Why Are There Monthly Website Maintenance Costs Associated With My Website?
From hosting to licensing to the latest design trends, here are where the costs are going to come from after your site is built.
When was the last time you updated your website? We’re not talking about a new post to your blog or adding the new product or service you launched last month. How often is your website being updated to match your vision and mission? How often are your marketing landing pages being improved to match your current advertising campaign?
It’s important to understand that your website should never be treated as a static landing page for your brand. It should be treated as a living document that needs constant upkeep, maintenance, and improvement in order to provide you with the tools you need for improving lead conversion and growing your bottom-line profitability.
It’s also important to constantly assess the costs and upkeep of your website to ensure that you’re getting the best deal from your hosting services or any other website services you might have in place to help you manage your most important business asset. In this piece, we’re going to provide information about where you should expect to be spending money to maintain and improve your website, and why it’s crucial to do so with an excellent service provider.
Unless you’ve got the expertise and funds to set up and host your website onsite, chances are your business will need to identify a hosting service to provide the platform from which to launch and access your website. Think of it as the house in which your brand’s website lives on the Internet.
Hosting is perhaps the most important decision you can make regarding your website, as a reputable hosting solution will ensure your site remains accessible and stable to your client base which over time engenders the trust of your customers and ensures your income streams tied to your website remain stable and reliable.
Hosting services are generally charged on a monthly basis but can also be purchased at an annual rate. The type of hosting you’ll need to secure for your business depends greatly on the type of business you’re operating and what type of website needs to be hosted.
For small businesses that rely upon content management systems (CMS) such as WordPress and Wix, you need a hosting solution built specifically around the types of infrastructure CMS solutions deploy. HostGator has a robust WordPress plan that supports communication for small businesses by including unlimited email accounts with the hosting of the site. It’s known for its uptime and provides a number of solutions for small businesses with little budget to build out their website themselves.
Ecommerce solutions require specialized hosting requirements, and few of the top options provide the support and quality of service that is available through Squarespace’s hosting. Hosting includes the ability to take payments online, as well as robust analytics.
For many small businesses with low traffic or limited resources, they are initially pushed towards share hosting solutions, where bandwidth is limited and website speed can suffer as a result.
For a bit of a higher price than competitors at this level, GoDaddy’s business hosting level of services provides dedicated resources that provide performance similar to virtual private server hosting but a simplified and easy-to-manage interface similar to what small businesses are used to from a share hosting service. GoDaddy has also started to include SSL certificates with their plans for a more secure experience for site visitors.
For the small business do-it-yourself approach, many hosting services also offer website builders that provide a simple interface and a variety of plugins your team can modify and populate with key business information.
Many builders include templates to build out landing pages and other marketing-focused infrastructure. These tools are often used by organizations with limited budgets or with very simple website needs that don’t require complex customer engagement to support the buyer’s journey.
Site builder tool costs are generally folded into the hosting costs for the web service you choose. Some solutions are free but offer the least customizability and flexibility. You can buy access to specific templates, which can get extremely expensive but offers the most visual customizability to the site.
These solutions can often be used to create a very specific customer experience, such as a blog, which can then through the use of landing pages and calls to action, help to build engagement with your sales team and increase lead conversion with a very low initial investment on the website build itself. These tools are a great way to begin a business website.
Considered one of the best DIY solutions overall, the WiX platform provides templates for every type of business that can be easily customized to fit your brand’s aesthetic and vision. Supported by a robust marketplace of applications that allow you to add functionality to your site, it’s a great solution for a small business looking to put its flag in the sand and claim what will become its most important piece of online real estate.
For B2B businesses that provide services and not products, Strikingly offers a fantastically easy-to-use platform that helps to build out landing pages and allows for users to create stylish yet professional user interfaces.
There is a multitude of client interface tools allowing your team to manage signups and forms or chat live with users. The solutions made possible through Strikingly are dynamic and versatile, rather than a simple static landing page you get with other solutions on the market.
A great balance between quality design tools and end cost to the user, the Weebly page building platform is touted by users as simple to use and easily scalable, especially for eCommerce websites.
One feature that you don’t often see with other providers is that the service provides a free year of a custom domain and hosting for paid plans. This is huge for a business that is just getting up and running and wants to put a website in place quickly to start generating traffic and income.
If you’ve outsourced the creation and management of your website to a service provider, there’s a good chance that you’re going to be paying a monthly maintenance fee for your website. While you might be saving this cost in a DIY situation, you’ll have to dedicate the time and staff towards site updates, essentially shifting your costs from a monthly cost to a labor cost.
What many organizations don’t take into account, however, is the opportunity cost of lost customer engagement and revenue by shifting your team’s attention to mundane website updates.
Paying a service fee on a monthly basis will allow your site to stay fresh and relevant to your visitors, in line with your marketing activities, and flush with new blog content and other material to educate your readers and visitors, which helps to build your brand credibility over time. These fees should cover ongoing improvements and updates, but will likely not include a major rebranding or overhaul to the site.
What a negotiated contract would likely allow, however, is for your company to pay for quarterly or periodic site updates that bring your website into alignment with current marketing plans and company image if this is something that shifts with seasonal services or products. This could include new headers, custom images for blog posts, new service or product banners, and other collateral across the site that would benefit from being regularly updated and refreshed.
Security and Update Management
For the DIY solutions, updates and upgrades are an automatic process. However, for a website that you’ve paid to have custom-built, you can expect monthly service fees to ensure that the site remains updated and securely patched. With the rising incidence of cyberattacks on small business websites and infrastructure, this is not the place to look for savings. Ensure any managed services plan includes monthly and as-needed updates and patching.
Each layer of your website will cost you money in some way or another. Whether you’re paying an online service to host or outsourcing management of your website to a service provider, you’re going to pay a range of fees. Here are some of the fees you should expect to pay and what can influence the pricing range.
Your company’s web address, or domain, should be unique to your brand. Oftentimes businesses will simply register the name of the business. However, there are strategic instances where brands have registered key industry terms and frequently searched for phrases related to the industry in which they operate as their domain name.
While doing this can greatly increase traffic and search rankings, it can also be extremely expensive on an annual basis to secure such domains. In general, expect to pay an average of $10-$20 a year to reserve your domain name and maintain ownership. Should your account lapse, your domain could be bought out from under you.
Web Hosting Services
Hosting prices vary depending on your business’s anticipated web traffic, what sorts of services you provide, and other questions of usage and bandwidth. If you’re strictly hosting a company blog, expect to pay upwards of $100 per month, and as low as $5 per month. Ecommerce sites can pay a range of $25 to $500 per month, based on user traffic. The more complicated your website, the higher the cost, so if you’re looking to host a full-service website with a landing page, eCommerce capabilities, and a regularly updated blog, expect to do your research for affordable options.
Content Management Services
If you’re writing and posting all of your own content on your blog and on other platforms, your only cost is manpower and the opportunity cost of reduced sales in the short term by dedicating resources to indirect income generation strategies.
If you want to keep your team lean and lead-conversion focused, consider outsourcing content management to a freelance writer or a service, which can cost $2000-$3000 per month. Effective landing pages and calls to action coupled with well-written content, however, should offset the cost of the service, and in fact, generate a fairly strong return on the investment (ROI).
Updates, Tech Support, and Licensing Costs
For free site builder templates, your costs here are zero, but if you’ve built your site on a paid, unique theme, there are likely licensing fees per month in order to use the most updated version of the theme framework. If you’ve had a third party build the website, they likely manage and keep it updated as well, and this can cost upwards of $200 just in maintenance costs and patch management.
When your website requires regular and constant oversight or maintenance, as well as complicated security measures to protect your data and assets, it might be time to consider the benefits of onboarding a full-time IT solutions employee or outsourcing the entire process to a managed services provider.
If you have the time, you can leverage free content resources and creative tools to update and refresh marketing content across your website regularly. However, this is both time consuming and skill intensive, so if you don’t have the bandwidth or skilled staff to manage the ongoing design updates necessary to keep your site feeling new and relevant to visitors, then you can retain the monthly services of an agency or pay a graphic designer upwards of $60 an hour to create materials for your site.
Data Analytics and Marketing Best Practices
Most tools and platforms will provide your team with extremely in-depth analytics and data. However, if your team doesn’t have the resources or expertise to translate that data into actionable marketing activities, then it’s likely time to fold those tasks into a third-party marketing services provider.
It is almost impossible to put an exact price on such services as managed service providers charge often based on services rendered and specific campaigns. However, outsourcing such projects to a professional services provider will ensure that your marketing aligns with your corporate vision and supports and meets your sales requirements.
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Estimated Monthly Costs: Additional Questions to Ask
Aside from all of these elements, there are a few additional considerations you should take into account in estimating the costs of building a website.
- How quickly do you need your website to be live and ready to filter visitors through your inbound funnels to your sales team?
- Do you have time to work with an agency and wait for the custom build, or do you need a DIY solution now?
- What’s your strategy for initial and ongoing search engine optimization?
- Do you have the expertise to address this yourself in the build or do you need to find a marketing partner to handle SEO management?
Proper Scope of the Website
- Do you have a realistic view of what your website should accomplish and do you know how to build a site with a DIY tool that accomplishes your goals?
- Have you properly established a budget ahead of time and brought in services to address your needs that fall within your budget?
- Is your budget sufficient to bring about the website your organization needs?
Can You Afford to Build Your Website Yourself, Or Should You Bring in a Professional?
A properly established marketing budget is one of the most powerful tools that you can put to work for your organization. Knowing what you have to spend gives more weight to having done your research to determine what it will cost to execute a project such as building or updating your organization’s website in-house. If you can look at these two factors and know that the outcome will be a website that brings value and return on initial investment enough that it gives you time to save towards contracting out a more effective and powerful marketing tool down the road, then that’s a great business decision.
However, consider the costs of partnering with a B2B services provider that specializes in building websites for small to medium businesses. If you can afford to have it built for you the first time at a cost less than the monthly upkeep costs we talk about in this article, then it’s certainly worth putting in the time and planning out a more professional and effective solution.
About the author
David J. Brin
Having recently escaped a 20-year career in Food & Beverage operations management, David is now a Facility Director for a Code Ninjas franchise, a STEM-education concept that uses game development to teach children how to code in various programming languages. David got his start writing professionally as a communications assistant for the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, and has been a freelance copywriter providing white-label services to clients since 2016. His clients operate in industries ranging from managed IT services and software development to marketing and advertising.