One of the many conversations I have with companies is regarding their online marketing strategies. As a business owner or manager sometimes it is hard to be an expert in every area. If you have an online presence, here are some basic guidelines you need to know about how to manage, own and regulate your digital footprint.
Insight about the online marketing conversation every business should be having from Chamber Member Minnesota Interactive:
Web and eMarketing Service from National and Regional Telephone, Print and Media Companies
As businesses we are bombarded by calls and emails for web related services. All of them claim to put you at the top of Google or make claims about building great websites. Almost weekly, MNI gets calls from frustrated business owners who are stuck with these providers.
It is our job to give them advice and often we are the bearers of bad news. I wanted to take a minute to help my fellow chamber members understand what these providers are actually offering.
On Digital Marketing, they most often offer to put you at the top of the Google search results. We advised a local boat cruise company about their contract. The company they signed on with took over their domain and duplicated their existing site and changed the phone number to go through their proprietary system. Then that company bought inexpensive terms with the company name that was place above their organic listing that they paid nothing for. In analyzing the “leads” it turned out that 90% were their current customers that were looking for hours or reservations these are calls they would have gotten without the additional marketing expense. Only a very small fraction of the leads were from new customers. Because the marketing company took over their site, their domain and their phone number, they were stuck. In their case, they had to wait 14 months to get out of a service they were very unhappy with.
The contracts for SEO, pay-per-click, social media services are often very vague, the only thing that they are clear on in how much you are going to pay. I am reviewing a contract right now for “Search Engine Marketing”. In the five pages of fine print, there is nothing that says what they will do. But they often take over your phone number and one of their remedies if you don’t pay is to “redirect to another company possibly a competitor or permanently or temporarily disconnect the unique telephone numbers appearing in your Products”.
In the particular contract I reviewed this week, you have to pay extra to get the data on the results. Sometimes these contracts also take ownership of your customer data as well. These contracts are usually complex and are rarely written in a fair and simple way. These companies depend on the fact that few will ever read the contract.
Do not give up ownership of your website or your phone number
On websites, these organizations offer to build a website that is paid for on a monthly basis. In general, this is a very expensive way to build a website. In fact, this is really like leasing a website, because when the contract is done, you don’t own anything. In general, a website should be updated every 3 years so in signing these contracts you should take the monthly rate and multiply by 36 to understand the true cost of the site because that is how they are thinking of it. Most of these providers charge $80-100 per month for a simple site ($2800-$3600).
In the contract, these organizations require you give up control of your domain. The contract usually says that they will transfer it back after the cancellation, but you have to pay them in full for that to happen and there is typically a waiting period where you won’t have your domain and won’t be able to make changes to your website.
The other tricky part is, they own the website. That means, you can’t just take the website you have been paying for and move it to other hosting. You have to build a new website if you cancel the contract. In many cases the contract you sign also gives up rights to your content which could mean you also have to rewrite your web content.
If all that is not tricky enough to navigate, the contracts usually have auto-renewals that have odd notice rules. If you don’t follow the rules, the contract automatically renews for a year and they may also auto renew and increase the price.
- Be VERY careful when hiring any company to manage your website, build a website or do digital marketing of any kind.
- Do NOT give up control of your domain name!
- Own your own hosting and pay for real hosting.
- Do not give up control of your site analytics.
- Do not give up ownership of your content.
- Do not give up your customer data.
- If you hire someone to do work for you, know what they are going to do and how you are going to measure their success.
- Be very careful when signing year long service contracts with companies you don’t know.
- Understand the cancellation policies of any contract you sign.
If you would like a referral, or a second set of eyes on what your contract says, give the Chamber a call and we will help.