The Real Cost of Starting a Website or Blog

Web Hosting Choices

Have you ever wondered exactly how much it would cost to start your own website?

If you've ever attempted to research costs of hosting and domains, it can be downright confusing.
Choosing a host
One of my pet peeves is when companies advertise really low prices for products, but when you actually go to sign up or pay, you realize you're paying a lot more than you expected to.

This happens in lots of industries, but it is especially true when it comes to web hosting companies. I understand the reasoning for it. As far as marketing goes, it is an effective way to get more leads, but it still bugs me.

In this post, I'm going to answer the question “how much does a website cost”, and go over exactly what you need, and what you can expect to pay for it. I'll also share with you my advice for getting your website up and running for the absolute lowest price possible. So if you've got a good idea for a website, but don't have much money, you'll want to take note.

What you need to start a website

There are lots of things you could buy for a website, but when it comes to the bare necessities, there are really only 3 components you need.

  1. Hosting
    Technically, you can have a website without a web host, but if you want the public to be able to access it from the internet, then you're going to need a web host.

    A web host is essentially a service that enables you to publish a website so that it is accessible via the internet.

  2. Domain Name
    A domain name is a lot like a mailing address, except instead of pointing to a house, it points to the server (or web host) where your site is hosted.

    Most hosting companies sell domain names as well as web hosting, but I prefer to keep my domains separate from my hosting. It's a little harder to set up, but it makes it a lot easier to switch hosting companies if you ever need to.

  3. A Website or CMS (Content Management System)
    Of the 3 things you need to get online, the website is the one that has the widest variety in price range. The cost to build a website can run anywhere from $0 to as high as $18 million!

    Not too long ago, making your own website simply wasn't an option. It involved learning at least HTML and also required you to be a decent graphic designer.

    Today however, things have really changed. With the rise in popularity of free CMS software (like WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla), just about anyone can start a website without knowing a thing about HTML or graphic design.

    How WordPress Changed Everything
    When I learned about WordPress, I thought it was just great. I started using it for just about everything. I could now go from an idea to a live website in a matter of minutes. I immediately became a WordPress evangelist, spreading the word whenever possible.

    From then on, whenever anyone would ask me to make a website (which still happens all the time), I would tell them all about the amazing benefits of using WordPress.

    • No need to pay $10,000 or more to have a professional looking website made
    • you don't need to constantly pay the developer to make minor changes and updates
    • Want a redesign? Just pick a new theme. It's either going to be free (just pick one from the official WordPress theme repository – wordpress.org/themes ) or very reasonably priced.
    • Want to add a new feature, like a contact form or even a shopping cart? There's a plugin for just about anything you could ever need.

    WordPress was so easy and fast to set up, I was happy to set it up for people. Most of them wanted to pay me, but It truly was so simple (And I always let them know that), that I never took money for it. I've set up (and even hosted) WordPress sites for dozens of people for free.

    This is actually what led me to create this site (HowToStartaBlog.org).

How much Does Hosting Cost?

It could cost as little as $70 per year, and could also cost as much as several thousand dollars per month. It all depends on your specific needs and the type of hosting package you decide to go with.

When it comes to hosting companies, they can be put into one of 3 categories: budget hosting, mid-grade hosting, and premium hosting.

This article will focus on budget hosting since it is typically the type of hosting account that a first time site owner will be using.

Budget Hosting Options

If you need to go the cheapest possible hosting option, you would want to go with a budget hosting company. Budget hosts are typically the ones you are probably most familiar with. These are companies like Bluehost, GoDaddy, HostGator, DreamHost, and 1and1.

Budget hosts typically offer 3 types of service. I'm mainly going to focus on the Shared hoting accounts, but here's an overview of what is usually offered.

  • Shared hosting: Prices start at around $7/month, but you can usually get a much lower rate for the first year of service.
    • Called shared hosting because one server is shared between several customers
    • One server can host anywhere from 25 to thousands of websites
    • in some cases, performance can be slow – one bad site can negatively affect the whole server
    • typically easier to manage
  • VPS Hosting: Prices start around $20/month, and go up for better performance.
    • VPS (Virtual Private Server) is also technically shared hosting, but usually server resources are shared among far fewer accounts/ websites.
    • VPS usually have better performance than shared hosting
    • VPS allow more control over the server – best for more experienced users
  • Dedicated Server: Prices usually start at around $100/month and increase with the quality of hardware.
    • Dedicated servers are not shared at all. You have the whole server to yourself
    • Dedicated servers typically have very good performance (depending on the hardware)
    • Users have full (root) access to servers – Best for experienced users

Beware of Advertised Prices

Budget hosting companies tend to advertise very low rates. You often see rates advertised as low as three dollars a month. $3 per month sounds good, right? Well, it actually is a good deal, but the problem is that most people don't pay attention to the fine print.

The really low rates are always only good for the first year, and will usually automatically renew at full price. (usually more than 2 or 3x the initial amount you paid for the first year). So make sure to always read all of the details about hosting costs before purchasing.

When is it okay to use Budget Shared Hosting?

My advice for getting your website or blog up and running for next to nothing
Lets say you have a great idea for a website, and you really think it could eventually become popular and maybe make money.

In this case, a shared hosting account with a really low introductory monthly rate and a free domain is probably exactly what you need.

Here's what you do:

1) Buy your domain name separately from a company like NameCheap. You won't get a deal, but domains (.com) are only $10 per year, and buying your domain separately will allow you a lot more flexibility if you ever need to move your website quickly (for example if you have a blog post that goes viral and see a sudden surge in traffic/ popularity of your site).

2) Find a host that offers a really low rate for the first year. I am going to recommend one of the companies I am partnered with here, but only because it is truly the lowest hosting price I've ever seen — $1/ per month for the first year. That's $12 for 1 year of hosting. It's the Godaddy link on this page.

3) Give it everything you've got! You've got 1 year. If after 1 year, things don't work out, you can always just cancel everything. You've only spent about $30, so you really haven't lost much.

Depending on how much success you're having — here are your options:

  • If things aren't going well, but you aren't ready to throw in the towel just yet, you can always sign up for 1 year with a different cheap hosting company. Then just move your website, and cancel with the first company.

    This is where having your domain name with a separate company comes in handy. Instead of a complicated process of transferring a domain name, all you have to do is update the settings at NameCheap.

  • If things are going OK, and you're making enough to cover hosting, you can either renew for another year, or if you think you'll need to upgrade soon, start paying month to month without a contract. It will probably cost between $6 – $8 / month.
  • If things are going really great, and you've got more traffic than a shared budget host can handle (the best kind of problem to have), you can transfer to a higher quality host that can handle more traffic.

    Again, this process is vastly more simple when you have your domain name registered with a company other than who you've hosted the site with.

Why and How I Use Budget Shared Hosting

I currently host about 30 or so websites. As you might imagine, not all of them are important, but a few of them are very important. Those sites are hosted on higher end accounts that are pretty expensive compared to shared hosting, but the vast majority of sites I own are hosted on budget shared hosting accounts that cost about $10 per month.

The point is that every single one of my sites (even the really important ones), started out on budget shared hosting. I only moved them once I could justify the cost of more expensive hosting.

I've had sites start out on shared hosting that I moved to dedicated hosting, but eventually moved back to shared hosting b/c they just didn't have the traffic and earnings anymore.

Unless you are a well established brand that could publish a brand new site and immediately start receiving high amounts of traffic, I'd generally recommend that every new site be started on less expensive hosting.

It doesn't have to be the cheapest of the cheap hosting, but it doesn't make sense to start a site on a $200 /month cloud hosting account if you don't have any traffic and aren't making any money.

Just start small, and upgrade as needed. Spend the money you'll save to build a great website. That you'll eventually need to upgrade!

I hope this guide has been useful to some of you. If you have any comments or suggestions, please leave them below. Thanks for reading!

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