I'm not the kind of guy that calls out companies and bashes them for doing something that I'd consider wrong or unethical, and I'm not going to do it today. But beware - there are a lot of Internet marketing companies out there that own YOUR company's online assets - and if they go out of business, to put it bluntly, you're screwed.
In the world that is small business, it's fair to say that a large portion of small business owners don't fully understand the Internet, and in particular the marketing aspect. There are so many things to know - SEO, PPC, SEM, Analytics, social media - the list goes on. Trying to understand all of these and run a business is a pretty daunting task. So typically, those business owners that are smart enough to see the trends and hire a marketing person or agency to help them typically rely on them to do what's in the best interest of the owner.
But that's not usually the case.
More times than not, the agency sets things up in a way that's best for them, and not the business owner. Unfortunately, its common practice - and in my opinion just plain wrong. So let me show you some examples and explain my reasoning.
Do You Own/Control Your Website?
For many businesses, having a website is critical. If you're in business, you have to have a website. Customers ask for your link, and not having one makes you sound out of touch.
However, having a great website is usually not a top priority. So the thought process that goes into building that site is more often than not minimal. Companies like Intuit and Wix spend a lot of their advertising budgets telling business owners how easy and cheap it is to set up a website, and many business owners think that's enough.
But they're wrong.
With most of these DIY website builders, the content, the 'guts' of the site, and the ownership of that data all belongs to the provider. Sure, you can get in there and change it, but if their servers start acting funky or you want to add some custom functionality, you're probably not going to get it. And if you do want those things, and realize that you need to move your site to a more robust web hosting company, you'll find out that the website you built on their platform doesn't transfer to another host. You don't really own it - and that's a bad place to be.
I'm a huge fan of WordPress - a free content management system (CMS) that you can download and put on any reputable web hosting company (like mine, for instance) that you want. All of the content for a WordPress website is stored in a database that is easily transferrable across servers, and any custom design work that you have done is easily downloaded and moved as well. Plus, the SEO benefits of using WordPress are phenomenal.
The same can be said for ecommerce sites. Many online providers make it so easy to set up your products, etc, but when your business starts to grow and they want to charge you for more bandwidth, you might want to see if there are cheaper alternatives. And that may be when you find out you're 'locked in' to their platform.
Action Item: Find out if you can move your website to another host. It's worth the phone call. If the answer is NO, start considering a WordPress solution. If your site is eCommerce, I recommend a CMS like Magento Community. (We can help you set either of these solutions up.)
Do You Own/Control Your Domain Name?
If you set up your site through a website provider, they may have given you a 'free domain' as part of the package. Chances are they registered that domain name in their name/account and not yours.
I've also seen local agencies set up websites for clients and do the same thing. Perhaps it's not a malicious thing, but you still don't own the rights to it. I've literally seen webmasters die and companies unable to gain control of their own domain name.
Your domain name is a huge part of your branding. Don't let someone else control it.
Action Item: Look up the registration details of your domain. If it doesn't list your name, contact the person/company it does list and start the process to getting it moved. You can transfer a domain to a GoDaddy account you create for less than $20 bucks.