Niche Website Journal:
How Much Does It Cost to Start a Website?

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Welcome to the second post in my niche website journal series.

Seeing as how my niche website has only recently gone live, I thought it would be a good idea to stick to help and guidance associated with the first steps of how to start your own niche website.

(If you haven’t already, don’t forget to check out my month one summary article for my ToolCrowd niche website).

The number one question I had prior to starting, and the question I see time and time again online is – how much does it cost to start a website?

That seems as good a topic to tackle as any, so here goes…

Now, while this post forms part of my niche website series, the following costs are just as applicable if you want to start a niche website, a general blog, or an authority site.

I haven’t just plucked these figures from thin air either – these are the exact costs I have incurred / will be incurring with my ToolCrowd niche website over the next 12 months.

So let’s get stuck into the detail…

Why You Shouldn’t Start a Website for Free

Before getting into the nitty-gritty of just how much a website costs, it’s probably a good idea to cover why you shouldn’t start a website for free. It’s a topic that I’ve covered in detail before, but I thought it would be a good idea to discuss it again seeing as a pretty logical question could be…

With so many free website services available (for example, WordPress.com, Tumblr, and Blogger) – why should it cost anything at all for a website?

It’s a good question – but despite the obvious attractions, I view free websites as a serious false economy.

Here are a few reasons why:

  • They Aren’t Designed for Serious Website Owners

    While a free website platform may give you a taste of running a website at no real expense to you (other than the time taken to set up a site on the platform), it’s worth remembering that these platforms aren’t designed for serious website owners.

    Forget about providing valuable content, building a dedicated following or trying to make money, as free platforms offer too many restrictions to make this a reality.

  • They Offer Very Basic Features/Functionality

    None of the free website options from WordPress.com, Tumblr or Blogger allow third-party plugins to be installed and used, severely limiting the functionality of any websites built using these plans.

  • You’re Usually Restricted on How You Can Make Money

    The bulk of the free website platforms have severe restrictions on how you can make money. For example, WordPress.com’s free plan automatically shows adverts, but you can’t switch these off, and you don’t receive any revenue from these. They also disallow websites where the bulk of the content is sponsored, and you can’t add an eCommerce store to your website.

  • The Terms of Service Are Usually Too Limiting

    Looking again at WordPress.com’s free plan for a moment, all sites must comply with their Terms of Service. Any violations of these and WordPress.com “may terminate your access to all or any part of the Website at any time, with or without cause, with or without notice, effective immediately.” Uh oh!

  • They Just Don’t Look Professional

    From adverts you can’t remove to layouts that are hugely restrictive, a common issue with free website platforms is that they look unprofessional. While you can purchase a premium theme to improve the appearance in some cases, this somewhat defeats the purpose of choosing a free website platform in the first place.

The Paid (And Better) Alternative

So if a free website platform is out, what’s the alternative?

Well, regardless if you’re looking to start a niche website, a blog, or an authority site, I’m a firm believer that WordPress.org, aka self-hosted WordPress, is the best choice in 99% of cases when it comes to starting a website.

Here are a few of the reasons why it’s my pick (and that of many beginner and experienced website owners) of the most popular website platforms:

  • There Are No Restrictions on How You Can Make Money

    There aren’t any restrictions (provided it’s legal!) on how you can make money through a WordPress.org website.

    So, regardless if you want to make money via advertising, affiliate marketing, sponsored posts, an eCommerce store, or any other way you can think of, you’re entirely free to do so.

  • It Offers Serious Bang for Your Buck

    It costs substantially less for a WordPress.org website with all the bells and whistles versus a comparable WordPress.com offering the same features ($3.95 a month for Siteground’s basic hosting package without domain registration versus $300.00 for an annual subscription to WordPress.com’s Business plan).

  • It’s Highly Customizable

    With WordPress.org, you have complete flexibility to add custom themes, and you can easily modify the HTML/CSS of your chosen theme to get the look you want. There are very few restrictions.

  • It’s Quick and Easy to Set Up

    Setting up and installing a WordPress.org website does not need to be complicated or time-consuming. I show you step-by-step how to do it here.

Cost Categories Summary

So now that’s out of the way, let’s look at the various cost categories for my ToolCrowd niche website (running on the WordPress.org platform).

The categories are as follows (click to navigate):

1. Hosting Costs

WordPress.org is referred to as self-hosted WordPress for a reason – you’ll need to find a hosting provider for your website.

In the case of my ToolCrowd niche website, I used my existing Siteground GrowBig account that I use for OnePercentIntent.com, as the GrowBig plan allows you to have multiple sites as part of the same hosting package.

For this article, I’ll disregard the fact that there was no additional cost for my hosting plan and include the price as if I’d registered a new account for ToolCrowd.

It’s worth bearing in mind that the GrowBig account may be overkill you only plan to start one website. In these cases, I’d recommend going with the Siteground StartUp hosting plan which costs $3.95 per month and allows you to host a single website (as opposed to $5.95 per month for GrowBig).

I’ll use the $3.95 per month StartUp hosting plan for these costs:

1) $3.95 per month x 12 months

Total = $47.40

2. Domain Name Costs

I chose to register my ToolCrowd domain with Siteground when I signed up for their GrowBig hosting plan.

The total cost for the specific options I chose was as follows:

1) $15.95 – .com domain registration for 12 months

2) $12.00 – domain privacy for 12 months

Total = $27.95

3. WordPress Theme Costs

If you’ve followed any of my previous content, you’ll know that I’m not a huge fan of free WordPress themes.

Like free website platforms in general, there are just far too many downfalls to free WordPress themes. For example, they’re often severely limited in terms of features, they aren’t updated anywhere nearly as quickly as premium themes meaning there can be incompatibilities with the latest version of WordPress or even security threats, and they’re usually much more difficult to customize.

I use the Avada WordPress theme on both this website and my ToolCrowd niche website, and I view it as a no-brainer investment for the following reasons:

  • It’s Fully Mobile-Responsive

    Avada is fully responsive and passes Google’s mobile-friendly test with flying colors. It also makes it super easy to adapt your website’s layout to look good on smaller devices.

  • You Can Create Custom Layouts with Little to No Coding

    Avada comes packaged with Fusion Builder, a visual page builder which you can use to create stunning layouts from simple, yet highly-customizable, drag-and-drop elements saving you the headache of endless HTML/CSS coding.

  • It’s Super Easy to Customize

    Avada’s theme options make it a breeze to customize the look and feel of your site. You can quickly customize every aspect of your website including its layout, color scheme, post or page content, sidebar styling and hundreds of other variables.

  • It’s Thoroughly Tried and Tested

    Avada has been the number one selling WordPress theme six years in a row, having been purchased in excess of 450,000 times. At the time of writing, it has an average of 4.77/5 from over 20,000 ratings.

Total = $60.00

4. WordPress Plugin Costs

Another major benefit of using WordPress.org is that you get access to an endless array of plugins which you can use to boost the features and functionality of your blog or niche website.

While many of my favorite plugins are free or have free plans (Yoast SEO, Google Analytics Dashboard for WP, Wordfence Security, for example), there are a few premium options which I use and recommend:

WP Rocket – $49

WP Rocket is a WordPress caching plugin that helps speed up the loading time of WordPress.org blogs. It features an easy-to-use dashboard that makes setup super-quick and simple, all without the need for any coding or programming knowledge.

Many new bloggers underestimate the importance of page speed, but it needs to be a top priority if you want to keep your blog’s visitors happy. Need some proof? CrazyEgg saw the following all from a one-second increase in a web page’s load time:

  • Page views decreased by 11%
  • Customer satisfaction decreased 16%
  • Conversion rates were reduced by 7%

They also found that 47% of people expect a webpage to load in two seconds or less.

WP Rocket is my plugin of choice to help ensure this blog loads as quickly as possible.

Social Pug – $29

One of the best ways to grow your blog’s traffic is by making it as easy as possible for people to share your content. Social Pug is a WordPress social media plugin, and it’s my plugin of choice for helping boost the visibility of my content by allowing my readers to share my blog posts on social media.

Social Pug is available in a free version which allows sharing via the leading social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google+). This could be sufficient to start with, but I do recommend upgrading to the pro version ($29 for a single blog), as this adds additional social networks for sharing to, and also the ability to add a custom image, title, and description to each post that is shown by default when a user shares your content.

Another great feature of Social Pug pro is the ability to add social follow buttons to your content, allowing you to grow your social media following directly from your blog itself.

Thrive Leads – $67

Thrive Leads is a WordPress mailing list plugin that will help you grow your email list.

It includes everything you need to design and add every type of opt-in form you’ll ever need (lightbox, ribbon, in-content, slide-in, etc.) and there is no coding required thanks to the simple drag-and-drop editor that makes customizing new forms, or the many free templates offered, a breeze.

Thrive Leads allows you to take advantage of advanced targeting, meaning you can choose to show offers based on post type, specific categories or tags, and much, much more. There is also a reporting and testing function to help you see how you’re performing over time.

Thrive Leads integrates easily with all of the major email service providers, although I use it with AWeber and I would highly recommend this combination.

Total = $145.00

5. Email Service Provider Costs

It’s no secret that email marketing is the most effective form of mass communication available today (yes, more effective than social media), and it’s also one of the best ways to make money online, so any niche website owner who wants to grow their online presence and who wants to make money from their website will need to start and grow an email list.

I’d recommend reading this post if you want step-by-step help with getting started: Email Marketing: The Ultimate Guide.

I’ve used and recommended AWeber for my email marketing campaigns pretty much from the start, and it gives you everything you need to create and send engaging emails which get results including autoresponder campaigns, easy list segmentation for better targeting, mobile-responsive email templates, and in-depth testing and reporting to show you what’s working and what isn’t.

You can get your first 30 days free with AWeber, following which it’s $19/month for up to 500 subscribers and unlimited emails.

The total below is based on what it would cost for an entire year:

Total = $209.00

So there you have it – the total predicted cost for a niche website during the first 12 months of operation is $489.35:

Total Niche Website Costs
1. Hosting Costs$47.40
2. Domain Name Costs$27.95
3. WordPress Theme Costs$60.00
4. WordPress Plugin Costs$145.00
5. Email Service Provider Costs$209.00
Total$489.35

It’s worth remembering that this is just to get to the point where the website is live, and it doesn’t include any costs for additional tech support that may be required or content creation.

What are your thoughts on this?

Is it higher than you expected? If so, it’s probably a good idea to remember that most people start a niche website as a business venture or to earn a side income from.

As much as it would be nice not to incur any expenses, this isn’t realistic – all businesses incur costs. You’ve got to spend money to make money, and provided you’re committed to your niche website and run it as efficiently as possible and learn from the inevitable mistakes you’ll make, there’s no reason why your earnings can’t soon dwarf the expenses of starting a niche website in the first place.

Is it possible to save some of the costs outlined above?

Sure – and probably one of the areas that stands out the most is the cost of email marketing. Would I recommend avoiding this, though? No. Simply put, the earlier you start building your email list, the better.

Similarly, you could choose a cheaper premium theme, but I think the time and effort saved from using a visual builder like Avada that requires little to no HTML/CSS coding more than justifies the $60 cost and makes it an excellent investment.

There are also cheaper opt-in form plugins available than Thrive Leads, but I’ve used it for quite a while on this website, and I know how useful and easy to use it is, so again, I view this as a worthwhile investment.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Are there any other services or plugins that you deem to be an absolute must for your blog or niche website?

Cheers!

– Jonathan

icon header image for the ultimate guide on how to start a niche website
icon header image for the ultimate guide on how to start a niche website
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