Survival in the global economy requires innovative business strategies such as marketing your business online. As mobile and internet technologies converge, more commercial activities are taking place on the internet, making the website an indispensable tool for any business. Business owners who understand the importance of having an online presence often wonder how much does a website cost and is it a worthy investment?
How much does a website cost?
The cost of creating and maintaining a website can vary according to the design elements, complexity of its functions and the type of internet marketing services required to support it. It is possible to create your own website for “free” using an open source content management system like WordPress.com or a website building like those offered by many hosting companies. Although these websites are free / low-cost, the functionality they offer is often restrictive and in some cases, if you change hosting companies, then you lose access to the CMS your website is built on meaning you will no longer be able to make changes. Following is a list of some of the aspects of website design that influence how much a website will cost you.
Logo design and web graphics:
A business logo is used to represent the company’s identity or product and helps promote a desired company image. A logo can make or break a business which is why companies invest in logo design services which require artistic talent and graphic design skills to render an eye-catching and meaningful symbol. Web graphics use colour, fonts and aesthetic design to set the tone of a web page and attract site users.
Website design and development:
Much of a website’s cost goes into website development, particularly in designing its structure, flow and interactive functions. Static pages containing text and image content require less time and effort to create unlike the more interactive functions such as shopping cart, online payment, sales pages, contact forms, email capture, and surveys.
One of the other factors impacting website design and development cost is how tailored or customised you want your website to be. At one end of the spectrum, you can use a standard template or theme, some of which are free, and design your website on this theme. Although you can add your own logo and possibly colours, the layout and style can be used by anyone else who uses that theme so your website may look a bit like someone else’s.
At the other end of the spectrum is a customised website that is unique to your business. The design, layout, functionality is all developed as you specify and no one else will have a website that looks like yours.
Sophisticated tools and applications have made it easier to create impressive websites, bringing down costs of website development even of the most customised requirements.
Web pages need fresh content such as articles, videos, pictures and audio files in order to attract a targeted audience and rank well in search engines. While anyone can write articles for a website, an online marketing specialist can provide search engine optimized content. The cost of SEO articles will depend on their length and topic difficulty. Videos, infographics, images and audio are other forms of content that you may want to add to your site. These days you can create these yourself if you have the time to learn and dedicate to it. Professional online marketers are usually much faster, have access to smarter technology and the good ones will make sure that your content targets your audience and meets your business goals.
Getting a website to appear in search results requires a comprehensive strategy from setting up website technical elements through to generating inbound links. SEO is vital to website success and must be an ongoing process to yield the desired results. Google’s Penguin and Panda updates levelled the playing field around SEO because people who were “gaming” the search results were penalized. This is good news for SMEs because it means that if your content is good and your SEO provider is using white hat techniques to bring high quality links to your website, then you will benefit through higher-rankings.
Social media integration:
Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and YouTube carry importance because when your content is shared by others, it is an indication that you are considered an authority and the search engines such as Google will rate your content highly. It is very easy to integrate social sharing icons into your website. However, getting people to use them, requires good content and effort on your part.
Ongoing website maintenance:
A website is an investment and there will be some ongoing maintenance costs. This includes things like hosting, refreshing layout and graphics, backups and updates to the CMS. If you have a CMS that allows you to make your own changes, then you can minimise ongoing maintenance costs by adding your own content and making changes. However, unless you are a skilled website developer, you should leave the more complex changes to your web development expert. Creating your website and taking it live is just the starting point. As with any business asset, in order to keep or increase it’s value, you need to manage it. The same goes for your website. Make sure backups are done regularly, make sure there are no security breaches of your website and ensure that version updates are implemented. Don’t rely on your hosting company doing these things unless you are 100% sure these services are covered as part of your hosting arrangement (which they rarely are!).
How much to budget
As outlined above, there are a variety of factors that influence the overall cost of a website.
The most basic type of website, usually the ones you see advertised for $500, is usually very limited in what it can do. In many cases, these types of websites are brochure style, meaning they are nothing more than a digital brochure. The content is fairly static and does not need to be updated.
The other type of website, a dynamic website is designed to attract leads and encourage your website visitors to take action on your website – e.g. calling you, signing up, making an enquiry or purchasing online. These websites are also known as direct response websites and are another marketing channel for your business. If you want to market your business online with the goal of generating leads and building a relationship with buying customers, then you will want a direct response website. It is possible to have an entry level website professionally developed, which is well coded and has some basic content and graphics included for well under $1,000 but you should budget around $2,000 for a good direct response website.
If your business relies heavily on the internet and online sales, then you will need to invest more in your website which will be one of your major channels to market. You will need to keep the content updated and fresh to encourage buyers to come back to your website. You will need good copy on your website to convert visitors to buyers and you will need most likely need some eCommerce functionality enabling visitors to buy direct and make payments from your website. Your website will most likely have a variety of content such as articles, videos, blog posts, images and a lot of it. For a website like this, you could spend anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000 or more depending on your business size, complexity, number of products and business objectives.