Without IT knowledge, you would think a website costs at least $2,000 to $3,000 to build.
That is not true in 2020. In fact, don't build your own website or own dedicated computer hardware unless you are ready to fight against hackers or data leaks.
So, how much does it cost to build a website for a small business in 2020? As a computer engineer, the cost to build a new website is zero. The caveat of a zero dollar website is your business do not get your own domain name (e.g. .com or .net) and cannot customize it in your own way. Only if you wish to sell products online with e-payment in your own website, it will cost you money (usually a percentage for transaction fees to payment gateway who handled the MasterCard and Visa).
Before I talk about my strongly recommended website builder Google My Business which is free, I will share the true cost of building and maintaining your own website.
The True Cost of Building A Customized Website - $20/month for Zero Traffic And Thousands For More
I strongly do not recommend building a customized website unless you know what you have a full time IT staff willing to manage it.
This is because building and maintaining a new customized website will cost you more than you think:
- A customized .com domain registration costs money and is expected to go up eventually. Honestly speaking, a .com might be overrated as I know B2B businesses doing great without a .com domain. Cost: $12 USD and thousands if you want to buy an existing domain and around $12/USD per year.
- Many domain sellers, especially GoDaddy, try to up-sell you to get other services, like the privacy of your details, multiple TLD domains (.net, .org) to prevent cybersquatting, email services, etc. Costs: $10 to $50/month.
- Web Hosting is another cost that you pay just to let people access your website. Costs: $10/month to $1,000/month depending on your traffic.
- Securing your web hosting. Do you know TLS problems? As a Certified Information Systems Security Professional, securing a website from attackers is crazily hard. It can be a zero-day attack and not your fault. Costs: Probably thousands to restore your website completely if you got hacked and extra monthly web hosting charges to have frequent backup frequently.
- Do you know data privacy laws or even GDPR laws? You cannot send an email to a user unless you got their explicit consent. Customers providing you their email for a free course or eBook is not explicit consent to send emails regularly. Costs: Regulatory penalty costs if escalated. This is more likely if you build a customized website using your own popup or email form.
- Getting visitors to your website costs money too. Shocking but true. By default, your website will have 0 visitors like many bloggers who learned the hard way. Even if you put out content daily, it is unlikely to get any traffic compared to my free solution of Google My Business. That is because Google got to filter out millions of spammy websites trying to make money online. If you are a small business, there is a reason Google My Business was created. Costs: For organic traffic, it costs thousands to get relevant written content and months for content to rank only to be outdated eventually. No Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or content will guarantee you consistent traffic too. If you do find one, they are probably doing black-hat SEO. Google Paid Search costs per click are guaranteed but you don't need a website for that as Google My Business can pay per action too.
Building A Zero Dollar Website In Google My Business
After sharing the real costs, I will share some pros and cons of Google My Business with screenshots below
- It is really free. You can pay extra to get customer calls, e.g. if you are doing handyman business. You can even get visits to your location too like restaurants (i.e. lead generation)
- You can free traffic. I got an upcoming business that is not ready due to the pandemic and it already gets 85 views in the last 28 days without any actions done. A Google search (e.g. nearby plumbers) will bring up (1) paid ads first, then (2) Google Map that easily the entire screen of a user's search before (3) the #1 search result. So, even if you are #1 in the search result, you are really 3rd class citizen in Google Search results and very low down.
- You don't need technical knowledge. You don't need to learn Google Analytics or Google Search Console which I thought was easy but I realized many non-technical people have trouble installing them just to see how many people visit your website. You still need even more technical knowledge to install the plugins, configure plugins, etc. Just imagine that when they failed or slow down your website for a small business.
- It is really easy to build a website for a small business. You just need to put out your products. If your customers already reviewed your site in Google Maps, they will automatically make a wonderful website by just searching your reviews. (Google My Business will have your gallery, testimonial built from user-generated content). You can then just maintain all user reviews in that one site.
- You can choose to buy a .com domain name at a later stage and just direct it to the google website. Why buy first unless your website got business value? https://support.google.com/business/answer/7032844?hl=en
- You can even answer frequent questions, post updates, events too, and trust me, they will rank better than a blog you build painstakingly from start.
So given so many benefits of a zero dollar Google My Business website, why do I and many others still build their own website? None of it is related to small business. Building your own website is really due to reasons such as
- You got "conned" by others claiming you get traffic and brand only by building your own website. You will only get no "extra" traffic from building a website as only quality content creation will get you traffic.
- You sell simple products and services directly to customers without needing interaction. Then again, I think you should sell in a marketplace like Amazon that got plenty of organic traffic and users with the intention to "buy" already. This is exclusive for people trying out or really know branding and Facebook re-targeting, etc.
- You don't have a product or service at all (e.g. content or news websites). News and content creation website is really focused on getting people views and Google My Business is not the right model.
- You want an impressive corporate website. It will look good for a few years and then it gets outdated with newer technology. Can your website automatically include Augmented Reality or 360 views? I believed that will come eventually and Google My Business will cater to that.
As a business owner myself, I hope my years of experience in building websites convinced you in saving thousands of dollars to build a website and maintenance fee. The downside of Google My Business is really low and getting great reviews from users is a better model than building a nice looking web portal.