What is your website operating budget?

website operating budget

Website operating budget

Business owners understand expenses. Office space, phones, vehicles, all these click. Owners don’t like them, but the bills have to be paid. Internet, website, and social media costs become line items on the budget spreadsheet. How much should you pay?

What does it cost?

The cost of a web presence ranges from next to zero (nothing is free!) to hundreds, if not thousands of dollars a month. Deciding what your business needs requires some thought. Once you’ve launched your website, there are ongoing costs associated with it:

  • Web hosting – this can range from free (blog sites, even Facebook) to hosting services to your own servers.
  • Internet service – even if it’s as simple as tethering from your phone, you’ve got to connect.
  • Content – If you’ve decided to go beyond just a “brochure” presence, somebody’s got to write those blog entries.
  • Graphics – strictly speaking, part of content, but you may have a good writer and nobody who can draw.
  • Promotion/SEO¬† – Getting the word out, Search Engine Optimization both have human and automatic components.

Some of these operational components may be wrapped up into a support contract or service. It’s possible you’re haven’t implemented some of these. Now’s the time to think about what you need.

How important is your website?

A lot depends on what your business/brand wants from its online presence. Consider your local pub. At a minimum, it’s important to have a place where customers can look up basic information. Operating hours, maybe a menu and a tap list. At a minimum, the pub needs a business page on Facebook. From there, take the contents of the Facebook page and turn them into a simple website. Once that’s built, then it’s a matter of what you want. Do you change the food menu much? Rotating taps? Your website connects the business with customers. New beer for the weekend? Let them know! Even if you’re active on social media platforms, a more-static presence may be important.

This goes beyond pubs. Photographers love to share their work around the Internet. They need a place to point interested viewers so they become clients. Authors need people to come out to signings and readings, to put their books in front of readers. What role do you want your website to play in all this?

If you need help with these decisions, perhaps your first expense would be for a professional consultation? While you’re pondering that, look at what you’re paying this year. Services such as hosting and upgrades may be part of what you paid your developer. Do you have a proposal from the developer to continue included services? Review that contract. (Hint: having a consultant might help. Email us at webdev@ebranley.com)

In the meantime, here’s some quick numbers.

Hosting

Business website hosting starts at no cost (Facebook, Medium) to big bucks. The first thing you need to determine is, who hosts your site and what do they provide? Did your developer host your presence on their servers? Is your site with a commercial hosting provider? You need to know.

Commercial hosting, with a company like Siteground or Bluehost is a common solution for small businesses ranging from the photographer to the author to the brick-and-mortar pub. For budget purposes, figure $15 per month. Yes, I know, you can probably get something for $5.99/month. Budget for growth. Prepare to go to the plan above the base offering.

Internet Service

Do you operate a physical office? You’ll need broadband service to the space. Is your business virtual? Home office? Be careful with “writing off” your phone and/or home internet service. Check with your accountant or tax person on what can be a “business expense.” Budget $100 per month for business internet service to your space. Again, you might leverage your home service, or your cable company offers a cheaper plan. Great, you’re in budget.

Content

Someone needs to update your content. The photographer displays the latest client’s images. The author updates their schedule. Anything beyond basics requires someone to sit down and, you know, write. Is that person the business owner? Theh spouse? A bartender that knows beer? If you delegate content development to an employee, consider how much time is involved. Daily new content requires daily updates. Do you pay your writer enough? Do they have time to keep up with the website? If you go outside for content development, freelance writers cost anywhere from $25-$75 an hour. Figure at least an hour for each 300-word post. That’s $100-$300 per month, if you do a weekly update.

Graphics

You may think, oh, I’ll just use free clip art, or images you’ve already collected. Consider two things: finding free images requires search time. If you task an employee with creating content, factor in the time it takes to post the right pictures. While you may dodge copyright issues, it’s prudent policy to avoid problems in the first place. Add $20/month to content development expense for image searches, more for a stock photography/image service subscription.

Promotion/SEO

This is another time-versus-money expense. You’ll need to let folks know when you’ve updated content. That means someone has to tweet, Insta, etc., the new/updated content. Depending on the structure of your website, it’s possible to automate SEO basics. Platforms such as WordPress offer “plugins” to improve the under-the-hood quality of your posts/pages. Many plugins have a starter/free level. Budget $100/year for a “premium” upgrade to the plugin.

Scratching the Surface!

The website operating budget numbers offered here are relatively low-ball expenses for your business website. Determining exactly what you need requires some thinking. Pull up the spreadsheet. Plug in the numbers here. Adjust based on what you have now. Save that spreadsheet and send it to us. We’ll be happy to pitch our services to you.

IMAGE CREDIT: Va Tech via the Commons.