Website Maintenance: What does it cost to run a website?

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If you run a website or are planning on bulding one, have you been asking yourself this question?

How much should I budget for running my website each month?

My name is Paul Edwards, I am a Web Consultant and Frontend Developer and I’ve been working in the web industry since 2005.

In this blog post I will discuss the ever so most frequently asked question; “What does it cost to run a website?” Although we will look at some of the typical costs involved here, your site is unique. If you feel that you have any unanswered questions I would be happy to have a chat to you about your specific situation. Call me on 01903 527927.

The services and costs required to run a website

All websites require maintenance. In this age of constantly updated software and services, this means that ongoing maintenance for your website is required to keep your site secure and working correctly.

Assuming that your website has been built already and that the costs of design and production have already been incurred, you may well be starting to wonder the ongoing costs of running your website will be.

To get a firm idea of what the ongoing costs will be for your website we will need to look at several different areas that will be generating expenses over the lifetime of your site.

Your website will have ongoing tasks to complete in the following areas. Click on the list to jump straight to that item:

1. Hosting

What is hosting?

Websites are made up of files and in most cases use a database to store and present content to website visitors. These files and the database need to sit on a computer somewhere usually at a website host.

Essentially a web hosting agreement is a rental agreement for a bit of space on a computer and a share of the resources of that computer. Costs tend to scale with the amount of space needed and the processing power required to allow your website to function.

Some sites are more complicated than others and require more or less services to function well.

When is it needed?

For your site to be visible to the public your website will require hosting on an ongoing basis and the charges for these services are usually split up into a year or number of years in return for a discount on those services.

You should expect to pay hosting costs on a yearly, bi-yearly or five-year basis.

What does it cost?

Not all hosting companies are the same, and as discussed above the costs scale with the requirements. However, for the sake of creating an indicative price, let’s make a set of assumptions.

A WordPress website that is built for a small to medium sized company and which is hosted at a reputable hosting company such as Siteground will cost approximately £18 per calendar month which is £216 a year.

As with most things in life, you can get cheaper hosting, you can get more expensive hosting. Normally the quality of service is commensurate with cost and how you decide to budget for hosting will be based upon the opportunity cost to both your brand and income should your site become unavailable.

2. Domain names

What is a domain name?

A domain name is what you type into a web browser to go to a website. The domain name is normally rented from a domain name registrar for a set length of time.

The domain name points to your hosting account and allows your web browser to find the files that make up your website so that your web browser can display them to you.

When is it needed?

A domain name is required for your website to be visited by people. This means that your domain name will need to be paid for either yearly or less frequently if you are paying for several years in one go.

Without a domain name, your website will not be visible to the public.

What does it cost?

There are different kinds of domain names. You will be familiar with .com .co.uk and .org etc but there are a huge number of different country and vanity domain names. A vanity domain name would be something ending in a recognisable word like .agency or .work.

Vanity domain names cost more to rent than country domain names. The most common domain names used here in the UK are .com .co.uk .uk and .org. Domains ending in .com are normally more expensive than the domains ending in .co.uk but are often more sought after. Let’s assume that your company wants 2 domain names, a .co.uk and a .com to cover its potential visitor base.

Domain name costs are quite similar between different registrars but do differ slightly. A quick check online sees that a .co.uk domain costs approximately £14 per year and a .com domain costs approximately £20 per year.

Our combined yearly cost for domain names is £34.

3. Additional hosting services

What are additional hosting services?

Web hosting companies make many services available to its customers and some of those may well be needed by you for your website.
After you have set up the domain name and your hosting package for your website you may be forgiven for thinking the cost stops there, but you’re wrong.

Web hosts provide extra services such as security certificates (SSL), fixed IP addresses and premium support. You will likely need both the SSL and the fixed IP if you either have an e-commerce site or a site which asks users to enter details to be sent to you or if you wish to be looked on kindly by Google in the search engine rankings.

Visitors like it too when you have an SSL as it will show as a padlock in their browser, helping deliver a feeling of trust.

When is it needed?

Like most web services, if you want security certificates and fixed IP addresses you will need to pay for these yearly.

In some instances, your hosting company may provide ‘free’ SSL provided by Let’s Encrypt. Although these are perfectly reputable, at the moment these renew every 3 months and can return errors in some browsers. As such I recommend that you go for a reputable SSL provided by a company such as Comodo (other companies available).

What does it cost?

Like all services, there are a plethora of levels of SSL available. The differences in these certificates are normally in whether they cover your domain only or if they cover subdomains. As well as that as the cost of the SSL rises there tends to be a correlating rise in the level of insurance provided by that certificate. So, should something go wrong and the cause was a problem with the certificate then you would have a rudimentary level of insurance to cover costs.

A typical website will require a fairly basic SSL which will require a yearly subscription. As the income generated by your site increases, or if the value of your brand increases, you may wish to up the level of SSL you have to provide more security and associated insurance level.

I recommend that websites have the minimum of a ‘Domain SSL’ which costs £52 per year. Although not essential with all hosting companies, you may find that a dedicated IP address is a requirement for an SSL to work properly. A dedicated IP can cost you in the region of £24 a year.

A combined yearly total of £76

4. Software subscriptions

What are software subscriptions?

When you run a WordPress website it is likely that the website has had its function, security or appearance enhanced in some way. Often, developers will use extra bits of software called ‘plugins’ to enhance a website. If the function is particularly specialist or premium in some way then those plugins will require either a one-off license fee or more commonly, a recurring yearly license that gives you the benefit of frequent updates and support.

A good example is the e-commerce plugin Woocommerce. Woocommerce is a free e-commerce plugin but much of its function comes from additional plugins which require a license.

Another example is a security plugin such as Wordfence. Wordfence is a premium security plugin that gives many website owners peace of mind that their site is protected, to get the best protection Wordfence will charge a yearly license fee.

When is it needed?

Some plugins have one-off license fees and may have been paid for by your developer. A good example of this is Advanced Custom Fields PRO. ACF is a plugin used by a lot of developers to add functionality to their clients’ websites. However, the developer pays a one-off fee to use this plugin on any sites they build.

Some plugins cease to work when a license expires, but more commonly you simply lose access to support and updates. This means that you do really need to keep license fees paid yearly.

What does it cost?

License fees are going to relate directly to your usage scenario and some websites may use a large number of premium plugins whereas others may use none at all.

I will take two of the most commonly purchased plugins and use those license fees as a reference for the typical website.

Wordfence Premium(security plugin) £78 per year
Yoast SEO (search engine optimisation plugin) £95 per year

5. Website maintenance

What is website maintenance?

Once your website is live and ‘out there’ the work isn’t really over. Modern websites that run on content management systems will require ongoing maintenance to install software updates, perform database cleansing and optimisation and to monitor server space, error logs, test contact forms, run backups and much more.

Because software is always being updated there is a constant ongoing risk that something will break and that your site will either become vulnerable to attack, stop working as intended, or in extreme circumstances be hacked or break completely.

Most companies don’t have an in-house digital team to manage their website or they don’t have the specialist knowledge themselves to carry out these works. In such instances, it is common to use a local freelancer or agency to manage the website. Normally the best level of service will come from a freelancer as you will always be talking to the same person and they will value your business. Agencies although less personal and less caring will generally have more capacity but will charge more due to their much higher overheads.

When is it needed?

Website maintenance is an ongoing task but for simplicity, it makes sense to calendarise the task on a monthly basis. The more important the website or the higher the revenue it generates, the more frequent your maintenance should be and the more in depth.

What does it cost?

The cost of maintenance will scale with your requirements and the level of risk associated with your website. However, it is easy to find freelancers who will maintain your website from approximately £48 per month.

You can read more about the costs of website maintenance here.

6. SEO (search engine optimisation)

What is SEO?

The demands of clients and the algorithms of search engines never stand still.

When your website was built it should have had basic search engine optimisation carried out during production. However, years or even only months on, you may find that your analytics show that further optimisation is required.

Ongoing SEO is a strange product. For many people, SEO sits in a murky no man’s land where there is secrecy about methods and as such there can be a lack of trust and no shortage of cowboys to take advantage of vulnerable website owners.

Many others, however, don’t use this service at all and either carry out the work themselves or use their freelancer to carry out minor SEO works for them on an ad-hoc basis.

When is it needed?

Arguably on an ongoing basis but in reality, probably only when there is a major search engine algorithm change or if the companies goals, products, niche or customer base changes in a way that renders their current website content less than optimal.

What does it cost?

Ongoing SEO varies in price massively and this is often based on the time taken and the return gained by the work. Typically I find that my clients that engage SEO firms tend to spend about £200 per month for the service.

For a small firm, this kind of cost is likely not necessary.

7. Advice and troubleshooting

What is troubleshooting?

Companies and organisations with websites require advice more than you might think. Most of my clients phone me or email me on a monthly basis asking for advice and guidance with regard to their websites.

It is a privilege to be able to help my clients in this way and it happens with enough frequency that I advise you to build ad-hoc advice into your website management budget.

When is it needed?

Troubleshooting can be built into an ongoing maintenance agreement, purchased on an ad-hoc basis or it could be built into an ongoing retainer agreement to ensure that your website maintainer can guarantee you a certain amount of time each month.

What does it cost?

I advise you to build £40 per month into your budget for expert advice. You may, however, be able to build this service into any maintenance agreement or retainer agreement that you have with your web designer.

SUMMARY OF COSTS

Let’s round up the various yearly and monthly costs that you are likely to incur to run your website. These costs are based upon a basic website for a small to medium-sized business and do not take into account scenarios which require special functionality or sites which have heavy traffic.

ServiceSmall Business CostLarger Business Cost
Hosting£216.00£216.00
Domains£34.00£34.00
Additional£76.00£76.00
Subscriptions/Licenses£173.00£173.00
Website Maintenance£576.00£576.00
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)n/a£2400.00
Advice & Troubleshooting£480.00£480.00
Total per Year£1555.00£3955.00
Total per Month£129.58£329.58

 

What other costs could there be?

We have talked specifically about tasks relating to your website for the purposes of this calculation, however, there are other costs that you should be aware of.

You may have internal costs both in budget and opportunity cost by having staff write content for your website, interact with your web designer, monitor your website contact form submissions, managing mailing list signups, online advertising costs and more.

Largely the above will be costs apportioned to marketing and sales as well as IT departments but should not be forgotten when considering the overall return on investment provided by your website.

Additional resources