When you’re running a small business, there are probably a million items on your to-do list. But is building and maintaining a company website one of them? If not, you’re not alone. In fact, over a quarter of small businesses still don’t have a professional website in 2021.
Not only is creating a website a time investment, but it also costs money. You can expect to spend $500 to $5,000 on building a website, depending on how much outside help you use. This leaves many small business owners wondering: Is it worth it?
In a world that’s becoming increasingly digital, having an online presence is no longer optional—it’s crucial for the ongoing success of your business. A recent study by Deloitte found that digitally-connected small businesses earned four times more revenue growth than they did in the previous year. The term “digitally connected” isn’t simply about using technology in the day-to-day operations of your business, but also utilizing digital communications like websites, social media, and email marketing to reach your target audience.
So let’s dive deeper into why you need a website in the first place, and then we’ll get into all the costs involved in building one.
Why Your Small Business Needs a Website
Still not convinced? We’re here to show you how a small business website has the potential to grow your business and open up a world of opportunities with both your existing and new customers.
1. You Can Make Sales in Any Situation
Let’s address the elephant in the room. Local businesses all over the world have struggled to stay open during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the environment for in-person sales has changed dramatically as a result.
Small business owners who have weathered the storm best have turned to online channels to boost their bottom line and expand their audiences beyond their town or city, capitalizing on the endless possibility that their own website has provided. In a world where customers are reluctant to venture beyond their homes, e-commerce has boomed.
In the US alone, online shopping grew by more than 44 percent in 2020, triple the industry’s growth in 2018 and 2019. While the pandemic is likely the cause of this monumental acceleration, the year-over-year increases in customer spending online can’t be ignored. When e-commerce sales are now over $850 billion per year, what’s stopping you from joining the hundreds of thousands of businesses who are seeing success online?
2. You Have Space to Show off Your Products and Services
Global pandemics aside, a business website is a great place to showcase all of your products or service offerings in a way that a physical store may not allow for. After all, there’s only so much real estate that you have to work with in the offline world. That simply isn’t the case when you’re using a custom website.
A website will also give you the opportunity to meet potential customers at any point in their sales journey. If they’re not quite ready to make a buying decision, your informational website content gives them the chance to take a look around as if they were walking around your store. They can find all of the details that they’re looking for and check out any related posts that might grab their attention about other products or services.
Instead of hoping that one day these customers will come back to visit, there are plenty of online marketing strategies that you can make use of to remind them about your business and encourage them to make a purchase. For example, you could offer a discount to customers who give you their email–and then follow up with them via email (which, by the way, you can automate with a marketing or a CRM software solution). Your website landing page can be one of the most effective marketing tools you have in this new digital age, so make use of it where you can.
3. You Gain the Opportunity to Be Found by New Customers
In most cases, customers know what they’re looking to buy, but it’s very likely that they’ve never heard of your business before and won’t know to search for it by name. That’s where a digital marketing tactic known as search engine optimization, or SEO, can benefit you.
SEO is all about having an optimized website so that search engines understand exactly what your business is about and put your site in front of web users who are specifically looking for what you offer. For example, if you’re a candle store, a potential customer may perform a Google search for “homemade soy candles.” If you’ve been actively working on your SEO and have a good website (with a contact form or phone number clearly visible), there’s a chance that Google will direct that user to your business website as it matches what they’re looking for.
SEO can seem overwhelming if you don’t consider yourself to be tech-savvy and it’s a more long-term strategy compared to running digital ads or posting on social media. But it can certainly be worth the time and money to invest in freelancers or digital marketing consultants to help you get it rolling.
You can start your search by asking your network if they know of any reliable SEO freelancers or consultants, or by using LinkedIn’s search function to find people with that keyword. How much one of these professionals will charge will vary, but you can expect somewhere in the range of $50-$100 per hour.
4. You Have a Home for Your Best Testimonials and Reviews
Word of mouth is still one of the biggest drivers of new business, no matter what industry you work in. That’s why having online reviews and testimonials from both previous and current customers is so important—you can let them do the selling for you.
There are numerous review sites out there like Yelp and Facebook pages, but there’s nothing stopping you from pulling some of these onto your own site too. Curate the best reviews that your customers have left for you and create a highlight reel across your different site pages. They’re the social proof that tells prospective customers that you’re the best business for what they’re after.
Save time and money that you can reinvest in marketing your business by using Hourly. Hourly syncs your payroll directly with workers’ compensation. That means you can say goodbye to educated guesses, because premiums are based on actual wages. You’ll avoid overpaying on workers’ compensation and won’t be surprised by a nasty bill when audit time comes around. Hey, that’s more money you can invest in a brand new website.
How Much It Costs to Build a Website
So you’ve decided that a custom site is exactly what you need to help your business grow, but how much is this all going to cost? Well, that’s going to depend on the type of website that your business needs.
If you’re a service-based business, a basic website will normally be around five to eight total pages. Depending on if you plan to build it yourself or hire outside help, you’re likely looking at costs of $500 to $5,000. For an e-commerce website, the average cost can be anywhere from $2,000 to $100,000-150,000. Yes, that’s a big range to be playing with, but it all comes down to how much support you need to get your website launched, along with the functionality your business needs to operate online.
Before you get started, take some time to evaluate possible areas where you can save money on a do-it-yourself site or by using an in-house team. But keep in mind the impact that this could have on your business before you immediately opt for the DIY route.
Website development, especially for new websites, can be an incredibly time-consuming process and is often best left to the professionals if you want a quality user experience that accurately reflects your business. You or your team also have other responsibilities to focus on, so a DIY website will likely take longer to get up and running compared to handing it over to an agency or web developer who will be solely focused on your project.
To get a better understanding of your budget and expected costs, let’s break down a few of the most common expenses associated with starting a small business website.
Domains and Web Hosting
The first item on your website list should be to buy a domain name. Your domain name is the website address that users will need to find your online store or website. Domain names are fairly inexpensive, around $5 to $15, but will need to be renewed on an annual basis. Shop around before making a final decision as many will offer new customer discounts that will lower your upfront costs.
When it comes to website hosting, this may be included in the overall site cost if you use a content management system like Squarespace or Wix. But if you choose to use a self-hosted WordPress website, you’ll need to choose from web hosting companies like Hostgator, GoDaddy, WP Engine, or Bluehost. Hosting costs will vary by web host, but you can expect to spend around $20-30 per month on your hosting plan.
Most hosting providers now include an SSL certificate or a free SSL within their hosting service pricing, but if they don’t, be sure to include this upgrade. An SSL certificate keeps your website secure and also lets search engines know that your site is safe for users to access. This does impact your SEO (secure sites are prioritized in search results) so don’t skip this.
Content Management Systems (CMS)
Otherwise known as a website builder, a CMS is the platform that works as the architectural framework of your website. While you can build a website from scratch using HTML, a website builder significantly cuts down the time it will take for you to launch and keep on top of website maintenance.
The backend is mostly built already (although you’ll need a little more hands-on work for a WordPress site) and updates are much easier to make long-term. You and your team won’t need to know any HTML, which can be helpful when you’re looking to save money on maintenance costs, and most come with extensive step-by-step tutorials to make using them more straightforward.
Most CMS platforms like Squarepace, Wix, and Shopify cost around $15-20 per month if their website hosting is included in the pricing, even if you’re using them as an e-commerce site. WordPress is free to use upfront but you’ll be paying for your hosting and any WordPress plugins that you choose to add.
With many website builders, there are also free themes, templates, and add-ons like premium plugins available for customization that help to make your website unique. These can add to your CMS costs so be sure to factor this in when budgeting.
Website Design and Web Development Costs
Most of your website costs will likely be in web development and building a custom design for your site. Even if you have some experience in web design or find yourself using a theme that comes with your CMS, hiring a website designer to ensure that all of your online and offline branding matches will always be a good use of your marketing budget. Most small businesses will spend between $1,000 and $10,000 on outsourced website design.
If you’re choosing to work with a web designer, you’ll likely also need web development support. This is especially important if you’re using WordPress themes (either a free or premium theme) or plugins as these can sometimes require custom coding or technical interventions to make sure that everything is running smoothly. Especially if you have an e-commerce site and need to accept credit cards, you’ll probably need some integration support with WordPress to make sure this is working correctly and adheres to local and national laws regarding card processing. Budget anywhere from $4,000 to $10,000 to work with an experienced web developer.
Be sure to ask your developer if there are any ongoing maintenance costs that you’ll need to budget for when it comes to this type of work, or if you only need their services during setup.
Small Business Websites Are a Must-Have
In today’s online world, having a digital presence is a vital part of running a successful business. Building a standout website for your customers to quickly and easily work with you is one of the most important ways for you to stay relevant and ahead of your competition.
Whether you have a site with all the bells and whistles or stick with something a little more minimalist and manageable in-house is up to you. But if there’s one thing you should take away from this post, it’s this: getting started is often the hardest part, but it will always pay off in the end.