Online Marketing

How much does a digital marketer cost?

how much does a digital marketer cost

Updated on November 11, 2020

If you have a website, you need to leverage digital marketing strategies to grow your organic audience. There are three different paths you can choose to do that. You can hire someone in-house, you can outsource the work to a freelancer or agency, or you can do it yourself. We’re going to discuss the pros and cons of each option to provide a complete answer to the question of how much does a digital marketer cost.

Why Digital Marketing?

Before we dig into the three different digital marketing paths and the associated costs, let’s start with why digital marketing matters.

Digital marketing allows you to grow an audience for a digital platform in a way that is easy to track and easy to target.

Unlike traditional marketing tactics such as print advertising in magazines, digital marketing tactics save you time and money by allowing you to see what’s working and optimize those efforts.

If you take the print advertising example, you don’t have good data. You don’t know with certainty how many people read it. You probably know how many subscribers the magazine has but you don’t know how many of those subscribers looked at your ad. And you don’t know how many people it influenced to ultimately convert and use your product.

You also have little choice over who sees it. You can choose the magazine and get a rough idea of the subscriber demographic. But that will be a broad generalization. So, what percentage of those total subscribers are actually your target audience? The more total eyes on your ad the higher the cost will be. Ideally, you don’t want to spend anything displaying an ad to people who aren’t qualified customers.

Now, conversely, if we focus on a digital marketing tactic, such as Search Engine Optimization (SEO) you have much more control. You can set up Google Analytics, Google Search Console, and Bing Webmaster Tools on your website and get SEO data.

All three of those tools are completely free. They will give you an idea of how many people visit your website, what articles are the most popular, how long people stay on each page and where those people came from.

So, if you’re focusing on SEO you can see what percentage of your traffic came from Google organic search directly in Google Analytics. You can see what landing pages they landed on from Google. And you can see what they did next. Did they leave? Did they visit another page? Did they sign up for your newsletter? Did they register or make a purchase?

That allows you to make better decisions. You can see what SEO efforts are working and not working and you can double down on what’s having the best results. Often you find there is a type of content that resonates better with your audience and they stay on the page longer. Or a type that converts better than others and you see you have higher goal conversion rates on those article pages. That’s the type of content you should build more of because it’s bringing the people you want to attract.

So by having the data and using it to optimize your efforts you’re also honing in on your target demographic and attracting the right audience for your efforts.

And this is why digital marketing is so important. The ability to track your efforts and target an audience allows you to market in a way that moves the needle for your business.

The Cost to Hire an In-House Digital Marketer
($50,000 / year)

So, let’s start discussing the three various paths you can take to leverage digital marketing. We’ll start with hiring an in-house digital marketer.

An in-house digital marketer is someone you hire to work at your business to grow your website audience and increase conversions. This is the most expensive route and a very difficult way for a bootstrapped startup, blogger, or small company to start.

PayScale estimates that a Digital Marketing Specialist earns between $37,000 – $68,000 a year with an average annual salary of $50,081.

Now, that is just the payroll expense. There are several other expenses that come along with hiring employees such as recruiting, training, and benefits.

The Cost to Outsource a Digital Marketer
($100 / hour or $1k-$3k / month)

Hiring a Freelancer versus a Marketing Agency

If you decide to outsource your digital marketing there are two options. You can hire a freelancer (1 person) or you can hire an agency (team of people).

In general, a freelancer will charge a project-based or hourly rate whereas an agency typically requires a monthly retainer. The hourly rate for a freelancer averages between $50 – $100 per hour and the hourly rate of an agency normally starts around $100 per hour.

The average monthly retainer for an agency is between $1,000 – 3,000 per month. Although that is just an average. There are several agencies that charge between $10,000 – $15,000 per month. It ranges depending on the services you need and the amount of people working on your project.

There is an article on Entrepreneur.com that breaks down the average costs for marketing freelancers and agencies across various countries.

A freelancer is sometimes easier to get started with because there is less commitment. Many agencies want you to commit to a 6-month of 1-year term because it does take time to see results with SEO.

And with an agency, even though they have a team of people, that does not mean the entire team will be working on your project. Make sure you know who is on your team.

In the end, whether you go with a freelancer or an agency isn’t the important factor. What’s important is to make sure you’re working with someone who will consistently show up, understands your brand, and has a growth plan and content strategy built out.

You Need to Manage Your Outsourced Marketer

Either way, whether you go with a freelancer or agency, you’ll need to manage them. You need to ask questions. You need to hold them accountable.

You don’t want to get a bill at the end of the pay period and not understand what they’ve done for your brand. When you see reports, question the charts. Make sure they aren’t only showing numbers that look good.

When you ask questions about their strategy, process, and results you remind them that you are involved and care about this partnership. They need your feedback to make sure they are focusing on efforts that matter to you and your brand.

Just because they know digital marketing doesn’t mean they understand your brand. Don’t assume they know more than you. When you outsource digital marketing communication has to be two ways. You need to meet on a regular basis and make sure both parties understand what the goals are and the path you need to take to get there.

You Might Need to Outsource For Each Digital Marketing Tactic

Both freelancers and agencies usually have a digital marketing focus. So, if you want your brand to focus on SEO, social media, and content creation you may need to hire three different people. If you go with an agency they may have all of those as options, but it will likely cost you more to add on multiple channels.

The Cost to Do Digital Marketing Yourself
(Your Time)

The last option we’ll discuss is doing digital marketing yourself. This is one of the best options to start with because it doesn’t have upfront costs. And when you’ve just built a website and aren’t yet making much money, it’s hard to hire anyone.

But, doing it yourself isn’t necessarily free. The first cost involved is your time. It will take time to do keyword research, write your content, optimize your site, and focus on any other digital efforts such as social media.

The next potential cost would be tools. I’ve outlined some of my favorite tools to start with for digital marketing.

Task Tool Cost
Keyword Research Ubersuggest Free (with limits)
Email Marketing MailChimp Free (with limits)
Social Scheduler HootSuite Free (with limits)
User Analysis HotJar Free (with limits)
Site Data Google Analytics Free
Google Feedback Google Search Console Free
Bing Feedback Bing Webmaster Tools Free

These are all free though some have limitations on the free accounts. When you’re just getting started the free versions of the tools are normally enough. Then, as your business grows and requires more advanced tools the price shouldn’t be as big of an issue.

Another helpful tool if you want to do your own digital marketing is ClearPath Online. Of course, this is our core product, but we didn’t want to leave it out because it’s designed to turn SEO newbies into SEO know-it-alls.

ClearPath Online provides a digital marketing task list for your website. It says what digital marketing task to do when you need to do it and it explains how in a step-by-step guide. It helps you stay on top of the digital marketing tasks you need to accomplish, even if you have no experience.

Doing SEO yourself is a great place to start even if you eventually do want to outsource it or hire someone. That way, you have a basic understanding of what’s required and have realistic expectations. This will make it much easier to manage someone else to do your digital marketing.

What’s stopping you from growing your website with digital marketing? Let us know in the comments!


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About the Author

Jennifer Rogina is the Co-Founder & Lead Marketer of ClearPath Online, a DIY SEO tool for entrepreneurs to grow their own website traffic. Jennifer has been a digital marketing specialist since 2008. In that time she has focused on search engine optimization, digital analytics, and conversion optimization.