The $500 Website
A decade ago, Chris Butler’s survey and report for Newfangled provided other agencies with the numbers that meaningfully define their market. WordPress agencies and freelancers could use something similar today.
Estimated reading time: 60 minutes
In 2021 WordPress.com announced a premium $4,900 website building service — builtbywp.com. It’s still active but the FAQ says, “Our website design & development services start at $3,500 USD.”
Now there’s Built by WordPress.com Express — where “in-house experts will build the site for you, all in four business days or less. The cost is $499, plus an additional purchase of the WordPress.com Premium plan.”
There’s no way not to see this Do it for Me service as competing with freelancers on the low end of the market, which Matt Mullenweg previously claimed was not the intention of the premium site building service last year.
He also estimated that Automattic captures less than 5% of the revenue in the total WordPress ecosystem — much less than other large hosts. At the time, David Bisset writing for Post Status, asked for more transparency about “how many customers have been acquired and new sites built on WordPress.com.”
The WordPress market share has always been highest and expanded the most in the broadest market — the top million active websites as measured by traffic. WordPress currently has around a 36% market share by that measure, but it falls to 14% in the top 10,000 most active sites. While sites with no (identifiable) CMS are still the largest and probably easiest area for growth, it’s logical for WordPress.com to focus on the lower end of the market rather than leave it to other hosting companies.
Inevitably, freelancers are going to feel the squeeze as commodified websites and website building services compete downward on price. The wisdom usually offered about this is sound: learn the price points where you can be most competitive and trade on unique value you can bring to clients.
A geographically localized focus, an affinity-based or purpose-built niche of features, and personal referral networks are unique strengths. There are also plenty of important, high-budget clients whose websites never need or intend to serve millions of visitors. Built your own local or niche market analysis — current market share data for WordPress doesn’t tell you much.
A decade ago, Chris Butler‘s survey and report at Newfangled for other small agencies was really helpful in getting the numbers that matter. (I believe this survey was done more than once but not sustained over the years since then.) We could use something similar for WordPress agencies and freelancers.
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