How much should I pay for a website is one of the most frequent questions I hear from small business owners. Whether they are referring to rebuilding an existing site or developing a site from scratch, my opinion is that most small business owners should never pay more than $2000 for these services – often closer to $1000. People are ripped off daily because they just don’t know any better. There are folks out there who will take advantage of that. One of the possible exceptions to this pricing might be an e-commerce site with many products for sale.
What Should I be Paying for?
The scope of work should be very clear when you enter into a deal that either rebuilds your existing site or starts a new website. If you are not a techie some of the vocabulary used in the contract might be confusing – don’t sign anything unless you fully understand exactly what it means. Google is the best source in the World for getting clarity on something you don’t quite understand. Do not be intimidated.
Below is a list of techie terms you might encounter:
- HTML – Hyper Text Markup Language. This is a fancy term for the language used to create all or part of your website. As far as you are concerned it’s irrelevant.
- Server – This is where your website will be hosted. The site has to reside somewhere – hosting companies have servers specifically designed for giving your website a home – more on this later.
- URL – Uniform Resource Locator. We designed websites for a decade before we understood what URL stood for. Another irrelevant term as far as you are concerned. Basically when you look at the top of your browser you will see the URL of the website you are visiting. Our URL is www.inboundsolutionsgroup.com. It’s your website address.
- HTTP – Hypertext Transport Protocol. Above all of our pay-grades. This is the protocol used to transfer data across the internet. Don’t let this one intimidate you – very few folks understand exactly how http works.
- DNS – Domain Name System. This is how your domain is translated into your IP address so browsers can load your content. We will talk about this later too.
- IP Address – What the heck is this? IP stands for Internet Protocol. Basically it’s a numerical label that identifies different devices across the internet. I don’t think the average person needs to know much about this either. It’s techie.
- WordPress – This is the platform we use to build websites. About 30% of the World’s websites are built using WordPress. This is the technology that makes a website cost $1000 instead of $10,000.
So that isn’t the entire list of intimidating vocabulary, but it’s a start. The point is – DON’T BE INTIMIDATED. You can do a tiny amount of research to get a grip on what these guys and gals are talking about. I want to say again: Don’t overpay.
This is certainly NOT a situation where the more you pay the higher quality product you get – it’s just not like that in most situations. I would eagerly challenge anyone who says different.
What is SEO?
SEO is an acronym for ‘search engine optimization’. SEO has become an entire industry with companies spending huge amounts of cash to try and show up on page one of the Google search results page. There are basically two types of SEO tactics that a web design company will employ: Onsite SEO and Offsite SEO.
Let me just say this – and get even more web designers mad – this MAY or MAY NOT be something worth paying extra for. Whether or not you should invest a significant amount of money into an SEO campaign depends on many variables. Depending on what you do and where you do it – you might show up on page one without any of the expensive SEO tactics. On the flip-side, you might never show up on page one no matter how much money you spend. This is indeed a very important and complex question you should be asking prior to agreeing to any sort of website design project. You might need help and direction here.
Here is my advice: Agree to pay for the website project but DO NOT agree to any sort of SEO deal. Don’t let anyone pressure you into paying for a “package deal”. Get the website completed – THEN you can do some research and make a decision as to what to do about SEO – if anything.
As part of your web design project the company doing the work should include basic SEO tactics with the pricing they give you. This stuff should not be optional or incur additional charges:
These tasks should be part of your website design – you should not pay a penny more for any of this:
- Page Loading Speed. Google has setup PageSpeed Insights. It’s free to use and gives the developer lots of information to make your pages load faster. Page speed is a critical ranking factor for the search engines and SHOULD be optimized during the website design process at no additional cost to you. Just click the link above and see for yourself.
- Keyword Research. You should at least get some basic keyword research, with content reflecting those keywords. I would be skeptical if the company you are using doesn’t at least have a discussion with you regarding keywords.
- Organization and Structure. Totally feel free to ask about this. The site should have good organization and structure that delivers a good user experience. This includes the menus, sidebar content, footer content, etc…it can get pretty complex but ask away. The company doing your website should take organization and structure into account from the beginning.
- Headings and META Structure. Ok – sounds daunting – but it’s not. All this refers to are the headings for each page (Google needs to see this) and other content behind the scenes, such as a description of what’s on the page, and description of each image or graphic on your site. Super important but not anything a design company should charge you for.
- Google and Bing Analytics. You should not pay an additional price for Google Analytics and Bing Analytics. Both should be setup and running and you should get instructions on how to access this data. I have a little more information about this below in the ‘bells and whistles’ section of this blog post.
- SSL Certificate. This isn’t the responsibility of the web design company as much as the hosting company. These days a reputable hosting company will include an SSL certificate with your plan. Ask your web design team if you see http:// and not https:// – this is all about the security of your site and has a pretty big impact on how Google will rank your site. Your web design company should either get this done for you or give you specific instructions on how to do it.
- Mobile Compatible / Optimized. You should absolutely not pay any extra for your site to be optimized for mobile devices. Not a nickel. When a website is developed on the WordPress platform it’s pretty much mobile optimized out of the box. Don’t fall for extra charges to do this.
By no means is this a full list when it comes to on-page or on-site SEO – but you should never have to pay extra money for any of the items listed above. If someone tries to pull this on you – call me at 706.994.6213 – heck – just call me if you have questions about anything in this blog post – I’ll answer as best I can.
Offsite SEO is another animal. This is where some significant money can be spent (in addition to what you pay for your website). Offsite SEO can be very effective, but at the same time, very expensive. The tasks associated with offsite SEO are labor intensive and require man-hours. The good news is – YOU can do some of this yourself!
Let’s look at some offsite SEO tasks and see where you can save some cash:
- Review Marketing. Getting good reviews on Google, Bing, FaceBook, Yelp, Trip Advisor, etc…can catapult your website in the search engine rankings – while at the same time give you amazing credibility with potential customers and clients. Public reputation is super important today – this is something you can do yourself – and something you must do. Sure, you can hire this out, but I wouldn’t. Contact your best customers and have them do reviews – make it easy – send them the links. You will be amazed at how this impacts your business. I consider this a huge part of offsite SEO – and you can tackle this one in-house.
- Guest Blog Posts. Huge. Technically this is both onsite and offsite, considering someone has to post the blog to the website – but the majority of this tactic is all about contacting the right people and having them write the right blog post. Guest blog posts can be a gigantic win / win for you AND the author. You get the benefit of a new audience (the writer’s crowd) and they get the benefit of your audience. By default this will help your search engine ranking – just considering the fact you get a new audience automatically. Guest blog posts excite me just writing about them. Yes. That’s weird.
- Guest Blog Posts – YOU! Yea – why not write some blog posts for other sites? Massive benefit on every level. Imagine if you were to write a guest blog post every couple of weeks…this time next year you have 25+ blog posts floating around out there…driving people to YOUR site and getting your name out there as the expert. It’s not that difficult to find websites that are relevant to what you do – they want good content. They will welcome your post.
What Bells and Whistles (extras) Should I Expect (and what might cost extra)?
So…for most small businesses you will get everything you need with about a $1500 website…give or take a few hundred bucks. For the most part it’s a matter of making it all work correctly for you and your marketing campaigns. Here are a few ‘bells and whistles’ you should expect – separate from the SEO list above:
- Some basic research on you, your industry, your existing customers, and your competitors. Beyond the basics this is where you could expect to spend some money. In-depth research and creating detailed customer personas are going to cost – but see how they do with the basics before you commit to anything else.
- Sitemaps. There are basically two types of sitemaps – one is called an XML Sitemap – used by Google and the other search engines and the other is generated for the website visitors. Both are important and should be included at no additional cost. I probably should have included this in the SEO section above.
- Content. For most small business websites expect 5-7 pages to be included in the initial pricing. A typical site might include a home page, an about page, a contact page, a blog page, and a services / products page. I would argue you should expect at least these pages. I want to be clear here: the CONTENT of these pages is typically not included and should be provided by the client. Content would include text, graphics, photos, videos, etc…expect to be charged a premium for a company to do copy-writing, photography, editing, etc…you should deliver content at their request – they should add the content, format the content, etc…but don’t expect your website text to be written for free.
- Browser Consistency. Your website should look great in Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera, and Explorer. You can check for yourself but at least bring this up when in preliminary discussions – and yes – there should be no additional cost.
- Search. Your site should include at no additional cost a good search feature that searches your entire site with the end user in mind.
- Custom 404 Page. Yea – when someone accidentally goes to a page that either never existed or just doesn’t exist anymore – they find that dreaded 404 Error page. Your 404 page should be 100% customized and it should not cost extra.
- Privacy Page. As with the other content, give this text to your designer and have them create a privacy page with a link somewhere in your footer. If you need help with the text itself, that’s gonna cost.
- Opt-In Form. You should have an opt-in form on your website to capture email addresses for future marketing campaigns. A basic opt-in form shouldn’t cost you anything extra. For additional fees they should be able to setup platforms like MailChimp, Constant Contact, or any other resource you already use.
- Techie Stuff. I think you should expect the company building your website to advise you and help you with buying a domain name and picking a hosting company (setting it up too). NEVER ever ever ever ever ever let the company building your website host your website. Never. Ever. If you have to go over to Blue Host or GoDaddy and get your own domain and hosting. However you do it – make 1000% sure that YOU own the domain and the hosting. I think this is the most important piece of advice in the blog post. You can be held hostage if you don’t own everything.
- Live Chat. This is going to cost you – to set it up and to maintain it. I don’t do it and I don’t recommend our customers do it. I could be wrong on this but I don’t think it’s worth the time, energy, effort, or money. It can actually backfire if it isn’t staffed and monitored. properly.
- Social Media Integration. Another included item. No way should you be charged more to add links to your social media profiles.
This is a short list. There are many more ‘bells and whistles’ that can be added to your website – just be careful – you don’t want too much going on – it limits the user experience and can dramatically slow your page load speed. Use what you need – no more.
How Long will it Take?
Difficult answer. If we had everything we need (content) from the client and nothing else happening (zero business), we could probably knock it out in less than a week. Of course, this scenario never happens. No perfect world here. There are content issues you have on your end and there are scheduling issues we have on our end. I would expect to get a website LIVE in 2-3 weeks.
Be sure you have an estimated timetable from your designer / developer. It’s difficult to guarantee a time but they should be able to give you a really good idea of when your site will be completed.
When Should I Sign Off from a Web Project?
Your website project has to have an end. This can’t be an open-ended and ongoing “thing”. Your web designer should explain “the end” prior to starting your project and there should be a formal sign-off sheet for both parties when the scope of work has been met. If you need help understanding anything about the project – contact Dennis at 706.994.6213 and we are happy to help. We consult with customers of other web design companies all the time.
Understand this: “the end” is not “the end”. I don’t mean to be confusing, but once the development phase of the project is completed, and your site is LIVE, there is much more work to do on an ongoing basis.
Some of the items to consider:
- Content creation. You don’t want a dull, stale website. It won’t rank in the search engines. We recommend posting at least a couple of blog posts a month, and maybe a video in between. If you really want to go after your competition – post a couple of blog posts every week for a year and watch what happens. You can do it yourself or you can hire folks to do it for you. Depending on your industry – expect to pay somewhere between $60 and $100 per blog post.
- SEO. We talked about SEO above, but there are SEO tactics that go far beyond what we’ve mentioned in this article. This is an entire industry. Many companies spend far more on SEO than they did developing their website. The price ranges here are off the chart. They vary wildly. You need a professional to guide you thru the process of what you really need, who can actually help you, and how much to pay. Again, we do this sort of thing all the time. Let us know if you need help.
- Updates and Maintenance. This isn’t optional. Your website is built on the WordPress platform (or it should be). There are updates to WordPress that have to be implemented and updates to the plugins and themes required to make your site look good and function correctly.
- Security. Super important. There are plugins / add-ons that will accomplish most of this automatically, but someone has to be monitoring everything and making sure the security plugins are up-to-date and functioning properly. I cannot tell you how many times this has bitten people in the butt – not worrying about the security of their website. You don’t want to spend a ton of money rebuilding a crashed site – especially if it could have been prevented.
- Analytics. You may or may not pay extra for this – but someone (you?) – needs to be monitoring Google Analytics on a regular basis so you can make the proper adjustments to your site based on real data. Beats the hell out of “hunches” and “gut instinct”. This is 2020 – we have REAL DATA. This information is vital to your overall marketing strategy.
- Support. Any monthly maintenance plan should also include some level of support. This might range from email support to phone support, to formal monthly video / virtual meetings. Prices are all over the place. Seriously – this can range from $25 monthly to $500 monthly – and beyond. It’s crazy. The most important aspect of this is that you have a clear picture of what is included and a written contact with the scope of work spelled out.
The prices listed above will vary. Your website will cost more if you are sitting in San Francisco versus Macon GA. I promise. Use some practical common sense and take into account the geographic area you live in. That said – you can work with ANYONE ANYWHERE online. If you live in NYC you are certainly not locked in to an expensive Madison Avenue design company. Find someone in Sioux Falls or Blairsville GA (us).
To summarize – figure about $1200 for developing your website and about $100 for some good maintenance. Anything other than those numbers I would question – call someone like us. We will steer you right.
To the detractors: I know I know I know I know I know – there are circumstances and situations where a ridiculous price might be justified. A huge e commerce site or a very secure membership site are two examples. These are far and few between and you probably know who you are. The rest of us – no way. I can’t justify it. I would put money somewhere else. I view a website as a intricate part of your marketing strategy and your marketing strategy as an intricate part of your overall core components of your business.
I hope this information is useful – please don’t hesitate to post a comment, call, or shoot us a message if you have any questions. Of course – like any other business – we want you to use us when it comes to website design and marketing. However, we are more than happy to help you negotiate with another company and steer you in the right direction.