Updated February 3, 2023Reading Time: 6 minutes
Freedom from Becoming a Technology Hostage
Independence. It’s an important principle. It got me thinking about the concept of freedom when managing your digital marketing presence and the data you collect. We often talk with marketers who outsource their digital marketing (or parts of it).
Many are unwittingly giving away control of their data. Even if you trust your digital marketing provider 110%, it’s still prudent that you own your accounts and the data held within each. If you want to avoid becoming a technology hostage, you’ll want to avoid nine mistakes.
1. Website Content Management System
Your website is probably running on a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress, Squarespace or similar platform. We recommend that you:
- Have your company (or a trusted employee within your company) as the main administrator or Webmaster.
- Note who has access to your website and their respective administrative levels. Give “Administrator” level to only those who have the authority, knowledge, and skill to make changes to critical aspects of your website.
- Receive key updates and notifications directly from the CMS system (e.g., security issues, upgrade notices). Each CMS enables you to add administrators and others who can access and make changes. If you switch online marketing vendors, you can simply revoke access.
All too often, I’ve seen clients who don’t have admin access to their own websites. This is a recipe for disaster, as a website is meant to evolve with the business over time.
2. Domain Registration, Hosting & FTP
You’ll want to manage the registration of your domain (website URL). You never want to rely on a marketing agency to register or renew your domain name with their contact info. Choose your hosting service wisely. Uptime and server management may seem like a commodity these days. However, you get what you pay for… in terms of service, security, and impact on SEO.
3. Google Analytics
Google Analytics (GA) holds so much key information that I’m surprised when any client doesn’t own their GA account.
I’ve heard many horror stories where an digital marketing vendor “set it up for them,” but actually, it was set up as a sub-account. As a result, the vendor is in control, and the client is granted access. This is backward and dangerous. –
If you don’t know how to set up a GA, follow these instructions. With clients who need technical assistance, we routinely set up a virtual meeting (for screen sharing) to walk them through the process. They become the account owner and then add us as a user. It’s important to note the Universal Analytics product is sunsetting mid-2023, so you’ll need to migrate to Google Analytics 4.
4. Google Workspace (Formerly G Suite)
Google Workspace is a set of applications that combine various business services. For example, it includes Gmail, Drive, Docs, Contacts, Calendar, Forms, etc. Again, your company — or an agent of your company — should retain account ownership.
If an outsourced IT vendor assumes that role, you are truly a technology hostage. You risk losing emails, integrated online calendars, and documentation, which can disrupt business continuity. For efficiency it may make sense to have an expert set up your Workspace environment, just be sure you have the appropriate access and data controls in place.
5. Google Ads, Microsoft Ads & Other Advertising Accounts
If search marketing is part of your digital marketing arsenal, then you are probably using Google Ads, Microsoft Ads or social media ads (like Facebook or LinkedIn). An online marketing provider can easily connect to your Google AdWords account via their Master Client Center (MCC), which is a dashboard to manage multiple accounts. Again, you own the account while granting administrative access. This way, you retain control of your account spending (as your credit card is linked) and performance data ownership.
One word of caution we’ve learned from experience: if your Google Ads account is poorly constructed (a mish-mash of keywords scattered across ad groups) or your account-level quality scores are low, then reconstruction of the account may be necessary. Even so, the same admin access guidelines apply.
6. SEO Management Tools
The best SEO tool (in my opinion) is Google Search Console. While Web Analytics provides insight into how your visitors behave on your website, Search Console provides insight into how your website performs in search before visitors land on your site.
Formerly called Google Webmaster Tools, Search Console shares info on your website’s overall health (e.g., crawl errors, number of pages indexed, duplicate, missing, or incomplete metadata) as well as how well your site is appearing in organic search including rich snippets when using schema.
Here’s why I’m such a big fan: you get this information directly from Google. While the data is limited, you still get incredible data, such as:
- What keywords/search phrases Google thinks are on your overall site. If the keywords are wrong, then you need to change content, so the bots better understand what your business offers.
- Information about average position, number of impressions, and click-through rate. You can download this information and track performance over time.
- Keywords by page, if sufficient data is available, can help you find the right keyword for content optimization.
My suggestion is that you mine Search Console and Google Analytics first before investing in a third-party SEO tool. If you’re ready to move on to the next step, we often recommend Moz; the system tracks keywords, rankings, and links.
Remember that White Hat SEO is a long-term strategy; it takes time and focused effort. The power of SEO management tools is tracking over time and the ability to pull reports for strategic insights. No data = no insights. Don’t be left guessing because your data is in someone else’s hands.
With that said, some clients feel the online agency should pay for the tool since they are really using it. Our view is that online marketing shouldn’t be a big black box, and clients shouldn’t be technology hostages. It should be as collaborative and transparent as possible. If you don’t want to pay for the tool, negotiate this point upfront. If your agency owns the account, then you run the risk of losing access to keyword tracking and ranking data. Ultimately it’s your choice; just know the pros and cons.
7. Social Media
Company pages on social media platforms (like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc) should be attached to a principal’s personal page or someone who is trusted within your business. If you outsource social media management, you grant individual user access to each social network.
However, we recommend using a social media management tool like HootSuite. This tool provides great flexibility and various levels of account access. Also, consider the implications of having an employee as the “face” of your brand on social media channels. If they quit, then what? The point is to have a contingency plan and organize who has access to what systems.
8. Sales Automation & Email Systems
If you use marketing automation systems like Marketo or HubSpot, again, you want to use common sense when setting up these accounts. An online marketing agency simply needs user access to help you integrate with your website, email marketing (Vertical Response, MailChimp, Constant Contact), and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) or sales tracking systems.
9. Event & Payment Systems
If your business sells seats to virtual or in-person events or products online via eCommerce, you’re probably using a payment or ticket-selling service like EventBrite or PayPal. Again, your online marketing provider can be a user, but you should keep control over the account. Of course, bank account details should stay secure and private.
One More Thing
One final piece of advice: never give your account information and administrative passwords to anybody. Rather, set up accounts in person or via a virtual meeting with screen sharing ability. Lastly, never send usernames and passwords together in an email. Using a password vault makes organizing and sharing login credentials easy and more secure.
Did I miss anything? What marketing-related account type would you add?
Frequently Asked Questions on Company Data Security & Privacy
There are numerous threats to company data privacy. The most problematic to your marketing data is granting service providers access to your accounts, social media profiles, and passwords. Although some businesses don’t see it as a top priority, no one is exempt from having a data privacy breach. For those businesses operating in California, be sure you’re following CCPA privacy laws.
In a company, online privacy is everyone’s responsibility., Managers should take active steps to ensure they have access to company accounts. Employees should also secure their devices and comply with their NDAs given at the beginning of employment.
Rather than seeing it as a protective measure, gaining control of your data is a strategic opportunity that builds trust in your customers. After all, if your own data isn’t protected, your client’s data is also at risk.
Also, when you have access to your accounts, you can be sure you keep business continuity if change vendor relationships.
An employee’s responsibilities towards a company having control over their data should be stipulated in their NDA and the company policy. Persons involved should know how to access, retain, give out, and dispose of sensitive information. They should know the appropriate technical security measures and why behind the tedious process of using 2-step authentications, antivirus software, and scrubbing their device storage. Depending on your business’ size, you may have a full-time employee tasked with IT or data governance.