Your website is the digital representation of your business. It is often the first interaction that people will have with you. So when you build a website, it’s important to create a brand identity that complements every other aspect of your business both digital (social media, blog) and traditional (business cards collateral materials, etc.).
It may seem daunting with so many choices — custom-built sites, free website builders — but building an engaging and impactful website for your business is one of the most crucial, yet exciting experiences you may have as a business owner.
There are many different cost elements which add up to building and maintaining a successful website, including:
- Upfront Costs: Web design, development and domain registration
- Ongoing Costs: Ecommerce functionality, SEO management, hosting
Often these costs seem quite large, especially in light of the considerable effort that’s required. However, when you are building your business website, it’s important to remember that you have choices in your approach. If you are just starting out, you don’t have to include all the bells and whistles, nor do you have to pick the most expensive options. You can start small and build as your business grows. In the long run, regardless of the approach you choose, your website will be a valuable growth tool for your business.
Let’s take a look at some of the individual average cost components small business owners may take into consideration when building a website.
1. Domain and web hosting costs
A domain name is your online identity. It provides valuable branding for your site and makes it easy for people to remember your business. Domain names vary in cost according to how many years you purchase them, if you add private registration, and the domain extension. .com is the most common and preferred domain extension, followed by .net or .org if you are running a nonprofit organization. Only bonafide schools and universities may use a .edu extension. The more expensive .vet, .office or .solutions and the other new ones may still be a bit confusing so try to stick to .com if you can.
Create your domain by either incorporating the name of your business, the name of your product or make it a hybrid of your name and your location but don’t let it get too long. Remember, it has to fit on a business card and work with your email!
If you’re registering a domain yourself, be sure to register your domain with a popular company such as Bluehost or HostGator. You shouldn’t be paying more than $19 a year for a .com domain. And look for private registration options if you want to keep your info off the web. If you’re using the Constant Contact Website Builder, you also have the option to purchase a domain directly in the Builder tool.
TIP: Always make sure you own your domain. Don’t let anyone else register it on your behalf!
When you are ready to publish your website, you will need to consider your hosting options. The type of hosting plan you need will depend on the type of website you want to create.
Shared hosting is one of the most popular hosting options for those who are building their first website. However, once your business expands, and your website starts to grow in popularity, you might have to move on to a more comprehensive hosting plan. The company building your site may host it for you.
The most web hosting plans range from $7 – $40/month, depending on the kind of web hosting provider and plan you choose.
2. Web design and development cost
Your website is the face of your business, and a well-designed website leaves a lasting impression. If your website looks good, it makes your business look good. If you have the ability to hire a professional web designer or a freelancer to build your website, you should make the investment.
An experienced, professional website designer in most parts of the country will charge $2,000-$4,000 for a customized mobile-friendly website of approximately 8-12 pages. Most likely, it would be organically optimized for SEO, include basic plugins (assuming this is a WordPress site) such as a contact form, anti-spam, site map, Constant Contact newsletter signup form, Google Analytics, a Blog, social media links, YouTube or Vimeo and a small portfolio.
The text would also be optimized and instructions would be given to the client on how to make changes to the site if so desired. Add $100-$200 per each additional page. Some designers include the copy in their fee. Charges for stock photography or photo editing and optimization may be added. A completely customized website built on a proprietary system (usually for a highly specialized business) might run $6000+. Ecommerce sites are more expensive (see below).
However, you don’t have to hire a web designer to create a decent-looking website. You could use any of the free website builder tools available in the market. With our new AI-powered intelligent builder, Constant Contact takes the complexity out of building a website. Whether you need a simple website to showcase your work, a blog to share your voice, or a full e-commerce site to sell products, our drag and drop website builder tool simplifies website design and creation for you for free!
3. Ecommerce website cost
If you’re planning an online store and sell products from your website, then you will need to create an ecommerce platform. Typically, this would include an order and inventory management system, tax calculator, a payment gateway, delivery tracking functionality, social media integration for reviews, a live chat widget, along with the standard features included in a small business website.
The cost of ecommerce websites will increase as you expand the number of items you want to sell. Even an entry-level DIY ecommerce website can cost upwards of $350 a year. The price can go higher if you install premium add-ons and a premium theme for your online store.
If you are just starting out with selling online, then you may want to consider the Constant Contact platform. You can set up your online store for free, list your products and pay a transaction fee only when people purchase. This can dramatically reduce your startup costs.
4. SEO cost
Once you have a website, it needs to be found by your audience. Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the most important ways to get your website to show up higher on Google search results and drive traffic to your site.
Many small businesses don’t give SEO much thought – mostly because they don’t have the time or money to invest. However, research shows that 60 percent of traffic from Google searches go to websites that appear in the first three search results. SEO helps link people to your website when they are actively searching for information related to the products and services you offer.
Initially, most of the SEO work should be done organically, in the design of the website; using the right languages, HTML tags, coding best practices, proper local link building and making sure a site map is functioning and submitted to Google. As your website matures, SEO management will transition to building more links back to your website, and will become integral to your content strategy.
There are multiple free online tools that can help you set up SEO for your website. You don’t always need to hire an SEO professional as that cost can be large, with professionals charging a starting rate of $75/hour and up to as much as $300/hour for an SEO agency.
5. Maintenance cost
A website is not static. You must continue to change and update your website as your business grows. Website maintenance is invaluable as it keeps your site current and functional for your visitors. WordPress and Joomla! sites run on themes and plugins that require updating.
Most important is to ensure there are no bugs which can cause problems, You must also make sure that your content is up-to-date. Prices and stats quickly become outdated, and staff bios need changing as people come and go. As your content evolves, you might also need to add extra features to your website to deliver a richer user experience, and to ensure that the content fits on your site.
While some small businesses enjoy the challenge of maintaining their own websites, many outsource this task to an agency or a professional. Not having a maintenance contract often means downtime for your website in the event of a fault, and that can lead to loss of business.
You may end up spending between $60 and $300+ per month, depending on the amount of work that needs to be done.
6. SSL certificate cost
Every website must have a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate. It gives your site an added layer of security and will be presented to users as a “trustworthy” source, without any warning messages. It puts the “s” in “https://” at the start of your web address. It’s also a ranking signal to Google, albeit a weak one. But more and more sites are appearing in the Chrome browser as unsafe if there is no little lock in the address bar.
You also need to have an SSL certificate to handle payments if you’re an ecommerce website.
The average annual SSL certificate costs $50 – $75, depending on the assurance level of the certificate you purchase. Some hosting companies include one free for the first year as an incentive to use their services
84% of web visitors will not make an online purchase or fill out a form if they are dealing with an unsecured website. (Source: Hubspot)
Putting it all together
Trying to work out the exact cost of a website can be tricky, especially if you have a limited budget. But how much will it cost you not to build one?
According to Publicis Sapient, 87 percent of consumers search online before making a purchase. This means that if you don’t have a website, you’re missing out on a huge chunk of potential customers. In addition to that, statistics show 72 percent of consumers who perform a local search visit a store within 5 miles of their current location. Local searches also lead 50 percent of mobile searchers to visit stores within a single day. You want to make sure you capture those customers.
You want to create a beautiful, professional website for your business. Before you jump in, consider what you want to accomplish with your site. Look closely at your needs and think strategically about each cost component and remember that you don’t necessarily have to turn to outside agencies.
There are so many great DIY tools available that you don’t have to sacrifice quality even if your budget is tight, and the level of investment in your website can always change as your business grows.
Some final advice
Be wary of “budget offers.” Those low, low prices usually indicate you’ll get sloppy workmanship, a designer or team indifferent to your needs or they will nickel and dime you for everything from adjusting the size of your logo to adding your phone number on top of the page.
As Ben Franklin said, “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”