Monthly website costs you should budget for

monthly website costsSo you’re thinking about monthly website costs… You’ve done your homework and you know there’s more involved to maintain the site than just the domain name and hosting.

If you can’t quite figure out what else you need and how much you can expect to pay, then this is the guide for you!

First, let me make a quick distinction. You might label these services as “expenses” and ask questions like “how much does it cost”, but you really need to look at these monthly payments as an investment into your business.

Your website is a great tool to reach a global market. So think of these costs as part of your marketing strategy. Following these recommendations will save you time, reduce your stress level and bring you happy, satisfied customers. When you invest wisely, the right monthly plan will bring you a great return on your investment.

The following breakdown will give you an idea of what you can expect to invest into your site. This is not an extensive list, but we are covering what we consider to be the most important services to invest in. Trust us… it’s for your own sanity.

Hosting

Web hosting is required. There’s no way around it. You have to pay rent to someone, somewhere for the space to house all of the files and databases that make up your web site. It’s kind of like property taxes. If you want to live here, you need to pay taxes.

Hosting prices vary and usually “you get what you pay for” if you go too cheaply on this. There are a lot of great, inexpensive hosts out there and there’s nothing wrong with going the cheap route when you’re getting started. As your site grows and needs more bandwidth or faster response times, you’ll need to step up into managed or dedicated hosting. So as your site grows, the property taxes increase. Be prepared for that.

Starting out you can expect to pay anywhere from ~$5-$10/month for hosting. Bigger sites that need a dedicated server or managed hosting can expect hosting fees of ~$39 and up. At the high end of things you’re looking at hundreds of dollars per month. As your business grows, you will be earning enough to cover those costs so don’t let the big numbers scare you.

And yes, we can help you get up and running quickly on a hosting plan that makes sense for your business.

Domain Name

Your domain name is what people type into their browser to go to your site (example: leftrightlabs.wpengine.com). You can expect to pay about $10-15 per year for your domain. If you want more than one domain, it will be the same price per domain. You can also pay several years in advance. I recommend doing that in place of yearly payments for two reasons. First, Google sees that as a long-term commitment (yes, it’s a ranking factor) and second, you don’t have to worry about it expiring each year.

Here’s a pro tip – ALWAYS KNOW WHEN YOUR DOMAIN IS GOING TO EXPIRE. You don’t want to end up paying some squatter a crazy about of money to buy back your business domain name because you let it expire and they bought it out from under you. Most domain name companies will send you a reminder email, but I recommend you note that date on your calendar or todo list to be safe and renew it BEFORE the expiration.

Software Updates

Another monthly website cost to consider is keeping your site up to date. No web site is bulletproof. Software is updated all the time and your site needs to be running the most current version in order to run smoothly and stay safe from spammers.

You may be tempted to do some of this yourself, but there’s a big, fat caveat that goes along with doing that. When you push that “update” button, you better know how to fix the code if something breaks because eventually it will. And when that happens, you’ll be at our doorstep asking for help. You wouldn’t walk a tightrope without a net, so you might want to pass on this task to someone with more circus skills, a safety net and probably a good harness, too.

We highly suggest you pay a web developer to maintain your website on a monthly or weekly basis. Just like you would take your car in to get the oil changed and the engine tuned-up, you need to have your website tuned up every 2-4 weeks. This service is often bundled with the backup service so refer to the pricing in the backup section below.

Backups

This is probably more critical than the software updates. It’s amazing how many web site owners either don’t have backups or don’t know how to make them properly. Yes, there is a wrong way to do it and most people do it wrong.

First, don’t expect your web host to have a backup ready and waiting for you should something go horribly wrong, especially if you go the cheap route with hosting (remember “you get what you pay for”). At best they might have one that’s a few weeks old, but often times they really can’t do anything because they expected YOU to be responsible. They just didn’t tell you that when they swiped your credit card.

Yes, there are plugins and tools that will backup your website, but here’s what most people do wrong. They backup their site… to the same server their site is on! So what happens when that server crashes and burns? You can kiss your site and ALL your backups goodbye. For realz. We’ve seen it happen way too often.

The other caveat with the DIY backups is that sometimes they just stop working. As your site evolves and things get updated, you might discover one day that your “trusty” backup plugin hasn’t been doing a dang thing for months! Usually you discover this at a time when you need it most. Don’t play Russian Roulette with your backups!

We recommend that you consider hiring a web developer or using a paid service to make complete, reliable backups. A good backup service or web agency will have tools in place that can make scheduled backups of your site as often as you wish and can restore them with a click of their mouse. They will also store your backups someplace safe so if the server goes down in flames, they can have you up and running before the smoke disappears from cyberspace.

What will it cost per month? Well, that depends. We like to think of this as buying insurance for your website. It’s an important thing to have, but it can come with a lot of options and riders. Since some companies bundle services like software updates with their backup plans, it’s really challenging to break out what individual pricing is. We’ve seen prices ranging from ~$30 and up. You’ll need to look at the value you are getting with whatever package you choose.

What other costs are we not telling you about?

So far I’ve covered the services that we know you absolutely need to have to keep your website safe and running smoothly. There are several ongoing costs that I’ve not yet mentioned because not every business needs them. Here is a short list:

  • SEO Services – If you need a competitive edge to rank in Google, you’ll want to invest in a solid monthly SEO strategy
  • Ads and Campaigns – how much you invest here will be determined by your market, competition and type of ad
  • Traffic – on the Internet, you can actually buy targeted traffic for your site. Try doing that for a brick and mortar store!
  • Social Media – this area can be a time suck for many business owners and hiring a social media manager is definitely something to consider including in your marketing budget
  • SSL Certificate – if you plan on selling anything directly from your web site, you’ll need one of these
  • Email Campaigns – if your goal is to build an email list, you’ll need to budget for this service from a third-party provider such as Mailchimp.

What is typical for our clients?

Most of our clients are established business owners who prefer to leave the technical headaches to us so they can focus on their business. At Left Right Labs, we pile on the value by providing a solid combination of the most important services. Our Dedicated Business Support Plans start at $197/month and include hosting, backups, software updates, 5 web development tasks, uptime monitoring, security checks, software tutorials, a priority-response help desk, and more.

What are the total monthly website costs?

Ok, I know. For you hard core number crunchers out there, sitting in front of your screen with a calculator… you want to know some real data. You want me to give you some solid numbers so you can really budget your monthly website costs, am I right?

My best advice here is to contact your web developer (or email us if you don’t have one) and we can help assess your needs and help you build the right plan with the right features without breaking the bank. Don’t ignore important things like backups and software updates because you think you can’t afford them. You can’t afford rebuild your entire website from scratch. Invest wisely. Your business is worth it!

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