Owning Your Business’s Online Identity

Something that has been on my mind quite a bit lately is data. More specifically content. What is content? Simply put, a website’s content is composed of text and images that make up the given site. That’s a pretty simple definition right?

I’m thinking about this because of the clients that approach us and the situations they’re in. It’s common for us to talk with a client that has built out a website on a service like GoDaddy, Wix or Squarespace. The common-thread is that, for whatever, reason, the site does not accomplish what it needs to or doesn’t achieve the client’s goals. I’m not saying these tools and services are not good solutions because for many, many business owners they are. However, the discussion typically turns to migrating the website to a solution that is customized for the client’s needs.

That’s fair!

Read the “Terms of Services” Always!

Like anything, though, the Devil is always, always in the details. The general look and feel, and in some cases images used, are the property of the company providing the website builder to the client. Meaning they can’t port their site directly. Typically the client may only take the text with them; sure, they can take the images, too, but technically those materials still belong to the service provider and that kinda sucks.

Be sure to read those “Terms of Service” pages. Learn who owns what content. It would suck to have a site with content that you simply don’t own as, technically, you can’t take it with you.

Having Access to All the Things.

But then there’s another take. The client that needs some digital marketing help, specifically Search Engine Optimization. We have a client we’re working with now and their situation is a tough one. An SEO firm built them a website and essentially provided them with a  site that had content copied from another site that neither the client nor the service provider owned. Also, the client is not given access to make edits on that website. Not only that, but the data the service provider maintained was through their own proprietary systems that only the provider has access to. 

When I hear about all of this my partner, Chris, and I were floored. The client’s online identity, data and metrics were controlled by the service provider with no options to get at, look into or modify their content or data. Oh and get this, the service provider, through their terms of service, maintains a hold on the domain and site content for a full year after their service ties  have been cancelled. What the hell?

We sat down with our client and had a very hard discussion with them. We told them that we could not work with what they had as we couldn’t be guaranteed the access we needed and that alone was a single point of failure for any work we could do for them. A technical audit is something we could do and at least that would produce a report of existing issues with their site; so we proceeded in that direction, unearthing several troublesome issues such as missing Meta Titles, Duplicate Content and an abundance of typos and more. Not good. Not good at all.

Still, I couldn’t get over the fact that the client had no access to any of their content or data.

As a part of our action plan we advised the client invest in a solution that is portable, one that they can control and one that they can see the results of their marketing efforts. Fortunately, the client saw the immediate value there and has decided to move ahead with our plan for him.

Controlling Your Online Destiny

Look, I get it. Most people don’t understand the value of controlling their destiny so long as things work. Ideally that’s how it should be. But that’s not how it is, if I could summarize my thoughts here, this is what I’d say:

  1. You should be in control of all of your website’s content, image, text, look and feel
  2. You should own your own domain name. NEVER let someone purchase it for you. YOU purchase YOUR domain name.
  3. You should own your hosting as well. Too many times I’ve seen clients get hung out to dry by their service provider either because of a dispute or the developer vanished.
  4. You should be able to see measurable results, good or bad, for your website. Data is key. You need to know your ROI for your marketing efforts.
  5. Always read the Terms of Services section for any product or service you plan to purchase. It’s not an exciting read, but you should know what you do and what you don’t own.

Owning your online identity is a big deal, but it’s overlooked. You wouldn’t buy a house that someone else owned would you? I mean, that’s called “renting” dammit!! Keep an eye on the details and DEMAND control over what you own people.

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