How Much Does it Cost to Outsource a Blog?
I got my start as a content marketer in 2001, before it was called content marketing. A few organizations I worked with had begun blogging, but it was difficult to quantify the business value, and so the practice was not widespread. The question at that time was not “How much does it cost to outsource a blog?” so much as “What is the point of blogging?”
It didn’t take long, however, for blogging to prove its worth even to skeptical business owners. The first blog entry I ever wrote for a client, a B2B data storage reseller, netted them a sale of several hundred thousand dollars within a week. They were convinced, and the question flipped from how much it would cost to outsource their blogging, to how to maintain the momentum.
In our increasingly competitive content marketing environment, most companies now have the same question—not what is the value, but how do we gain and maintain momentum? We now know that among many other benefits, a well-maintained blog can:
- Ratchet up a website’s SEO rankings.
- Drive quality traffic.
- Convert website visitors into sales leads.
- Build an authoritative position in the industry.
- Increase perceived relevance and expertise among buyers and partners.
- Become a library of valuable content for sales teams to nurture leads and validate the organization’s expertise.
And, unlike most other marketing investments, the value of blogging increases over time.
But, of course, doing it well takes time and resources that many mid-sized businesses don’t have. Unless you can afford an internal publishing house, keeping up with both the volume and high quality of blogging required to achieve these benefits can be daunting. Your sales team is busy selling, your subject matter experts are busy doing, and your leadership team is busy leading. Even the marketing department is often so busy executing and running campaigns that the task of weekly blog writing is enough to break the metaphorical camel’s back.
Photo credit: MWood via Wikimedia Commons
For many organizations, outsourcing the blogging function can be a viable solution. A great writing partner can take the ongoing burden off of the internal team and ensure that a steady blogging pace is maintained. The outsourcing partner may also bring a wealth of expertise in how to write high-performing blogs that serve your organization’s specific needs.
Obviously, if you’re considering outsourcing your blog, you’ll want to know how much it costs. Unfortunately, answering that question can be frustratingly complex. An Internet search will yield rates ranging from a suspiciously low $5 per entry, to a seemingly prohibitive high end of $2,000+ per entry.
To help you uncover how much your organization should expect to pay to outsource your blog, below are the critical factors that impact blogging cost. We’ve also included a guide to understanding the cost-benefit equation in your particular circumstance.
If you want a quick sample of how our company charges for blogging, you can skip straight to the bottom and fill out the form to download our sample blogging rate sheet.
Factors Affecting the Cost to Outsource a Blog
To understand why the cost of outsourcing a blog varies so wildly, consider the difference between what you might expect at the low end of the spectrum versus the high end:
For $5/entry, you can expect short, poorly written pieces that are largely cribbed from someone else’s work with a few words changed to get past plagiarism detectors (or not–after all, as the owner of the site, you’re responsible for copyright violations, not the writer). This type of blogging will not help your site’s authority with search engines, and it will damage your reputation with users (yes, they do notice if your content is bad and/or ripped off). This cheap content will, however, keep your site “fresh,” if by “fresh” you mean something akin to how birds redecorate your car in the parking lot each day.
For $2000/entry, you can get fully custom, deep, uniquely valuable articles based on research and interviews with subject matter experts. At this level, each entry should align with your company’s value proposition, be of great interest to your target buyers, and consistently generate leads, conversions, and other activity that aligns with your business goals. Expect these entries to contribute significantly to your organization’s authority both with search engines and with site visitors, and provide value as thought leadership pieces for your sales team to use. At this level, expect the writing to be top notch—engaging, authoritative, and targeted to your buyers. Your blog writer(s) should demonstrate a strong grasp of your business, your industry, and the issues that matter to your audience. This rate may also include image selection, internal link recommendations, SEO research and optimization, and preparing your entries for publication inside your website content management system. On a retainer basis, blogging at this price level may also include placement in appropriate guest blogging positions on sites with good industry authority, to increase inbound links and raise industry awareness.
Obviously, there is a great deal of range between the two extremes, and not everyone needs to invest $2,000 per entry to meet their business goals for the blog. Let’s take a look at each factor that may impact what you can expect to pay.
Quality of Writing
Our tag line at Scopcity is “good writing isn’t good enough.” When we talk about quality of writing, we’re not just talking about proper grammar and words that flow nicely from one to the next. Quality means that the writing incorporates a deep understanding of the desired audience, aligns with business goals, is a pleasure to read, engages interest, and leads to action. Sometimes it means a few laughs here and there (or everywhere).
Though paying a premium won’t guarantee quality, there is generally a correlation. You can hire a good writer who is new to the market for, perhaps, $25-50 per entry. A new freelancer at these rates can probably put together work that you won’t be embarrassed to display, but they’re unlikely to have the depth of experience to achieve the quality described above. They may also need a lot of managing and back-and-forth revisions to produce useful content.
A blogging partner who can provide the desired level of quality quickly and with minimal fuss will produce content you’re not only proud to display, but that genuinely accomplishes the goals you set for it. Expect rates for this level of work to run $125-250 for a short entry and go up, depending on other factors discussed below.
If you operate in a technical industry, expect to pay more for quality writing. If you operate in a very specific niche, you may not find a writer with exact expertise. For example, one of our clients makes programmable logic controllers for industrial applications–good luck finding a marketing writer with that specialization! If this describes your company, you’ll do well to find a blogging partner with experience in a range of technical industries that has demonstrated the capability to gain expertise quickly. Note: A top-notch writer with general technical expertise is a safer bet than a mediocre writer with specific technical expertise.
Good blogging that is relevant to your buyers will contribute value to your site’s SEO efforts, even without specific optimization. However, if SEO is a high priority for your organization, then it’s worthwhile to invest extra to ensure each blog is fully optimized.
SEO optimization for blogging may include keyword research, content optimization (ensuring keywords are in the right places and at the right frequency within the blog), internal linking, meta-tags, and link building.
Length of Blog Entries
Conventional wisdom holds that short blogs are better. The logic goes that business people are busy, and our attention spans grow ever shorter. However, the evidence points in the opposite direction. All else being equal, longer content ranks better for SEO, gets shared more often, and is engaged with at a higher rate.
We can’t peek inside reader’s brains to be sure, but we suspect that people are smarter than conventional wisdom gives them credit for. Bite-sized chunks of listicle content may be entertaining to a point, but with the Internet glutted full of them, people are hungry for something more substantial.
While more words does not always equate to more time or cost, in the case of blogging, in-depth pieces will usually cost more to produce. One way that many companies balance the cost of longer content with the need for greater frequency, is to intersperse quick bites of content on their blog with regular long content. In general, anything under 600 words is “short” content, while 600-1000 is medium. 1000+ words is the gold standard for SEO and user engagement. For reference, our blogging work often approaches the 2500+ range on technical topics.
Length of Contract
Most experienced, reputable blogging partners will require at least a three-month retainer contract. This helps to account for the ramp-up time involved in becoming familiar with your organization’s unique value proposition, target audience, and business needs.
A longer contract allows the agency or writer to prorate the cost of ramp-up over a longer time and may allow them to charge a lower per-item fee. A 6-month contract is standard.
Frequency of Blogging
Blogs that publish on a regular schedule gain traction faster and more effectively than those that publish sporadically. The ideal frequency varies by industry, business goals, and audience. Some research shows that the value of blogging is greatest at a 2/week rate. On the other end of the spectrum, we’ve seen significant benefit from programs as infrequent as once a month.
However, most companies gain the best benefit by publishing a minimum of once a week. Obviously, more blogging costs more than less blogging, but a higher frequency can mean a lower per item cost.
Type of Blog Entry
Blogging comes in many forms from frequent, short snippets that alert readers to the latest news in an industry, to quizzes, how-tos, and long, detailed articles that serve effectively as white papers. What kind of content works best depends, as in so many other cases, on the industry, business goals, and audience. Each type requires its own writing skills and time investment and, therefore, blog type will impact the cost of outsourcing the blog.
- SEO Entries. Posts that are primarily written to support SEO cover topics with high search engine value, and include relevant keywords prominently throughout. They may include keyword research and technical add-ons such as meta-tags and title optimization. They’ll almost certainly include internal linking.
- Hot Topics Posts. Hot topic posts are exactly what they sound like—blog entries based on some current or trending topic. These tend to have a high timeliness factor, and may or may not be evergreen. These are often valuable for increasing traffic in the short term and/or growing your following. Short hot topic entries can, as part of a well-balanced ongoing program, be an inexpensive way to keep the blog active in between longer, thought leadership articles.
- Authority Articles. Also sometimes called “thought leadership” articles, these are blog entries designed to increase the site’s and the company’s perceived authority in the industry. They are generally carefully researched, include at least one interview with an internal subject matter expert from your company, are relevant to a topic important to your audience, and are filled with substantial information. They are often comparable in scope and detail to a white paper.
- Interview Blogs. An interview article consists of an artfully edited transcript of an interview with an expert or celebrity in your industry. They may be faster to produce than an authority piece, while providing similar benefits in some circumstances.
- Big Five Blogs. If you follow Marcus Sheridan (aka The Sales Lion), you may have heard of the Big Five blogging topics: Cost, problems, comparisons, reviews, best of. These are the topics your competitors don’t want to touch but that buyers are avidly interested in. They have the potential to boost engagement in the short term as well as drive long-term SEO value.
- Quizzes, Q&A, How tos, Videos. There are nearly as many blog types as there are types of writing. Some are easier, some are harder, and they’ll all have a different value for your organization.
- Combinations. A skillful blogger will often combine several types of content. Authority articles can be SEO optimized. Big Five blogs can serve as both authority and SEO pieces. A hot topics article, if managed well, can also be an authority piece. A big five blog, if carefully timed and connected with a trending topic, can serve as a hot topics piece. The additional time and skill required to serve multiple purposes will raise the cost of blogging, but probably not by as much as writing multiple articles will. Combining purposes, where practical, is usually a good value.
The piece you’re currently reading is a big five blog, an authority piece, and an SEO piece combined. As an example of the potential value of this approach, our recent entry on how much it costs to write a press release generated several quality leads for us within days, and continues to be shared on social by industry influencers.
Additional Services Included
Besides simply writing blog entries, a blogging service may include any number of value-added services that may be worth additional investment. For instance:
- Topics Generation and Blogging Calendar. If you already know what topics need to be covered, then your blogging partner can get right to work. If you need help with topic generation and creating a blogging calendar, a good quality blogging partner can help align your topics with your business needs and audience interests.
- Headline optimization. A well-crafted headline can take up to 50% of the time it takes to write a blog entry, and for good reason—if readers don’t get past the headline, all the rest of the work is wasted. Headlines can be optimized for social to increase click-throughs on specific platforms, and they can be optimized for SEO, and these variations may not match. You may also want multiple headlines for A/B testing.
- Expert interviews and research. One or the other may be included, depending on the type of blogging, but some articles call for additional, extensive research and multiple expert interviews, which can add to the cost.
- Technical services. Internal linking, image selection, uploading content into your content management system, and adding meta-tags are all additional technical services it may be convenient to have your blogging partner provide.
- Distribution. Whether you intend to use your blog on social media, to engage on LinkedIn, or to share with your email network, expect to pay extra to have blurbs prepared and links shared in various media. Even more if your blogging partner will be responsible for posting and/or developing influencer relationships.
- Library maintenance. Blogging adds value to your site whether you keep track of it or not. However, a well-organized library of content can provide massive additional value in the form of supporting your sales team and generating low-cost options to repurpose, repackage, and reuse your content. If you want your blogging service to maintain an organized library of content for one of these purposes, it can be a valuable investment.
So, How Much Should You Pay to Outsource Your Blog?
With so many factors to consider, it’s natural to still have questions about the true cost to outsource a blog for your specific needs. To help determine an appropriate range, ask yourself these questions:
- What are your goals? Your blogging program should support your sales and marketing goals. An organization in aggressive growth mode may require an aggressive blogging program designed to generate leads and build authority in the industry. Such a company might also benefit from authority articles that the sales team can use to nurture sales leads and that executives can use to nurture partnerships. Such an organization will want to invest in high quality, frequent, in-depth blogging along with other valuable content such as white papers, case studies, and press releases. An investment of several thousand dollars a month would be reasonable. On the other end of the spectrum, a small business wanting to maintain a steady pace of incoming website traffic without aggressive goals may do just fine investing in the medium range of $450-1200/month. A bootstrap start-up whose team has the time and energy to oversee a new freelancer may seek a partner toward the low end just to get some content going.
- What is the value of blogging for your organization? Again, an organization in high-growth mode or that has the opportunity to close large sales with the help of content may find a blogging retainer of several thousand dollars a month to be right. Companies in slower growth mode will likely want to look for a good, strong content partner in the mid-range of $450-$1200/month.
- What is your budget? Obviously, if your organization is in bootstrap start-up mode, you may not have a budget for quality blogging. If that’s the case, your best bet is to block out the time to do the blogging yourself and hire an editor to clean it up if necessary. Obviously, a larger marketing budget makes room for a larger blogging investment. Considering both the immediate and the long-term value of blogging, it makes sense for most marketing budgets to include a line item for quality content that matches up to the needs of the organization.
We hope this article has been helpful in framing up what you might expect to pay to outsource your blog. If you’d like to know what we charge our clients, we’re not shy—you can download a sample rate sheet by filling in the form below. We focus heavily on authority-building content for technical industries, which we combine with shorter pieces, hot topics, and other types of content to meet the specific needs of each client. Once you’ve had a look at sample pricing, contact us to discuss your specific needs and receive a custom quote.
Fen Druadìn Head (formerly Heather Head) is an author, as well as the founder of Scopcity. When she is not writing, running the business, or chasing down bad guys on Twitter, she enjoys hiking, snuggling with her husband and three boys, and avoiding the kitchen.