Calculating Monthly Website Fees – Are You Getting Gouged?

calculating website monthly fees
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Free: 10 Things the Best Law-Firm Website Designs Have in Common

For seven years, Lawyerist has published an annual list of the best law firm websites. Now, you can find out what they have in common.

Quick – what are you paying every year for your website? If you had to multiply by twelve to calculate the annual cost of a monthly website fee, you may be getting ripped off. The only legitimate ongoing fees you should be paying for your website are for your domain name (about $10/year) and hosting (about $100/year). When you were evaluating website costs, it may have sounded like a fantastic deal to sign up for a mere $100 per month, but what does that cost equate to over the life of the website? Often it is as much as $3000-4000 in a few short years (most firms will hang onto a new website for at least 2 years).

Monthly website fees might seem attractive by their low number, but they are often the undercoating of websites – the useless fee a salesperson convinces you is necessary. Many companies take advantage of the lack of knowledge of these fees and what appears to be a low rate. By the time many firms realize they are overpaying they are often locked into a lengthy contract.

There are a lot of reasons you might have been told you need to pay monthly fees for you’re here’s what you should and should not pay for.

  • Hosting: $100/year Your hosting fees should be annual, not monthly, and should not be more than about $100/year. There is almost never any reason to pay more.
  • Domain Name: $10/year Same as your hosting fee, this should be an annual cost. While you are double checking, make sure you are the legal owner of your domain name.
  • Search Engine Submission: $0 You can do this yourself, and once your site has been submitted you do not need to keep resubmitting. Search engines don’t forget about your site each month.
  • Maintenance: This depends on your level of technical expertise. Some people don’t need any help and can do everything they need on their own. Most firms need a little assistance either to consistently add content, check for updates, or offer technical support.
  • Content Development: You should be doing this yourself, as well. However not everyone has the time. If you decide to use a content developer to help write articles or content for your website be sure to define the amount and quality of the content. Many copy writing firms outsource their work and the quality is horrible and clearly sounds like English is not their first language. Maybe you should not have a blog, but just a news section instead.
  • Social Media: You should also be doing this yourself – if you hire someone to post on Facebook and Twitter for you, it will not sound authentic.

Before you get tied up into ridiculous monthly fees, review the list above and read your contract closely. Too many companies rely on recurring fees because they know you will be too busy to cancel.

(photo: Flickr 401(K) 2013)

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  • The juxtaposition between the content of this post and the ad at the top touting the Lawyerist blogging service is amusing.

    • I though so, too.

    • Paul McGuire

      I actually thought it was part of the article with how this showed up in my Zite. It seemed a bit strange for an opening to an article though.

    • Gene M

      Hey Keith, I like your website’s new theme :)

  • ronniep59

    According to this article, the $99 a month charge for a Lawyerist website is a ripoff.

    • Not really, since it covers design and ongoing support, not just hosting. Sites is priced on a different model than Karin is laying out.

      For example, Karin left out the up-front cost of designing a website. Figure $1–2,000 for that. And she’s left out the ongoing cost of hiring someone to update your website (if you want to change the text, for example, or change out the photos), usually priced by the hour. All that is included in the Sites pricing.

  • Gene M

    You get what you pay for. For $100/yr hosting you’re going to get a website that’s constantly down, has huge initial load times and zero support when you need it. I would not recommend going cheap on hosting, and advise against it every single time.

    Loading speed may not matter in rankings as much, but when it comes to user experience you want your website to be snappy fast.

    • Exactly. For these reasons and others, I pay about $50/month for my personal WiredTree server (this doesn’t count the cost of building and maintaining my websites, of course).

    • Tom Gray

      Sorry Gene, Sorry Sam, but if you choose the right host and have an efficient design you don’t have constant down time or huge load times. I do small business website design for my clients and have every confidence in any number of low cost (but not low quality) hosting providers. And I gotta say, support, when I’ve needed it, has been fantastic. If you want a list, contact me.

      That’s not to say that a more expensive solution isn’t justified when you have huge volumes of traffic, heavy ecommerce flow or above average security concerns but this isn’t the majority of websites. The majority of websites will benefit from Karin’s advice.

      • It all depends on your needs. How many lawyers are willing and able to set up their own website on a host? How many even know how to set up nameservers for their domain, much less email?

        There’s value in hand-holding. I am more knowledgeable than most lawyers when it comes to servers, but I am happy to pay my hosting provider to hold my hand when I need something, and to answer the phone on the second ring when I’ve got a problem.

        Sure, I’d rather not spend money on my website, but it’s a crucial component of my business. Surely that’s worth what it takes to make sure everything goes smoothly.

        Yes, anyone can host a website perfectly well for $7/month. Anyone can run a law practice on Linux, too. That doesn’t mean either is a good idea for the average lawyer.

        • Tom Gray

          Absolutely agree, but that’s a different aspect. I create WordPress websites for clients using affordable hosting providers and I do all the hand-holding in addition to setting up the site and providing training in its use, if they want it, to my clients. That’s part of the cost of “building and maintaining” that you mention elsewhere. And, to be honest, if a lawyer’s billing out at a couple of hundred dollars an hour then it’s a heckuva lot cheaper to use somebody like me for that process while he, or she, focuses on securing or fulfilling billable engagements.

    • Lara

      Thank you Gene. We are a web dev company and lost 6 sites because they guaranteed back up and we didn’t get it. Not too much fun having to re-install and upload content again!

  • Tom Gray

    While I agree that you shouldn’t have to pay for search engine submission it may be very worthwhile to spend time and money on search engine marketing. For lawyers, in particular, developing a strong profile of your ideal client, doing the necessary keyword research, optimizing your site for local search (assuming most of your business is within your market area) and providing fresh, relevant and optimized (for people and search engines) content can be as daunting for a legal professional as the nuances of tax law are for the rest of us.

    By the way, to submit your site to Google go to https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/submit-url … to find out how to submit your site to other engines, search “submit your site to (Yahoo, Bing, Ask, etc.”

  • Susan Branch Smith

    I am surprised to read: “Social Media: You should also be doing this yourself – if you hire someone to post on Facebook and Twitter for you, it will not sound authentic.” That’s what writers do. Get to know your company, interview you for your blog content, and then write and post it.

    Honestly? I hope you edit this blog, Lawyerist.com, because this is the way the world is going. Lots of people don’t have the time to write or publish themselves. Experts like us who know about writing and SEO and seriously make a company money.

  • How many lawyers, or any other business people, have the time to
    a. learn

    b. do
    all those things?

    I’ve been making websites professionally for 14 years.

    All of this CAN be professionally outsourced, and you can outsource within the U.S. too. And it can be done at a level of high professionalism too.

    When you find people that know what they’re doing, they can ghost write well (especially if they have a background in legal….one of my ghost writers was a legal assistant for 35 years and ghost wrote for law journals).

    You need professional SEO people; you don’t have time to learn a new career. You a professional that knows the ropes and can get you noticed.

    Social media, yet another new career: a good social media person learns you and your style well, and can post and make it sound like you. Although I do social media myself, I’ve been too busy and have outsourced it to someone that owed me for past work. She’s doing outstanding work talking in “my voice”.

    Hosting and domain name fees: way off. Those vary wildly. Most expensive isn’t the best, nor the cheapest (if you can’t afford $15 or more a year for a domain, you can’t afford to have a website). You may get away with paying less for web hosting annually, depending on the web host, although you’re almost on the nose for my rates. Even the biggest names in the business aren’t always the best. Talk to people and get referrals.

    Site maintenance: do you have a few years to learn a new career? That said, if someone else has had the site made using a platform (for example, WordPress), you can post your own content, if you have the time.

    Freshness of content, whether you blog or just make regular updates to site info, makes a big difference in search engine rankings. In which case, you won’t have to learn a new career, but you have to make time for updates. This is great work to pass along to interns or assistants.

    Lawyers are busy (hopefully). Everyone is. What you propose is everyone go out and learn multiple career fields. Let the professionals do the jobs for you, while you keep doing what you do. Also, us professionals will get you more business, and keep you busier than ever. What you propose is great for a law school grad (but still requires a big learning curve…they should be out getting clients and jobs, not working on websites).

    My best to you in your endeavors, and all your readers.