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Web Site Costs
By Stephen Spry
What Price for a Web Site?
Talk to people about the Internet, and you’ll hear how some web sites can cost thousands… while others cost next to nothing. Confusing to say the least!
This article summarises most of the real “costs” involved in developing a web site and getting (and keeping) your business online.
If you want to jump to the chase, and find out what we reckon an average small business might pay, then click here for the summary of costs.
Domain Name Registration
To have YourOwnChosenDomainName.com (or .org or .com.au etc) involves paying a Domain registration fee to a Domain Registrar.
These fees range from around $40 - $165 every two years for Australian domains, down to around $10 - $30 a year for global domain names (.com, .org, .info etc) depending on the registrar used and the number of years you register for. The newer “specialty” domains are a lot pricier!
Once you register a domain in your name, it is your property - until you don’t renew the registration.
Domain Name Parking
This is a fee paid to “park” your domain with an ISP - i.e. if you want to “store” it until you are ready to use it.
Some ISP’s charge nothing for this service, while others charge $100+ a year. You should expect to pay a median amount to park a domain name with an ISP which should include some sort of email forwarding service as well. Considering you can get full blown “hosting” for multiple domains (see next section) for around $15 a month, it would be better to use one of those services for “parking” purposes.
Web Server Rental
Once you are ready to use your domain name, you set up a web server to promote your business. Now, you need to find an ISP to host your web pages for you.
Web Server rental prices vary quite significantly.
You can get totally “free” services which may show ads on or behind your pages. These can often be slow to serve pages, and low on features. And are a very poor choice for business, considering how little the paid services cost.
Paid web hosting services go from $10 a month to $thousands a year, depending on the type and size of server you really need.
The “average” small business should expect to pay around $180 a year - and certainly no more than $600 a year - to rent a web server that is appropriate to their needs - and such a server would include the ability to host more than one domain/web site on it. At the dearer end of the scale ($600pa) would get you a pretty good server like the one used to host OzSmallBiz and a collection of some of my other web sites.
For a business web site that involves some serious database work, or programming, or secure e-commerce capability, then you can expect the rental to be more. In these cases, a figure of $250+ a month is realistic for a full featured server that can handle lots of intensive work… or when you expect to get an enormous amount of traffic to your site.
Web Site Design
Initially, this can be an expensive part of getting your business onto the Internet… and that’s because it’s the most crucial part.
In most cases, a poorly designed web site will not work well (if at all) for you! Getting someone to design a “site” for a couple hundred dollars is NOT the way to go if you are serious about doing business online.
However, if you do have a good understanding of design principles and copywriting, and have the time, then have a go at it yourself. If you don’t, leave it to a person with skills in those areas.
The average small business can expect to invest between $500 and $1000 to get a web developer to create a site that (* Edit 10 Sept 08 - see a more detailed explanation of these in the comments section below):
- provides all the essential information users expect
- is unique to your business
- has your “look and feel”
- is easy for your users to work through
- encourages your visitors to want to deal with you
- makes it easy for them to deal with you
- works for you - attempts to achieve your objectives, and
- is search engine friendly
Obviously, if you need fancy programming to create interactive elements, or database interaction, or e-commerce capabilities, then you’re looking at a lot more.
For example, SSL certificates (to carry out secure e-commerce transactions) can cost from $700 to $2500 a year. Remote gateways to banks to collect “real-time” credit card information can also be costly to implement. Throw in a “shopping cart” program if you really need it (these can vary considerably in price from $500 to $50,000+) and your costs can begin to sky rocket.
Web Site Promotion
Once your site is going, you’ve got to get people there.
The cheapest way to do that is the one people most often forget about, and it’s also the simplest! Make sure that you include your URL (web address) in absolutely everything you send out from your business - your email, letterheads, “With Compliments” slips, invoices, statements, business cards, advertising materials, brochures, etc - everything! (but NOT your email address - bad idea)
The next step is to “register” your site with search engines - Google, MSN, Yahoo are the big three, but there are literally thousands of other search engines and directories you can register with.
Over time, this “organic traffic” (i.e. free traffic) will account for about 80+ percent of the visitors to your site.
While many of these search engines are free, quite a few are moving to “pay-per-click” or “pay-for-inclusion” business models.
With pay-per-click engines, you “bid” on certain key words, and pay that amount every time someone clicks through to your site… You may also have to pay a minimum fee (say $20+ USD a month) even if no-one clicks through.
The bigger “pay-per-listing” engines - eg Yahoo - are now charging 100’s of dollars on an annual basis to review your site for possible inclusion in their directories.
Hundreds of other sites will include a link to your site for nothing, or you can choose to pay from $5 upwards to list your site details with them. The key here is to be selective about the sites you approach. Make sure they have the target audience you are after, and aren’t indulging in any unsavoury practices which could have an effect on you.
There are also paid submission services you can use to get your site listed on search engines. The costs of these vary considerably. A once only $5 can get you listed with 300 search engines. Or you can make monthly investments of $50 USD for regular submissions of your site. Again, it’s up to you to consider the pros and cons of these schemes, and what can fit into your budget.
You can also do it yourself with submission software.
The key with any sort of link building is to keep doing it, and do it regularly! Just DON’T OVER-DO IT! If anything starts to appear unnatural, Google will drop you like a ton of bricks… and you don’t want that to happen!
This is just one aspect of web site promotion… there are many others you can investigate which have NOT been “costed” here.
Web Site Maintenance
An often overlooked component is the regular updating of your site… and probably forgotten due to other demands on your time…
But it IS very important to
- keep the information on your site current in the first place, and then
- update and refresh the information to encourage repeat visits to your site.
In the first case, it’s bad when people discover information that is so-o-o-o obviously out of date… they certainly won’t feel good about dealing with you!
Secondly, apart from giving people a reason to come back to your site at a later date, updating the information also encourages search engines to revisit… and reindex… (It’s been suggested that this alone helps improve your placement in some search engines).
Please remember that the figures shown below are in Australian dollars and are based on Australian conditions.
To summarise then… the costs for each component for an “average” small business to get onto the Internet:
Domain Registration: maximum $50 pa
Server Rental: from $180 to maximum $600 pa
Site Design: average $750-$1000 once only
Promotion: allow $500 pa in your budget
Updating: allow from $250 pa if you can’t do it yourself
And don’t forget your dial-up/ADSL costs - i.e. the regular monthly fee for you to access the Internet from your work/home computer. That can easily add another $300-$600 every year, which you also need to budget for.
All up, in the first year, the “average” small business could expect to pay between $2000 to $3000 to get their business (and themselves) connected to the Internet (and do some serious paid promotion to boot!)
In the second (and subsequent years) this would reduce to around $1200 - $2000.
Redeem your gift now, create your site when you are ready!