So how much does it cost to start a website or a blog as some like to call them? Having a website is much like have a physical business, you either buy or lease your location, you pay people to work in it, you have tools and assets you must maintain, and so on.
I used to think that running an online business would be free, well it’s not, but at the same time it doesn’t cost nearly as much as running a physical brick and mortar business and I’m going to show you how those costs break down in this article.
To be relevant you will need to know how to make your website visible on the web, and what most bloggers won’t tell you, is that websites actually do cost money to run and maintain, and it’s not as simple as clicking a button and money pops out…
But whether you are just getting started, or you’ve been in business for a while and are looking to add online to the mix, understand that you will need to pay something to do it. Time, money or energy.
Yes, I said it, you will pay to setup a website even if you get started with a free service like blogger or tumblr.
Remember, these sites own you, and if they ever crashed or just decided to turn off the power you are left helpless wondering what happened to your website, and for a lot of folks a good chunk of their business.
So what are the costs of site ownership? They are as follows:
1. Picking A Hosting Provider
This cost refers to where you website, or blog as some like to call them, is physically housed. This means that if you were to travel to the hosting providers site, you could actually walk up and touch the server that holds the data that is your website or blog.
If you were to go to a file on your computer desktop and open it you are essentially accessing information the same way your website is accessed only the website, in most cases, is held on a remote computer by a company that pays high level technicians to maintain their computer and keep it up and running 24/7.
A great hosting provider will have very little to 0 downtime and will have some level of support included in even the most basic package hosting plan.
The less you pay, the less margin they have to pay to good support staff, so don’t be surprised when you have to DYI everything on your free WordPress blog or blogger website…
What should a Website Cost?
Roughly $49 – $500 a month ( the bigger your site, the more sophisticate the hosting and security plan).
Yes you can get started with free services like Blogger, Tumblr, wordpress.com and so on, but keep in mind you will have some limitations in terms of functionality and how you can design the website to look, unless you are quite familiar with HTML.
When I was hosting my WordPress site on wordpress.com, I had the basic package which is about $4 bucks a month. The sucky thing was that it barely let me customize the site…
I still had “blog at wordpress.com” on the page and I didn’t have access to google’s FREE analytics tools which tells you how many people are coming to your site, from where, and how long they stay on each page, which can really help you make your site better.
$4 a month doesn’t seem like much until you realize that you don’t even own the site, you have free range of the content but not the plugins or the design, and really that’s half the site…
The only plus side to having the personal plan and above on WordPress.com is the chat support with a person who knows more about WordPress than you do… unless you know more about WordPress then they do… then it just doesn’t make sense unless you are paying for the “business plan”.
If you are someone who has been using WordPress since 2009, like me, then you really know more than the basic site support staff has to offer and you can install an instance of WordPress on your own hosting plan like in this free WordPress setup guide I wrote, and get up and running with ease.
This DYI option offers greater flexibility and control of your site, and if you use a theme like thrive themes then you can setup your entire site without needing to know HTML Code at all!
For anyone who is planning on setting up a niche website, or “blogging as a business”, I suggest that you register your website with your own hosting provider like namecheap.com, Siteground, Bluehost.com, or hostgator.com.
I wouldn’t use Godaddy because they just charge too much and they try and up-sell you on everything, and they are notorious for having so – so support even though you are paying them a premium.
The hosting provider that I use is Siteground, and get their $3.95 / month package they offer.
Couple other things to note. Though I’ve never used blue host and host gator before, I’ve never really had a need.
Once I started using Siteground and namecheap to register my domain names and then point them to my WordPress websites, I’ve found that siteground just does such a great job that I don’t want to change to anyone else.
And since they have great customer service, super fast SSD servers, and they allow you to hook up to Cloudfair I just haven’t needed anything else.
That doesn’t mean that Bluehost and Hostgator aren’t great, I just have never needed to use them. I do know a few folks who do use them though and have told me that they have had no issue with running their online businesses from these other hosting providers.
What about Free “blogging” websites?
Other websites like blogger and Tumblr are totally free; however, the biggest downside to this option is that you don’t actually own the site.
You certainly own the ‘content’ on the site, but you don’t own the site, and what that means is that if google makes a big change in the way they serve up website information to potential searchers, then you’re “FREE” blog could definately take a hit.
Also I don’t know a lot of folks that use free blogs to really build online businesses or build websites for offline businesses.
Besides just not performing well in the search results I think they look a little ammeture when it comes down to it, but that’s just opinion. They also usually lack the customizations that most clients prefer which is another draw back.
Lastly, should you ever choose to move over to a platform like WordPress to gain more functionality and have it all in one platform, then you will need to migrate your content.
Not a big deal if you have 10-25 pages, but if you have 25-100+ pages of content or you have a lot of customizations on the platform (google blogger) then you will be frustrated with the pending redesign and migration fees and or time that is needing to be invested when you are ready to move over.
Siteground may be able to help with the migration of blogger websites since they are written in HTML, totally freebie blogs like tumblr and wordpress.com blogs they won’t migrate.
What about doing e-commerce websites?
Some folks may be familiar with WordPress’ e-commerce plugin woo-commerce, but personally I haven’t set it up on my own websites.
I’ve heard that it requires quite a bit of knowledge to make it look good. Can you do it? sure. But why deal with the headache when you have a platform designed as a store like Shopify?
Shopify has TONS of integrations, is designed to function just like a brick and mortar store, only online, and allows you to just the simple marketplace to find apps that you need like accounting integrations such as quickbooks or xero, marketing apps like Mailchimp and facebook marketing kits, inventory management, dropshipping, pinterest integrations and so much more.
Shopify is an easy to use all in one content and store. It’s very flexible and is a great way to start an online business.
You can start a 14 day free trial of shopify at https://www.shopify.com , it’s near the bottom.
But this post isn’t about e-commerce, I can go into that in another post, what I wanted to focus on here was if you were wanting to start up an informative, or content based, site.
For content driven websites, WordPress is still the best option out there.
2. Support For Your Website
With a lot of “Free” site hosting, you don’t get support, mostly because you don’t really need it. Users that go with FREE often aren’t really interested in starting a business, or rather, “focused” on starting a business… Sometimes these hobbies turn into full fledged businesses, but many times they don’t.
In this case, going with free is not a bad thing because it requires little to no upfront investment and sometimes can be converted later into a business.
Note: the best “free” websites to start writing as a hobby on are wordpress.com and blogger, they are the easiest to transition to paid for, but if you know that you are going to start a business or are focused on that you might as well just start hosting your own site from day one to get familiar with how to setup and edit the site in WordPress rather than have to convert it over and then re-learn the dashboard (i’m guilty of this…)
Another key thing to note is that with many of the ‘done for you’ services out there, they included some level of support but often it’s limited in nature or the support staff really has no idea what they are talking about…
Things that you could use support for:
you need help pointing a domain to another domain…
you need help with putting a video into your site…
you need help migrating your site from one site host to your new site host…
you need to speak to a human…
A good support staff can help you with this. This is why I love siteground, because this is part of their hosting, not some premium add on…
Siteground has free migration assistance and support from their team with optional paid for backups, oh yeah, they backup all their servers so that if your site crashes one day or you screw up the code by pushing a button you aren’t supposed to then they can help you recover it. That’s $19 bucks if you do that, so don’t go touching buttons until you know what they do, but it’s nice to know that is there for you when you need it.
3. Backing Up One’s Website
This is so absolutely critical, unless you want all your hard work to go away you need a backup of your site.
Have you’ve ever had a computer crash, lost all your data, gone to the repair store or the Apple store only to be told that it’s truly dead, and realized that you never made a backup and all your family photos are gone?
Then you know what this would feel like and how painful this can be.
Having a quality backup of your site is like having a copy of every family photo on your computer, or every photo you’ve ever uploaded to your computer, backed up on another computer.
If your computer was lost or stolen it would be ok, manageable rather, because you had a second one that you could still get all the photos from.
If you backup your site you are protecting yourself from that “oh shit” moment when you realize that everything is gone.
Some reasons to backup your site:
your site gets hacked and you need to revert to a backup…
your site host servers go down…
you make a change to your site and want to revert it…
you accidentally make a change to the site’s root directory and screw up your search in google…
So without much else being said, this is a must.
I don’t know if free websites do this, but most of them make it really difficult to move your site if you ever choose to, and some even charge you (wordpress dot com) to do it for you. Which if you are moving over a 5 page site you don’t need to pay for, but if you’re moving a 100+ page site you might as well. You wouldn’t try to do your own dentistry, even if you had a certificate to do so, so just leave it to the experts – $129
4) Tools For The Website
For Keyword Research
If you are starting a business online, and not just blogging for a hobby, then you will likely need a keyword research tool to help you understand your SEO potential for your site.
All of these tools allow you to get monthly searches and gather the data behind the terms that people are using to find information and products online. Some with varying degrees of accuracy.
Moz, Semrush and Ahrefs charge you for access to their databases with documented backlinks, search terms, and crawled pages to give you an idea of search volume for certain terms.
Why this is relevant is if you are writing about wedding photography and you want to find out the best title to put in your article, then you can go to these websites and type in terms like “wedding photography” and see other search terms that people are using to find wedding photography items, supplies, designs, local wedding photographers, etc. You can see estimated search volume and how many other websites are competing for this word, so that you can focus on the words with less competition and get traction sooner.
It’s pretty invaluable information to have.
Google Keyword planner does the same thing, with less accuracy, in hopes that you will use the data to make purchases for advertising. They allow you to setup a free account with Adwords and see similar data, only backwards.
They show you the amount of search in ranges (not very accurate but gives you an idea) and then the cost per click of that term. This is a good enough indicator that a term is highly relevant (or at least that you can charge advertisers for that word) and that there is enough search volume.
All these tools essentially teach you the same thing about estimated searches.
For SEO – Optimizing Your Website With Search
You will want to download and use Yoast’s Free plugin because it’s great for basic blogs and for beginners with WordPress.
They do have a premium plan that offers support from their team, in addition to more focused on page keywords, and an interlinking tool to help with SEO.
For Email followup
There are so many free email marketing tools that this could deserve it’s own site, but I’ll keep it short.
Use Aweber for the best auto responder, delivery rates, and if you can afford the $19 a month you will also get awesome US based support.
If you are trying to go no budget or low budget get Mailchimp is free to setup and run up to the first 2000 subscribers and 12,000 emails delivered monthly, and then after that you can pay per use.
Another thing to note is that Mailchimp now has auto follow ups you can use, there is tagging and A/B testing available so you can run two different headlines against one another, and you can test out different wording and you can integrate it pretty much anywhere.
And keep in mind there are a ton of paid for services out there as well, but you can pretty much ignore them until you get to at least a 10,000+ person list.
There are many other tools out there on the market and I certainly don’t have experience with them all; however, if you are already running a successful business offline and simply need an online presence and need help ranking then I suggest you check out an SEO agency or hire someone with SEO skills like the folks at rainmakerdigital.com.
Hiring someone who knows SEO, and is an experienced practitioner who plans to stay up to date on all the rules and regulations, can save you time and earn your more business more customers.
This is the biggest cost, and the most overlooked in my opinion, especially if you have a successful business already.
If you are reading this and you have a business earning you $100+ an hour already, then you would be wasting money if you didn’t hire an experienced SEO or Webdesigner who can do all of this for you.
It’s literally taken me weeks to learn everything that I have about design, SEO, keyword research, and I’ve invested thousands of dollars in my education to learn about online marketing and business.
If you are not yet running a business and looking to start one and have the time to “learn by doing” then by all means, but if you already have obligations with your business and don’t have time to waste then consider hiring a professional to help you with setting up and maintaining your online portions of your business.
Keep in mind, if you have the free time to do so, then by all means learn through trial and error, there’s nothing wrong with losing $48 on a hosting plan if you decide that blogging as a business isn’t for you, or you don’t like the site design and or wordpress in general.
But if you are already in business and you understand how important your time is, then you can see why hiring someone to do all of this is a smart investment.
So Realistically What Should All This Cost Me?
Well if you are starting and running your own blog as a business, and you have little to no knowledge of SEO, SEM, Email Marketing or online advertising then you may be able to get a site up and running for only a few hundred dollars. I’ve outlined some common scenarios for folks who could benefit from starting up an online presence:
For the Budget Bloggers or the “Dabbler”
I suggest you start with a free service like Blogger or Tumblr, then eventually if you start to like writing or documenting your chosen topic, consider transitioning it to one of the hosting providers that I mentioned.
For the Ready to Get Started Blogger
+ Free Yoast Plugin for SEO
= $59 plus time.
You can realistically expect to make a few hundred a month after 6-12 months of serious blogging in your niche and promoting a course or affiliate links on your site.
The big focus should be delivering valuable content to your readers each week, every 2 weeks, or every month (however frequent you choose to blog).
For the Just Getting Started Small Business Owner
If you already run a business and you are looking to get your business online it would look more like:
$250 for a logo design (unless you have your logo design already)
+ WordPress design ($500 – $2500)
+ $35 – $290 a month for hosting on high end servers such as WP engine
+ hire your own copy writer and designer (varies but expect to pay $20-100 a post or page – expect to need anywhere from 10 – 100 pages for your site depending on your services)
+ Email marketing (varies depending on who you use)
= $1610 – $8230 for the first year (fixed costs like logo design, wp design, and copy are constant the first year, other ongoing costs include hosting, email marketing follow up and ongoing SEO – which are factored into the first year of service estimate).
For a more detailed estimate reach out by contacting me.
For The Established Business Owner
If you are a multi-location business, or you run a franchise, you will want to hire an agency or a company with copy writers, SEO on staff, or work with a full service suite like Rain Maker Digital where you can get all the services done for you with measurable ROI metrics and KPI’s or consider hiring your own staff who can be on the clock working for you to help dominate your SEO and SEM efforts, social media marketing, and your client touch points.