One of the things i enjoy most about running a digital marketing agency is the opportunity to speak regularly with fellow business owners and make a tangible difference to the success of their business. Often in my conversations or meetings with clients and prospects discussion will turn towards general business chit chat – the cost of this going up, or how the proposed new tax rates effect things or how one should deal with under performing staff etc. I like to see myself as a very knowledgeable business owner who makes it his business, excuse the pun, to know every inner and outer workings that make, effect and change my business on a daily basis. So whenever someone asks me a question about my business, it’s a rare occasion i am left without an answer.

Thus it concerns me that this knowledge of ones business is not often shared with my conversation partner. Sure asking about something like profit margins and the precise answer comes quickly but when the questions turn digital more often than not i am greeted with puzzled looks, shoulder shrugs or simply “I don’t know…”

So if you cannot answer the following 5 questions about your business then you should be a bit alarmed and seek to rectify that.

“Do you own your domain name?”

Might seem like a silly question to some but you you would be surprised how often i have spoken with a business owner who wasn’t even sure or could recall if they even owned their businesses domain name. And upon a whois look up, it was often found that they in fact didn’t own their domain. They had a more tech savvy family member register, or some internet marketing “guru” convinced them long ago to abandon their old domain and registered a new one on their behalf.

You should always ensure that you or a friend or family member that you trust deeply purchases the domain and never allow a third party to register it on your behalf as that is giving to much of power over your intellectual property to a relationship that could break down over something small in the future. If you are not sure if you own your domain name you can visit who.is which is a website that shows the registered details of a domain as long as privacy wasn’t attached during registration. If you find you don’t own your domain you should seek to have ownership transferred into your name as soon as possible.

“What hosting are you using?”

I spoke with a business owner last week who wanted to change his hosting provider and when i queried why, his reply was “because i don’t know who my current host is”. So not only did this poor guy have no clue who was hosting his website, he had no idea how much he was paying and his solution was to just change host without realising that would be impossible without knowing the details of his current hosting.

Using a website called who is hosting this, i was quickly able to discover the identity of his current host company and arrange him to call their customer service. Turns out he was paying $89 a year for the last 6 years for what was really just poor quality shared hosting worth about $12 a year with today’s options. I was able to switch his hosting across to a higher quality host with a data centre in his home city for $18 a year which not only cut his costs, but improved the load speed of his website and enabled him to be able to login to his website and update it for the first time in years. The motto here is if you don’t know who is even hosting your website then i question why you even have one.

“Do you have these logins handy?”

Owning a website requires one to have logins to multiple platforms, admin panels and software namely CMS (Content management system) logins like WordPress or Magento. FTP logins for database, PHP etc maintenance. Hosting logins for general domain maintenance and Gmail logins for webmaster and analytic access. I would say that about 90% of business owners I’ve dealt with didn’t know all these logins for their business and at least 25% didn’t know the logins for any of them.

“you’ll have to speak with Derek, he’s the guy who built the site”, “my tech guy set that all up, you can email him and he should forward that to you”, “I really don’t know, the people who built the website would have all that I’d imagine”. These are pretty common answers and they shouldn’t be. Whilst it’s perfectly fine to delegate the maintenance and updating of your web properties to in-house or outsourced staff, there should always be some level of ownership in regards to these important logins. A simple excel sheet kept in your laptop, email or phone would suffice. Any respectable SEO company or web designer would always ensure the client is made aware of their logins and sent full details including how to set unique ones upon the end of their working relationship.

“Are you active on Social Media?”

Despite it’s enormous growth over the last 10 years there are still some business owners who have had to be dragged kicking and screaming into agreeing to setup social media for their business. Either that or it was just some perk added to a package they signed up for with that internet marketing company a few years back. Hence it’s not uncommon to find dust-bowl Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and Google local listings these days.  Most often these dead pages will have a flurry of 2-3 months of activity somewhere in their timeline and that was just either the business owner or some marketing company having no motivation or obligation to continue the businesses efforts on social media. Forgoing a 5 star social media reputation, if you actively seek it you can achieve it or at least be close to it. Sadly a standard answer to the previous question is “I think i have a Facebook setup somewhere” or “i can’t remember the logins”. What is really concerning about that is on a lot of these neglected social media accounts either positive or negative reviews have been received leading to either business destroying bad reputation or lost PR opportunities. Pretty much every business is ‘active’ on social media by default by having at the very least a dormant Facebook profile, but to neglect the power of social media in today’s digital world is bad business.

“What work were they doing for you?”

This is a real head shaker. “You were spending $24000 a year on their marketing packages but you literally have no idea what exactly they were doing for you? Building backlinks? What kind of backlinks? You don’t know? Were they not giving you in-depth SEO consultation and reporting?”

I’ll be honest, it actually makes me angry because after reviewing the history of SEO work done on someones website after having a conversation like the one above I’ll find out it looks the offending company was literally taking the business owners money and doing diddly squat with it. 100% pure, scammed profit for them. Words can make someone sound busy, but actions prove they are busy and when someone who has spent $20000+ on SEO over the last 12-24 months doesn’t even have a H1 on their homepage, well that’s like buying a new car and realising 2 years later it doesn’t have a fuel gauge. And the high quality backlinks they were building for thousands of dollars a year? Dozens of free directory and forum sites that took about 2 hours a month ($100 in wages) to manually list each month.

The point here being, you should always have a great understanding of exactly what your digital marketing budget is been allocated to. Don’t settle for words and jargon, ask for consultation that explains exactly what your budget is buying and how that is expect to help your business and then seek third party advice to verify all of that is of value to your business for the price you are paying.

Why our clients can answer these 5 questions

It should be due diligence and common decency for any digital marketer or SEO agency to ensure that their is full transparency and in-depth consultation with their clients on every aspect of their campaigns and marketing investments with them. This starts with letting them know the importance of having a hands on role in their businesses digital marketing efforts even if they outsourced it due to time or knowledge restraints. Every bit of consultation helps and a structured client management system will ensure that real time news, data and happenings are delivered to the client whether by email, phone or handshake. Content SME always keeps full admin control of every login remains with the client and every web property is registered in either the business or business owners name. Detailed work reporting and consultation ensures our clients always know exactly where their budget is being allocated and why that is important.

We have rescued many businesses from the grasp of deceitful internet marketers and if you don’t know the answer to the 5 questions raised in this blog we would be glad to help you have the answers within a week – simply get in touch preferably by phone and one of our consultants will start you on the path to recovery and ownership of your intellectual properties.