What is the real cost of a website?

The “real cost” of a car includes not only what you pay to buy it, but also the cost of upkeep and maintenance in the long term. A website is very similar.

Take care of it and it will take care of you.

I would like to break down the various costs associated with owning a website, from the domain purchase to maintenance and upkeep and online marketing. If you are in the market for a website build or rebuild, hopefully I will help shed some light on what you should expect to spend now as well as down the road.

Registering Your Domain

The initial purchase of a domain could be as small as $.99 or it could run you up to tens of thousands of dollars. It depends on how unique your desired domain is and if someone else has already purchased it and is “squatting” on it for profit.

For example, when I registered lizleemedia.com with GoDaddy, I had a coupon code for something like $3. And each year it would cost around $15 to keep it renewed, although a few years ago I renewed it for 10 years at about $8/year.

By contrast, when I inquired about lizlee.com, someone had bought it and was trying to sell it for $4000. The popularity of the MTV show My Life as Liz, combined with the fact that the domain is short at only 6 characters, inspired someone to buy it and try to resell it at that high price. After two years of negotiating, we talked them down to $1000.

Fortunately, even if you shell out the equivalent of a mortgage payment for a domain, you will only have to pay standard rates each year thereafter to keep the domain renewed.

Remember that not all domains are created equal. You might catch a domain before a squatter does, but certain domains are a little more expensive initially and also for each renewal. The domain .tv, for example, will cost you about $40 a year to keep.

Securing Hosting for Your Website

There are as many hosting solutions for your website as there are types of websites. To be clear, hosting is a home for the actual files that make up your website. Usually, a hosting company will do periodic backups of your website and will guarantee a certain amount of uptime. They may even help you troubleshoot website issues that are directly server-related. But their responsibilities do not usually extend beyond those services unless you have some type of premium plan.

The cost of hosting a basic website can be as low as under $10/month. Large websites that require dedicated servers can run hundreds of dollars a month. Some hosts charge yearly to give you a better rate. In most cases, it’s a good idea to secure hosting before you initiate your website build.

The Actual Website Build

This is where the biggest chunk of your initial budget will go. The cost of your website build will hopefully be presented to you by your web designer for you to agree to before any work begins. Typically, web designers will require a deposit up front and then the remainder is to be paid upon completion. This could be 50% up front and 50% for the final payment, or in the case of larger projects, 50% up front and then smaller percentages at progress points until the project is complete.

Websites can cost anywhere from $0 to millions of dollars, but a little research and some quotes from qualified web designers should give you an idea of what your particular project will cost and include. So many things factor in to the cost of a website that I cannot cover it all here. Your best bet is to have a consultation with a web designer to help him or her generate the most accurate quote possible for your website.

It Doesn’t End There

You’ve registered your domain, secured hosting, and now your beautiful website is built. That’s it, right?

Nope.

You now need to set up a solid maintenance plan. Your website’s platform, themes and plugins will need to be updated regularly and you will need to make sure your website is being backed up often. Moreover, you should have some tool in place–a plugin or online service–that can monitor for security threats. Yes, hackers care about your site no matter how much traffic you get. Some targets are bigger than others, but every live site is potentially a target for attacks. There are many reasons hackers might take over your site, but the important thing is to do whatever you can to fortify your website against them. Regular maintenance helps you stay on top of these threats.

A website maintenance plan can range anywhere from $30/month to hundreds of dollars a month, depending on your needs. Some maintenance plans include doing content updates as well. If you are a DIY kind of person and like to keep your own hands on your website as much as possible, your maintenance costs will not be as high, especially if you can update your own platform, themes, plugins, etc. Not everyone has the time or inclination to be so hands-on, but fortunately it is not hard to find someone capable of maintaining your site for you for a reasonable price.

Online Marketing

Here’s where your website really starts working for you. To extend the car analogy even further, it’s truly “where the rubber meets the road.” To give you an idea of the impact of online marketing: In the last week, three of our clients collectively reached goals of over $20,000 for their projects that could not have happened from their websites alone.

Client A generated about $4000 promoting an online course that she is offering over the next 4 weeks.

Client B exceeded his goal of $5000 for a GoFundMe campaign and the money continues to come in.

Client C signed on three new people to her new coaching program, closing sales of over $13,500.

Their websites, no matter how beautiful they are, did not make this money for them in isolation. Only at the center of the online marketing action did their websites help them generate this money.

While we can’t take credit for their success, we did play a significant part in the online marketing that supported their work:

For Client A, we built conversion-focused sales pages on her website and connected them with a nurture sequence of emails we built and designed in their email marketing platform.

For Client B, we built and managed the GoFundMe campaign and used targeted Facebook ads to draw traffic to the campaign and website.

For Client C, we created marketing collateral for her to use in conjunction with networking events where she found her clients.

They had to pay for online marketing services, but the investment these clients made came back to them many times multiplied.

So, while online marketing may extend beyond the website, I still count it in the ongoing cost of a website because your website is at the center of your online marketing efforts.

If you truly want your website to generate money for you, keep in mind that there is a “real cost” that extends beyond the initial build.

Actually, unlike a car, your website does not (have to) depreciate over time, so it’s more appropriate to say “real investment.”


Ready to have a website that makes money for you but don’t know where to start? Schedule a free consultation to clarify your website wish list.

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