Hi, I’m Taylor Reaume, founder of Search Engine Pros. Yesterday, I was in your shoes…trying to make sense of the average cost of websites and online marketing. I searched and I searched, and all I wanted was:
1.) A simple answer.
2.) Someone who has been there, and could provide me clear, concise explanation.
3.) A price tag that didn’t make me run for the hills.
Perhaps my expectations were set too high (but I didn’t think so). As my goal to make it to financial freedom was too precious to entrust to an amateur. And of course, that old quote kept ringing in the back of my mind…”if you think working with a professional is expensive, try working with an amateur…”
I desperately wanted to build a successful web presence for myself. I decided to learn it on my own. 15 years later, here I am, a successful entrepreneur living in Santa Barbara, CA. My company Search Engine Pros helps people along the path to e-business success.
I live and work in Santa Barbara, California. In 1998, I started designing websites. As my business grew, I started to offer SEO services. I became somewhat of a local authority on SEO because word got around that one of my sites was getting over 200,000 unique visitors per month…which led to the sale of this site for six figures.
This gave me the undeniable proof that my SEO methods really worked. No black hat SEO methods – just naturally strong rankings as a result of diligence. As you can imagine, clients would ask “Can you do that for me?”
“Of course, I can,” was my reply. However, much of the time I was faced with the very scenario I’ve mentioned above. It was plain to see that business owners needed an affordable and quick solution to this problem that was ballooning their online expenses AND causing them to lose sales to online competitors.
Whether you are an author, an entrepreneur, a small to mid-sized business or a multinational corporation, this article will help you demystify a the average cost of websites.
The main reason web projects fail is due to lack of communication. Getting clear on your needs is critical to success when developing a web presence. If you don’t understand your own needs, the web professional will not be able to deliver on target.
Web projects also frequently fail because they require extreme organization in multiple areas — mind boggling levels of organization — and projects fail because of how difficult it is to keep everything organized.
Further complicating matters, the field of online marketing (SEO/SEM/SOCIAL MEDIA) has been merging with traditional marketing, with emphasis on branding, framing, story telling, user engagement, viral marketing, and public relations. This leads to conflicting perspectives among interested parties and the web strategy suffers as a result of fragmented forward movements.
You are probably reading this because you are conducting research on developing on a website, looking for concrete information on how much it actually costs to get a website designed. You might be a small business that is considering building a website to help grow your business. Or you might be a non-profit, looking to redesign your website to better communicate your mission. Or, you might be the marketing director for a multi-million dollar organization looking to improve customer relations and build your brand’s online presence.
We have worked with all of the above, helping all types of businesses to develop websites and implement online marketing plans, and we are here to to educate the business (and consumer) market at large about what it takes to build a website and what the ultimate cost will be.
WHY ARE SOME WEB DESIGN COMPANIES SO INEXPENSIVE WHILE OTHERS ARE OUTRAGEOUSLY PRICED?
Why are prices so wildly varying in the web design industry? We recently gave an estimate on a project where we were smack in the middle. Below us there was a developer vying for the project at $1,000. Above us, $10,000. And then us, exactly in the middle. Our future client would go on to ask us… “What gives? Why are you so much more expensive than the low-end companies, and so much less expensive than the high-end companies, and how could there be such a massive difference in the first place?” What is with this industry!!
The best answer is that it works a lot like consulting. On the low-end you have people that almost certainly have no idea what they’re doing, didn’t listen enough (or pay attention) and are generally just throwing out a number. I know for a fact that even with razor thin margins and outsourcing, that $1,000 will get you roughly 50 hours spent on your website. And there isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell this client would get the system they required (based on what they communicated to us) within 2 weeks’ worth of work. I explained as much and they agreed.
And, just like consultants, some web site design companies are operating on huge margins, a prestigious reputation, and a large (sometimes helpful, sometimes inefficient) infrastructure increases costs. Is the $10,000 web company twice as good as the web company that costs half? Probably not. At the end of the day it’s all about satisfying needs. And in order to satisfy needs, it’s important that communication is crystal clear about what is needed to before starting the project.
I can’t stress this enough, on projects that have an extremely low budgets always get sacrificed and future support is likely to be non-existent. Just a few months ago two former clients came to us asking for a copy of their website as the companies they had contracted had disappeared and taken their website and email with them. As a result of their email being down, they lost additional tens of thousands of dollars, and their website represented more than a $5,000 initial investment and additional lost marketing dollars. In total for the two of them this other developer ended up causing them a loss of nearly $30,000.
We’re committed to pricing our services correctly, providing our clients with amazing support and technical knowledge. Even years after these clients ended the relationship due to price, when they returned we were happy to help (with backup copies no less), reinforcing that “quality doesn’t cost… it pays.”
Sadly, I continue to hear story after story where companies explain –
Losing time means losing money.
There are literally hundreds of small, behind-the-scenes steps that the client will not understand, but they are nonetheless critical to success. Making sure analytics code is correctly installed, making sure goal tracking is set up, submitting the site to webmaster tools, etc. When these aren’t done you are receiving a sub-par product (with potentially sub-par marketing results) and when they are done, even the simplest site will still take many hours to fully setup.
The bottom line is, like in many industries, web design and development is definitely an area where you get what you pay for.
Like the organizations or individuals they represent, websites are not all created equal. Websites serve various goals and audiences and feature different technology, and therefore they can vary greatly in cost as the level of design and functionality increases and becomes more complex to suit your unique needs.
Our rate at Search Engine Pros ranges from $50-$150 on a sliding scale, depending on the number of hours you purchase. We may offer special discounts for partner companies, non-profits, and in select cases partner projects.
Consider the following statistics:
Organic search leads have a 14.6% close rate, compared to 1.7% for outbound marketing leads. (NewsCred)
4 out of 5 consumers shop on smartphones (comscore).
40% of people will choose a different search result if the first is not mobile friendly. –Skillcrush
You have 10 seconds to leave an impression and tell them what they’ll get out of your website and company. After this time (and oftentimes before), they’ll leave. — NN Group
Content marketing generates 3 times as many leads as traditional outbound marketing, but costs 62% less. — Hubspot
70% of consumers say they prefer getting to know a company via articles rather than ads. (NewsCred)
Blogging increases web traffic by 55% for brands. (Rocket Post)
More than half (53%) of marketers rank content creation as the single most effective SEO tactic. (NewsCred)
But not any thrown-together website will do. You need a website with a clean design that’s easy to navigate and has superb usability and functionality. And you, the business, need to be able to easily update that website yourself. Whether you are a national corporate brand, a startup, a local breakfast diner, or an expanding shoe store, you need a website. Whether your business is broad or niche, large or small, you need a website!
As we mentioned before, Search Engine Pros charges an hourly rate of $150, and we create our overall price estimates based on this rate, as do many other web design companies. Hourly rates can range from $25 to $200 per hour, according to on the experience and level of expertise that each company delivers with each hour spent on your project. Therefore, it is essential to have an accurate picture of the features you need for your site and how you will be obtaining your site’s content prior to inquiring for estimates of website costs. Here is a breakdown of the general costs incurred by a website:
WEBSITE DESIGN COST – WHAT’S INCLUDED IN THE PRICE OF A WEBSITE?
Domain Name: $10-$100 per year for new domains. Some old domains sell for millions, but you will most likely want to create a new, unique one.
Web Hosting: $100/month; $50 – $1,200/year. This depends on the type of hosting you choose (dedicated, shared, free). Additional costs may be incurred for additions like SSL (Secure Socket Layer certificate) or static IP Address.
Custom Design/Information Architecture: $2,500 – $10,000+. This includes the visual design, UX design, imagery collection, and sitemap and page structure generation and is usually included within a comprehensive website development package.
Shopping Cart Integration & Programming: $200 – $15,000. What level of functionality do you need in your website? Shopping carts, paid plugins, and custom features can cost extra, but the benefits of a fully customized website, unique to your business, might outweigh the costs.
Website Content Creation: $50-$200 per page, or hourly. You can compose your website’s content yourself and outsource it overseas for around $1 per page, or use a content writing firm at a cost of between $100-$200 per page. As in website design, you get what you pay for when it comes to content creation, and you want your website to rank high in search engines and reach your audience.
Project Management & Information Gathering: $600-$3,000. You need a developer that will help your website to succeed, and that means requires a strong line of communication between you and your developers. This price includes initial meetings and estimates, phone calls, and any time required to gather all information needed to get your site running.
Testing & Training: $600-$4,800. While most websites are now built with user-friendly CMS’, not everyone knows how to get started with them. This price point includes training you how to use your new site, making sure that everything works correctly and giving you the chance to make any desired changes.
Website Managed Services: $200-$2,000+/month. Managed services include blog writing, subsequent testing after the website launch, and content maintenance. It may also include marketing and advertising services such as AdWords, Pay Per Click Marketing, Social Media Advertising and more.
This is a do-it-yourself tool or pricing guidelines for doing it yourself with advice from a website developer.
DO IT YOURSELF: FREE – $50/MONTH
With advances in business models, content management systems, and software there are now some amazing tools online to build your own website. These include Wix.com and SquareSpace.com, among others. These tools are incredibly useful. As a development agency it’s sometimes scary to see how far things have come.
However, it’s important to note – these tools are often complicated and we find that our general audience is still not comfortable navigating these tools. These sites are highly customizable but require some coding, graphic design, and other technical knowledge to create a custom, attractive look. However, these are valuable resources and I’d recommend these services for any business looking to try it themselves.
IF YOU HIRE A DEVELOPER: $2,000 – $5,000
This might be a good fit if you are looking for a basic designed website that acts primarily as an online brochure, establishing a necessary presence online to answer your potential customers’ questions “are you real?” “are you professional?” and “what do you do?” A basic website of this type can be created in the $2,000 – $5,000 range. This website could include the capability to allow you to interact in a 2-way conversation with your audience (through social media or a blog), to conduct business directly through your site (E-commerce), and to enable you to change and update the pages and content within your site without hiring a web programmer/designer to do it for you (Content Management Systems enables this for a higher fee.)
A basic website will aid in building your brand, enable you to showcase your products and services, grow your web presence, and generate more sales. The design of your website can, most likely, be templated at minimal costs. With our firm, these sites will be responsive using the latest standards to make sure your site looks the same on nearly every computer/device and will be Search Engine Optimized (SEO) for search engine ranking success. But not all developers code the same or have search engine optimization and online marketing as a primary ground level focus.
A few sites we’ve built recently that would fall into this range include http://TomaRestaurant.com, http://IndoSB.com, http://SammysLimos.com, http://JohnGilliganComedy.com, http://JimmyComedy.com, http://MarkMillerHumorist.com, http://Craigdallen.com, http://TheWealthPilot.com
Here a web developer builds the site for you, and then gives you a tool to update it yourself for future changes.
Advanced websites like this typically require more meetings and web companies need to charge higher prices to cover costs for phone calls, the sales process, meeting space, the actual work, and then post-launch support.
Depending on the level of aesthetic design that is required as well as additional features, Advanced websites will cost on average around $7,500. These websites are created with enhanced, optimal functionality and design, as you will receive both custom art design and the ability to manage and update all content, images, and text contained within the pages of your site (infinite number of pages possible).
These websites are built with the expectation that you will have a large amount of changes, additions or updates to be incorporated in the near future. Instead of being charged hourly rates for these edits, a CMS system enables you to do a majority of the work yourself without previous coding or web designing experience. Social interaction with your site visitors is possible with a site of this caliber, as a blog will be included within your site giving you the ability to place posts of content that is relevant and useful to your audience. Then your audience can choose to comment on your blog posts and respond to each other’s’ comments, creating 2 dimensional interaction between you and your audience, and also among your audience.
Some E-commerce and real estate listing sites can be created within this price range depending upon level of functionality and design. Also, sites of this level have varying prices according to various design features. Again, with our firm, these sites will be CSS and XHTML Coded so that your site will look identical on nearly every user device and will also be Search Engine Optimized (SEO) for increased natural search engine ranking success. But not all firms code the same and have SEO as a top priority. Also, web analytics are provided with every site we build to track and ensure your web success.
This is the level where you get a completely custom website.
This will typically be for larger businesses that requires advanced functionality.
If you are looking for a larger site, with increased functionality including, among others, social networking, blogging, E-commerce, or additional web applications, and finished off with exceptional design and content that resonates with your audience, you can expect to pay a bit more than the previous two sections. We’ll detail out some specifics in our subsequent sections on E-commerce & Custom Applications, but this section is a good place for larger businesses to start.
Like we discussed earlier, some E-commerce and web applications can be created for less, but most successful ventures are created for much more. There are countless sites that fall into this category including Facebook.com, Amazon.com, and IStockPhoto.com to name only a few (all GREATLY exceeding 6-figures). A site within this price range may be built and hand coded from scratch – and in all cases will require advanced customization and the coordination of various technologies in order to fit for your company or infrastructure.
That means your site is totally unique and receives the attention and expertise of an experienced web application developer(s) and website designer(s). A site that falls into this category requires months of planning, research, consulting, database design and implementation, software development and integration, site quality assurance and testing.
You might be thinking, ‘I had no idea it would cost so much!’ And the only answer I can give is that web design and development is like any other craft or trade – it requires a high level of knowledge and experience.
So why exactly are websites in this range so costly? Here’s a few factors to consider, from examples of situations we’ve been in throughout the years that affect the cost of a website, even when functionality may be fairly ordinary:
More meetings required
More people (and approvals) involved
More exacting content specifications
More pages of content to keep track of
Additional security concerns
Governmental or other requirements/regulations that must be taken into consideration (for example 508 compliance is a beautiful and on some projects necessary element – accounting for this and testing for it takes extra time and money)
E-commerce functionality increases the cost of a regular web site.
For businesses that sell multiple products online
E-Commerce websites are for businesses who need the ability to add products / services and transact business online – accept payment for products, coordinate shipping, communicate with purchasers, etc.
Over the years we’ve updated our pricing structure to reflect new e-commerce technology that has come out. The average cost of e-commerce functionality ranges from $200 to $100,000 depending on features needed. For example, the absolute simplest “e-commerce” site we have seen, and one that actually accounts for most of the requests we get, is either a single Paypal button or the ability to accept payments/donations online (most often for a non-profit). Even with such a basic starting point, there are a lot of questions to answer– how was the existing site built? Do you already have an account with Paypal? Do you want to make sure people stay on your website as they make their purchase? And the list goes on. But, at the very minimum (if a business has a Paypal account and just needs a button added) this can usually be accomplished in an hour or so and the price could be anywhere from $50 – $500 depending on the company setting up the feature or the relationship they have with their web development company.
But, when you start to add additional products and incorporate shipping or transaction emails (confirmation emails, etc.) things get a bit more complicated.
With the way that e-commerce has evolved in the past few years, there are a few things to consider. If you’re selling less than 100 products, you will probably be better off with a WordPress e-commerce site. This will enable you to marry the best publishing platform with a shopping cart. If you are selling more than 100 products, and your business is 100% focused on e-commerce – we highly recommend Volusion if you go the route of the all in one carts on the market. The drawback is the monthly fee, and the various limitations with closed source software, as well as your own limitations on management/setup, might quickly become an issue – might make decide to go with a full service agency in the open source software direction. The best example of an larger e-commerce site that we know of is http://www.Zappos.com – I consistently see speakers referencing Zappos as a “best practice” site to follow at e-commerce conferences.
For our WordPress E-commerce websites, our own pricing begins at $999 and scales up from there. Here’s why. Generally most of our clients with e-commerce needs also require guidance, education, and setup assistance with the following:
SSL selection, purchase
Merchant Account Setup
Payment Processor Setup
Shipping Setup – Including coordination/setup of accounts
Transaction Email – What does each email your website send say “thank you for purchasing…”, “thank you for creating an account,” etc.
Think of a basic web site as being similar to a Honda Accord perhaps, and an advanced web site like a Mercedes. An e-commerce site would be like a Ferrari. Most customers need an experienced and reliable developer to go beyond making the right decisions and also to guide and hold their hand throughout the process.
Anyone starting an e-commerce site should be thinking about getting reviews from third party CSE’s (comparison shopping engines). Do a search on Google for “dance shoes” and you will notice that some advertisements have stars, and some do not. This is a big key to success with e-commerce. Those little stars give vendors a credibility edge.
For those stars to start accumulating you will first need to get your website registered as a Google Trusted Store. You’ll want to make sure that the shopping cart you select permit easy integration with Google like other commercial carts such as Volusion. To become a Google Trusted Store you need a minimum 500 orders/28days. You may not even be qualified. You must meet several criteria first (i.e., have a high number of transactions, submit information about their processed and cancelled orders, and other items. )
As far as encouraging shopping cart reviews you could put something like this in their order confirmation emails “Please review us on Google Shopping” with a link to the review page. You could also put the link on the order confirmation page of the site so people can review the site right after they place an order. The basic idea here is that we want to get more reviews and hence, more stars on our Google Products in our Google Trusted Store, and also in top consumer shopping engines, such as Bizrate, Review Center, View points, etc. You would need to register at these comparison shopping engine (CSE).
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