Did you know that maintaining a website (i.e. keeping it up and running) can lead to a recurring monthly expense of hundreds of dollars?
That’s right: depending on the scale and complexity of your site, you might be looking at a large amount of spending month in, month out. While that may be entirely acceptable to you, learning why these things get so expensive is always a good idea, regardless.
To that end, this article will attempt to answer a deceptively simple question: what is the cost of maintaining a website?
How Much Does It Cost To Have a Website?
Few good things in life come for free, and keeping a website up-and-running will not enter that category anytime soon.
The good and the bad news can both be summarized with a single statement: the cost varies—a lot.
Depending on the specific needs and requirements you might have for your website, the difference in final development cost might be measured in tens of thousands of dollars.
Of course, that’s merely scratching the surface of the true cost of running a website long-term: the recurring monthly expenses.
This section of the article will answer some general questions you might have about the real price of having a website, as well as setting up some much-needed context for our in-depth breakdown of (potential) expenses we’ve prepared below.
How Much Does a Cheap Website Cost?
It’s important to mention right away that, for most private users, building a website won’t be a significant expense at all.
Today, we have fast and ready access to a wide variety of website development services that will get you hooked up quickly and with minimum expenses.
If you’re okay with using these services, you can expect to pay less than $50 as a one-time setup fee and then continue with the monthly payments of about $10 or so moving forward.
We’re generalizing, but expect something along these lines for sure.
The caveat, however, is that you won’t get much in the way of unique customization, formatting, or features. As we said – this is perfectly fine for most private users that wish to open a blog or some such, and many small businesses will find themselves right at home with this option, too.
How Much Does It Cost To Build a Website for a Small Business?
Of course, small businesses often need something more specific than a regular WordPress Website with no extra frills. Prices can easily reach thousands of dollars in this niche.
Whether you end up hiring a freelancer or deciding on going with a fully-fledged web development company like Ballen Brands, the exact cost of building a website will depend on the volume and complexity of content and features you require.
- Do you need a storefront like Shopify?
- Would you like to have advanced analytics like Clicky and tracking tools like Mouseflow at your disposal?
- What about user-profiles and forms?
- Live chat?
All of these features – and heaps more – come at a cost.
Unless your business specializes in visual content production, you will also need to splurge on various stock images to fill up your website.
On top of that, creating a unified design language for your website that incorporates your company’s logo can be rather costly as well.
We hope this clears up some of the things you’ll need to account for if you’re looking to establish a professional web presence of some sort.
How To Calculate Website Maintenance Cost?
Now it’s time to go over specific aspects of website maintenance cost. We’ve assembled a comprehensive list of things that will affect the final monthly expenses your website will incur.
Domain Name ($10-20/year)
Starting with the absolute basics, your website’s domain name is essentially its core web address. If you’re serious about your business, you’ll want to grab one that’s short, snappy, and memorable, and there are two ways for you to go about this.
The first is to buy an all-new domain, which will set you back $10-20 a year.
On the other hand, the second option is to buy a more expensive pre-registered domain, the specific price of which will depend on its popularity.
Web Hosting (up to $500/month)
There’s no getting around paying for web hosting. Hosting plans will vary from $20 up toto a whopping $500 every month, but here you’ll need to take extra care to research exactly what’s included in each web hosting plan you’re interested in.
(I don’t suggest the cheap shared hosting plans, by the way.)
Some might feature extra storage space, while others might offer yearly discounts and potentially useful website plugins.
Support availability is also something to consider, and the most expensive options are downright unbeatable in this respect.
Security and General Maintenance (up to $1,000/month, depending on complexity)
If you want to keep your website safe and sound, and if disclosing confidential user data to everyone on the web sounds like a bad time, you’re entirely correct.
SSL licensing will move your site from HTTP over to HTTPS, which is a must in 2021. Doing so is pricey, of course.
You can get an SSL certificate for a meager $8 a year, but depending on its purpose, it could also set you back hundreds of dollars every year.
Many WordPress hosting providers like Flywheel and Bluehost include the SSL certificate in their plans.
Of course, this is not where the story stops with website security.
Maintenance is something you cannot overlook if you want your website to last. Overeager hackers aside, technology gets outdated fast, and you’re going to need someone on retainer to keep everything up-to-spec properly.
Further still, we cannot overstate the importance of acceptable backup practices for website hosting.
Permanently losing blog content is terrible, but imagine the fallout from losing sensitive user data.
It’s simple: not investing in multiple backup options is a bad business practice, potentially expensive as it might be.
Page Volume and Content (around $100/page)
It’s a given that your website won’t look the same for years to come. The chances are that you’ll be looking to expand as much as possible, and when it comes to websites, this almost certainly means the creation of more pages on your site.
Whether you continuously need to add new product pages or if you intend to introduce all-new features to the site, make sure to account for writer costs.
It will run about $40 – $100 per page.
The exact pricing will, of course, depend on the specifics.
The bottom line is simple: unless you want your website to look painfully out of date as time goes by, you will need to invest in content updates – both visual and backend.
Copywriting ($0,15/word and upwards)
Copywriting is often somewhere near the bottom of the list when it comes to website building, but it is, in fact, a crucial aspect of your online presence.
After all, it’s the content you present your users with that will make or break your site for them.
A website that looks phenomenal is useless if the copy it presents has no value, and so, the chances are that you’ll need to hire a copywriter to assess the situation and create content for you.
This includes, but is not limited to:
- Website copy (e.g. landing pages, long-form sales pages)
- Email sequences and assorted content
- Ad campaigns
- SEO content
- Product descriptions
Good, search engine optimized content is the bread-and-butter of every successful site. Don’t underestimate the value present here.
3rd Party Integrations ($20 – $300/month)
Reliable integration of ongoing website analytics is often crucial if you want to understand what you might be doing wrong and which sections of your website will require the most attention in the future.
It’s essential to keep in mind that Google does offer a free toolset to keep track of rudimentary statistics surrounding your website. Still, if you need a more granular look at all the information you could get, paying for dedicated analytics suits will be the way to go.
Clicky.com offers analytics that are very affordable.
You might also have plugins for your WordPress website that are renewable each month, or annually.
Website Marketing (as expensive as you can afford)
Marketing is king, especially when it comes to websites. While copywriting will account for a significant portion of this with solid SEO practices and engaging delivery across the board, be prepared to invest in run-of-the-mill advertisements as well.
Facebook ads, Google ads, and even outright hiring dedicated media specialists are just some of how you can bolster your site’s marketing capabilities. When it comes to marketing expenses, the sky’s the limit.
Website Maintenance Cost Summary
As you may have noticed by now, the ongoing cost of running a website varies a whole lot depending on your specific use case.
Simple, grass-variety blogs will be delightfully cheap, but a dedicated enterprise-level site will easily cost you thousands of dollars to run each month.
If you’re unsure which expenses might be relevant for you, we’ve got a handy list of things to consider for each of the three main types of websites.
Personal/Hobby-Tier Website: Up To $30/month
A personal website will include minimum monthly expenses in most cases. The chances are that you could probably get away with only paying for its domain and content hosting, which means it should hardly break the bank.
Business-Tier Website: $100 to $3,000/month
Business websites will need support from several different contractors to run smoothly. You’re looking at marketing and maintenance costs, as well as content creators and backend developers.
Depending on how you get all of that setup and how often you need your website’s content updated, you can get by on the cheap, but don’t count on that always being the case.
Of course, it’s not just content that you need to keep track of. Detailed analytics will make or break many different kinds of sites, and if you have an online store that you need to support as well, be prepared for significant expenses every month.
Enterprise-Tier Website: $1000 – $5,000 month
These are the biggest and most expensive websites you’ll come across online. From major brand stores to corporate havens and banking leviathans – you know an enterprise website when you see it.
Running this kind of business requires continued support from a wide variety of professionals, from web developers to content creators, and spending thousands upon thousands of dollars on maintaining a high-quality web presence will be peanuts to such companies.
Should I Maintain My Own Website or Pay Someone?
Now that we’ve gone over all of that, you might be wondering if it wouldn’t merely be far cheaper to take care of all of the above on your own.
We have to say – expertise may be costly, but you get what you pay for.
If you have some background in programming and web design, the chances are that you can implement some of the items we listed on your own. The question is, though – wouldn’t your time best be spent elsewhere if you’re running a business?
Of course, the answer is a resounding ‘no’ if you’re in the business of website creation yourself, but if that’s the case, you’re still going to have to rely on subscription services for your domain name and other features.
For the vast majority of users, however, hiring professionals will undoubtedly be the way to go. Just make sure to have a clear idea of your long-term plans for the website. It also wouldn’t hurt to have a maximum budget in mind, just in case.
We hope we’ve managed to clear up some of the confusion surrounding website maintenance pricing. It’s a complex and layered topic that keeps changing as time goes by, but the broad picture has generally stayed the same since the early days of the Internet.
It’s always worth keeping in mind that you can keep a quality website running without excessive spending. As ever, it pays off to be tactical when it comes to your investments, so consider consulting a professional if you’re unsure what to spend money on.
In some cases, all you’ll need is a reliable copywriter to make sense of content that’s already present. Other times, a designer might do wonders for your web presence. Good luck!
Lori Ballen is a real estate agent in Las Vegas. She’s a digital marketing specialist, speaker, and marketing coach and loves to share her “Ballen Method” to generate website traffic and leads online. Lori’s specialties are SEO content writing (ranking on the search engines), social media strategies, and affiliate marketing. Need a website? Contact Lori’s brothers Jeff and Paul Helvin at Ballen Brands.