This is a question that gets asked on both the developer’s side as well as the client’s side. Everyone is looking to set their expectations on how much monthly maintenance should cost so that they or their clients can have realistic expectations.
This is a tricky question, because there are a lot of factors to consider. These factors include
- What kind of website needs the maintenance?
- Who is this maintenance plan for?
- What kinds of services are offered in the package?
- Who is doing the maintenance?
I’ll try to cover these different factors as best as I can in this post, but remember that your situation may be unique and need unique pricing based on that. Ask questions of your client or your developer and communicate clearly as you talk about pricing.
What kind of website needs the maintenance?
I don’t think anyone would try to argue that YouTube.com is about the same as my family blog. All websites are not created equally, and because of this the amount of time and cost to maintain them can be vastly different. The technology powering them, the amount of traffic they are getting, and the amount of functionality they include changes the price of maintenance.
|Blog Website||$25 – $50 /month|
|Small Business Website||$50 – $150 /month|
|Corporate Website||$75 – $300 /month|
|E-Commerce Website||$150 – $2,000 /month|
|Web Application||$300 – $3,000 /month|
These are examples and estimates, if your website is very custom or requires a lot of ongoing time to keep it up and running as well as manual changes you could expect that a maintenance plan would cost even more than this.
Some systems are more complex than others. HTML sites can be nice and simple but require a developer to update. WordPress can be used by anyone but is often changing and can be more vulnerable to security issues because of its popularity. An e-commerce site is collecting money and possibly dealing with shipping. The more a website integrates with other systems, APIs, or technologies, the more complex it can get and the harder to maintain.
Amount of Traffic
If a website gets a few hits a day, then the website going down for a few minutes during an update or backup is not a big deal. But if Amazon.com goes down for a few minutes, they probably just lost out on hundreds of thousands of dollars of revenue.
A typical marketing site with a home page, about page, and a contact page may not have a lot of functionality. If if your website offers online sales, subscriptions, logging in, extensive database data, or other custom pieces of functionality, there are more moving pieces and those pieces are more likely to break over time.
The other factors are more concrete, but they may not matter at all if the website is of great value to the company that needs it. A website is a necessary and important element of a company’s marketing plan and it may be highly valuable to them because it represents their brand and reputation online even if it doesn’t have many bells and whistles or get tons of traffic.
Who is this maintenance plan for?
Similarly a small personal blog has a single person writing on it, whereas a corporate website has many people involved writing content, looking over the legal wording, and watching for leads from the forms on the site. Generally the more people involved the more expensive web maintenance is going to be because of the people involved and time required.
The bigger the company, the more likely they are to pay more for the service. This may feel unfair at first, but when you think about the level of professionalism required to do the required tasks, as well as the level of importance that the website means for the company, then it just makes sense that they may need to pay more for these services.
Certain industries are also used to paying a little more for web maintenance services. Lawyers are some of those that wind up paying more. This is often an issue with all of the services that are for those professions, and isn’t limited to the website maintenance realm.
What kinds of services are offered in the package?
Different packages offer vastly different things, so if you are comparing multiple plans or packages, make sure you are comparing apples to apples. Here are some of the things that packages may or may not include:
1. Web Hosting
Sometimes the servers or the services that do the hosting may be included and sometimes they may not. These services can vary greatly themselves depending on the kind of website being hosted. Some may be a cheap $5/month plan on a shared server, and some may be an expensive dedicated server with additional server-side support included.
2. Regular Software Updates
The software that runs the website is often under constant improvement. This is especially true if you use an open source content management system like WordPress, which typically has a new release every few months. And then you need to consider its related plugins and themes. These updates could even include the underlying server operating system software.
3. Tech Support
The amount of communication required for the website can vary greatly. Plus the timing of tech support can matter a lot. If the plan offers 24/7 support that will probably cost a lot more than next business day support, or even same-week support. In the same way, being available via telephone for tech support may cost more than simple email or chat support.
4. Software Expenses
Software often comes with its own expenses, and managing licenses for all of these various pieces of software can be a task unto itself. A typical corporate WordPress site may include 5-15 plugins and often 2-5 of these are premium plugins with yearly costs. Clients often don’t want to manage these expenses themselves and would rather pay a single entity to manage it for them.
5. Work Hours
Some maintenance packages may only include “break/fix” hours, where they outline what time will be spent to fix something that breaks and what boundaries those will have. Other plans may include a set amount of “use it or lose it” hours baked into the plan for each month, where a client can request content or functionality changes with those hours. The amount of time that the maintainer will spend working on the website on a monthly basis can drastically effect the cost of the maintenance plan offered.
6. Reports & Analytics
Client’s love stats about their website and its performance. It’s nice to know whether decisions being made are achieving goals and to be able to keep a bead on what is changing on the site, how much traffic is coming, and how it is being used. One way for site maintainers to offer this to their clients is to use a plugin like our own WP Client Reports to offer monthly reports with update statistics, site analytics, backup data, and much more.
7. SEO Services
Ongoing search engine optimization can take up a lot of time, and some maintenance packages include a set amount of time or tasks to continue to work on boosting the traffic for the site by acquiring links, writing content, or optimizing the website.
8. Content Writing/Editing
Client’s have a lot of responsibilities and keeping a blog up to date is often not the highest priority on their list. If the plan includes several articles, social media posts, or graphics creation that may increase the price of the offering.
Who is doing the Maintenance?
You are paying an expert for their services and time, and different people have a variety of expertises that are more or less in demand. If you hire your cousin Joe to update the website, he may be cheap, but will he really know how to get things back up and going quickly when the whole thing comes crashing down?
Sometimes what client’s are paying for is a combination of expertise and reputation. Did you build their site for them? Do you really know your stuff so that if the worst happens you can act quickly and stand the site back up again?
Websites are an important element of a company’s marketing plan, and keeping them online and maintained is an important element of a website. The average cost for website maintenance each year is probably $600 to $40,000 a year. Again, those estimates will vary on the factors mentioned above and hopefully this article gave you a good overview of them.
If you are looking for someone to do your monthly WordPress website maintenance, you can contact me at JesseSutherland.com. For the record, I charge $100/month for most WordPress websites.
If you are a site maintainer in need of a good website maintenance reporting plugin, please check out WP Client Reports. My clients love it!
Feel free to contact me if you have questions or comments!