We’ve seen the problems first hand.
A cleaning company that paid a monthly service for an otherwise “free” website. But they weren’t getting any leads, but they couldn’t update the content and code to make it work.
A construction company who also didn’t own their website, but paid a marketing company per lead. It was great at first, but as the leads slowed, the price per lead went up. The marketing company also wouldn’t allow them to list a new rival service on their website. When the construction company tried an alternative lead-generation strategy, the marketing company sabotaged it.
Their only alternative was to start from scratch with a new website that they owned themselves.
It’s easy to overlook the importance of owning your website, especially when owning it costs more upfront. In this blog, we’ll delve into the critical topic of website ownership, explaining why it’s crucial to own your website URL, the copy, and other visual elements. We’ll also explore the downsides of not owning your own website.
The Foundation of Digital Identity
Your website is the cornerstone of your online identity. Here’s why you must own every component of it:
1. Control Over Your Digital Destiny
Website URL: Your domain name (URL) is your digital address. Owning it means you control where your website resides. If you don’t own it, you risk losing your online identity if the owner changes the terms of service or goes out of business.
2. Protecting Your Content
Copy and Content: The text, images, videos, and articles on your website represent your brand and messaging. Owning this content ensures you have full control over its distribution and use. Without ownership, others could repurpose your content without your consent.
3. Brand Consistency
Visual Elements: Logos, graphics, and other visual elements are integral to your brand identity. Owning these assets ensures brand consistency across all platforms. If you don’t own them, you might face challenges in maintaining a cohesive brand image.
The Downside of Not Owning Your Website
The consequences of not owning your website can be serious. Let’s explore the potential downsides:
1. Loss of your URL / Website Domain Name
Be sure you and not your marketing agency owns your domain.
Rent to rank: There’s a popular scheme in which a marketing company buys a domain name, builds a website optimized for search engines, and then rents that domain and website to a company in a certain industry. For example, they might own “bestomahadentists.com” and let a local dentist use that domain in return for a monthly fee. That fee can increase, becoming a drag on that business. Worse, that domain could be transferred to a competitor.
2. Vulnerability to Third-Party Changes
Website Builders: Using website builders like Wix, Weebly, or Squarespace can be convenient, but you don’t fully own the site. These platforms can change terms of service, limit customization, or even shut down, leaving you scrambling to migrate your content.
In many cases, migrating that content can be a slow, manual process of downloading images and copying text. Then a new website has to be built with the content.
3. Content Ownership Challenges
Copying and Plagiarism: Without clear ownership, it’s challenging to prove ownership in cases of content theft or plagiarism. You might struggle to protect your intellectual property.
4. Limited Customization
Visual Elements: When you don’t own your website’s visual elements, such as logos and graphics, you can’t make quick adjustments or updates. This can hamper your branding efforts and lead to inconsistent design.
5. Dependence on Developers
Custom Development: If your website is custom-built by a developer who owns the code, you might become dependent on them for even minor updates. This can lead to delays and added costs.
6. Difficulty in Rebranding
Rebranding Challenges: If you decide to rebrand your business, not owning your website’s visual assets can be a nightmare. You’ll need to recreate or relicense everything, causing disruption and expense.
Protecting Your Digital Property
Now that we’ve covered the potential pitfalls of not owning your website, let’s explore how to protect your digital property:
1. Secure Your Domain Name
Ensure you register your domain name directly with a reputable domain registrar. Maintain control over the account, including login credentials.
2. Website Backups
Make full backups of your website, including all the text, images, videos and databases, and make sure you have access to them in a secure location. If your current host doesn’t work out, you can move elsewhere as long as you have those backups.
3. Visual Assets
Graphic Design Ownership: Work with designers who provide you with the source files for logos and graphics. This way, you can make edits or updates as needed.
4. Content Management System (CMS)
Own Your CMS: If you use a CMS like WordPress, ensure you have administrative access and control over the website’s code.
5. Contracts and Agreements
Developer Contracts: When hiring developers or agencies, include clauses specifying that you retain ownership of the website and its components.
6. Trademarks and Copyrights
Legal Protections: Consider trademarking your brand name and copyrighting your content to legally protect your digital property.
In the digital landscape, owning your website is non-negotiable. It’s not just about having a web presence; it’s about maintaining control over your digital identity. The downsides of not owning your website are numerous and potentially devastating. By securing your website URL, content, and visual assets, you safeguard your digital property and maintain control over your online destiny. Remember, in the digital world, ownership is power, and it’s an essential component of a successful online presence.