The REAL cost of content marketing: turning $70K into $200K

Let's face it, there's a halo of mystery around blogging and SEO.

You will hear stories of influencers making a living from their blogs, success stories of getting xx bazillion organic visitors per month, and literally thousands of articles on how to grow your SEO (that are obviously, focusing on their own SEO) - but nobody seems to be looking at the cost behind it.

We're going to do that right here, right now.


Going for content marketing for our online presentation software Slidebean was not an easy decision (see what I did there). Back in September 2015, we were bringing around $2,500 worth of new MRR per month- most of which came from a very carefully curated (but still very expensive) Google Adwords campaign.

Google Adwords brought in qualified, high converting traffic, but it was costing us $100-$150 per paid user. While our LTV could support it, it was still a big up-front cash investment that took 3-4 months to recover and this limited how much we could spend month over month.

More importantly and much more critical, the click through rate of a Google ad is around 5-10%. This meant that 90-95% of the traffic we were targeting was ignoring our ad and going to the first organic result, which happened to be our competitor.

The key to our success here was confirming that the keywords we were going to target were actually going to bring qualified traffic. Adwords helped us do that in a few weeks.

Our most successful, most searched keyword was 'pitch deck', and this became our first priority for the content marketing campaign.


Pros and Cons of going for Content/SEO


  • Most people ignore Google Adwords and go straight to organic results (90-95% based on what we saw).
  • If you make it, you get free traffic from Google! (not really free, there's no such thing as a free meal, remember!).
  • There's a viral social potential to content marketing.


  • It's a mid-term investment, at best. Know that before hand, ROI will take a while.
  • It will cost you money, don't fool yourself into thinking this will be free.
  • It requires a huge effort and acquiring a very unique set of skills (writing for SEO, UX design, website optimization).
  • Promoting the content is harder/more expensive than writing it.


Life pro tip here, this NEEDS to be done in-house. It will be a long learning process and your don't want the experience to leave with your contractor.

Let's get to it; what do you need:

A website: $24/mo

You'll need a solid (can't stress this enough), SOLID platform to support your blog. Ideally and for reasons the SEO warlocks will confirm, you want to host your blog and your main site/landing under the same domain, and avoid having to use a separate subdomain for the blog itself.

In plain English, you'll want instead of

For blogging, you most certainly want to go with a Content Management System (CMS)- otherwise, you'll need your product/development team to spend time making changes (and you'll need to make changes all the time), which will make all this stuff expensive. Unless you have a lot resources at your disposal or you plan to compete with The New York Times, go for a CMS.


  • Squarespace (this is what we use and we love it).


  • Ghost
  • Wordpress
    • (Wordpress is the most widespread blogging platform, but I hate the fact that people have -hacked- it to make it work as anything from a blog to a classifieds site. Also, it's mainstream and all the templates follow the same format; you kinda want to make your blog to feel unique or at least, not 'templated').


  • Drupal
  • Joomla
    • (To me, Joomla and Drupal are shit because you can always tell they are a Joomla or Drupal site. Also, you will need devs to make changes and again, that costs time and money).
  • Medium (Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Medium, but you can't make a custom domain, so no SEO Juice for your site).

If you listen to our advice, you'll need to set aside about $200/yr, for the domain and the Squarespace site. If you want to go with Wordpress (free) or Joomla (also free), then go ahead, but I bear in mind this will be more expensive in the long run.

By the way, changing platforms after you've stared your campaign is more delicate than brain surgery, so avoid this by choosing a platform and sticking to it. There’s a few more options out there so have a look at a comparison of the best blogging platforms.


Monitoring Platforms: $179/mo

We're big fans of Ahrefs and it's covered all our needs so far. You might want to go with Moz as well ($99/mo).

Also, we use Kissmetrics to track user activity inside the app. Kissmetrics also helps us attribute acquisitions to the right campaign, something that Google Analytics isn't very good at. 


Team: ~$2,514/mo

(Our team is based in Costa Rica, multiply this by 1.5x-2x for average US salaries and 2.5-3x for high-end cities like NY/SF).

Before we get into this, let's breakdown the tasks that you'll need taken care of:

  • Content strategy: defining everything from what content to cover to what audiences to target.
  • Writing content: this means awesome writing skills, good understanding of the subject and SEO knowledge.
  • Publishing content on the blog: not technically difficult but definitely time demanding. Design eye required.
  • Managing the website: if you're on Squarespace, some good design and basic development skills will be enough.
  • PR: finding people who will talk about you, for awareness and for backlinks.
  • Community Management: you'll want to mirror a lot of what you do towards social media, and develop relationships with your followers.
  • Google Adwords/Facebook Ads: in 2016 you need to pay to play, so you want to budget a good amount of money for promotion and obviously someone who can spend it wisely.
  • SEO: constantly monitoring the keywords you are targeting and your progress with each one of them.

Now, depending on your resources you'll want to group these tasks into 1, 2 or 3 people. This is how we evolved our team through the past year.


I used to take care of everything which obviously meant stretching my time too thin, since I'm the CEO and that comes along with a bunch of other tasks. The core advantage of doing this is that it's lean, and that gives you a very good understanding of all the work that needs to be done, so that you can eventually delegate them more efficiently. However, if you want to get serious about SEO, you'll need to build a team.


Divide and conquer. Once you have someone else onboard, you can share your tasks. This is how we did it:

Blog manager (myself)

  • Content Strategy
  • Writing content
  • Publishing content on the blog
  • Managing the website
  • PR (specifically partnerships with other blogs)
  • SEO
  • + other company-building tasks

Community Manager:

  • Community Management
  • Google Adwords/Facebook Ads
  • PR (specifically getting into conversations in Social Media)

*We both shared PR work, simply because there's so much to do.


You can draw a new line with a third person, and change the task distribution a bit. As you can see, PR continues to be a shared task between all three of us, and we are still far from covering everything that needs to be done. Since I need to move into other company related tasks, I've delegated most of the tasks I used to do.

Blog Manager/Copywriter (myself)

  • Content Strategy
  • Writing content
  • PR (partnerships with other blogs)
  • SEO Monitoring
  • + other company-building tasks.

Head of Marketing:

  • Google Adwords/Facebook Ads
  • Managing the website
  • PR
  • SEO Monitoring

Community Manager:

  • Managing the website
  • Publishing content on the blog
  • Community Management
  • PR


  • Writing content

We've been working with Article Bunny for a few months now. They have great content writers and have been a good solution to be able to share more content without hiring a full time staff member.

5 People (COMING SOON):

We are actively hiring a new Head of Press and a new Copywriter specialize some of these tasks even more. Here's how we plan the new distribution to look like:

Blog Manager (myself):

  • Content Strategy
  • Writing (some) content
  • + other company-building tasks.

Head of Marketing:

  • Content Strategy
  • Google Adwords/Facebook Ads
  • Managing the website
  • SEO Monitoring

Head of Press (currently hiring):

  • Content Strategy
  • PR

Community Manager:

  • Publishing content on the blog
  • Managing the website
  • Community Management


  • Writing (most) content


So here's a breakdown of our team costs for this year's content marketing campaign:

Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 10.58.03 AM.png


ACTUAL COST: USD $30,172 for the last 12 months, or $2,514 per month

Advertising: $39,226 or $~4,358/mo

Now you'll think this is nuts. The whole point of working for SEO is saving your advertising cash? WRONG.

You need to pay to play in today's Social Media, so you can't assume that by sharing something on Facebook you are going to get enough traction to get your content to the top.

We also discovered a direct correlation between the paid traffic that we bring to a page, and the impact this has in our Google Rankings. In other words, we realized that by driving 'artificial' traffic to the blog post, Google seemed to consider it much more valuable content and thus started ranking it a lot better. Take a look.


DISCLAIMER: This needs to be HIGH QUALITY traffic. If you bring traffic with high bounce rates this will probably backfire tremendously. We carefully curated our audiences and carefully monitored bounce rate and time and page for each one of them.

Now, you could argue, of course, that there are a bunch of other variables affecting the Google Rankings other than the paid clicks. Indeed there are, but the reality is that during these months this was our main channel for promoting the content we wrote. We made some basic optimization to our pages on Squarespace, published around 1 article/week and sent it to our users/subscribers with Intercom. Beyond that, all the initial traffic came from this ad campaign.

These are our expenses, exclusively for our SEO Clicks Campaign:


ROI: 3x to date, 4.5x in 12 months

  • Net Revenue to date: $206,334 

  • Expenses: $70,000
    • Team: $34,297
    • Ads: $39,226
    • Hosting: $288
  • Organic Traffic: 50,000+ visits to our site as of this month
  • Net Revenue to date: $206,334 from Content Marketing traffic
  • Expected Revenue*: $318,905 in 12 months from Content Marketing traffic 

*Remember Slidebean is a SaaS online presentation tool, the traffic we already brought is on a recurring, automatic subscription, which means more revenue from this group will be collected in the next few months. 


Here's a pretty chart to show everything together on the same scale:

(Drops mic!)

So there you have it. Content Marketing and SEO pay off, and they pay off very well. This effort was key to our startup becoming profitable and to reaching our $500,000 ARR goal. 

If you're interested in finding out more about what we do, you can create a free Slidebean account here: 

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