The cost of running a WordPress website

shoes-moneyA WordPress website is very affordable to get up and running. You can do it for free, plus the cost of your average shared hosting account. However, running a more serious site can get considerably more expensive.

Here's the list of stuff that I use here on Post Status, along with associated costs. I'm also going to include some additional services that I either want to use in the future, or at least want to explore.

Monthly recurring costs

Hosting

Hosting ranges in cost. Upper-end shared hosting costs between $15 and $25 dollars per month. However, it can quickly go to $75 a month with a VPS. I'll use $25 as a good median cost for managed hosting. I host this website on the SiteGround managed WordPress setup.

Security and asset management

I have been using CloudFlare, through SiteGround's interface, for managing assets, minifying scripts, and more. It costs $14.95 per month for the paid plan. They also add a layer of security, though that's not the primary benefit of the service. I may cancel it soon, since I'm undecided about CloudFlare. I may choose to handle those types of optimizations independently.

Backups and updates

I've been using WP Remote to manage updates and supplementary backups to my host. My five site plan costs $20 per month. Similar services, like ManageWP, iThemes Sync, and VaultPress start closer to $5 per month for single site plans. I featured WP Remote last year when they had their big upgrade.

Spam prevention

A base plan for Akismet costs $5 per month, though you can also get away with using it for free. I never upgraded my account, but I probably should now that I have somewhat commercial uses for my website. If you don't like Akismet, you could use third party commenting system like Disqus, or you could use Antispam Bee, which is a popular Akismet alternative.

Chartbeat real time analytics

Chartbeat is a real-time analytics provider. I'm currently using their 30-day free trial. Once you complete your trial period, it moves to $9.95 per month for up to 1,000 concurrent visitors, a milestone I've never reached with this website. I've enjoyed Chartbeat, though I'm not convinced it gives me any more valuable metrics than WordPress.com stats and Google Analytics do. And Google Analytics' live view is like a trimmed-down version of Chartbeat's service.

Freshbooks, for managing payments and invoicing

I invoice for my partnerships on Post Status, and I also pay site contributors for their help. I use Freshbooks to manage this activity, and it costs $19.99 per month to do so, and it also integrates with Stripe, which carries an additional 2.9% fee.

Amazon S3

I store audio on Amazon S3, though it can be used for much more (like images and site backups). My costs are very low right now, like under $2 per month. But I'm going to round it up to $5, which would probably cover most people that would ever use S3 for a normal website. It's an insanely cheap service.

POTENTIAL ADDITIONAL SERVICES

Optimizely A/B testing

I want to do some A/B testing to help increase engagement on Post Status. I haven't done it yet, mostly because of time, but also because in its current state I don't have as many clear conversion goals. However, that may change in the future, and I want to be prepared to test how well I'm doing. Optimizely has gotten rave reviews and it's super easy. Well worth it if conversions matter to you. It starts at $17 per month.

VaultPress for real time backups

I really like WP Remote for backups and updates. But I'm considering getting VaultPress for real time backups. Something about that would just make me feel secure. That would run me $15 per month. I'd still keep WP Remote for updating plugins and such.

Beanstalk for deployments

We use Beanstalk at Range for managing our version control repositories and deployments. I really love it. I keep meaning to put Post Status on a better setup, so I'll probably be moving it to use Beanstalk soon. It runs $15 per month at the base level (10 repos).

Yearly recurring costs

I use a number of plugins and services that are annually based fees as well.

Fonts from Typography.com

I use Gotham Rounded and Archer on this website. They are both from Hoeffler & Co., served from their Typography.com cloud service. My yearly cost is for up to 1 millions pageviews per month (which I don't come close to using), and costs $149 per year.

Stream site activity

Stream is a commercial plugin by X-Team that monitors every change on my site. It costs $99 for a single-site license. You can also see my review of Stream.

Gravity Forms

I use Gravity Forms for all my forms, on this site and others. I also use the Mailchimp add-on. Gravity Forms costs me $199 per year for the developer license. The single site license (with no add-on support) costs $39 per year.

Domain name

An obvious cost of a website, I pay about $11 per year for my domain names from Namecheap.

Love It Pro article voting

I use Pippin Williamson's simple little Love It Pro plugin for managing upvotes on articles. It's a whopping $8 and it was easy to customize to my liking. I honestly don't know if anyone utilizes the votes on articles as a metric to read, but that's why it's there.

potential additional services

Sucuri security management

I don't anticipate needing it, but who does? Sucuri handles cleanup for when your site gets hacked. I've been meaning to signup for ages, but haven't. Sucuri's base plan costs $87 per year for a single website — another reason it's been dumb of me to wait.

SSL

Secure site certificates have a few benefits. They help establish trust for any site. They aid in securing transactions, and are necessary if you process any private user data, like credit cards. But they also allow you to use SPDY, an exciting new technology that can help speed your site. I intend to enable SSL for Post Status soon, for SPDY especially.

SSL certifictes vary wildly in cost. A basic certificate from Namecheap (my provider of choice) is $29 per year, and if you want the full “green bar” treatment, you can get that for $149 per year.

Advanced search

I haven't done anything to enable or improve search here on Post Status. I need to as I've created quite a significant amount of content. It's one of the changes I'm making this summer. I'm considering some fun methods too, such as using SearchWP and FacetWP for better indexed search and faceted search. The plugins are both $29 per year. Other options for search are Swiftype ($49 per month for my amount of content — too much), or Elastic Search (free but I don't feel like setting it up).

Commercial Yoast SEO

I use and enjoy Yoast's WordPress SEO plugin. I finally submitted this site to Google News, so once that goes through I'll buy his $69 News SEO extension. I should also buy his video SEO plugin for $69 now that I have more video on this site. Finally, I may use his commercial version of the main SEO plugin, for redirect handling and Google Webmaster Tools integration, but also for what it promises for future features.

I've also gained from Yoast's free stuff for years, so I should pay him for these extensions just to say thanks.

Free for now

Mailchimp for newsletters

Mailchimp is an awesome newsletter sending service. It's free for up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails a month. I haven't reached either barrier (you can help me!), but once I do I'll need to start paying marginally for this service.

Mandrill for reliable site email

Mandrill is also by Mailchimp, and it's a service to reliably send email to users. They have a WordPress plugin that takes over sending all email from your site, and helps ensure that your site's emails don't go to spam. It's the same model as Mailchimp and I've not reached the limitations of the free plan yet.

Things I didn't price

There are some items I haven't priced out.

Themes

Many site owners will also have a yearly theme cost. I don't use a commercial theme here, though I do periodically buy them for other purposes. This can add around $100 per year to your site cost.

eCommerce

When you get into eCommerce, things get more expensive. SSL (mentioned above) becomes mandatory, and the common model these days is to price extensions and support. If I were to add eCommerce, it'd end up being at least a couple hundred dollars per year due to extensions. eCommerce also means you end up using a few additional services, and your hosting should probably be upgraded if you do it right. Though the reward could go up too, since you're selling something. That said, the total cost would go up considerably for running a website if you have eCommerce.

Paid contributions

I did not include any form of contributor payments or paid contributions in this summary. Depending on the site, many site owners have varying costs to pay for writers. It's my understanding that paid post pricing varies wildly, from as low as about $10 per post, up to $200 per post, depending on the nature of the writing and writer.

Time

Time is intangible, but valuable. It depends what it means to you. I could pay a service to manage my site for me, and that would cost between $39 and $199 per month. Sometimes I'm tempted, but I haven't done it yet.

I also spend a ton of time writing content and generally managing this website. I enjoy it and it's a labor of love, but it's not an easy task.

Total Costs

Running a WordPress site is relatively inexpensive, but it is a responsibility. These are the commercial tools I use. I use many more that are free, but I wanted to highlight what my monthly and yearly costs are.

Of course there are hundreds of other things I could spend money on to run this site, but these are the tools I use for what I need. But I'm also interested if any of you have a service you value greatly that I haven't included. Maybe it'll encourage me to check it out.

If you take my current yearly costs and distribute them monthly, it costs me about $108 per month to run this website in its current form. If I paid for everything I put in this list, the monthly cost would be $211, assuming I use the lower prices for each item.

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24 Comments

  1. What makes you unsure about Cloudflare? The free plan is more than sufficient and is the best DNS provider I’ve ever used. 300 second TTL, automatic page and resource caching and minification, and DDoS protection are pretty sweet for free. It is a bit of pain that DNS is hosted separate from my registrar and that sometimes I forget that Cloudflare is caching something and I can’t figure out why my CSS changes aren’t showing.

    You might also consider http://dploy.io/ instead of Beanstalk (same ownership) in case you want to host your repo on Github.

    1. There’s nothing in particular I hate about Cloudflare, but there’s some caching stuff I’ve been working on with a friend, and Cloudflare does so much of that on its own, I sortof want to see what I can do on my own. Also, Cloudflare offers another point of failure, and I’ve seen the error pages from it a couple times — that hurts.

      Thanks for the note about dploy.io, I didn’t realize that was the same company as Beanstalk. That’s cool. Though I currently don’t host private repos on Github, I know tons of folks do.

    2. Great resources!

      We recently setup Cloudflare when a client’s website (using an older, proprietary CMS) went viral and took down everything we could setup on AWS. Using Cloudflare’s “cache everything” and “keep online” settings for the key pages we massively reduced the downtime and server load/expense. Since then we have further tweaked lots of things in the code, hosting environment, and Cloudflare settings but the whole experience completely sold me on Cloudflare’s service. There is a lot of potential power and it is a wonderful safety net… even just at the Free or Pro levels.

      Just my two cents.

  2. Seriously!?
    $108 per month to run this shit!?
    You are a rich crazy man.
    Why you don’t use jekyll/octopress blog platform?
    Using jekyll/octopress you can use http://github.com to hosting your static speedly, cachely, antispam blog FOR FREE.
    Using github you have a FREE backup of your site (’cause even you can have your site everywhere in the little directory) and you can edit your post everywhere in the world using Markdown and you can point your domain in your account.
    For comments you MUST use disquss, please.
    It’s free and when you create an account you can comment EVERYWHERE there is disquss without spam.
    No ?
    C’mon, buy a VPS from cloudatcost: one time for life and fuck off money.

    1. I do a lot more than I could with Octopress, and I like WordPress. Sorry, I can’t take your comment seriously, and it’s borderline offensive. Chill out, dude.

    2. This guy! xD
      I love how people think their opinion is the only way.. Makes me laugh!

      Although Mr. Aladdin does touch on something interesting.. I know this probably close to your heart but at $108 per month, how does one evaluate the return on that?
      I think that’s the hardest part, of course leads are a quantifiable thing, but beyond that, what metrics for success do you employ?

      Thanks for the write up! =)

    3. Then you also have to count in the many, many service outtakes GitHub.com has to manage all the time…

      And, like Brian already said, you have way more flexibility with WordPress. And eating your own dog food when writing about WordPress (mostly) makes perfect sense.

      And, stop trolling.

    4. Your language is offensive. Very offensive & demeaning. You could have said the same thing and been polite about it. There are plenty of words in the English (or any other language) without using f- & s-

    5. Your language is very offensive & quite demeaning. You could have said the same thing and been polite about it.

  3. Your price on renewing Gravity Forms is high.

    From their site:
    “How much does it cost to renew my license?
    You can quickly and easily renew your license at a discounted price within 60 days of your expiration date. The Developer License renewal is $99.50 USD, the Business License renewal is $49.50 USD and the Personal License renewal is $29.25 USD. After the 60 day window has expired, all renewals are at full price. Coupon codes or other promotional discounts do not apply to renewals.”

    I just saved you $100! (sort of). =D

  4. When you decide to start with the A/B testing on your site, take a look at Nelio A/B Testing (http://wp-abtesting.com). In some aspects it’s similar to Optimizely but it was created specifically for WordPress sites so it has quite a few advantatges over generic A/B testing solutions.

  5. Great post, thanks for sharing Brian. I love to see under the covers on some of the sites I often visit.
    I’m most interested in the analytics part. Does Chartbeat show you which posts your subscribers are reading? You could get a pretty good idea of who your most engaged readers are with tracking like that.

  6. Nice article – I don’t agree with all your monthly costs – but I do agree that sometimes people misunderstand the true cost of managing a website.

    If your hosting is at the point where you need a VPS, it is likely driving revenue and becomes a viable business expense. 99% of the mom & pop brochure style sites can get away with a $3.95 hosting plan.

    Moreover, expenses like Freshbooks has nothing to do with running a wordpress site. And cloudflare and custom analytics again is not related to a wordpress site.

    In sum, I think the title is perhaps a little misleading. The “cost of running a proper web business” would be more reflective…Wordpress or otherwise.

    Thanks for the write up!

    1. Hey Chris, worthwhile criticism.

      I tried to clear up my intentions in the first sentence: “However, running a more serious site can get considerably more expensive.”

      I was trying to highlight what it costs to run a serious website, not the mom n pop shop brochure. I tried to qualify that early.

      I’d also disagree w/ the Freshbooks comment. There are things around the website that aren’t directly website related. I charge for partnership, and pay site contributors. Those are the tools I use for it. But I see what you mean.

  7. This writeup is really good for new comers like us who want to estimate the cost of running a wordpress hosted site. It gave us an idea on where we need to spend further in the coming months. As we are running the blog without any revenue stream would like to wait for some time before going for paid services mentioned here

    Thanks Brian for summing it up all here 🙂

  8. @Chris I agree that a mom & pop shop could get away with a $3.95m hosting plan and many do but they defiantly shouldn’t. Things like site speed, security, reliability, backups become an issue and usually cost allot more than a managed WordPress hosting solution at about $30m. Remember a mom & pop shop doesn’t mean pantry shop all the time. Some mom & pop shops deal with leads that generate thousands of dollars like construction, lawyers etc. losing 1 lead due to site speed or downtime would be a loss of thousands of dollars. I currently host over 100 WordPress websites and only 6 of them are big companies with over 20-500 employees. All the rest are mom & pop shops that depend on us to upgrade, backup secure and maintain their site on an ongoing basis. Some of these mom and pop shops spend allot of money on seo & adwords and get over 10k visits daily (locally).

    Great post btw Brian. Chartbeat looks pretty cool.

  9. Re’ the “Advanced search” part, if you haven’t already, I would urge you to consider Relevanssi by Mikko Saari – a real of personal favorite of mine! 🙂

  10. This is a good article for anyone who wants to know how much to budget for a serious WordPress-powered site. The list is detailed enough.

    It’s something I’d like to share with my potential clients.

  11. Dang that’s a lot of money for a single non-commercial site. I thought my setup was expensive.

    I’m burning around U$6/month on domains (some used, some redirected), hosting US$20/month, Amazon S3 US$5/month and Amazon Cloudfront US$6 per month. So ~US$37 in total.

    I’m planning to ditch Cloudfront and changed to using SPDY direct from my host soon, but that won’t save me much (any?) money as I’ll require a wildcard SSL cert which will cost me around the same amount as the CDN does now.

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