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Who Owns My Website?

It’s your website. So . . . you’re the owner . . . right? If you’re not sure, it’s time to do some digging. The answer may be more complicated than you think.

At first glance, the question “Who owns my website?” seems to have an obvious answer. After all, you’re the one paying for the site and it’s your business’s name on the homepage . . . so it’s yours, right?

Unfortunately, the situation is not always so simple. Website ownership can be a murky issue. So much so, that when we’re onboarding new clients, they’re often shocked to learn they don’t actually own their website—their previous development or marketing team does.

Basically, if someone is telling you that you don’t own your website, that’s a problem you want to take care of. So let’s dive into website ownership, why it matters, and what you can do about it.

Why Does Website Ownership Matter?

We want to tell you a story.

Not long ago, our team worked with a business that had a full-fledged website already up and running. They had worked with another marketing agency to build a home base that hit all the checkmarks on what a good website should be. (If you’ve built a website from scratch, you know that’s no small task.)

Unfortunately, the marketing agency’s performance became less-than-stellar over time. Communication was down and results were floundering. So, our friends decided to take their marketing needs elsewhere—which was obviously 100% within their rights to do.

At this point in the story, they discovered an unfortunate truth: they didn’t actually own the website they had worked so hard to create.

Through some shady contract verbiage, the marketing agency had retained ownership of the website while our friends paid a monthly fee to maintain a license for the site. (The only true ownership they had was over their web content.)

Because it had become crystal-clear that the marketing management company was not one they wanted to maintain a relationship with, our friends bit the bullet and started the website creation process all over again.

The good news is, any marketing agency worth its salt will not pull these kinds of crooked shenanigans on you. At Myriad, we give our clients full ownership from day one and make it clear that anyone we contract with is free to go as they please. The bad news? Not every marketing management company is the reputable kind.

If someone is telling you that you don’t own your website, that’s a problem you want to take care of.

How Do I Find Out Who Owns My Site?

It’s not always easy to spot the winners from the shady-no-good-losers. Fortunately, we have a tried-and-true method of making sure you don’t repeat our friends’ mistakes.

Before you sign a web development contract, ask:

What system will the site be built on and is it open source or proprietary?

The answer to this question will tell you everything you need to know. You see, open-source platforms use software that is free to use and modify. (Common open-source content management platforms include WordPress and Concrete CMS.)

Proprietary platforms, on the other hand, require business owners to pay either a one-time or monthly fee. And the arrangement won’t allow you to make modifications without express consent. In these cases, the end goal is usually as shady as it sounds. . . and the proprietary platform is used by the marketing/web development agency to lock unsuspecting clients in.

So, if you are paying a steep monthly fee and don’t have modification access to your website, odds are high that you aren’t the official owner.

What Can I Do If I Don’t Own My Website?

At the end of the day, we want you to be able to say, “It’s me. Hi. I’m the owner, it’s me.”

If you’re in a situation similar to our friends in the story above, correcting the problem may take some time and money. But the payoff of ownership is sooo worth the expense.

Rebuilding your website can be costly. (Most websites cost between $5k and $15k to create from scratch.) That said, you likely do have ownership over some key details—regardless of whether the CMS is open-source or proprietary. Here are a few components you may be able to take with you:

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the question, “Who owns my website?”, it’s time to connect with a reputable marketing agency. And guess what? We happen to know a guy.

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