Digital Marketing & SEO since 2005
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Hostage Websites & Online Accounts: A Common Business Problem

online business account accessibility passwords
As an online business consultants, SEO and digital marketers, business owners come to us for help with their websites and other online properties. While we really wish business owners would come to us before they buy, design or build any of their websites or online properties, more often we find that they all already exist and they are coming to us for help after all sorts of accounts and online properties are already designed and in place.

For us to help with SEO services or digital marketing efforts, it can be best if we can get various types of access to those websites and online properties. Much like a house, if it needs repairs or a fix of some sort, the construction or repair guy will need to be able to get in and around the house to get a good look and be able to fix things. With unlocked doors or the availability of the keys to the house, it can only help and make it easier to assess and/or do the work needed. These “keys” in the online world for web properties are various types of account sign-in’s and passwords. That can also include having the higher levels of access in many cases. Low-level access might mean you cannot affect change or fix anything – like a wall or locked panel covering the problem in the home that you can’t get behind.

Commonly, when a business owner decides to have and create an online presence, they hire a 3rd party to help because they may understand that there can be many parts involved and things are more complicated than they are prepared to do themselves: website design, coding aspects, graphics, logos, content, product considerations, forms, security aspects, social sites, data, analytics, tracking…. and more.

What the business owner may also not know is that many of these 3rd party website service providers commonly use their own accounts, their own credit cards, and then they can simply charge the business whatever fee is needed or agreed upon and generally on a regular monthly on-going basis that can go on…. forever. This can be fine if all is running smoothly and no changes are needed. But because personnel, service needs and the online world can regularly change, your business may also require change!
We truly believe that it’s best that business owners have all control and access to their online business accounts, including all passwords and all high-level, administrative access to their website and online properties so that the business owner can control who does what, what gets paid, be able to change service providers, easily update or upgrade services as need and… not be held HOSTAGE!

To help avoid this controlled or “hostage” situation and help correct it for future, here is a list of some major online types of properties that we see most commonly being controlled by other 3rd party providers and not by the business owners themselves. We are additionally offering brief information for how to get and hold proper business-owner access.
keys to control online business

Every business should have and control the keys to their online kingdom!

Do you hold proper ownership of your business and business accounts: A guide and checklist of typical online properties a business owns – or rather, should own – so that your online & digital properties aren’t held hostage.

1) Website Domain Name: First, businesses generally decide on an online name, or domain name. As an example, if your business is called XYZ, then a great domain name would be www.xyz.com. To buy a domain name, it is done using a “registrar” service. Many times hosting companies offer “registration” services along with their hosting services (explained in item 2 next). To properly own and be able to control what happens with a domain name, you should know what online service provider was used to buy and register your domain name. But, no matter where it starts, you should have access to that provider. There are various scammers who know when the ownership of a domain name expires and will bill you. If you don’t know where or who you should pay for your domain name renewal, then you may be throwing money away. Owning a domain name doesn’t have to cost much more than $10 to $15 a year.

2) Website Pages & Info: To actually have a functioning website, you first need the domain name, as mentioned above, then you will need to own some physical space on a computer that acts as a public Internet “server” or “host”. This is where you will house the content, images and store the created pages of your website. The contents require storage space and a hosting company will sell/rent you that space. Know who your hosting company is and make sure you have account and password access. You will want to ensure, even if you don’t know how to use this area or what this is, that you know who the hosting company is and that you have access to your cPanel and/or FTP. – Some hosting companies also offer email addresses and services that will align with your domain name. An example for the XYZ business is to have an email address like info@xyz.com. Emails function differently from websites and require a different type of functioning server or hosting space. So, it is important to know where your email addresses were setup and ensure you have access (sign-in & password) to that area as well. This way you can add or remove people using them, forward emails to others… etc.

3) Analytics & Data Accounts: It can be invaluable to know who, what, where, or when someone is actually seeing and visiting your website once it’s live and online. There are tons of ways to get this type of data. This data can be used to review and analyze things, hence the word “analytics”. People involved in digital marketing and SEO generally love and rely heavily on these analytics data tracking tools. The most commonly used set of tools that website owners install, and that are free, are Google tools. The most commonly installed ones on websites are called Google Analytics and Google Search Console (aka: Google WebmasterTools). You don’t even need the “keys” to see if these tools might be installed in your website. Nonetheless, these Google accounts should be owned and operate-able by you. Most of the time it will be a Gmail email address and password that is used to setup these data tracking accounts. Once you have the high-level or ownership access, you can add or remove people who see or use this information. If someone other than you has access, they can hold this data hostage. It’s the history and continuous input of data that can help with analysis and offer the invaluable source of information that can help assess what’s going on after a website is live. Get control of it now, if you don’t have it, or set up a new account and remove the old stuff, so you hold the history of your website’s data. Note that Yahoo/Bing offers these types of free accounts as well.

4) Other Common Google Accounts: Not only can your analytics, tracking and data accounts be aligned with Google tools, but if you advertise online, your business may also have a Google Adwords account. If you have and share videos online, you may have a YouTube account. If you have a brick-and-mortar location, then you may have been setup on Google Maps, or through a Google “My Business” account, or Google Plus account. All of these are best if aligned with one Gmail email address, sign-in and password. If not… you should have and get access to all. And at the highest-level allowed.

5) Social Sites: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn…and more can be setup for business use and be an invaluable extra online channel for marketing, networking and socializing with people online and interested in your business. Make sure you have control of those accounts so you can ensure that the correct voice, messaging and posts are controlled by the people you want in place. If you don’t have control of these social site accounts, then you may find you will have to start over and build a whole new following or potentially affect your reputation or more. It’s not worth not having all these social signins and passwords under your control!

6) Shopping Cart & Payment Processing: If you have an ecommerce type site and shopping cart and/or payment gateway for ecommerce type items, you will want to ensure you have access and/or the necessary controls so that you can make changes, update products and inventory, change tax or shipping/handling items and more. There are so many options for websites to have, incorporate or use for various types of shopping carts and payment gateways, that we aren’t even going to mention any by name. Just make sure you can control what you sell, your inventory, your prices, and how or when money gets to you and your products to your customer! If you need help, just ensure you can control and decide who has access to help you.

7) Email Notifications & Newsletters: Email “blasts” or email marketing services like AWeber, ConstantContact, Mailchimp , or others that are used by businesses are daily found in our email boxes. There are many good and easy-to-use email service providers that offer ways to manage email lists and send notifications or newsletters. These email services are great marketing tools for business. You can use these services in a variety of ways and for various reasons. Get your sign-in and password and controls in the case that you need or want the help. If you aren’t collecting email addresses for business and never plan to send group email newsletters or notifications, then you may not need to worry about these accounts or access.

8) 3rd-Party Retail Sites: Amazon or eBay are among the top third party retailers many talk about. If you are aligned to have an account to sell your products on these sites then you will want to ensure that you have the proper sign-in and access these areas.

9) … About now, you should be seeing a pattern in this list. No matter what online accounts or services you use for your business, the short and proper direction for you as the owner or manager of what happens online will be in whether or not you actually have the controls, sign-ins, and access at the high levels needed. So get them… and get them before you find yourself in a hostage situation. That’s your business insurance should anything ever go wrong!

Having trouble getting access or still not quite sure what to do, contact us. We’ve helped many online businesses gain proper control and become better able to lead themselves into a brighter online future.

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