Your website is the face of your business and brand. You, as the owner of the business need to have the keys to your online kingdom.

I came up with a few important things your should know and have control of to avoid potential headaches and even disasters later on.

Don’t worry about knowing these things inside and out. Just be aware of them, have the relevant log-in information on file.

1. Domain Name

Do you have control of your web address?

Your domain name is the address that people type in to get to your site. It’s your .COM name. If you lose access to this and it expires, you are seriously screwed.

This name is registered with a domain registrar like Godaddy or NameCheap. These domain registrars will then point that address to the server where the actual website files are stored.

A lot of web guys will register this information for you and take care of the fees and administration of the domain. It’s one less thing for you to worry about but make sure you have access to the registrar account.

Imagine what would happen if you lost contact with that developer? What happens if they decide to change careers or move out of the country? What if they get arrested or even die?

Access to your website is through that domain name so if that domain name expires and someone else registers it, you’re faced with either negotiating with the new owner to buy it back or you have to find a new website address. Neither scenario is good.

Losing your domain name can be an expensive problem especially if you have owned it for years and have it plastered all over your business cards, brochures, and vehicles. Not only that, all of your search engine rankings will be reset because you have to establish a brand new website.

You can actually look up any domain and find out where it is registered.  I use this WHOIS lookup tool from domaintools.com if I’m trying to track down a registrar.

You absolutely should have access to the registrar where that domain lives and only domains that you own should be on that account. Only you and whoever manages your site should have access to it.  Save the username and password, write it down, put it in your safe.

2. Hosting

Can you access the server?

The hosting account is where the files that actually make up your website live. All of your images, text, code are hosted on a server with your web hosting company. This account is something you need access to.

cPanel DashboardMost hosting companies have a control panel with all of the tools that they offer.  Things like database tools, email management, backups, etc can be found in this control panel.

The most common control panel is called cPanel.  You might never log in to the control panel or ever want to, but you should at least have the keys for the same reason as the domain registration.  If your web guy kicks the bucket, you will still have access the files that make up your site.

You should also be able to pay the hosting fees directly to the host. If your web guy forgets to pay the bill, your site goes dark.

I should mention that it’s not a good idea to start messing around in on the control panel of your hosting account if you don’t know what you are doing but you should still have the username and password on file.

If you’re looking for affordable hosting for your site, check out
Blue Host
(aff link).

3. CMS Access

Can you edit the content of your website?

Wordpress LoginWhat runs your website? How do you edit your content? Most sites have CMS or Content Management System which does exactly what the name implies. It manages your content.

In the old days when I started building websites I typed out every line of code in Notepad and then uploaded it to my server. I had to do that for each page on the website.  I quickly learned to copy and paste parts of each page that were used across the site…navigation, the sidebar, the footer. It was a tedious process.  If i wanted to make a change to ever page on the site, I had to change the code on each page…manually. It took FOREVER.

Then I discovered the content management system and that changed everything.  If I wanted to add a link in my navigation, I didn’t have to edit every page. I just changed the link once and the CMS made the change on each page for me.

The most common CMS online today is WordPress.  It’s what I have used for the last few years and it is the only CMS I recommend for a small business owner. WordPress is flexible, versatile, and powerful. Plus, it’s free.

I could sing the praises of WordPress for days but suffice it to say that you can do pretty much anything you want to do with WordPress running your site. If you want to have a simple blog, it’s perfect. If you want to sell products online, it can do that beautifully. If you want to schedule and book services, WordPress is your CMS.

If you cannot access the back end of your website, you are, once again, relying on someone else to make changes to your site. Find out what CMS your website is running and get familiar with the basic functions. You should be able to change navigation links, write a blog post and edit your pages at the very least.

4. SEO – Search Engine Optimization

Is your site showing up on the search engines?

Your site is only effective if people can find you.  The best and cheapest way to get people to looking at your website is through the search engines so make sure your site is in their index.

The easiest way to see if they have you listed is to simply do a search for your brand or company name. If your site comes up in the SERPs (search engine results page), you are indexed. If you are not showing up, you might need to fix a few things.

You do not need to submit your site to the search engines.  That practice stopped a long time ago and honestly I’m not entirely sure how effective it was.  Search engines will automatically find and index your site based on it’s content.

If you are using WordPress, make sure you DO NOT discourage search engines to index your site. In your settings tab, go into the Reading section and make sure the box next to Search Engine Visibility is UNCHECKED.

Discourage Search Engines

If you want to dig deeper, go to Google Webmaster Tools and see if your site is indexed. GWT will tell you a lot about your site like errors or what other sites are linking to you.

5. Analytics

Is anyone visiting your website?

You should have a good idea how many people are visiting your site on a daily basis.  If you’re not getting any website traffic, you need to know that so you can make the right changes and get the traffic up. If a particular page or post is getting a lot of hits, you should know it so that you can expand those topics.

Google AnalyticsI use Google Analytics. It’s free and does everything I need. If you manage the website yourself, get GA working on your site TODAY. If you have someone else manage your site, ask them what kind of analytics tracking is on your site and how to access the reports.

In Google Analytics you can find out how many people visit your site, how they found you, how long they were on your site, what part city they’re from, and the list goes on.  It is a very powerful tool and can help you build the right content for your audience or fix problems with your site. It’s also helpful to determine what marketing methods are effective or not. Should you keep paying for that Tripadvisor account if they’ve only sent your 3 leads in 4 months?  What content is working and what is not so popular.

Action Time

Ok to sum this all up you need to know and have access to 5 things:

  • Where is your domain registered? Get access to it.
  • Where is your website hosted? Get access to it.
  • Can you edit the content of your site? Get access to it.
  • Is your website indexed with Google? Get it indexed!
  • How many visitors does your site receive? If you don’t have analytics tracking, get it installed today!

Hopefully that was helpful information. Again, there is nothing overly technical you need to know. Just have access to the elements of your site so you can keep it going if your web guy can’t be reached.

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