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Real Cost of Running a Successful Business Website
Updated: Oct 17, 2020 / Article by: Timothy Shim
Website hosting may not seem much but there are often other costs to consider. Although not all extras are strictly necessary, those committed to success will want to consider them for inclusion.
When considering the cost of running a successful website, you need to look beyond the basics.
This means not just the cost of hosting and domain name, but everything you need for maintenance and marketing as well.
Initial Setup: How Much to Pay for a Website?
A few years back we studied the top 400 freelancer profiles at Upwork (download the spreadsheet here) to estimate the cost of setting up different websites.
For a 10-page info website: you need $200 – $1,500 for initial setup.
For a 10-page info website with custom site designs: expect to pay $1,500 – $5,000 for initial setup.
For a 10-page website with custom designs and functions: expect to pay $5,000 – $10,000 for initial setup and $1,000 – $10,000/month for ongoing marketing and development.
At the bare minimum, you need web hosting and a domain name to own a website. This article will run you through everything else to consider.
1. Premium Templates
Today, the use of web applications to build and run websites is very popular. WordPress, for example, is the force behind more than 30% of the websites in existence today. Many web applications like this support the use of templates.
Templates help users build attractive sites more quickly. While there certainly are free templates, some do cost extra. A premium template for WordPress may cost anything from $30 into the thousands.
If you’re new to web hosting and don’t have much technical skills, you may need help sometimes. Things break and people burn, that’s simply the way of life. If your site breaks and you can’t fix it then you may need to outsource the problem.
Web developers are available on a freelance basis, but prices can vary greatly. Your choice lies somewhere between the price you’re willing to pay and the risk you need to take with the skill level of your chosen developer.
Where to Find Web Developer Help
Freelancers including web developers can often be found on sites like Fiverr, UpWork, or Toptal. Some charge per hour while others may quote a flat rate depending on what you need to get done.
WordPress and many other web applications often have healthy plugin ecosystems. These plugins help users extend the core functionality of their websites quickly and easily. Some, however, come at an extra price.
Simple plugins may be free or cost a token one-time fee. More complex and established plugins however, often range anywhere between $30 into the hundreds. While many may not force you to pay annual fees, it is likely you will lose developer support and access to updates if you don’t pay yearly renewals.
Where to Get Plugins
Plugins are available almost anywhere online, but I recommend you look for a reputable provider. Ideally, source them from the WordPress repository or look towards a well known source like Envanto Marketplace.
4. Payment Processing Fees
eCommerce sites usually cost a lot more to run since they are commercial in nature. Sites need to be faster, more secure, and help users to process payments. Anything involving payments online will normally involve extra fees.
To allow your users to buy products from your online store, you need a payment processor. These vendors will help process the payment method chosen and then hand you the money, safe and sound.
For that, you can expect to be looking at multiple fees, depending on the vendor you work with. Possible charges may include setup and annual fees, transaction fees, withdrawal fees, and more.
PayPal for example charges 4.4% plus 30 cents per transaction if you sell to international customers.
Who to Consider for Payments Processing
For independent sites, some common payment processors include PayPal, Stripe, WorldPay. If you’re using an eCommerce site builder like Shopify and BigCommerce, they often come with their own payment processor you can use.
5. Data & Analytics
While many would be happy to run a website with any type of traffic, getting to know your audience is important. From where they come from to what content they love (or hate) – information helps you know what to improve.
In order to get this information you need additional tools. Exactly which you choose will largely depend on you. For example, Google Analytics is popular and very powerful, but there are limitations as well.
This is especially vital for commercial websites that depend on web traffic for revenue. Every visitor is a potential customer, so catering to their needs is vital. If you find your traffic has a high bounce rate on some pages, adjusting content there might help.
Data Tools to Consider
Leadfeeder and Pingdom are just the tip of the analytics iceberg you can take a look at. They offer comprehensive metrics to base your updates off if you can use them effectively.
6. Secure Socket Layer (SSL) Certificate
SSL certificates help secure the connections between your website and user browsers. In many cases, using a shared SSL certificate that’s free is fine. These are normally provided by your web host, or you can get them from Let’s Encrypt.
For those running business or commercial websites though, getting a better SSL would be better. SSL certificate prices vary depending on what type you want to get. You can choose from Domain Validated (DV), Organization Validated (OV), or Extended Validation (EV) certificates.
As with any traditional business, there are various ways you can get potential customers in. Some of these include customer outreach, advertising, digital events, and more. While you can do this for free or even on a shoestring budget, effective marketing costs more money.
The reason for this isn’t just in the nature of the activity.
Comprehensive marketing solutions often offer the very important element of data. Information that can help you calculate Return on Investment (ROI), save a database for future outreach, and more.
One of the biggest problems in advertising and marketing though, is budgeting. There are so many channels and activities to choose from that can come with wildly varying price tags. For example, advertising on Facebook can cost you as little as just a few dollars for a tiny campaign.
Where to Promote Your Business
For advertising, some popular venues include Facebook, Google Adsense, and Instagram. If you want to do it yourself there are other ways such as e-Newsletters (try Mailchimp) that you can send to your customer database.
8. Customer Support Automation
Again, something that business sites need to consider more carefully is customer support. Websites never sleep and customers may come at any time of the day from different time zones. This means you’ll need to be ready for them 24/7.
One way of doing this is by having a customer support team. However, even if you outsource that it may not be practical for smaller businesses. In any case, automation is the way to go today and you can achieve that with a chatbot.
Chatbots vary in capability, but most can be driven by scripts of content you create. The better the scripts, the better your bot. Alternatively, there are AI-driven solutions as well, but these tend to cost more.
Chatbots You Can Consider
There are so many to choose from it’s literally a buyer’s market. Good examples of Chatbots include Chatfuel, Verloop, and ManyChat.
9. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Tools
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the grandaddy of hidden costs in website hosting. It is the singular best way to get holistic sources of web traffic and works by helping you target search engines for listing.
Getting it done, however, is no easy task. Aside from the complex blend of skills needed for effective implementation, there is also the price you’ll need to pay for tools that can be used. While there are some free utilities around, I’ve in general found these to be rather ineffective.
What SEO Tools to Use
For the serious website owner, invest in a subscription to top SEO tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs. Your site will thank you for years to come and if you use them well, you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank despite the monthly subscription rates.
As you can see, this list includes a mix of must-haves and maybes. For example, payments processing isn’t something a regular website would need. On the other hand, SSL certificates would be considered compulsory.
Building a website in fact can entail as little as buying web hosting with an included domain name. From there simply construct a site and dump it on, leaving the rest up to luck. The key differentiator is how badly you want your website to succeed.
Matching Your Budget & Website Goals
Site you get with a $200 budget
At $200, you can expect to have a custom domain name and use a low cost shared hosting plan for your website. You can use WordPress as the foundation for running your website and use either free or premium designed templates.
You’ll most likely be running everything yourself and be tasked with editing and creating articles, adding features and functionalities, and maintaining the website. As for SEO and social media integrations, you’ll have to rely on free plugins such as Yoast SEO.
Site you get with a $1,000 budget
At $1,000, you can expect to have a custom domain name and the ability to choose between shared or VPS hosting plans. WordPress is still the best platform to build your site but you now have the option to use free or premium plugins and also premium templates that you can modify to match your requirements.
Hiring a freelancer to do certain tasks such as designing your website, creating content, or even SEO and social media is possible, though you shouldn’t expect anything fancy.
Site you get with a $5,000 budget
At $5,000, you can get a custom domain and the option to host your website on either a VPS or cloud hosting plan for better server performance. You can still build your website on WordPress or you can explore other CMS.
If you’re looking to start an online store, you can hire freelancers or agencies to help build the whole thing with a tailor-made template and custom-built features. You can hire freelancers to handle certain aspects of your website such as SEO, social media, and content creation. Though if you want to keep costs down, we recommend doing it yourself.
The look of your website will be an original design that’s true to your brand identity and fits in with your industry and target audience. You can also hire agencies or freelancers to handle tasks such as content creation, SEO, and social media management.
How Serious a Site Owner Are You?
Success is mostly measured in web traffic, and many of these tools can help you on your journey towards that objective. Build a site that’s faster, prettier, and safer – contribute to improving the quality of the web as a whole.
About Timothy Shim
Timothy Shim is a writer, editor, and tech geek. Starting his career in the field of Information Technology, he rapidly found his way into print and has since worked with International, regional and domestic media titles including ComputerWorld, PC.com, Business Today, and The Asian Banker. His expertise lies in the field of technology from both consumer as well as enterprise points of view.