Who owns your website? Three questions to ask if you don’t want to be a hostage

Don't let your website be held hostage

If you are looking to build a new website or even if you have had a website for years, there are basic ownership questions you need to resolve if you want to avoid nasty surprises down the road.

Often these issues arise out of genuine motivations. For example, a kindly web designer registered a domain for a client because the client was not confident to do it themselves. Nevertheless, this kindly act can lead to all sorts of problems. Ask yourself what happens if:

1 – the relationship between client and designer sours
2 – the web designer stops trading or responding for any reason
3 – the web designer registers the wrong name as the domain owner

Any of these events will make life really difficult for you if you haven’t sorted out your basic website ownership. Even if you feel safe that you have had your website for years, answer three questions about your site before you have a problem.

Sharks are circling your website

Watch out for sharks

Be aware that not everyone has your best interests at heart. Recent horrors I have seen include:

-Client not having access or control of their domain and being unable to switch over to their new website.

-Client not owning their domain and risking it being taken down or redirected to an unsuitable website if they refuse to pay large regular fees.

-Client not owning the words and images on their website and watching it all being deleted when they refused to pay ongoing fees.

Ask yourself three questions

Question one: Am I the Domain Registrant (ie owner) of my domain name?

Your domain or website address (www.myname.com) is your most important internet asset. Your brand and all your internet marketing effort are bound to it. If you are not the domain registrant then you do not own your website. It needs to be registered to you or your business.

Thanks to privacy rules, this is often not easy to check. To find out you need to be able to answer the next question.

Question two: Are my domain names held in a registrar account in my name and to which I have access?

Even if you are happy with the answer to question one, if the domains are not held in an account that you control then you can’t do anything with them! You can’t even control which website people see when they type your address into their browser.

I see this situation time and time again. It is both inconvenient and dangerous. If your relationship with your web developer goes bad then they can take down your site or even send visitors to somewhere inappropriate.

Take responsibility for this. Once you have your own account, change the password to stop others taking back control. You can give the password to your technical guys on a need-to-know basis (but change it again if that relationship changes).

Question three: Do I actually own the words, images and other content on my site?

Another recent horror story. A local business was offered SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) services that promised a boost in Google rankings by making regular tweaks and updates to a website.

However, in the small print this company claimed perpetual ownership of any content or changes and reserved the right to delete them from the website if a monthly bill went unpaid.

This scenario can only lead to much stress, large bills and ultimately no website. Avoid it by checking any contract very carefully.

If you have a website (or plan to get one) then you need to ask these questions. Do yourself a favour and get some answers before it becomes an issue.

If you need help or don’t know where to turn then please get in touch for a no obligation chat.