If you’re like most, your website is the cornerstone of your business marketing. Because of this, your content management system (CMS) may come with a high price tag. But, do you have to pay as much as you think?
Most companies go into business with zero knowledge of how to build a website, let alone how to make efficient decisions about software and hosting. You probably hired a developer to make most of your decisions for you. Sadly, developers are generally biased toward the software they were trained to work with and their idea of what’s best isn’t always what’s best for you. They don’t necessarily consider your financial goals when planning your website design.
Don’t get me wrong, here — I deeply admire web developers and could never do what they do; HTML and CSS are foreign languages to me. I do know content marketing, which is where your choice of CMS comes into the picture. Here’s what you need to consider when making a decision about the platform where you will host your online marketing materials, products, and services.
What Can the Wrong CMS Actually Cost You?
A few months ago, I was working with a B2B company who had major issues with their website. When their customers tried to place product orders, they were suddenly being charged ten dollars more per piece than the actual cost of the product. When your customers are giants like Starbucks and Natural Grocers who want to place hundred-piece orders, that kind of glitch can be detrimental in the sum of tens of thousands of dollars.
The company above was referred by a colleague to contact me about ironing out the kinks in their shopping cart flow. When I was able to get into the site, which was pretty well barricaded by the developer, I found that the shopping cart wasn’t the only issue. An advanced CMS platform that costs $18K per year was being used to host a five-page, one-product website; this was extremely expensive and far beyond the needs of the client.
By migrating the website to another CMS with a customizable eCommerce theme and built-in, reliable shopping cart, I was able to cut their annual cost to $348 in a matter of hours. The glitches ended and the company was able to go back to business as usual.
This is How to Determine Your Opportunities for Savings
The above story illustrates just how much you can actually save by exploring whether or not you are spending too much on your CMS. So, from a financial perspective, where do you begin?
First, Break Down Your Content System & Costs
Your content management system can be categorized into six parts:
- Website Hosting
- Main CMS Platform
- Secondary CMS Platform (for an external blog, etc.)
- Shopping Cart/ Payment Processing
- Plug-ins/ Add-ons
Write down which software you’re using for each item and how much each costs.
- Domain: GoDaddy: $14.99/ year
- Website Hosting: HostGator: $5.95/ month ($71.40/ year)
- Main CMS Platform: WordPress: Free
- Secondary CMS Platform: NA
- Shopping Cart/ Payment Processing: BluePay: $15/ month ($180/ year) + $129/ year for PCI compliance
- Plug-ins/ Add-ons: Misc: $59/ month ($708/ year)
If your CMS system is represented by the above example, your total annual cost is $1,103.39. Keep in mind that this is just the system, not including content creation and administrative costs. This is actually a comparatively inexpensive system and it still leaves room for savings.
Next, Shop Around for the Best Value
Sometimes you can find a free or inexpensive plugin that will serve the same function as a costly one you’re currently using. Is there another platform that is less expensive and provides all the tools you need? Investigate your options in each category; just remember to test new software before you publish on your active site.
For example, you could compare SEO plugins. If you’re spending $89/ year on the paid version of the Yoast SEO plugin you may be pleased to know that you can replace it with SEO premium for $37/ year.
Then, Combine Software to Cut Costs
Explore whether or not you can combine some of your CMS costs. For example, some CMS platforms include hosting in the cost of the software. Some provide free shopping carts. If you can drop one external platform and utilize some options included in another, you will definitely save.
This could seem like a measly way to save when you’re working with add-ons that cost less than $10/ month. But, when you consider how long you could be using a tool, it adds up. At this price, you spend $600 after 5 years. And how many tools like this are you using? Four $10 add-ons could cost nearly $5K after 10 years. If you can consolidate a number of tools you pay for, you will definitely cut your software spending.
Finally, Should You Pay Monthly or Annually?
Most online SaaS companies offer monthly and annual subscriptions. As long as you’re sure you’re going to have your website for the next year (hopefully this is the case), you are sure to save by paying upfront.
Take a look at Squarespace’s pricing, which they lay out nicely on their sales page.
For an eCommerce store, there are two options: basic and advanced. For each alternative, users receive a discount for paying upfront. So, unless you’re not sure that you’ll still have your CMS in a year, pay your costs upfront.
How to Get Exactly What You Need in a CMS
You see how this decision is critical. So, now you need to know what to look for in a CMS and why. Ask yourself the following questions to choose the right platform(s).
1. How many pages does your website have?
A five-page website varies greatly from a 150-page site. Content management on the smaller side does not require an advanced platform. Hosting in an advanced platform, you will also lose creative control to an expert.
2. Do you plan on selling products?
When you sell products from your branded website, choose a CMS that offers eCommerce themes with reliable shopping cart options. A great eCommerce theme provides all the bells and whistles you need to streamline product sales.
Here are theme features to look for if you plan to sell products on your site:
- Reliable, built-in shopping cart
- Simple navigation menu
- Search box
- Email subscription form
- Account/ registration pages
- Portable card reader for omnichannel integration
3. Do you plan on hosting a blog?
If you host a blog, consider whether or not you want your article pages on a separate CMS and what the total costs will be. Ideally, you will want everything in one dashboard. If your blog is central to your marketing strategy, choose a blogging platform.
4. What types of add-ons do you need/ want?
Various CMS platforms have add-ons and plugins that give you easy access to helpful tools. Explore the marketing and design tools offered with the software you consider. Learn how to find out which add-ons and options are offered by a particular CMS, and factor all costs into your final decision.
Here’s how you can find the tools a specific system offers:
- Check out the content management system’s main website.
- Find the available add-ons/ plugins and integrations pages.
- Search for what you need (ex: “social media sharing”)
- Research the main website of the feature you’re interested in (ex: Mailchimp, etc.).
For example, with a little research, you will find that Magento, a popular CMS, offers an advanced filtering system with their menus, which is invaluable if you offer a variety of product options.
When it comes to building a website, you either create an asset or an expense. Make sure you’re getting just what you need out of your CMS to save your pocketbook and increase your ROI.
Ashley Kimler is the Content Marketing Dynamo at Heroic Search in Tulsa. She works with a team of SEO geniuses that help companies increase their online search presence. To see what else she and her team share, follow @ashleykimler and @heroicsearch on Twitter.