Over the years as a freelance writer and SEO service provider I have run into numerous clients who have had their websites held hostage for one reason or another. Some of the time the problem is relatively easy to resolve, other times it can become a full blown hostage crises.
It all starts with NOT understanding how important and VALUABLE your website properties are.
My analogy is … would you allow your neighbor, your brand new boyfriend (girlfriend) or someone you don’t know who lives in India. Russia or Nigeria, to register the ownership of your new HOUSE in their name?
The problem is that many people don’t think twice about allowing any of the above mentioned people to register their website domain name (ie. mywebsite.com or freelancewritingzone.com) for them. Your domain name is the MOST IMPORTANT element in the ownership equation.
Many people easily give access to their website hosting company account, or WordPress account to those same people. While this is NOT as critical as your domain name, there are ways to prevent most “ownership” problems.
Here are two of the worst HOSTAGE situations I’ve run into.
HOSTAGE CRISES: DOMAIN NAME
My client was female and about to get married. She contacted me and asked me to make some major changes to her business website. She was in the fitness business and was about to expand to a larger studio space. She had a dot COM domain name and a nice looking site that unfortunately was very out of date. In fact her website had not been updated for three years.
I asked her for the usual information. Password access to her website. She didn’t know it. BAD start.
After several phone calls I learned that the website had been set up by an old boyfriend. The relationship had ended badly over three years ago. She asked if I would phone him.
Yep, the relationship had ended VERY badly.
He refused to give me access to the website.
OK, I thought l there is an easy way around that. I’ll just setup a new website, at a new hosting company and then switch the information from the DOMAIN name access panel.
REALLY BAD NEWS. When I looked for the ownership information for the domain name, it turned out it was registered to the old boyfriend.
Another phone call. He refused to allow access and refused to transfer the domain name to my client.
I threatened him with legal action. He said “go ahead.” Yep, he wanted her to “suffer.”
This is about the worst situation a website owner can be in. YES there is actually a legal process to get back the domain name BUT it involves lawyers, costs megabucks, is an extremely painful process and would take over a year.
After thinking it through and coming up with several strategies I told my client that we should just register a new domain name and dump the old website. NOT totally elegant–but the fastest, easiest and cheapest solution.
We simply used the same website and registered it as a dot CA. CA is Canadian designation, and since her business was a physical business in Vancouver, Canada she didn’t need the .COM designation. The fact that the old website was dreadfully out of date, and the fact that I was really good at SEO would made it possible to gain her traffic back in a few months.
I told her that her old boyfriend would eventually get tired of paying for the .COM name and at that point, she could grab back the .COM if she wanted. We were able to get it back less than eight months later — for $12.
So … here’s what happened. Four years previous my client started up her fitness business. She wanted a website and her new boyfriend offered to set everything up for her. She didn’t do her homework to find out what setting up a website means. She had NO idea there were two parts: 1) the domain name 2) website hosting. She assumed that he would set up everything in her name. He didn’t. When the relationship ended, he became very nasty and denied access.
The scenario above is all too common and very easy for first time blog owners to fall into. They simply have NO idea of how important maintaining ownership over your own properties is.
Legally … she would have got everything back because 1) her address and name and business name was all over the website. 2) He had used HER credit card to pay for both the domain name and the website hosting. BUT the fact that he had control over the domain name was the trump card. She would have won in the end but: lawyers, money and lots of time and aggravation would be involved.
In the end it all worked out. Her business and website continued to grow and thrive. She is happily married and the old boyfriend?
HOSTAGE CRISIS: WEBSITE ACCESS
The second worst hostage situation came about because of a conflict with an inexperienced web designer and my new client.
My client was unhappy with the work being done and wanted to end the relationship. There was NO contract and the relationship was basically pay as you go.
The good news was that the client has registered his own domain name and had also registered the hosting package. The bad news was that he gave the design company full admin access to the website.
When things went south, the design company changed the admin access passwords.
OK … so you would “think” that by talking to the hosting company this would be resolved.
In the end, the solution was to shut down the hosting (he was paying by the month). Next, he purchased a new hosting package from a reliable and well known hosting company and I got him to re-point the DOMAIN name to the new website.
In this case, my client was lucky. He had just started building the website, he had paid the designer less than $500 for work done, and $30 for hosting ($10/ month).
The biggest “cost” was MY time in figuring out what had happened, trying to negotiate with the old hosting company and coming up with an easy/inexpensive solution.
If my client had owned a big to huge website he could have lost megabucks and years of work.
Here’s How To Protect Your Website Assets
- ALWAYS use a reputable and stable company as your domain name registrar.
- NEVER allow your designer, design company, or anyone else to register your domain name. Register all domain names yourself. Set up the hosting packages yourself. All of the domain name registration info and the website hosting package information MUST come to your own email address. You need to use your own credit card to pay for the services.If you don’t know how to set this up … ask for information. Phone or contact one or more domain and hosting companies. Yes … ask your designer, website programmer, and friends for information, suggestions and advice … but don’t let them do the final registration steps for you!
- NEVER host your website AND register your domain name with the same company. If ONE disappears you can still be open for business while relocating the other.
- ALWAYS print out and keep a hard copy of your domain name registration information, including renewal dates. Ditto with your website hosting information.
- ALWAYS back up your website on your hard drive or a CD, or upload your entire site to the clouds or to an online back-up service.
- Yes, your website programmer, or designer needs to have access to your website. Ask your hosting company how to give them access while protecting yourself.Hosting companies work differently … for example all my sites are hosted on SiteGround a hugely reliable website hosting company. I easily have access to all my own websites through their control panel. I’ve also set up access for my virtual assistant. She has a different set of passwords AND can access all the sites. Additionally I can set up access to any temporary workers without any jeopardy to me OR any of my sites.When I was using Hostgator, we had to access every website separately. I setup each WordPress website with my I created a temporary user name and password that I would delete when the work was completed.
Bottom line … each hosting company works differently, find out how to protect your website BEFORE you run into problems.
IF your website IS your business, or is a big part of your business … you owe it to yourself to take an extra few hours to learn about and then DO the things that will keep you in business.
GoDaddy.com Only use this company for domain registrations. Their hosting is sub-par.
This is the company I currently host all my websites with. Incredibly fast and knowledgeable help desk. FREE daily backups, FREE speed demon plugin, image speed plugin and impeccable, TOP rated hosting.
WP Engine – Get 3 months free on annual plans
This is the company I purchase all my website themes from. Over 35 themes come WITH the hosting packages. They are constantly updating and are highly respected. Fabulous service, great products and services.
Watch the video:
This is the company I USED to get hosting from. Their service has deteriorated. My site speeds slowed down to a crawl. The ONLY reason for buying from them is CHEAP. If you are just starting out and have a really small website, this would actually be a good choice. When your website grows and is making money, then switch to one of the companies listed above.
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