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Hotel Marketing MythBuster: Is A WordPress Website Really Free?


One of the major forces transforming hotel marketing today is technology. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions are presenting more choice than ever before to accommodation providers on how to market their property. And it has more than a few digital marketing agencies scrambling to protect their business (which has been pretty lucrative up until now).

Last month, John McAuliffe, President of Leonardo, wrote about how SaaS is changing the hospitality industry, and why more and more hotels are moving to a Digital Marketing System (DMS) to manage their online marketing over a digital agency.

Another popular option for hotels has been the DIY route; building their own website using a “free” or open source platform like WordPress, Textpattern, Dotclear, Plone, Drupal or GoDaddy. These platforms are appealing because of their templated design and perceived cost-savings.

Hotel Marketing MythBuster: Is A WordPress Website Really Free?

But on closer inspection, are these DIY platforms actually free? After all, not even the WordPress homepage mentions anything about being free. Instead, it touts its premium and business features, which come at an extra cost.

So, using WordPress as an example, let’s examine exactly how much it would cost to build a website yourself, so you can make an informed decision for your property.

First, the essentials.

A free WordPress account probably won’t be suitable straight off the bat, because you can’t use your own domain name; instead you get a subdomain like mysite.wordpress.com (not to mention ads on your website). So, you’ll need to upgrade to the Premium version ($99/year).

Next, you will need to purchase a domain name

Your WordPress website will need to be linked to a domain name. This will probably cost you $15 per year for a .com domain that is available. If the domain you want is already taken, you may need to bid for it at auction, or purchase it from the owner for an inflated price.

You will need to secure a web hosting service

Starting costs for a web hosting service are relatively inexpensive (approximately $10 per month/$120 per year) for shared hosting, where your website will be on a server with other websites.

Don’t forget design costs

There are thousands of free website templates/themes for WordPress, to make it even quicker and easier for you to plot your content in and publish. However, you should expect to pay at least $60 to $100 for a quality one with ongoing support. And be aware that these website themes are often designed for multiple industries to use, so the specific features you need for your hotel website may not be available (e.g. room features, room comparisons, and special offers).

For a larger variety of designs, you can choose theme memberships. DevPress offers a $69 per year membership for access to 14 themes. Array offers a $249 lifetime membership for access to 16 WordPress themes. The Theme Foundry offers a $79 membership per year for access to 12 themes. WooThemes offers a $399 per year membership for access to 55 themes.

Hotel Marketing MythBuster: Is A WordPress Website Really Free?

What about security?

One of the downsides to using WordPress is that because it’s so popular, it is targeted by hackers and malicious coders for the purposes of distributing malware and viruses.

You will want to protect your website with malware cleanup, blacklist monitoring and removal, website firewall and protection, brute force / DDoS mitigation, and HTTP monitoring. Typical services start at $10 per month, but realistically you will spend about $200 per year.

You will need features

Many websites can get by using free plugins from the WordPress.org plugin repository. If you’d like to save some money on your site, this is probably the best area to do it.

That said, there is a good chance you’ll have at least one or two needs that can’t be met by free plugins. For example, you may need something like BookingWizz for WordPress to integrate your standalone booking application into your WordPress site. That will cost you $18 for 6 months of support, or $23.40 for 12 months (and that doesn’t include add-ons, like being able to accept Credit Card payments or send SMS reminders).

Or maybe you’ll just want some paid support, so you should expect to spend around $100 per year on premium plugins.

Who’s going to help when things break?

The free version of WordPress only comes with Community support, which means access to their online forums. You must upgrade to WordPress Premium ($99/year) or WordPress Business ($299/year) to receive email & live chat support, and even then you can’t just call someone for help.

WordPress also needs regular maintenance to update their core software, themes and plugins. These updates help your website perform at its best and keep it secure from the latest WordPress threats. With an open source platform like WordPress, these updates must be made by you once they are released (something typically managed by your IT Department). If you don’t update your software, you run the risk of harming the performance of your website, or even crashing it! It’s worth noting that a SaaS DMS solution would do all of these software updates for you on the back-end.

In that same vein, you’ll also need to ensure you have backup in the event of a hosting disaster, to keep your content safe. Companies like sitecare offer “friendly, professional WordPress support packages” from $79 per month ($948/year).

So, how much does a WordPress website really cost each year?

  • Custom site address (WordPress Premium): $99
  • Domain name purchase: $15
  • Web hosting: $120
  • Design template membership: $79
  • Security: $200
  • Plug-ins: $23.40
  • Plug-in support: $100
  • Maintenance: $948

Total: $1,584.40

The reality is WordPress is not as free as it might seem. And it doesn’t have all the features required by hotels to engage travel shoppers and drive direct bookings.

Of course, this article only focuses on the costs associated with WordPress, and addressing whether it’s actually free. There are many other myths and considerations to take into account when comparing WordPress to other CMS and DMS products. Subscribe to our blog to be notified on more articles around this topic.

There’s a better way

WordPress is a powerful platform, but it comes with complexity. The good news is there’s a better way to manage your online marketing.

Over 4,000 hotels worldwide have switched to Vizlly, a Multi-Channel Digital Marketing System that empowers hoteliers to increase their online footprint using multiple, purpose-driven websites (for desktop and mobile) that are easy to manage and drive direct bookings. Designed and optimized for accommodation providers, Vizlly offers nine website design themes to choose from, designed to rank on Google, and purpose-built to drive online conversion.

If you’re ready to improve your digital marketing performance, lower your costs, and reduce the time and frustration of managing your online marketing, then Vizlly is the answer.

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