Skip to main content

SMB Website Costs: Is Your Small Business Being Realistic?

Justin Leedy
Image of person opening wallet with money in front of a laptop

In 2008, the pizza.com domain was purchased for a whopping $2.6 million! The very next year, media company QuinStreet spent $16 million to buy the insurance.com domain name! If a domain name can be worth millions, how much does a small business website cost?

Obviously, the average business owner won’t spend that much for a domain or a website, but the actual and hidden website costs can quickly add up. Small business owners need to understand and confront these expenses to execute a website project successfully.

Whether you’re ready for a new website for your small business, or just refreshing the old one (which is more likely the case), it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement. However, like most projects for your business, there’s a budget you need to adhere to. That budget largely depends on whether you have time to build it yourself or if you want someone to build it for you. Develop a budget with your accountant at the outset of your new website or website redesign project. Doing this will help guide you through the options available to you as you cost out and eventually develop your new site.

In this post, we’re going to share with you exactly how much it can cost to build a website so you can plan successfully for your new website, and stay on budget. 
 

The Cost of Branding Your Site

If you’re a new business, you’ll need to include the costs of logo design and basic branding for your business such as colors and fonts. The cost of branding can vary wildly from the $100 range to multiple thousands for your business website. 

When evaluating your branding, view it as an investment. It’s a visual representation of your company, and you don’t want to send the wrong message. If you have existing branding in place, you can use that as a starting point for your new website. 

Keep in mind that a new website is a natural time to update or freshen up your existing small business branding. That can include a refreshed color palette, modernized logo, or even adding a new slogan. Having modern branding is key to ensuring you’re keeping pace in your market and making good use of your website investment.

We tested out this artificially intelligent logo maker that lets you determine the budget you want to spend on a logo. Again, there are a range of costs available depending on your budget:

what's your company name screenshot

After selecting a few parameters like preferred style and colour palette (which didn’t seem to apply in the end), we chose a budget of $1-$99. This was our favourite AI generated logo from the test, but about 8 were there to choose from. Factor the cost of logo creation or recreation when calculating the expenses of your website refresh.

generated logo on purple background

The Cost of Images and Content for Your Site

The images and content you use on your website tell the story of your business, so you’ll want to invest — at a minimum — your time and energy in ensuring the visuals and images align with your brand. 

Images

Images are essential to your site as they’re the first impression your visitors will have. There are countless options for images on your site, including stock photos and imagery, and this is an area that you’ll want to devote some time and attention to. Think about the images for your website from your customer’s perspective, and focus on selecting images that will resonate with them. 

If you’re using a website builder, they may have a stock photo or icon gallery you can pull from for use on your site, like this one on Web.com:

media library featuring free stock images

Stock image providers — such as Stocksy, Creative Market, Unsplash, and Twenty20 — are great places to source high-quality images. Images can be free, as low as $1, or can easily go up to $100 and up. 

Be careful when selecting stock images though. Often the lower price tag means that image has been used over and over and over again (maybe even by your competitors, gasp!). 

That said, you may want to consider having a photoshoot for your website. This is an opportunity to create a gallery of images that are unique to your business and offers a way to showcase your work. Think about what you may want to include — especially headshots, team photos, or even photos of your customers. 

The bottom line is that good images are a good investment for your business. 

Content 

Creating content for your website can be time-consuming, and it’s very easy to underestimate what’s involved. Google favors websites that frequently refresh their content, so plan on regularly updating your content from the onset.

If you decide to DIY your content, assess how much time you may need — especially if writing doesn’t come naturally to you. 

If you don’t want to invest time in writing, consider outsourcing it to a freelancer or marketing company. Like logos and images, website content can range from as low as a few hundred dollars into the five-figure range. The Content Factory for example charges between $2000-$4000 for a 5-7 page website and they’re below standard industry costs, according to their experts.

how much does SEO and content writing cost table

When hiring someone to handle your website content, the price will often come down to the complexity, the number of pages needed, and the experience level of the writer or company you’re working with. Work out these details to get a better sense of how much money you’ll need for content creation in the overall budget for your new website. If your budget is really small, try writing website content yourself, making sure to research best practices for web copy ahead of time. Some website builders will help guide you through this process.
 

The Cost of Building Your Site

Small businesses no longer need to invest in custom websites as responsive website builders provide a fast and easy way to build a website. Most responsive website builders use drag-and-drop functionality where if you can use a mouse, you have the power to build a website. The DIY website builder from Web.com below guides small business owners through website copy and images with drag and drop functionality for layout.

web.com website builder screenshot

With responsive website builders, the cost of creating a website for small business owners has greatly decreased; however, there are still some costs involved. 

On a monthly basis, expect to pay from $5 to $75 for your website builder. Keep in mind that features and functionality vary based on the price, and it’s well-worth investing more in a responsive website builder, so you have advanced features that your business needs. Additionally, some lower cost options will display ads on your website when it’s live. This can look unprofessional and potentially distract website visitors. 

While a website builder offers a lower cost option than a fully custom website, some businesses may want to take this route. Custom website development prices also depend on what type of site you want to make:

web design costs by business costs

The Cost of Naming and Hosting Your Site

It’s likely that your website will have additional monthly (or annual) costs related to your domain and website hosting. Some responsive website builders offer fully hosted services and include the domain as part of the package which creates cost savings. 

choose your free domain name at web.com screenshot

If you’re using a website builder that doesn’t include hosting or domains, you’ll want to budget for these items on an ongoing basis. 

Shared hosting — where your site lives on a server with other businesses — can be as low as $5.95 a month. If you don’t already own your domain, you’ll need to purchase the domain which can cost $10 to $15 and go up from there. Depending on the domain name you’re after, it may cost exponentially more (remember pizza.com people?!), and you should decide if the investment in acquiring that particular domain is worth it or if you can find a suitable alternative. 

If you’re switching hosts, you’ll need to include costs for this migration as it can be tricky to navigate. Some hosts will offer migration services and take care of this for you. If you opt for doing the migration to your new host yourself, keep in mind that it may be time-consuming to move existing files and email accounts and switch website DNS records. In addition, if you’re not comfortable with the steps involved, you may experience website downtime as you change hosts. 

With a new website, it’s often an opportunity to match up your email addresses with your website address. This consistency adds professionalism and helps customers trust that you’re a “real” business. Most hosting services can add email service to your hosting package, and you’ll likely get the best price by consolidating these services with one provider. Expect to pay approximately $50/year for email hosting. 
 

The Cost of Securing Your Site

Like the cost of an alarm system or building security, your website has to be protected as well. You want search engines and your website visitors to trust your site and to do this online you need an SSL certificate. Having one of these demonstrates to site visitors that their connection is secure: 

image of 'customers trust sites with a lock icon' page

Consumers now look for SSL when browsing, and since 2014, Google has factored the presence of SSL into search relevance. Plus, some browsers will now mark websites that don’t have SSL as unsecured. 

SSL certificates start as low as $27.99/year and go up from there. If you have e-commerce functionality on your site, you can expect to invest more. Again though, check with your hosting provider because it may already be included.


The Cost of Maintaining Your Site

In the process of getting a new website, it’s easy to overlook the fact that some degree of maintenance is required.  Your site should be regularly backed up and should always run efficiently. 

Hands down, one of the biggest benefits of using a website builder is that there are typically options that include hosting with automated routine maintenance and backups. Even if you didn’t use a website builder or aren’t planning to, check to see if these features are part of your monthly hosting subscription. 

Custom, self-hosted sites require monthly maintenance to update plugins, perform backups, and ongoing upgrades to the platform (such as Wordpress) that they’re built on. If you’re not comfortable with technology, these maintenance costs typically start at $100 per month with a webmaster and go up from there.


The Cost of Protecting Your Site

Having a website opens you to a number of legal challenges if not taken into consideration. Is your logo and company name trademarked? Do you have permission to use all the images on your website? Are they properly cited? Are you collecting email addressing according to GDPR (if applicable)?

With your website, it’s critical that you consider areas such as FTC Liability, UGC Content and Copyright, Terms and Conditions, Privacy, Publicity, and GDPR. 

Depending on your products or services, covering these bases will be more important for some than others. That’s why it’s imperative that you consult your attorney to determine your legal needs for your website, and include these items as part of your website budget. 


The Verdict: How Much Does It Cost to Build a Website?

The price tag of your website costs ultimately depends on how much time you want to invest and if you have the technical skillset to do some of the work yourself. It’s essential that you take the time to plan in advance so you don’t overlook the costs of creating a website. In case you were looking for a quick answer here’s a decent breakdown of typical website cost ranges from Website FX:

upfront website costs table

The good news is that the latest generation of responsive website builders can help you to reduce the complexity and costs of getting your website up and running. With the right builder, you’re able to eliminate the costs associated with the design and development of the website while consolidating domain, security, hosting, and even maintenance costs. 

While we’ve spent a lot of time discussing website costs, don’t lose sight of the bigger picture - what you’re creating and who you’re creating it for. Before buying and building your website, ask yourself not only if your website creation costs are realistic for your current budget, but also from a return-on-investment (ROI) perspective as well. There’s no sense in investing in a small business website that doesn’t have a defined strategy attached to it. 

If you’re still looking for some additional figures on how much it costs to build a small business website, we’ve provided a bonus section of quotes from leading authors on the topic - enjoy!


Bonus: Website Development Quotes From Around the Web

According to It Is WordPress a small business website can cost between $111 - $1000 USD per year, including domains and hosting.

According to Website Builder Expert a small business website can cost between $60 and $6,760 USD to develop a website only.

According to Website Setup a small business website can cost between $60 per year and $50000 USD just to develop, not including additional services like maintenance or marketing.

According to Mark Brinker “in 2019 to build a modern, professional small business website was typically $3,000-$6,000 but could be as much as $20,000 depending on the number of pages on the site and the amount of customization required.”

According to Clever Road a non-transactional business website should cost between $9500 and $13000 not including hosting, domains etc.

According to Think With Mobile a website can cost $2000 USD for development plus an additional $515 per year for a domain, hosting, SSL Certificates and maintenance services.



Image Credits 
Featured Image: Unsplash / Artem Bali
Image 1-2: Via Designhill
Image 3, 5: Via Web.com 
Image 4: Via Content Factory
Image 6, 9: Via Web FX
Image 7: Via Web.com
Image 8: Via Web.com