as a fixed price project.  

How much does a Response Designer Cost?

Hourly rates for Response Designers range from $100 to $175.  A Response Designer starts with existing web site content that is not reaching its goal and tests concepts to improve on those goals. While similar to a Web Experience Designer the Response Designer typically works with a single page rather than a source. Their focus is on the response elements within the experience.

How much does a Marketing Coach Cost?

Hourly rates for Marketing Coaches range from $180 to $250. Marketing Coaches are for clients that want to work on their account but want a coach to help them develop as a professional. The Coach is responsible for making sure that their player is constantly challenged and continues to improve over time. Secondarily, they are a resource conduit to other specialists that are needed from time to time. Coaches commonly will replace one of their sessions with another expert that the player needs to learn from. The hourly rate for a coach is $200 for on-call hours. The hourly rate under a retainer varies based on the number of monthly hours the client commits to. Typically coaching retainers are one, two, or four hours per month with rates of $175, $150, and $125. Time is scheduled on a recurring time slot each week, bi-weekly, or monthly.

How much does a Marketing Strategist Cost?

Hourly rates for Marketing Strategists range from $125 to $200. A Marketing Strategist develops overall marketing plans for a business and they cross over all the specializations to bring this together. They typically put together a fixed price project to get your website prepared for an ongoing monthly marketing effort (such as PPC). Projects are normally $2,000 to $3,500.

What are the benefits of a Monthly Retainer?

For the client, a retainer gives them a monthly expense they can plan on. It is exceptionally rare for a retainer to be exceeded and when it happens, we eat that expense. Things outside of the retainer can come up but that work is never performed without getting your permission. You will never experience an unexpected expense from us. Retainers benefit the client as well as us.  A retainer provides the client with a lower hourly rate while providing us a dependable income that we can plan our business under. This improves our ability to recruit and train the absolute best for your requirements. The discount on the rate is in exchange for this security.

When should you Outsource Marketing?

If you need more than 50% of a full-time position on a consistent basis, then you need to hire a new person. If you need only a few hours a week or less of a specific skill, then outsourcing is a better option. Keeping up to date in Digital Marketing is a large expense and it needs to be leveraged. Our staff can keep up to date because it is all our business does. If you give a few hours of PPC, Social Media, or Designer work to a person as fill-in work, it will not end well. You will set them up for failure because the experience needed isn’t there and never will be. Maintenance efforts given to an individual almost never work because their “Real Work” ends up being the priority and the maintenance slips until it comes crashing down into your inbox.  

Why Outsource Marketing Projects?

Projects come and go but employees are a fixed cost. If the project is going to come in and go out, you do not want to hire for that. The ramp up and ramp down costs of internal staff is just prohibitive. Sometimes outsourcing is a higher hourly rate but a lower total cost.

So there it is – the answer to your simple question

The 1,400+ word answer to your simple question of “How much does it cost?” Call us if you would like more details specific to your unique business situation.

What is the ROI on Marketing?

This is the question you should ask rather than “What’s the cost”. ROI (Return on Investment) is Value divided by Cost with 1.0 being breakeven. Here is a clue; your target has to be much higher than one, but you knew that already. Value is the revenue minus the direct costs. So let’s have the conversation about how we create ROI rather than “What is the cost?”.


In marketing, you get what you pay for and someone will always offer a lower cost. Do yourself a favor and carefully check their references and dig beyond the couple of names they give you on the first request. Billing rates are driven by wages and good talent is not cheap. If the price is too good to believe then it’s probably the most expensive savings you will ever find.

Author: Bob Dumouchel
Content Scientist at Systems & Marketing Solutions Inc. Bob has worked with internet data and content since 1994 and as a programmer specializing in sales and marketing systems since 1978. Learn more and connect with Bob at his LinkedIn Profile. or continue your journey with Google Search