We know about the importance of websites in the modern business world. They might just be the central digital marketing piece today, the hub that makes everything around it go just a little more smoothly.
What many SMB owners and managers don’t realize, though, is the ongoing effort and expense required to keep your website running smoothly. The major cost is in the price upfront, but that doesn’t mean you can set-and-forget with this digital tool. Instead, your website needs consistent maintenance.
That maintenance, of course, requires both time and monetary commitments that you need to plan into your overall budget and business plan. This guide will help you do just that with its overview of website maintenance costs and nuances.
Just the Basics: What is Website Maintenance?
Before we dive into costs, let’s start at the beginning. Website maintenance means
Making sure that your website is always updated and relevant for your audience. That means both making sure the content is accurate, engaging, and relevant for your audience. It also includes maintenance on a more technical level, keeping bugs at a minimum, and making sure all security settings and plug-ins are up and running safely.
That, of course, is not a one-time task. Website maintenance is ongoing and comes with significant benefits for business owners willing to keep up. An updated website keeps your data safe, but also helps you engage and retain your customers. You even get SEO benefits as search engines like Google reward well-maintained websites.
Don’t avoid maintenance until you see a problem, because here’s the thing: you don’t always notice immediately when something is wrong with your website. Just like a doctor check-up prevents subtle issues from becoming major concerns, regular web maintenance helps to keep your business running and your expenses for major fixes at a minimum.
Why Do You Need Web Maintenance?
Let’s answer that question by looking at its inverse: what happens if you don’t prioritize regular web maintenance? A number of things can (and probably will) happen, in no particular order:
- Your basic company information, along with the products you sell, will become outdated over time. As a result, you lose credibility with any web visitors looking to inform themselves about you.
- Links on your website become broken, further creating a credibility challenge as your customers begin to question whether they should believe you.
- Over time, your graphics will no longer follow current design trends and guidelines. These days, a website that hasn’t been updated in 5 years would probably fail most accessibility tests.
- Your visitors will check out your website once, but are unlikely to come back. That’s because they have no dynamic content (like blog posts) that draw them back in.
- Your lead and customer generation will suffer because your online forms and checkout process might not work as they should.
- Your search engine optimization will not be successful and might not even start off on the right foot. Google penalizes websites for broken links, outdated content, and page errors.
- The customer data you do collect might be exposed to security threats, leading to potential data breaches and a surefire PR disaster.
Sound dire? Maybe. The good news is that you can actually take some very simple action to prevent any of these things from happening. Yes, we’re talking about web maintenance, a crucial part of your online efforts that’s well worth the investment—even if, depending on the complexity of tasks you need to be done, that investment can be significant.
Typical Web Maintenance Tasks to Account For
A general understanding of basic web maintenance, especially as it relates to its benefits, is essential to look at the typical tasks a business owner (or any owner of a website) will have to tackle on a regular basis. That includes a number of different tasks on different schedules:
- Weekly maintenance tasks consist of making sure that no pages or links are broken, and that all of your contact forms operate as they should. It should also include at least one new piece of content.
- Monthly maintenance tasks focus on checking the page load speed and comparing it against previous measures. You should also make sure your security measures all work as they should.
- Quarterly maintenance tasks focus more broadly on your web structure as well as your SEO and content strategy. This is the perfect time to make sure that all of your graphic, evergreen content, and forms are exactly how you want them to be.
- Yearly web maintenance tasks should include a thorough scrubbing of your content, along with making sure your domain name and hosting service are set for the coming year.
All of these actions, naturally, require very different types of maintenance and a different schedule on which they run. One is not more essential than the other, but they all come with different prices and nuances. We’ll break the costs of those maintenance tasks down in more detail below.
What is the Average Cost of Website Maintenance?
It’s tough to come up with a general range, given how many factors influence the costs. Broadly speaking, you can expect to pay between $3 and $5,000+ per month to keep your website well-maintained and up to date.
That’s a huge range to account for, and not very informative on its own. Let’s break down where you land, based on a number of important factors.
Core Factors that Affect Your Web Maintenance Pricing
- What is the size of your website, counted in total pages? This is the single most important factor. We’ll break down three basic cost ranges based on small, medium, and large sites below.
- What is the purpose of your website? A personal blog will not need as much or as nuanced maintenance as a business website storing vital company and customer data.
- How much of the web maintenance can you (or someone in your company) take on yourself? Naturally, the more internal skill you have, the less you will need to outsource.
- What is the current shape of your website? An out-of-date website with lots of broken links and faulty pages will cost more to maintain, especially on the front end.
- Are you looking for a one-time or ongoing service? Most web maintenance is ongoing. But if you only need the service once, you’ll likely pay more on an hourly basis.
Maintenance Cost Range for Small Websites
If you have a small website you maintain as a personal blog or to showcase your hobby, expect to pay between $3 and $30 per month for web maintenance. These types of sites, especially with a relatively small audience, are low maintenance. Most likely, the only costs you’ll need to account for is the hosting fee. You can do everything else on your own even with basic digital knowledge.
Those costs increase a bit if you have a wider audience of a few hundred (or more) monthly readers. In that case, you need to add security maintenance to your cost calculations, and you might need to pay more for a reliable host. Expect to pay between $5 and $100 in monthly web maintenance.
Maintenance Cost Range for Medium Websites
When you move from a personal website into a business online presence, pricing and tasks required tend to increase. The average web maintenance cost for medium-scope websites typically ranges between $50 and $400.
At the lower end of that spectrum, you get a basic business site that’s not too dissimilar to the personal blog above. The pages are largely static, you just need a reliable host and some basic security check-ins with your maintenance provider.
As your needs rise, so do the cost. The $250 to $400 per month range typically includes graphics and content development for your site, as well as potential email marketing. It might also include the maintenance of your eCommerce store, which includes check-ins on the payment process and product information updates.
Maintenance Cost Range for Big Websites
Website maintenance for large corporations and complex websites range between $450 and $5,000 or more per month. For these fees, you will get a maintenance partner who doesn’t just help with the basics but plays an active role in continuously checking and improving your website to optimize performance and user experience.
Only expect to pay this type of money if you do enough online sales or lead generation that the design and performance are crucial to your business. Would an hour’s downtime at 11am cost you significant revenue? If so, your plan will likely fall into this range. A top-tier, dedicated host along with 24/7 customer service is part of the deal in this type of contract.
At this price range, your web maintenance partner will help with complex technical support, regular content updates and development, in-depth security checks, as well as tracking and analytics. Especially for large corporate sites, these partners become extensions of an internal team working on the site to continuously improve their online presence.
What Does Website Maintenance Cost for Issues and Bugs Only?
Even the above basic price ranges make it clear that the term web maintenance is incredibly broad. It can include anything from content development to active hosting. But what if you’re just looking for simple tweaks and issues that can easily be addressed on a shoestring budget?
A basic contract with a developer helping you fix active issues and bugs typically range between $50 and $150 per month. A one-time service by a developer likely falls into that same range, depending on the complexity of the issue. That breaks down as follows:
- For $50, you get a sweep of the website and any active issues (like bugs, 404 errors, or broken links)
- For $100, you get the above sweep, plus a fix of all active issues on an ongoing basis.
- For $150, you get both of the above, plus security maintenance, hosting help, and regular backups.
Of course, that’s just a general estimate. The exact issues and level of service required, along with the size of your website, will always be the most significant variables in determining costs. Talk to a web maintenance agency to learn more details and get a quote.
What Does Website Maintenance Cost for Small Site Content Updates?
Running a website in 2020 and not updating its content is business negligence. You need to both make sure that your basic pages (like your product pages or About Us page) are updated and add more dynamic content in the form of a blog to keep your visitors coming back for more.
Of course, you might not have the internal resources or time to continue updating your content. You can hire a writer or a maintenance provider offering writing services to take care of it for you.
When looking for writers, estimate about $0.15 per word. That typically includes a round of revisions, but you will pay extra if you keep requesting edits or changes. Some, but not all writers include the cost of updating your content in your content managing software and formatting it to be approachable and readable for your audience.
If you’re looking to hire a copywriting agency, plans typically start at $150 for small site content updates completed on a regular basis. For significant amounts of content, those costs can rise into the thousands. And of course, these fees vary depending on your exact need, industry expertise required, and more.
What Does Website Maintenance Cost for Ongoing Development Improvements?
Development improvements might be the most comprehensive type of website maintenance you can ask for. This doesn’t just include fixing errors or posting content in an existing structure. It’s the process of continually updating the backend code and design of your site to optimize it for your audience, industry, and current trends.
On some freelance marketplaces like Codeable, you can hire web developers for $60 per hour and up. Most experienced developers in the U.S. will charge around $100 an hour. When going this route, you can expect to pay about $1,000 per month while spending 10 hours per month on coding and design updates.
Of course, you can also hire a web development agency to become your technical support and improvement partner. That will likely cost between $500 and $5,000 per month, depending on the complexity of your site and the exact tasks required. At the high end, you don’t just get basic coding updates but a comprehensive suite and dedicated team to run your website and continually work to keep it on the cutting edge .
How to Decide What Maintenance Level You Need
Everyone needs the basics. That includes at least making sure that your website doesn’t become outdated, won’t have broken links or pages, and the host remains reliable. Beyond that, the ideal level depends entirely on your individual business situation and the factors mentioned above, such as size and purpose of your website. Based on these factors, the first important choice you’ll face is what type of plan you need:
- A monthly plan will give you basic services at a set cost. This works out well for individuals and businesses who don’t have the expertise to do these tasks and know they’ll need them done every month.
- An hourly plan makes more sense if you know you need one-time support, but can take care of most regular updates internally. You’ll pay less for a single service, but more if you expect the same continuous updates as in the maintenance plan.
- An after-hours plan is a comprehensive, 24/7 plan to monitor your website on your behalf. It’s like hiring a developer or team, except you’re outsourcing them. This is best for large corporations with complex websites.
In other words, the level of maintenance you need and the type of plan you choose ultimately comes down to what you can accomplish internally, and what pieces you need to outsource to an external entity. The less you can do, the more you pay.
That’s where hiring a virtual assistant comes into play. If you have someone on your team who can perform basic maintenance like making regular content updates, you’ll spend less on another outsourcing contract for your company. Hiring the right virtual assistant, in other words, doesn’t just make sense for their wide range of duties in general, but also helps you optimize (and minimize) your web maintenance costs.