If you’re here, then you’re toying with the idea of using WordPress to build your business’s website. That’s awesome! WordPress is home to some very well-known websites like CNN, UPS, Katy Perry, and Mashable, so your site will be in good company!
While those are just some of the big names that use WordPress, there are websites all over the world, huge eCommerce websites to the smallest of blogs, that use WordPress as their content management system. In fact, as of 2017, there are almost 75 million websites using WordPress.
Why do so many people prefer WordPress over other solutions? Well, for one, it’s intuitive. Secondly, it comes jam-packed with third-party integrations that help even the most novice users create a professional-looking website in no time. Plus, the platform itself is free to use thanks to its licensing under the GPL.
Now, just because the WordPress software is free, it doesn’t mean that running a site is also free. And before you leave this blog out of frustration, it’s important to note the following: cost is something you’ll have to deal with regardless of which content management system or website builder tool you use. In order to create a great looking site and keep it up and running, you’ll need to make a solid investment in the tools you use to create it and host it online.
You wouldn’t scoff at having to pay for a task management tool like Basecamp or finance management software like QuickBooks, would you? These tools improve productivity, efficiency, and give you a much larger return on your investment at the end of the day. The same goes for using WordPress to build your site.
If you’re curious to see what using WordPress will realistically cost you, let’s take a look at the most common expenses associated with running a WordPress website.
You’ve heard the phrase “it takes money to make money,” right? Well, building and running a website for your business is no different. That being said, it doesn’t mean you need to spend thousands of dollars to do it—especially when you use WordPress.
Costs will, of course, depend on how large your site is and what you need to accomplish with it, but they’re still easy enough to predict if you know what exactly your site needs ahead of time.
Here is a breakdown of the most common costs associated with running a WordPress site (as well as a few other things to consider, in case you hadn’t thought of them):
The WordPress software is free to use. This goes for whether you sign up for a free account at WordPress.com or download the software directly from WordPress.org.
For the purposes of this article, we’re going to focus on self-hosted WordPress – downloading WordPress software and setting up your own website – since that’s going to be your best bet for creating a high-performing business website.
Every website needs a server from which to run. Since servers are expensive and require a high level of technical understanding that most people don’t have, this should be left up to the experts (i.e. web hosting companies) to manage.
While there are a variety of hosting options to choose from, if you’re just starting out you’ll likely end up with shared or cloud hosting. Let’s say you use SiteGround hosting and choose to go with their StartUp shared hosting plan. This costs $3.95 per month to start. This plan also comes with free SSL, CDN, and daily backup, which means less money you’d have to spend securing those add-ons on your own.
In addition to purchasing server space with a web hosting company, you also need to buy a domain name (or URL) which users can enter to access your website. Most web hosting companies offer domain registration services at the time of signup and the cost typically comes out to $10 to $15 per year.
It’s also important to be aware of domain privacy protection. It’s an additional service that keeps your personal contact information out of the public domain since, once you register a domain for your site, your personal information then gets published to the WHOIS directory. This can cause some issues for you, from something as basic as unsolicited emails to someone trying to hack into your domain using your information. This add-on could run you another $10 to $15 a year.
Every website that collects personal information from visitors should have an SSL certificate. This certificate provides assurance of an extra layer of encryption that sits between your website’s server and your visitors. Plus, having an SSL certificate will boost your SEO.
Many hosting companies will include an SSL certificate as part of their hosting plan (see the SiteGround example above). If you’re not able to get it through them, then get one for free from Let’s Encrypt.
The cost of hiring a web designer to create a totally custom website for you might seem like a good idea. After all, you want your website to stand out from everyone else’s. However, web designers are expensive to work with – like, hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars expensive. You also have to remember that web design trends change so frequently that the initial cost to have your site designed may only last you a year or two before you need to give your site at the very least a partial overhaul.
Thankfully, WordPress themes give non-designers the ability to create high-quality designs for their website without the exorbitant costs or time investment that come with hiring a designer. And if you get a really good premium theme, the owner of it most likely will keep it up-to-date with changing demands and trends, so you can tweak it as frequently as you like without having to pay anything further.
Fortunately, there are plenty of WordPress themes available to download for free from the official WordPress.org Theme Directory. Many themes are available as “freemium,” which means you can download them for free but you’ll need to upgrade and pay if you want premium features.
Cost: $0 for a basic site using a free theme, or $60+ (one-time payment) if you’re setting up a serious website and need premium features.
It doesn’t matter which content management system you use to run your website. If you’re doing business online, you need to secure it. Your web hosting company will provide the first layer of protection. An SSL certificate will provide the second. It’s then up to you to bolster that security with a plugin.
While there are a number of security plugins to choose from, you’ll want an all-in-one solution that will help you protect your site from all angles, and that will also provide built-in monitoring. Our Defender security plugin is available to download for free from the official WordPress Plugin Directory and includes one-click site hardening and security tweaking, WordPress core file scanning and repair, IP Blacklist manager and logging, timed lockout brute force attack shield for login protection, a 404 limiter for blocking vulnerability scans, and IP lockout notifications and reports.
If you want to implement even tougher security measures on your site, it’s worth upgrading to the premium version of Defender as part of a WPMU DEV membership for $49 a month
Cost: $0 for a basic site, or $49 a month for premium features.
As part of your website’s security plan, you’re going to need to backup for your site. If you use a web hosting plan from SiteGround, you’ll get free daily backups included. However, if you don’t have that backup option at your disposal or simply want another redundancy option, you can always install a backup plugin on your site. Since there are so many high-quality ones that are available for free, it’s worth it.
Check out UpdraftPlus if you’re not sure where to start. Or if you want a premium option, our own Snapshot plugin can backup both standalone and Multisite websites.
Cost: $0 for a basic site, or $49 a month for premium features.
It doesn’t matter what sort of website you’ve built. If you intend to have an audience—of readers, of customers, of members, etc—you need to provide them with a way to get in touch with you. Publishing your company’s phone number or email is one option, but in this digital age, many users will prefer something that requires less human-to-human contact. Like a contact form.
When your site is brand new, a simple contact form plugin will do you just fine. Contact Form 7 is a good one to start with as you can always scale up to the premium option like Gravity Forms once you have a need for it.
Cost: $0 for a basic website or $3.25 a month for Gravity Forms.
Not sure what caching is or why your website would even need it? Then read this. Basically, caching is a process by which you reduce strain on your site’s servers by “remembering” repeat visitors on your site. Rather than have to call on and load your site from your servers every time they visit, a caching plugin simply pulls up a static version of the site they saw before. This is great for keeping page load times in check and your website running fast.
If your site is currently using a CDN (which you may have gotten from your web hosting plan), then there’s no need for a premium plugin. A free one like W3 Total Cache will do.
Running a WordPress site takes a lot of work. Getting visitors to actually find your site… well, I’ll just say that takes even more work. With the right SEO strategy on your side as well as a high-quality plugin to serve as a sort of checks and balances for your site’s content, you can cut down on the time you’re spending optimizing your site for the search engines.
The All in One SEO Pack plugin is free from the WordPress repository and it does much more than just tell you when your content is optimized or not. Alternatively, our SmartCrawl SEO plugin is a must if you need premium features.
Cost: $0 for a basic site, or $49 a month for a premium features.
The WordPress plugins mentioned above are the essentials, the non-negotiables. If you’re running a site, then you absolutely need to be using those. However, there are other types of plugins you may want to tack on, like those for eCommerce stores, social media integration, image optimization, spam blocking, and analytics. If you want to add more plugins or simply want to upgrade the ones you already have to premium versions but are worried about the cost, consider a membership.
The best option is a WPMU DEV membership, which includes access to a wide range of tools and services that tackle everything you need—including security, backups, and performance—and greatly help to reduce costs. You can even sign up for a free trial and get access to everything.
Cost: $0 for free trial, or $49 per month (optional)
Setting up a website isn’t a one-off cost – you’ll need to keep in mind maintenance costs. Let’s say you don’t want to deal with managing your WordPress site at all. Once the site gets big enough and you have enough discretionary funds to throw around, there are a couple options to consider.
You could pay for a WordPress maintenance and support service. These companies can handle a number of things for you, including managing backups, updates, and even the occasional maintenance-related task. On average, the cost of this service is about $100 a month.
You could also hire a contract developer to help as needed, but that would cost you a lot more than what the maintenance and support company would. However, developers will be able to do much more to your site in terms of changing content, cleaning up code, etc. For now, I wouldn’t worry about this option. Just know that it’s there and will probably cost you at least $50 an hour.
Remember: any work you spend on building, managing, and running your site is going to cost you money. The more you can outsource to other team members, third-party service providers, and even plugins, the better.
That being said, it’s important that you have a hand in what’s happening on your site. Your site is your baby and you’re going to want a say in what changes need to be made, which blog posts should be written, and so on. To be on the safe side, factor in eight to ten hours of work every month.
Realistically, running a very basic WordPress website will cost you at least $6.45 a month. This doesn’t include your own investment of time nor the optional maintenance or plugin costs mentioned above.
As you start to scale up the project or business you’re creating your site for, you’ll need to upgrade your site accordingly. This means purchasing a new theme to support features you’ll need to support your site traffic, adding a CDN so your site loads quickly, improved security and performance tools.
Just remember that the list above covers the bare necessities. You can always adjust and add on as you see fit… and so long as your budget allows.