How Much Should Internet Marketing Cost?

The Joker

My name is Tom Yawney, and I firmly believe that Internet marketing is the most important conduit of new business. However, after admitting this inner truth, I have to acknowledge the elephant in the room – the one inherent problem that internet marketing presents… As a buyer, it’s not a tangible product.

Pig In Car

When you buy a new car, you feel great as you fly down the highway blasting tunes in your new ride. When you buy new clothes, you feel like a million bucks while peacocking around town in your new duds. On the other hand, when you buy internet marketing, there is nothing to wear, sit in, or touch. When you can’t touch what you’ve paid for, you tend to feel ripped off.

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So, having said all this, what causes people to spend their hard earned dollars on Internet marketing campaigns? Simply put, it’s profitable. When it’s done right, Internet marketing is your cheapest cost per acquisition. It may not be as tangible as some consumers would like, but the growth of your bottom line is extremely tangible.

So here’s the million dollar question…How much should internet marketing cost? The question is simple in theory, but the answer is complicated in practise. Here’s why…
If you want to start an Internet marketing company, there are zero barriers to entry. You don’t need an office, staff, inventory, or supplies. Everything is digital, and there is zero overhead. All you need is a website and a phone number… that’s it. In fact, there is nothing stopping someone from creating a website and offering SEO services for $100 per month.

“So Tom, why would I spend $1000 a month on SEO when this other company will do the same work for $100?”

Simply put, reliability, integrity, and transparency. A flimsy Internet marketing company can financially submarine the entire industry to acquire new clients – and then do absolutely nothing. They could sign 100 clients to one year contracts paying $100 per month, and they will make 120k without doing a thing. Eventually their clients will leave, but new businesses will fall into the same trap because they are chasing the best possible deal.

Does this ethical dilemma bother the hypothetical business owner? Not really. They are too busy sipping Mai-Tai’s in St. Bart’s while clearing 10k every month. Shady business people have existed since the dawn of commerce, and we’d be naïve to think they don’t exist within the Internet marketing industry.

So how does a business owner avoid this trap? The first step is a pinch of discretion, followed by a dose of proper judgment.

If someone told you they were selling a Mercedes Benz for five thousand dollars, would you be suspicious? I sure hope so, because you get what you pay for. How could a business exist for any length of time if they sold luxury cars for 5k? The obvious answer is they can’t. It’s not a sustainable business model. Similarly, if an Internet marketing company is offering a deal that’s too good to be true – it probably is.

If you’ve seen the movie “The Dark Knight,” you may remember a quote from “The Joker” that is particularly prophetic in this situation…

“If you are good at something, never do it for free.”

So here’s a question to ask yourself… How much work can actually be done for $100 a month? You can’t even fill up a Ford F-150 for $100, so why would you expect top results for that fee? If someone is legitimately good at what they do, their time is precious. BUT… How does an Internet marketing professional gauge their value? More importantly, what is the threshold for becoming an Internet marketing professional?
Doctors need a PHD to be legitimately considered a doctor. Similarly, most professions have a series of educational thresholds that must be met in order to start a career. So how does it work for Internet marketing? There is no educational threshold. Expertise can only be quantified by a track record of success.

If you needed legitimate health advice, would you accept advice from a self-proclaimed doctor with no formal training? Probably not. If you were doing a renovation to your house, would you feel comfortable offering that job to a newbie that would be learning on the job? It’s doubtful. So why would you trust a self-proclaimed Internet marketing professional to build your business?

On a fundamental level, here’s the real issue

The world continues to become digitally integrated, and the Internet marketing industry continues to evolve at a break neck pace. Coincidentally, and unfortunately, educational institutions have been extremely slow to react to these changes, and they are standing completely flat footed. The only way to learn the Internet marketing industry is by devoting yourself to it.

True Internet marketing professionals eat, sleep, and breathe Web 2.0. They never stop reading, they are humble enough to know that learning never stops, and they become experts through experience. It’s an on-going process of speaking with like-minded individuals, sharing information about best practice, and interpreting data to learn industry trends.

Now more than ever, experience matters.

So, if you can afford to take a risk and you are price conscious, you can definitely become someone’s guinea pig. However, if you NEED to achieve positive results, you need to work with a company that has experience across a variety of industries, over a prolonged period of time – just remember it will cost more than $100 per month.

Post By Tom Yawney (7 Posts)

Tom helps companies build and establish their online presence through design work, content creation, SEO, PPC, social media, and community engagement. Tom takes great pride in creating digital strategies for businesses of all sizes. Staying on the forefront of internet marketing is a full-time job!


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  • avatar

    Great article Tom. I have been involved in Internet marketing since 1999. I had to learn how to design websites, html, and SEO. Plus everything else. LOL
    What I learned is that Google never sleeps. Things are always changing. And, there are very few top notch digital marketing agencies. Charlatans are everywhere. I agree with what you said.
    1. How long have they been doing it? Have they kept up with trends? Do they learn something new every day?
    2. Client list. How long have they had their clients? What is their track record?
    3. Do they tell you what you need to hear? Not what you want to hear?
    4. Do they have passion?Are they Uber competitive? Great SEO people hate losing.
    5. Do they actually do the work they promise? Unfortunately few people are qualified to assess great Internet marketing. However, if you pick a winning company. You will be on the right track.
    6. You get what you pay for. I could charge $200 per hour based upon my skill, experience, and track record. So… $100 a month? Just flush it down the toilet. That is what you will get for it.

  • avatar
    Loralee Kemble 


    Thanks for the informative article, keep up the good work

  • avatar
    Samia Wyatt 


    Great post! I agree with MoBowen about educating the client. Marketing is a difficult service to sell when there is no knowledge of how it works and how time consuming it is. If you want to see results then your marketing machine should be running 20/7/365

  • avatar
    Mai Mcnamer 


    Many thanks for including me! I write from personal experience as a bed and breakfast owner and try hard to make the majority of information appealing not only to people who are considering starting a B&B, but those also in the business. I am so glad to see that you did include yourself you are a source of great information for use by bed and breakfast owners!

  • avatar

    You are certainly right, there. The internet markting is developing from day to day and it’s even hard to keep up. This article is quite a good explanation of the whole thing. Thanks for it.

  • avatar
    Micheal Bian 


    Well you have a point there!

  • avatar

    You are right MoBowen – the internet marketing industry is moving too quickly for education to keep up. I’m sure if someone wrote a textbook, it would be somewhat irrelevant within one year.
    Good point about the face to face interactions as well. That certainly separates the pros from the pretenders.
    Thanks for reading!

  • avatar

    Tom, you’re right… traditional educational institutions have been very slow to add internet marketing to their degree programs. And perhaps that’s not a terrible thing, considering how rapidly and consistently change occurs in this industry.
    I also agree that experience is the true benchmark for potential success. But buyers also have to be educated about the tasks they need done, otherwise a $100 a month SEO pro might seem expensive.
    As far as separating the true pros from the wanna-be’s… I think offline networking events provides the perfect vehicle. Anyone can hide their mediocre knowledge behind a good looking sales page and a domained email address. But once you come off the Internet and interact with real people (who may know the industry inside out), it’s harder to hide your deficiencies. The true scamsters don’t want to come out at 7am and exchange business cards with other professionals.
    Great post!

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