Who owns your website? Was it a purchase or a rental?

That question came to the forefront this week, when a client ran into trouble with their webmaster. I thought I would take the time to recap some warnings for small business people who rely on the internet for marketing their business.

When it comes to webmasters, ethics count. Small business people depend on their vendors to behave in ethical way. When they don't, it can create a severe strain on the business persons’ resources.

Your website is composed of images and text and colors; maybe a video, graphics, your logo - all of those things. On the surface it may be beautiful. Underneath it could be empty of redeeming qualities.

On the surface your website looks like it belongs to you. But really when you stop paying your hosting fees it will go away. When you stop paying your registration fees it will go away. Sometimes when you stop paying your webmaster, it will go away.

You may own the images the logo but if you aren't careful you could end up not owning anything else.

There are a number of ways to avoid getting into trouble with an unethical webmaster and this week I’d like to tell you about an experience I have never seen before.

First, do you own your domain name? That is the www. YOURNAMEHERE.com that directs people to your website. It goes on your business cards in your advertising and it helps drive traffic to your site.

Do you own the hosting account? Your webmaster has no right to either one of these accounts. Unethical masters will hold your website ransom, if they believe you aren't playing by their rules.

That means if you are unhappy with your webmaster, you are unable to go to a new one.

This week, my client came to me in need of the usual search engine optimization, blogging, and copywriting that many website developers overlook or can't be bothered with or don't know how to do.

What I thought was due diligence, was to find that my client's website was in fact built by their developer on the WordPress platform. I was wrong.

The crafty webmaster had stripped all of the HTML code from the template and wrote the remaining source code to complete the project.

What that means is my client picked out a Wordpress template and thought they were getting a wordpress website. They didn’t.

The website looked like the template that was chosen, but there was no WordPress content management software associated with the website.

What that meant was my client was forced to always and forever use the services of this webmaster to create all changes from correcting a spelling error to doing SEO, to posting blogs, to adding team members, etc.

There was no way my client would be able to make even minor changes to their own website.

There was also no way they could hire easily hire a web designer/developer or webmaster (like me) in order to make changes, to make the website better.

In this case, my client had logins for the domain name, could get into the CPanel and the hosting, and had FTP logins.

Twenty years ago this would have been normal. Expectations have changed however. Today a content management system is an expectation - not an add-on.

Who owns your website? If you can login to the back-end of your website, chances are you do. If you can't log into the back-end, call me. We have ways of working around that little problem.

As an online marketing consultant I often and asked to work on pre-existing websites. In many cases someone who has developed a website has provided the client with a good looking skin and not much else. Things like search engine optimization, keyword analysis and copywriting, blogging, and other strategies are generally not included in the price of a website design.

It makes for a comfortable living, when I can help my clients get their website found on Google.

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