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Really Simple Guide to Digital Ownership

Think, do you own your digital assets?

Digital Ownership

We hear many horror stories from businesses who do not have access to their own digital assets, ranging from website access, server access or Google AdWords data. This is simply not acceptable and as a business you need to be aware of who owns your digital assets.

Does any of this sound familiar?

  • Our web developer has gone AWOL and we can’t get access to our website
  • Our website developer won’t give us access to our own website
  • We have to continually pay for changes to be made on the website, even basic text changes and image uploads
  • We don’t know how much of our Google AdWords spend is being spent on clicks compared to management time
  • We don’t have FTP access to our web server

Any many more. If this sounds familiar to you, then read through this Really Simply Guide to Digital Ownership which will talk you through the key considerations about ownership and how you can protect yourself as a business.



Who owns your website? Seriously. Do you actually own your own website and do you have access to this? We hear from many businesses that they simply do not have access their own website. Maybe it was designed quite some time ago or the relationship with the old website developer or agency has broken down.

Now they are in a position whereby if they want to make a change on their website then they are simply going to have to rebuild the entire website which isn’t a great solution. This brings us onto the next point about platform.

Think: Who actually owns your website?

Consider: Make sure you have access to your own website once it is live


Website Technology and Platform: Proprietary VS Open Source

For most small to medium sized businesses today, there is absolutely no requirement to use any kind of proprietary website technology or platform for your website. We still see many businesses purchasing bespoke web solutions when something open source would be much more suitable for their business needs, and significantly reduce the risk involved for their business.

What would happen if your website development agency went out of business, or a key member of staff moved job elsewhere, taking the knowledge and experience with them? Proprietary website technology and platforms should be a big no-no for most small to medium sized businesses and any suggestion to work towards this should be viewed with caution.

Platforms such as WordPress, Magento and others are some of the most common and suitable website technologies and content management systems available for business use. Many small businesses start out on one of the free website builders or pay a small monthly cost. The same principles apply here, you don’t actually own your website with these. If they decide to make a change to their system, pricing structure, functionality or anything else then there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. While these can seem like a quick job for those on tiny budgets, we hear many stories about their problems which often relate to their limited functionality and options to customise.

Think: Do you own the technology and platform that your website is built on?

Consider: There needs to be an extremely good reason for any business not to use an open source website technology or platform.


Domain Name

When you registered tour domain name in the first instance, was it you who did this? Or was it your website development agency? What would happen if you don’t have access to your domain name through your registrar and you need to change some key settings for your website? This would be a big problem.

Think: Do you have access to your own domain name through your registrar?

Consider: Make sure you own your own domain name under an account that you have access to.



Where is your website hosted? Your web host is the physical computer where your website files live. Do you have your own FTP and control panel login details and access to your web server? Many website developers will simply host a website on a shared platform or account, which means that they will not allow you access to your own website files because by doing so would also give you access to other businesses websites that are hosted on the account.

Think: Do you have access to your own web server where your website files live?

Consider: Make sure you have FTP and control panel access to your own web server at an absolute minimum. Depending on the level of access you need, SSH access should also be considered.


Google AdWords

When enlisting help with managing your Google AdWords campaigns through an agency like ourselves, Google has very strict guidelines about what you need to do and what is not allowed. Many digital agencies and people who aren’t following the guidelines often restrict access to your own Google AdWords account whether this is to hide the real results or other reasons.

Google’s guidelines are very clear which state that access should be granted to your Google AdWords account through the agencies My Client Centre account. This is your data, and you need to own your own data. If your Google AdWords account has been created by someone else, then you are effectively at their mercy as to how your account is managed. What would happen if you wanted to switch over to another AdWords agency like ourselves? You would have to create a brand new account from scratch, losing all of your historical performance data, meaning that your costs would increase directly when you start a new account.

Think: Do you have ownership of your own Google AdWords account and data?

Consider: Make sure you pay Google directly for your Google AdWords spend, you pay your agency for management time separately and you grant access using the My Client Centre functionality.


Google Analytics

Following a similar trend, do you own your own Google Analytics data? Or has your account been created by someone else, maybe you don’t even have access to your own account? Google Analytics is one of the most valuable tools for your business to track performance so it is essential that you own your own data.

Think: Who owns your Google Analytics account?

Consider: Make sure you have access to your own Google Analytics data and grant others access who need to help your business grow.


Social Media Accounts

Who created your social media accounts in the first place? Was this yourself, a third party or an old member of staff? We have seen this scenario multiple times before whereby an account has been created which the business now no longer has access to, which can often mean that all of your social media following can be lost when you have to create another account from scratch.

Think: Who owns your social media accounts and who has access to them?

Consider: Make sure your social media accounts are controlled by a generic email address that key people within your business have access to


Email Addresses

Many small businesses run their business emails using old and unsuitable technology. Read more about this in our Really Simply Guide to Business Email Addresses. What this means is that your emails live on your web server. What would happen if you decided to move your web hosting over to another company as your business grows? Your emails would be deleted.

Using email technology like this simply isn’t suitable for business use and can restrict your business growth and cause many problems over time. Decouple your emails from your webserver to give your business the flexibility needed to grow.

Think: What would happen to your business emails if you decided to move web server as your business grows?

Consider: Use Microsoft Hosted Exchange to power your emails and decouple your business emails from your web server.


Other Accounts

What other accounts to you manage for your business? Were these created by yourself or an external agency?

Think: Who has control of these accounts?

Consider: Make sure you have access to all of the accounts you need to run your business.



For everything digital within your business, always consider who owns your data, platforms, information and accounts. We hear so many horror stories talking to businesses that we wanted to highlight some of the common problems we hear and what you really need to be thinking about for all of your digital assets.

You wouldn’t let someone else hold the only set of keys for your business premises, so why would you treat your digital assets any differently? Visibility and transparency is essential to understanding who owns your digital assets.