Without a doubt, you’ve probably tried reading a few guides on ‘What is WordPress’ by now; and if you’re like most, you’re still confused about what it is, how you use it, why you should or shouldn’t use it and how much it costs. Well, this is the only back-to-basics guide you’ll find with all of WordPress’s pros, cons and prices, without the lingo and tech talk you don’t care about.
What you’ll find in this article:
- What is WordPress and how does it work?
- Why is WordPress so popular?
- Is WordPress a good website builder?
- Why should you not use WordPress?
- How much does WordPress cost?
- Is WordPress easy to use for a beginner?
Related read: WordPress or HTML5 Website Builder—Pros, Cons & Hacks.
The 2019 WordPress Guide for Australian Businesses by Localsearch
What is WordPress? How does it work?
WordPress is what is known as a content management system (CMS), which in non-IT speak, is an online platform you can build and maintain a website and/or blog. You’ll be interested to know, it’s the world’s most popular method of creating and managing websites, with 33.9% of websites using WordPress, making that 60.6% of all websites online (according to W3techs).
Why is WordPress so popular? WordPress themselves say their platform ‘democratises publishing’, creating freedom to do what you want (within reason) to your website. And they do give you this.
How they do it is by using what is called open source software (OSS). This allows any developer (Read: What is a developer?), or someone with development skills, to create plugins (software for websites). These plugins can do everything from monitor your performance on search engines to allow customers to submit complicated details for a quote request. Whatever your heart desires, there’s a developer who can do on WordPress. While this is great, it does come with its risks (see below).
Editor’s Note: There are actually two different WordPress platforms—WordPress.com and WordPress.org. For the purpose of this article, we’re going to be discussing WordPress.org as this is the platform that businesses owners who are serious about making money use.
Is WordPress a good website builder?
When people ask, “Is WordPress a good website builder?” they normally actually mean, “Is WordPress better than Wix/Squarespace/Localsearch Website Builder?” Or more specifically, they want to know what is the cheapest possible way to build a good website. The answer is really simple.
If you want to build an incredible, unique website with some more complex features, you should be using WordPress. And here’s why.
Top WordPress Pros:
- Plugins and Application Program Interfaces (API) AKA software can be used to get your website to do almost anything you want it to do.
- WordPress websites tend to have better results on search engines due to the plugins available and being responsive (can be viewed well on any device), to name a few reasons.
- Blogging is extremely easy to do with WordPress with their in-built blog feature.
- Updates to the platform help to secure the website.
- Custom coding allows you to have pretty much free reign of your design and branding.
- The site can easily be updated when you need and expand as your business grows.
Why should you not use WordPress?
But what if you just want a standard website to display your information online with a simple name, phone number, email address enquiry form? We will tell you right now, look at using a website builder (article coming soon) instead.
Think of building a website like buying a car. If you only need a cheap way to get from point a to point b everyday (AKA display your products online), then a standard model would do the job (a website builder). But, if you’re intending on racing your car to win some money (growing your business online), then you’ll need an upgraded car that can handle the heat (WordPress).
There are also a few issues that tend to make people wary of using WordPress.
Top WordPress Cons:
- A developer is recommended to ensure your plugins work well together, are secure, aren’t slowing down your website and your coding is easy for search engines to process.
- Too many plugins can slow down your website and support from the creator can stop, meaning if the plugin breaks, you have to replace it.
- The WordPress and plugin updates are manual, but it’s crucial it’s done due to security.
- Open Source Software, while amazing, can weaken your website’s security if you aren’t using secure plugins and APIs.
While these are potentially very large issues, using a developer you can trust will help reduce or rid you of these risks.
How much does WordPress cost?
There are two options when choosing a WordPress site—build and manage the website yourself or let a professional do the work for you. While managing your own build and maintenance may seem like the cheap way around getting everything a WordPress site offers, it may actually end up costing you more than an all-in-one package, like Localsearch’s website packages and hosting packages, which include everything from your security to your content and images.
Here the top things you need to consider when building and managing your own website:
Your hosting is an extremely important part of your website and definitely not something you want to decide on based off of price. Many hosting providers will have hosting for $1 a month, $3 a month or $15 a month, but there’s something they’re not telling you. This super cheap hosting is normally based overseas and on what are called shared servers.
Think of servers like a filing cabinet that holds all of your website’s data. When you share a server, instead of the entire filing cabinet, you have a single, very small folder. Why is this a problem? Your hosting can only manage a specific number of people on your website at once. Shared servers tend to only handle very small numbers, so if you run an offer or a marketing campaign and have more than this number of people come to your site, it will crash, and a crashed website can’t be seen by any of those people.
You also have the issue of overseas servers. The further away a server is from the website viewer, the slower it will be for them to see it. To help you be found easier and more frequently on search engines, your website needs good speed, so having an overseas server can actually do more harm than good. Plus, that cheap hosting is ONLY hosting. Management solutions are rarely included for these low prices.
As well as hosting, you’ll need to register your website’s domain name. In the simplest explanation ever, a domain name is how your internet browser (Google Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer, etc.) identifies your website, or even more simply, your ‘www.yourbusinessname.com.au’. Every website has a unique domain name that must be registered to ensure it’s not taken.
Domain registration usually starts at around $10 per month (on top of your monthly hosting) when you’re managing your own website.
When you sign up to WordPress, you’ll discover there are templates you can use to be the base of your site design. While there are both free and paid templates, keep in mind what you want to do with your site. You may discover some paid templates have things in-built that could save you a few dollars down the track.
A custom WordPress theme can cost around $1,500 to $5,000+.
Content & Images
For your website to do well, both on search engines and with customers, you’ll need good-quality content and images, and enough of both. Your content will need to meet advertising guidelines for your industry, be well written, have correct grammar and be intended to attract business. As for your images, they need to be the correct format and size so they don’t slow down your website. If you don’t have images, you’ll need to source stock photos, which can cost anywhere from $30 a month upwards.
Even if you hire a freelance writer and editor for your content, you’ll be required to pay per word, page or hour. When you think the average web page needs at least 500 words for search engines and the average website has around 5 pages, you’re looking at a couple of hundred dollars—and that’s at a budget-end of the scale.
Plugins, Extensions & APIs
The whole reason you’re using WordPress is to do more with your website. To do more, you’ll be looking into plugins, extensions and APIs to allow you to do whatever it is you want to do. While there is plenty of free software out there, using free (even paid) sources you don’t know anything or much about can pose as a security risk or may not work how you want it to. Some integrations can cost hundreds, even thousands of dollars a month or year, so you want to be certain what you’re signing up for is what you need and can’t be done another way.
It can take months for your website to show up on search engines, even longer for it to show up in a place you’re moderately happy with. In the meantime, you’ll need some digital marketing strategies in place to get people there. Some methods to consider:
- Search engine optimisation (what is this?)
- Search engine marketing (what is this?)
- Social media marketing (what is this?)
- Direct marketing, like email and SMS (what is this?)
Every single website, no matter what format is used, the size or the budget, needs an up-to-date SSL certificate. An SSL certificate encrypts data going to and from your website so it’s harder for hackers to get hold of. It’s a little like if you put a hand-written letter in a steel box with a padlock, and then did the same to the recipient’s reply letter to you.
SSL certificates aren’t all made equally, so prices can vary. Every provider will be different, and some even have different packages. For example, some will charge a higher price to cover more sub-domains (such a blog as well as your website), for the certificate to be issued faster, to have a larger warranty and have a green address bar. To give a rough estimate, you’re looking at around $40 to $250+ a year for a current SSL certificate.
To keep a WordPress website secure and working well, you’ll have to do manual updates to plugins and WordPress itself. There is also the time involved with keeping up to date with the latest search engine optimisation (SEO) best practices, as well as initiating them, updating your information and more. Trust us; maintaining a website isn’t simple and is pretty time consuming.
At the end of the day, your WordPress website can only be as good and secure as whoever has made it and maintains it. If you are invested in having a website that works hard at being your 24/7 salesperson, gets you good results on search engines, supports all your digital marketing strategies and has some cool features, you should be investing in someone to get the job done right.
We understand budgets can be a concern for the investment that is a website. At Localsearch, we offer packages over 10 payments so you can get into selling online and still be easy on your pocket.