10 Tips to Make Content Marketing Work for Small Budgets by @neilpatel

January 31, 2016
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It’s so easy. Just create amazing content consistently and you’ll be rolling in traffic.

I’m kidding.

Even if you know what you’re doing, content marketing takes a lot of work. But it can pay off in a big way. For example, Kraft’s ROI from content marketing is four times better than any other form of advertising.

Look around online, and you’ll quickly discover that they are not alone. You don’t even have to go further than here.

I’ve used content marketing to grow KISSmetrics, Crazy Egg, and now Quick Sprout to well over 7-figure (annually) businesses. I typically get around 100 comments on posts and over 1,000 social shares within days on just Twitter and Facebook alone.

Now, it’s taken me years to get here because content marketing takes patience and consistency. But another thing it takes is a budget.

If you’re doing content marketing effectively, you’re creating some really valuable next-level content. And if you’re creating content like that, it isn’t cheap.

Sure, you can do some of it yourself, but your time has value as well. Don’t forget that.

But like with all things, it’s possible to do content marketing both more effectively and cheaper than most businesses manage to do. It still won’t be “cheap”, but it will be much more affordable for startups and small businesses than what they might be currently spending.

In the rest of this post, I’m going to share with you 10 tips that will help you bring down your content marketing spending significantly, without sacrificing results. 

Focus on the Most Cost-Efficient Types of Content

There are tons of different types of content you can produce.

Often, there are 4-5 or even more types of content that your target audience enjoys. This means that you can use any combination of those types to grow your audience.

But here’s the thing: Not all types of content give the same return. They all cost different amounts and will generate different average numbers when it comes to traffic, subscribers, shares, etc.

Here’s a simple 3-step process you can use to find out which types of content are most cost-efficient in your niche.

Step #1: Evaluate the Cost of Different Types of Content

The first thing you need to do is establish a baseline cost for every type of content you might be interested in producing:

  • blog posts
  • videos
  • infographics
  • slideshows
  • animations
  • tools
  • e-books
  • podcasts
  • stock photo collections
  • etc.

Obviously, the cost can vary based on the exact thing you’re looking for, but try to get a fairly accurate range. There are three ways you can do this:

  1. Get a quote from a freelancer who specializes in that type of content.
  2. Determine how much time it would take to make it yourself, then multiply that by your hourly rate.
  3. Use estimates from other public sources.

Technically, you could get a quote from an agency, but those are usually much more expensive than a freelancer. Since we’re trying to conserve your budget here, start with freelancers.

For the third option, you can find rough estimates for most types of content online. For example, I’ve previously written that you can get infographics made for $250 to $595 each. When it comes to content, most good writers charge $0.10-0.20 per word (although you could negotiate a flat fee, e.g., $200 for a 2,000 word article). And videos typically cost between $1,000 and $6,500 per finished minute of video.

One caveat: You might want to think about dividing each type of content into more specific types of content. For example, you might be able to write a list post much faster than another type of post like a case study.

Step #2: Research the Performance of Your Competition’s Content

If you already have a lot of content creation experience, this is an easy step for you. Just make a spreadsheet where you record the performance of each type of content.

When I say performance, I mean metrics that you care about. For most, it will be a combination of:

  • traffic
  • social shares
  • comments
  • email subscribers
  • backlinks

If you don’t have extensive experience, you’ll have to get this performance data from other sources—your competition.

Start by going to the biggest platform for each type of content and finding a few of the biggest channels/brands for that platform. For example:

  • blog posts: blogs
  • videos: YouTube
  • slide shows: Slideshare
  • infographics: Visual.ly

So, let’s say you were interested in making SEO videos.

You head to YouTube and search for a few major SEO terms such as:

  • SEO
  • SEO link building
  • On page SEO

Make a list of the top creators:

How to Make Content Marketing Work for Small Budgets | SEJ

We want to figure out their average result per video.

Click on the name, and then click on their Videos tab:

How to Make Content Marketing Work for Small Budgets | SEJ

This will give you a list of videos they’ve uploaded. Start by counting the number of videos the creator has made (you’ll need to click “load more” at the bottom). In this case, Josh has made 123 videos at this point.

Next, add up the number of views that they’ve gotten. Finally, divide the total number of views by the number of videos to get an average. Josh gets approximately 1,000 views per video he uploads.

You want to repeat this for as many creators in your niche as possible. The more you consider, the more accurate your numbers will be. Once you’re done, get a combined average by adding together the averages and dividing by the number of video creators.

Step #3: Evaluate the Performance of Each Type and Choose the Best

At this point, you have the cost of each type of content as well as the typical results for each. Now, you want to divide the result metrics by the cost.

Here’s what a simple version might look like:

How to Make Content Marketing Work for Small Budgets | SEJ

You’re looking to get a rough estimate of the cost per metric. Focus on the metrics you care about the most.

What you’ll probably find is that one or two types of content are much more cost effective than the rest. Those are the types of content you should focus on producing in the future.

Focus on Quality Over Quantity

One major source of wasted money is failure to maximize the results from each piece of content.

Marketers see successful bloggers posting 3-5 times a week and assume that they should, too. However, if you don’t have the budget to publish 3-5 great pieces of content, it’s pointless. You’ll end up publishing 3-5 okay posts instead.

Growth from content marketing comes from quality, not quantity.

Each post should be as valuable as possible. You’re better off publishing one absolutely amazing piece of content per month than publishing 30 mediocre posts.

If you can publish more than one great post—fantastic! But always start with quality.

A great example of this is Brian Dean at Backlinko. As of now, he has about 30 articles in total on the site (seriously), and he’s been going for years now. On average, that works out to about one post a month. He’s also built a 6-figure business from it.

How? Because every single post is amazing. Quality will always win.

Be Smart: Remember the 80/20 Rule

When you’re dealing with a small budget, it’s always about getting the most bang for your buck. In this case, it’s possible to take “high quality” too far.

What the 80/20 rule says is that 80% of your results will come from 20% of your efforts.

In this case, it means that 80% of the value of your content will come from 20% of the effort you put into creating it. The main takeaway from this principle is that each extra bit of effort has diminishing results.

By the time you’ve put in a solid amount of effort (say 80-90%) of what you’re capable of, you’ve pretty much maxed out the level of quality that you can get from a piece of content.

Resist the urge to go overboard by doing things like:

  • creating custom images that don’t add much value to the post
  • messing around with the layout even though it’s already easy to read
  • changing sentences over and over again so that they’re “perfect”

If you do those things, you’re spending time with no real return, which means you’re wasting part of your budget. Aim for very high quality, but know when a piece of content is about as good as it’s going to get.

The Absolute Cheapest Way to Create Great Content Consistently

Another way to lower your content creation costs is to get creative. Instead of creating content from scratch, you can repurpose existing content.

If you’re not familiar with the term, repurposing means turning your existing content into a different form of content. For example, you might turn a blog post into a video, slideshow, or podcast. The main benefit is that all the research is already done.

You can also often take images you created for the first piece of content and use them in the new pieces. This can cut your content creation time reliably in half for each piece of repurposed content. And it can also expose your content to a different audience, which is always a good thing.

Repurposing in Action

Let’s go over a few quick examples of repurposing content.

Paul Gordon Brown creates content about reaching students with social media. For example, he created this popular slideshow on the topic. However, he also uses a lot of this information in his blog posts, and he’s even hosting talks on the subject.

I highly doubt he’s creating a new presentation from scratch every time.

For bloggers, there’s a common type of repurposing: turning a blog post into an infographic.

Brian Dean originally wrote a post about on-page SEO, and then he created an infographic and embedded it within the same page.

How to Make Content Marketing Work for Small Budgets | SEJ

You could also do what I usually do and just post the infographic as its own post.

Brian chose to combine the two so that he could promote that post to an even bigger audience.

And here’s one final example of content repurposing: The Crazy Egg blog publishes a new blog post every weekday. Some of these posts we turn into short podcast episodes. We have a great podcaster, who essentially reads the post and records it.

Which types of content convert well into other types of content? Any type of content can be repurposed as any other type of…

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