It happens every day. Business owners are losing control of their websites because they are too trusting and not asking the right questions.
Hiring a web partner is an important decision. You should make sure that before you allow someone to handle your online presence – they are open and honest and care about your business.
We often receive inquiries from potential clients that are coming from experiences that have been less than satisfying, so we see a lot of issues related to web development and SEO that give the industry a very negative light.
The following are some common issues we see at our agency that can have long lasting damage to the online reputation and success of a business.
1) Can you access your website?
When you launch your new website, there should be no secrets. Well, really there should never be any secrets when developing your website – but that is another article entirely!
When your website launches, make sure you are provided or have access to the following:
- The name of the company that is hosting your website as well as their contact information.
- Access to your control panel so you can access your website database. You should receive a URL, username and password.
- FTP server name, address, username and password. This will offer you access to your website files.
- A list of any other software that was used in the creation of your website as well as any licenses and fees that are required. (Some plugins for WordPress for example are licensed and may require annual fees for updating – you should know this!)
- If a pre-made theme was used in the creation of your website, make sure you are able to update the theme as required. This often means the purchase of the theme should be in your name so you are the license owner – typically only the license owner will have access to future updates on themes. This could be detrimental to you in the future if you cannot access these updates.
Sadly, we have dealt with several clients over the years where we were not able to access any of their website. Some were because the old web developer is missing in action and others were just because the websites were being held hostage because of a grudge by the former developer.
In either instance, it is a very difficult process to get access to these websites when you have no information! In some cases we had to build new websites on new domains. Not the best for businesses that have a big online footprint with their prior URL.
2) Do you own your website?
When you contract for a website, you should “own” it. Sometimes a web development agency will state that they own the website because they built it.
Be sure that when you sign the contract there is a clause that states that you own 100% of all design, code and content.
If the agency refuses to add that to a contract, run.
3) Buy your own domain name!
In 10 years in this business, I cannot count how many times clients have come to me and wanted me to create a new website for them, only to find out the domain is not in their name. Often they will have a web developer purchase the name on their behalf and never think twice about the long term repercussions.
If a web developer is buying a domain for you – they own that domain name.
Can you get it back? Maybe. But sadly, more often than not you won’t.
Maybe you cannot find the web developer anymore, or you had a bad experience with them and they are holding it hostage – no matter what the circumstances, we have found few ever get their domains back in their name.
We have even seen instances where the domain owner has completely removed the website from the domain and put up spammy content, and there is not a thing a business owner can do. This can ruin an online business.
If you need help buying a domain, make sure you put it in YOUR name in an account YOU can access!
TRUE STORY: One client, who was fairly successful did not own her domain. When we tried to get the former developer to transfer it back to her for ownership, he asked for a $5K “ransom”. He knew he had her because of her reputation and media success. She paid it.
4) Access to analytical data
This is another big one we see. A prior web developer installs analytics – which is GREAT because every website should have this installed, but they install it under their own personal account.
What this means is that you cannot access the account to control it, and the person can delete the data at any time!
Imagine you work with an SEO agency, they tell you that they need to install Google Analytics for your campaign. You say “why of course”! They install it on their account with their other 20 clients. All is going great until your SEO plan ends end or you fire them.
At that point they can delete your data. Yes, YOUR data! Critical information that can help you improve your conversions, usability and web presence!
If someone recommends you install Google Analytics, make sure you provide them a Google Account to use that you have full access to at all times!
Another big issue is backups! If your web agency or freelancer is not creating backups of your website – begin demanding they do!
I have seen major issues with some of my SEO clients. A site goes down or was hacked, and when they contact their web person they realize they have no backup of the website at all.
If you have access to your own CPanel and hosting information, you can even contact the host to have them set up an automated backup for you. But a good web developer will implement an auto backup feature for you.
This can have catastrophic effects on a business. Without at least a weekly backup you risk losing every ounce of content on your website!
All of the above are situations we have seen over the years, but are all items that can easily be avoided by asking the right questions and not being afraid to request access to your critical web information. We have seen this happen with bloggers, SEO clients and even charity website design clients – and it sucks! If all of these items are addressed prior to hiring a web firm, you can rest easy knowing your website is yours – FOREVER!
What Can You Do?
There’s often not much. Sometimes, if you know your former developer is still in the area, you can attempt to take them to court, and have a judge rule for the web developer to hand back the files.
Sometimes, this isn’t an option. In such cases, it may be possible to recover some content from internet archives.
Infineca can help. If your web developer has left you high and dry, we can use a variety of internet search engines to attempt to recover some content, and piece together a re-build of your website.