How to Get Your Website Back from a Controlling Agency

Posted on in Blog

Unfortunately, we’ve supported several clients struggling to access their websites. But they weren’t hacked, their website wasn’t down and, yes, they had the right login credentials. The problem? Their previous digital marketing partner limited their access to their own domain, content management system and Google Analytics properties.

Sound familiar?

No matter what these types of agencies say, remember:

If you can’t update your website, make changes to your domain or view other relevant digital properties, then you don’t own your website.

Related: How Do You Know When to Change Marketing Agencies?

Who Really Owns Your Digital Assets

Owning your website includes both legal and practical components. Depending on your contractual arrangement, you may not own your domain, even if it includes your brand name or registered trademarks!

Who Owns My Domain Name?

If your web developer or agency purchased the domain using their account, they own it unless there’s a contractual agreement to transfer the domain upon client request. Always insist on a detailed contract before engaging any vendor, especially when dealing with domains, hosting and Content Management System (CMS) subscriptions.

Who Owns My Website?

Websites are comprised of proprietary code and your content. In most cases, the CMS owns the majority of the code upon which your site is built – the original photos and copy are yours. Stock photos may be the property of the agency unless your organization has been granted specific licensed-used in perpetuity – and that’s something a few forward-thinking companies (like us) do for our clients.

Who Owns My Google Analytics Account?

Google owns your account and data, not you or your agency. In exchange for providing a “free”* analytics platform, Google reserves ownership of all the data collected from your account and any properties you create using your Google account.

Within your Google account, you may have administration access, which allows for full control over the features and settings of Google’s various tools. Someone has to have admin access and if it’s not you, it’s probably the agency that set up the Analytics account. When it’s time to move on, you’ll be able to move your property and restrict user access.

Website Ownership, Practically Speaking

During your day-to-day operations, the legal technicalities are a moot point. Even if you’re paying an agency a tidy sum to handle these things, don’t give up control.

If you can’t make changes to your site, look at unfiltered data or change domain settings, you don’t own your site. Period.

Demand Website Access

We have clients who used to wait months for their previous agency to implement new pages or blog content. Even asking the agency to correct their errors – if it happened at all – was a weeks-long process. You should be able to make basic content-based changes to your site no matter what CMS is being used.

Demand Access to Your Data

Ever wonder what’s behind that dashboard? Some agencies filter data and hide the mess behind a proprietary dashboard that effectively hides filter settings, data sources and other variables that affect data quality. Brands need access to all data sources, including admin access to their Google Analytics 4 properties, Google Tag Manager, Google Search Console and any other tools they rely on to shape strategy.

Demand the Keys to Your Domain

Your site’s URL is incredibly valuable – don’t store it in someone else’s account. Unfortunately, we’ve worked with clients that have had disastrous experiences with agencies that bought domains on behalf of the client, then later required a “fee” to transfer domain ownership. That’s not a fee; it’s ransom. We’ve also seen agencies accidentally let domains expire, only to be nabbed by other entities and put on the auction block for thousands of dollars.

Website Best Practices We Swear By

When you work with us, we’ll put you in a position to own your website and digital assets without making it a hassle for your team. Even if you don’t choose Oneupweb as your digital partner, stick to these site and domain best practices.

Get everything in writing, including who will pay for and manage hosting as well as the domain and subscription fees associated with your digital assets. Websites are a substantial investment in your company; if you need an extra set of eyes, talk to an attorney – it’s worth it.

Own it all. Work with your agency to conduct an audit of all your digital assets. Determine which internal team members and outside vendors have access to which properties and ensure they have the appropriate permission levels. The audit is only complete when you confirm you have ownership access to everything!

Keep the receipt. Save all invoices and receipts associated with web projects, marketing retainers and subscription fees. These can be invaluable in a contract dispute (and your accountant will absolutely love you for it).

Not Sure Who Has the Keys? Let Us Take a Look

Don’t let an agency hold you hostage. As difficult as switching agencies may sound, it’s worth having real control over your substantial investment in digital marketing. If you need help untangling from your old agency, we’re here to help. Get in touch or call 231-922-9977 today to get started!

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