Freedom from Becoming a Technology Hostage
Independence. It’s an important American principle. It got me thinking about the concept of freedom as it relates to managing an online marketing presence. We often talk with business owners and marketers who outsource their digital marketing (or parts of it). Many are unwittingly giving away control of their data. Even if you trust your online marketing provider 110%, it’s still prudent that you own your accounts and data held within each. In this post I’ll summarize nine of the most common online marketing systems and how to avoid becoming a technology hostage
1. Website Content Management System
Your website is probably running on some sort of content management system (CMS) like WordPress. Your company (or a trusted employee within your company) is the main administrator or Webmaster. You should receive key updates and notifications directly from the CMS system (e.g., security issues, upgrade notices). Each CMS enables you to add administrators, 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 access to their own website. This is a recipe for disaster as a website is meant to evolve with the business over time.
2. 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 online marketing vendor “set it up for them” but in actuality, 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.
3. G Suite (Formerly Google Apps)
G Suite is a set of applications that bring together various business services. For example, it includes Gmail, Drive, Docs, Contacts, Calendar, Forms, etc. Again, your company — or an agent of your company — retains account ownership. If the IT vendor assumes that role, you are truly a technology hostage. You run the risk of losing emails, integrated online calendars, and documentation, which can be catastrophic to business continuity. Enuf said.
4. AdWords, Bing & Other Advertising Accounts
If search marketing is part of your online marketing arsenal, then you are probably using Google AdWords, Bing 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 spend and performance data. One word of caution we’ve learned from experience: if your AdWords 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.
5. SEO Management Tools
The best SEO tool (in my opinion) is Search Console. While Web Analytics provides insight regarding how your visitors behave on your website, Search Console provides insight on how your website is performing in search before visitors arrive. 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.
Here’s why I’m such a big fan: you get this information directly from Google. While the data is now limited to 90 days, you still get incredible data, such as:
- What keywords/search phrases Google thinks are on your overall site. If they 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, 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 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 cuz your data is in someone else’s hands. With that said, some clients feel that the online agency should pay for the tool since they are the ones 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.
6. Domain Registration, Hosting & FTP
This one is so obvious I almost didn’t include it in the list. You want to manage registration of your domain (website url); you never want to rely on an online marketing agency to renew your domain name. 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.
7. Social Media
Company pages on social media platforms (like Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn) 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 here 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 and 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 together in-person or via a virtual meeting with screen sharing ability. Lastly, never send user names and passwords together in an email. Privacy online is an illusion.
Did I miss anything? What account type would you add?
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