“SEO Content Marketing Is Too Expensive.” Now What?

How many times have you heard, “We can’t rewrite the web content right now. It’s too expensive”?


“Revising the SEO content is going to take a lot of manpower. We have other priorities.”

Yeah, I’ve heard it too.

Sure, the content may be horrible. But, the thought of changing it (and paying for it) is too overwhelming.

Even if it’s holding a business back from SEO (and sales) success.

The disconnect between expectations and reality

Many prospects (and in-house teams) are surprised at how hard it is to create good SEO content. In their heads, it will take just a few weeks and cost less than $2,500 for the entire site. They won’t need to allocate manpower to it, or have to pay for “extras” like competitive intelligence or keyphrase research.

The content will just…happen.

When they get the inevitable reality slap of “yes, this costs time and money,” it’s easy for the prospect (or manager) to back away, reprioritize, and choose to do something different.

Sure, they know their current SEO content is underperforming. But, the thought of change is too overwhelming. Too expensive. Too….everything.

If you get kickback, or hear “not now” from the powers-that-be, the first reaction is often to get angry or feel discouraged. After all, it’s easy to go down a path where you can feel like, “they don’t care,” or “they’re just trying to lowball my pricing.”

Instead, take a deep breath…

Here’s what you can do

Remind your prospect/boss that content marketing is not a sprint — it’s a marathon.

A marathon you can eventually win, even if you take baby steps.

Is it ideal to comb through all the content at once and switch it out? Sure. But most teams can’t accommodate that workload (and the up-front price tag for outsourcing would be hefty.)

Instead, look at what you can realistically do every month. For instance, maybe the first month is checking out the competition, reviewing the keyphrase data, and creating the editorial calendar.

Month two, you could rewrite a couple important “money” pages (the ones that drive the most revenue) and track performance.

And go from there…

You’re still getting everything done — and the client is still paying the same amount — but it’s all happening in baby steps. You can take your time, see what’s working, and adjust accordingly.

The baby step approach is often much less overwhelming to the prospect (or boss.) She can budget X hours (or dollars) every month to get to the goal.

Plus, a baby step strategy allows everyone to see some nice wins along the way. The wins may not happen quite as quickly as doing everything at once, but they do happen.

Will you still get some kickback, even with a suggested baby step approach? Possibly. If so, put your curiosity hat on and ask the client, “how much is it costing to not improve these pages?”


“How many leads could you generate if these pages were performing?”

This helps shift the prospect’s attention from, “oh, crap, this is expensive,” to “oh yeah, it’s costing us more to NOT do it.”

This shift doesn’t guarantee your boss will say, “You’re right. Let’s start today!” You may still get a “not now” response. That’s OK. At least you’ve helped her think about the situation in a new, realistic, and less scary way.

11 replies
    • Heather Lloyd-Martin says:

      Yes, great point! It’s better to know early on if a client’s budget is lower than what you need. It’s no fun to get excited about a prospect, work up a quote…and then realize you’re out of their budget.

  1. Michael Morrow says:

    Overall change for anyone (not just a business) is stepping into the unknown. The unknown is scary, especially if you are paying for it. The ones who take that risk either have no choice but to try it or have vision of what needs to be done. The ones who don’t take the risk, don’t want the responsibility of failure. That’s why gradual change (baby steps) works a lot better. You can prove the results in each small change, making a case for more. You’re also building a stronger business relationship over time. A complete overhaul is a challenge for the writer too. It is a lot of work and you’re putting your reputation on the line for one big project. Even if it works out great, the job is done in a short time and the relationship could be over. I like the baby steps concept. It’s a writer and client relationship builder.

  2. Derek Smith says:

    The problem is that there are so many people willing to produce copy cheaply. My daughter-in-law runs a content management and SEO company in a town with two universities and lots of little English language schools. She pays £25 for 750 words and they are of the opinion she is being generous. There are others who pay less. She gets the cream.

    If they can’t provide the required quality, they are dumped. However, if a contractor is willing to pay, she will turn it out and charges top prices. She runs a couple of dozen writers.

    I write SEO copy, and have done for seven years. I’m pretty good and charge accordingly. I’ve had one contract for more than five years so I assume I’m doing something right. I also write articles and books. SEO pays more than five times the hourly rate for books. For articles it’s about twice as much.

    In the UK we have a minimum wage. I’ve never attained that for a book, yet three are quite successful.

    It’s a harsh world out there.

    • Heather Lloyd-Martin says:

      Hi, Derek!

      Thanks for your note!

      You’re right about cheap content. I’ve worked with agency owners who insist the only way they can make their margins is by paying $15 a blog post. It’s sad, because the end client (usually) doesn’t know any better — and the copy quality just isn’t there.

      It’s wonderful that your daughter-in-law pays more than the prevailing wage (and she handles the most lucrative work.) It sounds like she’s built a successful business! As have you, if you’ve had a long-term client– five years is great!

      Do you prefer writing SEO copy? Or books?

      Thanks for stopping by and for your comment. It’s great to “meet” you!

  3. Dirk Johnson says:

    A different perspective, if you will.

    From day one, SEO has been something that a CEO or other top level executive either understands, or doesn’t. Very little convincing will change the minds of the ones who don’t.

    This is because anything that they don’t understand is off their radar. They have “achieved” what they have achieved in their lives without any attention to SEO. (which may not be true, as they may unwittingly have been huge beneficiaries of search traffic, but that’s how they perceive it), therefore, it is not necessary in their world.

    If their sales fall due to search traffic changes, they look for culprits elsewhere, simply digging bigger holes.

    SEO awareness is, and always has been, reserved for people who are paying attention. That’s actually the beauty of it. You can’t get there with traditional advertising or sales teams.

    The sad fact is, many modern managers are simply clueless.

    • Heather Lloyd-Martin says:


      I talk about this topic *a lot* with my SEO writing students. There is no reason to waste time and energy on a prospect who doesn’t get SEO. Even if you do land them as a client, they’ll never be happy with the results — even if you’re driving major traffic (yup, it’s happened to me and every other SEO in the world.)

      Thanks for your super spot-on comment!

  4. Eric Novinson says:

    I like how you responded to that objection at the end. The lost sales might have a much higher value than the cost of the marketing. And it might be possible to back that argument up further with actual data.


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