Many small business owners don’t want to wrap their arms around digital and social media; websites, SEO, SEM, Facebook, LinkedIn – the fact is it can be overwhelming to an owner who is not marketing-savvy or is simply too busy with running the business to be the one focused on these matters.
That’s okay, as long as they do two things and don’t do another: a) Do understand the importance of these items as they relate to the business’ long-term success b) Do retain a qualified and reputable individual or company to help the business achieve success in these areas c) Don’t empower or entrust that individual or company with access or ownership that they should not have.
It’s the last “Don’t” that we want to chat about today.
It’s amazing the number of times we run into organizations who do not have control of their websites or social media because they didn’t take a little time to become informed before they handed the keys over to the entity they hired to mold their online footprint.
You don’t have to run it, but you need to have the ownership of your online presences; make sure that before you allow someone to manage your online activities – they are acting ethically. You can do this by:
- Securing references from existing clients (beware of those who will not provide these)
- Checking their reviews online. Sure there is going to be a sour grape somewhere, but be alarmed by consistent negative reviews
- Asking them for an online “startup plan” – what will they do and how will they do it
Here are things you should minimally see if you are starting from scratch:
- There is a formal contract in place that spells out exactly what your provider is to do for you and timeframe in which they will do it. If you have an attorney, have them glance at the contract, or if the budget doesn’t allow for that, at least have a business associate well-versed in the subject look it over and give you pointers
- If they are creating a new site for you be sure there is a clause that states that you own all URLs, design, code, content and such.
- The agreement should include their service fees as well as fees that will be reoccurring annually such as SSL certificates, URL renewal, pre-made themes, etc. (some of these may be estimates; this measure is more so you understand the overall picture on expense and what has to be renewed if you take some of this on yourself down the road)
- Never allow the company or the individual to purchase (thus owning) your website URL. We have seen so many small companies who are held hostage by an agency or individual over this matter.
- The entity you hire should provide a complete password sheet for the website: FTP server name, address and username. For social that would include: URLs, usernames, passwords, hosting site login, etc. All of these items should be built off a generic company email or the owner of the company’s email. The point is that you should be able to divest yourself of the relationship in a manner that the entity you have hired has no control or access to “your company’s” stuff!
- You should know the software/platform your website is built on such as WordPress, Wix, etc.
It’s a bummer, but there are plenty of companies who didn’t do the above and had to buy new domains and new websites. Starting over is painful and can significantly affect a company’s SEO. So can being with a rotten, untrustworthy online marketing company or individual.
If you are reading this and find yourself in the situation of someone else owning your URL, your next question is probably:
“Can I get it back?!”
Probably not. So take the steps you need to correct the situation as quickly as possible.