Website maintenance is a tricky thing. You know it needs to get done, so you add it to your task list and look in on it when you’re supposed to. It might not seem like a lot of work to start, but you’ll soon notice how it sneakily shaves minutes or even hours off of your workday.
Whether you’re working on maintenance for your own website or you’re a developer who handles it on behalf of clients, can you afford to DIY WordPress website maintenance? Or does it make more sense to outsource and pay someone else to do it?
This guide is going to help you make that determination as we explore:
- Website maintenance costs vs. website repair costs
- The benefits of paying for website maintenance
- Website maintenance costs when you DIY
- Website maintenance costs when you outsource
- How to choose the option that’s best for you and the most cost-effective
Website Maintenance Costs vs. Website Repair Costs
You have two basic choices when it comes to website maintenance:
- Do it
- Don’t do it
For some of you, the latter might seem like the most cost efficient choice. After all, how much work could your website possibly need if you spent thousands of dollars to have it built in the first place?
Angle180 briefly explains how a lack of WordPress website maintenance can cost you. To sum up:
- Emergencies arise more frequently if the proper measures and monitoring aren’t put in place.
- The cost of repairing a website is unpredictable since there are so many ways in which you might need to step in.
- Missed WordPress updates could lead to issues with compatibility, which, in turn, could lead to expensive design reworks or website reconfigurations.
- Every second of downtime costs the website money.
- Data breaches are also costly -- not just in terms of money, but in terms of brand reputation.
Here’s the thing: even if impromptu maintenance issues that spring up aren’t as serious as something like the white screen of death, they still require an expenditure of your time to investigate and address them.
Everything comes at a cost.
In fact, when I looked into this matter of whether a proactively secured website was more expensive than one that was unmaintained, I found a significant difference in cost. And this is just looking at how much it costs when you fail to secure a website! Maintenance goes beyond the matter of security, so you can expect costs to be much higher if you add performance, content, and SEO issues to the list of website repairs that happen on unmaintained sites.
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As Codeable suggests, staying ahead of WordPress maintenance issues is just smart business. Raleigh Leslie likens it to car maintenance:
Say you have something wrong with your car and you start taking it apart yourself, and then you realize that you've just screwed it up even worse and you have no idea how to get it back together now, what?! Call the tow truck. Eventually, it's going to end up costing you more than if you hired a professional from the start.
The Benefits of Monthly Website Maintenance
What all of this is trying to say is that there’s no getting around WordPress website maintenance costs. But there’s good news. This isn’t some service you’re throwing money at that you’ll never see a return on. There are huge gains that come from keeping a website well-maintained:
- Active security, uptime, and performance monitoring allow for fast response times on detected issues.
- Security and performance optimizations provide website visitors with a superior experience and protects your SEO work, as CodeinWP explains.
- Schedule optimizations also allow you to focus on your other work without having to constantly stress about what more can be done to your WordPress website.
- Content and design stay fresh, which keeps Google and visitors happy with your website.
- Installing regular updates allows you to rely on core, plugin, and theme developers to provide ongoing assistance in keeping your site running well.
- Regular backups protect your website investment.
- Ongoing maintenance contributes to your conversion rate optimization strategy.
- DevriX explains how paying for maintenance will save you money in the long run.
Speaking of DevriX, we talked with Mario Peshev (AKA R2-D2) on the WPMRR WordPress podcast about analyzing similar issues multiple clientele may be having and how allocating a percentage of income to hiring and developing a team will help to solve that joint problem. His main superpower is saving you time…and maximizing your revenue. Tune in!
Bottom line: website maintenance costs are worth it.
Not only are they significantly lower than repair costs, but they actually help your website generate more revenue. Plus, if you get yourself and your clients into the mindset early on that maintenance is something that comes with having a website (as Guppy Fish Web does), you can avoid these questions about whether or not maintenance is needed. It’s simply a matter of who you’ll pay to maintain it.
Website Maintenance Costs When You DIY
Even though you know you need to pay for WordPress maintenance, you can’t help but ask:
“What’s the cheapest option?”
This is what leads many people to consider the DIY option. That and the fact that some people really enjoy the process of getting their hands dirty, so to speak. As Mighty Citizen puts it:
"We humans really do enjoy the act of upkeep. It’s why we spend billions of dollars a year keeping our lawns green. It’s why face lotion exists. When we get our hands on something good, we want it to last."
But DIY website maintenance won’t be the ideal solution for everyone, especially when you take a closer look at how much website maintenance costs are when you handle it yourself.
Let’s say you only have to maintain one WordPress website at the moment. You’d typically have a 10-step WordPress monthly maintenance checklist to follow. 10 steps doesn’t seem like much, right?
Let’s break this down:
Step 1: Security Monitoring
Realistically, you will have a security plugin installed that monitors your website for vulnerabilities. Most free WordPress plugins come with monitoring and notifications for things like failed login attempts and database changes. iThemes Security does this.
However, an essential part of monitoring for security is the malware scan. Yes, you can use a free malware scanner like Sucuri to take care of this, but it cannot be scheduled for free. The same goes for iThemes’ malware scanner.
This means you’ll either incur the cost for:
- Running a malware scan manually.
- Upgrading to a premium plugin to handle it for you.
Add either the value of your time (i.e. your hourly rate) or the plugin fee to your WordPress website maintenance costs.
Step 2: Security-Related Cleanup
Although your security plugin is going to keep a lot of vulnerabilities away from your site, your malware scanner and other security monitoring methods may eventually pick up something. When that happens, you have to take action. Your plugin may be able to help a little, but you’ll have to, at the very least, tell it what to do.
Here are some of the security-related cleanup tasks on which you might have to spend time each month:
- Remove users that don’t belong inside your WordPress installation.
- Reset all user passwords.
- Generate new WordPress security keys and salts.
- Clean out spam.
- Patch your code after a malware infection.
- Clean up a defaced page.
- Notify customers or users of hacked data.
- And so on.
If your WordPress website holds steady, then you’ll just have to manage security cleanup best practices (i.e. password and user management). If an attack occurs, you’ll have more work to do, but this is why you have a security plan in place -- to reduce that likelihood.
For now, add the value of your time spent on those basic security cleanup tasks to your WordPress website maintenance costs.
Step 3: Uptime Monitoring
Time is money when you run a business through WordPress, which means you can’t skimp on uptime monitoring. Go ahead: give this downtime cost calculator a go. You’ll see what I mean.
Similar to security monitoring, you have access to uptime monitoring tools like Pingdom for free online. While Pingdom offers free uptime monitoring for one website, it’s a very basic service and you will need more than that.
WordPress plugins won’t be of much help either. Your best bet is to upgrade your iThemes Security plugin so you can get access to iThemes Sync’ Pro features, which includes uptime monitoring and notifications.
This is the ideal solution since you don’t want to spend time each day logging into your free uptime monitoring tool to check the status. You want a reliable piece of software to do the work for you and send real-time notifications when a WordPress site goes down.
As such, you will have to factor the fee of the upgraded Pingdom service or the iThemes Security plugin into your WordPress maintenance costs. If you already upgraded iThemes for security monitoring, there’s no need to add the cost again.
Step 4: Performance Audit & Optimization
A WordPress caching plugin and image optimization strategy will effectively speed up your website. However, there may come a time when high volumes of search or bot traffic dig away at your loading speeds. Inefficient coding and faulty updates can also contribute to deteriorating performance.
As such, you have to keep your eye on your WordPress website performance.
Pingdom has a page speed monitoring tool as do a number of other online services (like GTmetrix and Google). The problem is that they’re only free to use if you manually use them. If you want to automate your tests and have the software send you the results, you have to upgrade.⏰ Don’t forget about performance optimization! Inevitably, your speed monitoring tool will tell you that something needs to be fixed. Your optimization plugins may help you issue some of the patches, but not all of them. #WordPress Click To Tweet
If you want to manage your speed testing tool on your own, factor in the value of your time to your WordPress website maintenance costs. If you’d rather automate it, add the cost of the premium tool you will use. Oh, and don’t forget to add time spent on optimizations. An hour or two every month will do.
Step 5: Backup-and-Restores
Backups are typically something you can set up once -- and do it for free with a WordPress backup plugin. So long as you’ve configured your UpdraftPlus plugin to send backups to Amazon S3 (or a comparably secure storage service), you shouldn’t have to think about this until a restore is in order. Plus, as long as your website has been fully secured, you’ve effectively minimized the chances of that ever happening.
Other than confirming that backups correctly saved to S3 (and you can automate those notifications through the plugin), there isn’t any time you’ll need to spend on this.
There are no costs to add to your list.
Step 6: Software Updates
Software updates in WordPress -- to the core, plugins, and your theme -- are unpredictable. You never know when they’ll arrive in your dashboard, what purpose they serve, and if they’re even ready to deploy.
There are a few ways you can handle them:
Option 1: Automate
WordPress will automatically install critical security updates on its users’ websites. You can take advantage of those as well as automate all other updates that come in with a plugin like Easy Updates Manager.
Just be aware that automated updates can pose a risk to your WordPress website if they conflict with other software on your site or if they contain a bug or vulnerability within the code. One can lead to downtime and the other to a security breach.
Option 2: Schedule and Backup
There’s another way to automate updates and that’s through a multi-site management tool like ManageWP.
As you can see here, though, you can’t schedule your updates safely without upgrading to premium. That’s going to be the case with most update management tools. For free, you might be able to automate, but a backup can’t be saved or an easy rollback option implemented unless you pay.
Option 3: Manually Install Updates
The safest way to issue updates is to handle them manually.
Log into WordPress and check for updates in the Updates ticker.
Then, go to your test environment and implement the latest update(s) there. If the update has no adverse effect on your website, you can return to the WordPress dashboard and implement it with one click.
In some cases, you may need to manually upload the files from the update to your server, but that’s usually only in the case of a premium plugin or theme that’s not connected to WordPress.
When factoring in the costs of updates management, calculate the value of the time you spend on it, plus any premium tools you use to help, and add it to your list of WordPress website maintenance costs.
Step 7: Website Cleanup
This pertains to the things you do to keep your server and WordPress installation clean.
You can use a database optimization plugin or your multi-site management tool to scan and remove unused files from the server. There should be no cost associated with that.
You will, however, need to do a quick sweep of your content in WordPress. Make sure all the comments, posts, pages, and media files in there should be there. If not, delete them.
This shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes a month. Be sure to add the value of your time to the list of WordPress website maintenance costs.
Step 8: Website Audit
Your performance and security monitoring tools will take care of catching issues that hurt the user experience. But there’s more you need to keep an eye on.
Website audits look at things like mobile responsiveness, broken links, and outdated design tactics. It might not seem necessary to do this every month, but it does ensure you’re covering your bases. You never know when a WordPress plugin might become buggy and start affecting the way one of your design elements appears to mobile users, for instance.
Set aside a half-hour or so each month to do a website audit and address issues. Then, be sure to add the value of your time to your list of WordPress maintenance costs.
Step 9: Website Edits
Website edits could pertain to anything in need of a quick touch-up. Perhaps your blog styling or link structures need to be revamped. Or maybe your client asks you to swap out the home page banner each month to advertise a current promotion. WordPress websites are living things (or, at least, they’re supposed to be), which means you should spend time inside of them to address tasks like these.
Unless you’re maintaining a massive e-commerce site, website edits shouldn’t take more than an hour or so each month. Go ahead and add the value of your time spent on them to your list of WordPress maintenance costs.
Step 10: Reporting
Finally, there is the reporting piece.
For those of you maintaining WordPress websites for a multitude of clients, you will definitely want to automate this. Maintenance reporting includes notes on everything you’re tasked with managing. For example, here are the various modules you can program into ManageWP:
If you already have tools in place to streamline your WordPress maintenance tasks, this will become exponentially easier. All you’ll need to do is design your report template and create one for each clients’ specific needs. Add your custom labels and messages, and then schedule them to go out at the same time every month.
The only thing is that you have to pay for the scheduling piece. So, you either pay for the upgrade and let the software automate reporting for you, or you manually manage these each month. The automation upgrade is worth it. Trust me.
Go ahead and add the upgrade fee to your list of WordPress website maintenance costs.
Calculate Your Total WordPress Website Maintenance Costs
Go through and add up the total costs from Steps 1 through 10. This will be your total monthly website maintenance cost if you opt to do the work on your own. For one website. If you manage more than one WordPress website, make sure to factor those exponential costs in so you can get an accurate estimate.🤯 Don’t forget to factor in what the time spent away from other work does to your profits. If it costs you money every time you work on #maintenance tasks then that needs to be added to the total. #WordPress Click To Tweet
Website Maintenance Costs When You Outsource
Now that you know what it costs to DIY WordPress website maintenance, let’s consider the alternative: outsourcing.
As for how much monthly website maintenance packages cost, let’s look at some figures.
"The cost associated for a yearly maintenance contract comes to approximately 15-20% of the cost for the development, or to put it in figures, a low end estimate cost ranging between USD 1500 to USD 3000."
In this Moz Q&A, SEO pro eyepaq chalks it up to a matter of budget:
"It's all about budget. For some 2,500 might be ok since they make 100 times more then [sic] that with the site so paying a fee of over 2k it's [sic] not a problem. For some 250 might be very good, ok or way over budget. Price is always very subjective."
How Are Website Maintenance Costs Determined?
So, what is it?
- Is it the original cost of the website that influences the cost?
- Is it the budget of the target customer that dictates cost?
- Is it the size of the website that contributes to costs?
- Or is it something else entirely?
"When it comes to website maintenance, don't just look for the cheapest option. You will probably be really unhappy!"
There’s a good reason for that.
WordPress website maintenance packages aren’t typically priced based on the amount of work the provider does for you (at least, not if you work with a good provider). While it does come into play, it’s the value of their service offering that (hopefully) dictates the cost. So, don’t try to chunk this down to hours worked and never compromise on paying for premium plans if that’s what your website needs.
As we saw earlier, not maintaining a WordPress website can be a costly risk. By outsourcing WordPress maintenance to an expert, you’re significantly cutting out that risk. In addition, you have someone continually working on managing those tasks that keep your site fast, secure, and in Google’s good graces. This, in turn, leads to more visitors, longer times on site, and higher conversion rates.
If you outsource WordPress maintenance to a third-party provider that knows what it’s doing, this is a way to secure and enhance your website’s financial outcomes. That’s what should matter to you most.
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The Reality of WordPress Website Maintenance Costs
Realistically, this is how much you should expect to pay a third-party to handle your WordPress website maintenance:
A personal blog or website will need the bare minimum, so you could probably outsource it to a web developer. You can expect this to cost no more than $15 to $30 a month to ensure there are no issues with downtime and your content remains secure.
A professional blog with new content published every day will require more rigorous coverage. That said, if sensitive transactions don’t take place on the site, this will be cheaper to maintain than a professional company website. Expect about $50 a month for basic, but solid coverage.
A company website with contact forms, remarketing, and other standard configurations (i.e. no sales) will need a maintenance plan that prioritizes uptime, speed, and security. However, if the content isn’t updated regularly and most of the marketing is automated, you can find plans for upwards of $100 a month that fit the bill. We offer care plans and a white label program that can fit most budgets, by the way.
A more complex website with advanced functionality -- like e-commerce, multilingual, membership, Multisite, and so on -- will definitely be pricier. Because speeds have to be super-fast and uptime is non-negotiable, you’ll need a maintenance plan that covers your site more frequently. You can expect costs to run you between $100 and $200 a month.
A custom-built website will be the most expensive one to maintain. This is because the website maintenance company or professional needs to do more manual work to manage your site. When extra care is needed, you can expect costs to increase exponentially based on the size and degree of customization. Some companies will charge up to $2,000 a month for this.
Which WordPress Website Maintenance Option Should You Choose?
This should be an easy decision to make, but I’d urge you to go back and review the numbers.
Obviously, the no-maintenance option is out of the question. It’s a reckless move and one that will eventually catch up to you.
The DIY option could work, but it’s not sustainable if you have more than one WordPress website to manage. That is unless this is the only thing that you do. Even then, consider the fact that maintaining WordPress websites has its limits as its contingent upon the number of hours you’re available to work. You will never be able to earn more than what your 8-hour workday allows for.
The outsourcing option is your best bet. While you might be reluctant to shell out that cash right now, use your calculations to steer your decision.
While this isn’t necessarily about choosing the cheapest option, you have to consider what sort of toll DIY will take on your bottom line. By outsourcing to a reliable WordPress website maintenance provider like WP Buffs, you get to take all of that responsibility off of your plate while capping your website maintenance costs each month. It’s the most cost-effective way to do this.
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