Who really owns a website?
A great question.
Pixels on a page, virtual real estate, digital files, content, media, data...it can all seem a bit imaginary at times.
These days, it is indisputable how mission critical to business the use of a website really has become.
With importance comes value and indeed risk if it becomes lost or damaged.
It is this train of thought which has spurred the title of this current web blog to do with website ownership.
The following points is my attempt at trying to persuade you that getting ownership of you website from the beginning really matters.
20 most important factors contributing to website ownership in 2018
- 1 1. Domain name & domain host
- 2 2. Sub domains
- 3 3. Site security
- 4 4. Site folders & files
- 5 5. Data
- 6 6. Associated web services
- 7 7. Code (custom or otherwise)
- 8 8. 3rd party services e.g. Google Analytics & Webmasters
- 9 9. Content management system (CMS), or other platform
- 10 10. Applications (licensed or owned)
- 11 11. Written copy (self authored, user-generated, purchased or guest contributed)
- 12 12. Branded graphics
- 13 13. Images, video or other media (licensed or owned)
- 14 14. User-generated content (comments, guest posts, enquiries etc...)
- 15 15. On-site SEO
- 16 16. Backlinks & Brand Mentions
- 17 17. Search Rankings
- 18 18. Sale Pipelines
- 19 19. Marketing Automation
- 20 20. Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)
1. Domain name & domain host
These are the keepers of the most precious substance regarding your website.
The domain name is effectively the address and primary identifier of your website. This is the unique location/destination which belongs to you and is registered to you personally.
Or at least, it should be!
Whoever is the registered owner of what you think is your domain name is actually the legal possessor of it and all its associated traffic, visitors, enquiries, sales and commercial value.
How do you make sure you own your domain name?
Simple and free...insert your domain name in the box at this website and see what it tells you.
The resulting detail is the legal owner of the domain name. Give it a try.
What was the result?
If your web designer or another 3rd party is the legally registered owner of the domain name of your business.
Here's how you can arrange a transfer of ownership. By the way, you should not be charged for this.
As for the components of your website i.e. the database, code, platform, page content, media etc. this is all held firmly in the grip of your chosen web host.
Assuming you chose the host yourself...if you didn't, you ought to have.
Your web host is very much like your bank.
They work on a deposit/withdrawal basis with services in between to make administration easier and
give benefit encourage use.
To ensure you get the best value or advantage for your business you ought to know which web host your website sits on and which package you are using.
Each package has it's features and service limitations. It's worth while forward planning in this regard not to run out of range of capacity at critical times of growth.
2. Sub domains
Sub domains (subdomain.yourdomnain.com) are as integrally related to your domain name as a sub-directory (yourdomain.com/sub-directory).
It's just an alternative way of organising your files and content.
Ownership therefore applies equally to both.
Simple as that. Own a domain name and own anything beneath, or sub...domain, directory...it all counts.
3. Site security
As we found out with this website in 2016, if your website is not secure and hackers get in - it's no longer yours.
They can change, or destroy contents at their wish at the click of a button. They can even make the way for more destructive hackers to get in to do worse.
If this happens and you are not able to correct the problem, or have the help of your host to tackle it - you could (as we did) be held to ransom over the survival of your website.
We were unable to handle the matter ourselves and then our host claimed that because we shared server space with other of their customer, our account posed risk to theirs.
They offered no quarantine.
Only a several hundred dollars a month viral scanning solution which they could not guarantee would work.
When we informed them that we were unable to pay their virus scanning fee, they issue an ultimatum with a deadline.
A date was set for their deletion of our account and all associated files, unless we cleared our website of the virus.
The day arrived.
Virus still raging.
Within a blink of an eye, our host deleted all our websites held with them and years of work was lost.
We had no clean backup.
We had to start again.
We're still in the process of starting again actually.
It hurt, but we have learned so much more since then that I'd say it was worth the lesson.
4. Site folders & files
This is where the instructional and functional material belonging unto a website sits.
Everything code wise is included in this pile.
This is an important cache.
This will most likely be a combination of proprietary and licensed instruction.
Theses folders are kept on the web host's machines called servers.
Getting ready access to files is important for any upgrading or functional changes to take place.
FTP (file transfer protocol) is the method most web designers will use to access this area.
It's always useful to have the FTP client login credentials to hand.
Most website these days are web applications.
They are used to perform tasks.
They receive, compute and pass on information or data for various reasons.
They help businesses do what they do better.
Because of this they receive, store & process a lot of data in various formats.
Web hosts hold this data typically in SQL format for many websites.
Ownership of this data legally is the account holder's (so long as the terms and conditions of their contract are upheld).
6. Associated web services
Use of web services like email ending with your business domain name, rather than Gmail or Hotmail, are related assets to ownership.
They are hosting services which are available to the owner of the hosting account.
It that is you, then full control of them is yours.
Otherwise, this is just another step in the chain of command that needs enacting for something needful to happen.
7. Code (custom or otherwise)
This is what makes your website tick.
The languages which govern function.
The code is a combination of custom written and licensed.
Open source code is free.
Proprietary code is available for restricted use by permission only (once licensed the code sits on the web host server in the relevant folder for use).
For updating the source code, access to the host folders is required - either directly or indirectly via CMS dashboards.
Ownership therefore with web code is two-fold:
- Open source or proprietary
- Web host ownership
8. 3rd party services e.g. Google Analytics & Webmasters
In order to get the best out of your website's reach and business performance via search engines like Google you might want to insert tracking code.
These snippets are routinely inserted by web developers into the header portion of pages to connect your website to Googles tracking software.
To effect this you'll need access, if not permission to access, the header code of your business's website.
This can either be accessed indirectly via a content management system or directly via the web host folders.
Ownership or at least permission to access the web host folders (directly or indirectly) is critical to performing this task.
Failing this, the finer detail about the traffic generated by your website via search engines will be shrouded in mystery.
9. Content management system (CMS), or other platform
Content management systems do "...just what it says on the tin."
They help website owners manage their content.
Add, subtract, change, delete - they can do it all at the click of a button, with ease. Many functions can be performed without coding.
Content management systems can be proprietary or open source.
Open source ones have the source code revealed for free in the public domain and are open to interpretation by web developers.
Proprietary content management systems are owned and shielded by owners who legally license it for use.
Whoever has access to the content management system is able to change the website content to varying degrees.
Specific user roles can be assigned to grant appropriate rights of access.
10. Applications (licensed or owned)
Applications perform specific tasks, fulfilling specific business purposes.
Web applications are custom made tools inserted within your business' website which add significant value to the web user experience.
Problem solving is what applications are developed to achieve.
Helping customers along with their challenges prior to purchase.
They are often used by businesses as market leading USPs which set them apart from peers online.
Web applications are custom coded projects and therefore have authors, but also are hosted on business websites.
This makes ownership 2-dimensional.
The assignment of intellectual property, unless explicitly transferred in the process of a contractual arrangement would otherwise remain with the author.
If the author holds the rights, then any changes, transfer or amendments to the code would only be permitted if authorised by the original programmer.
Written copy is the property of the author, unless ownership is transferred to the host or web publication owner by way of contractual agreement.
Web copy ought to be protected against plagiarism - services like Copyscape offer such protection.
Duplicate copy found online by search engines gets penalised. This is no secret.
Where you have produced or procured original written copy for your website, it is critical that you protect its use.
Whilst Google and other search engines have a state stamped approach to copy to ascertain its origin, you still want to proactively defend against scraping.
12. Branded graphics
Bespoke branded graphics substantially up the quality of a web presentation.
Where the core content of a website is of a high quality, you will want your business identity to directly benefit by way of association from such investment.
Leaving a lasting impression on web visitors is critical to ensuring your brand equity increases.
The more quality customer touchpoints linked to your brand, the greater the ROI.
This correlation should be entirely unmistakable.
That way every pound of investment in quality communication is intrinsically linked with your business.
The aim is to align your brand as becoming recognised as the standard of quality within its field.
13. Images, video or other media (licensed or owned)
The illustrative value of high quality photos, images and other digital media in the process of business storytelling is huge.
A keen eye for good quality, tasteful accents to the main thread of your contextual webpage dialogue is critical to establishing a solid online brand identity.
Images produced in-house are yours for keeps.
However, if any element of licensed imagery is integrated into your website whether untouched or augmented, you will need to seek permission from the owner or originator.
14. User-generated content (comments, guest posts, enquiries etc...)
Users by definition derive value from the website they use.
As a webmaster, or owner of your own website, you will want to encourage user engagement.
Getting users familiar with your content is a skill in itself.
But eliciting user generated content is a further fruit.
Persuading your website's users to contribute to existing content can greatly augment the value on offer to your readership.
This is an ideal goal for website owners, who by way of hosting the conversation become the owners of (acquire) market leading resources developed and written by users.
The copyright and control of said user generated content is under ownership of your the website owner.
Websites such as Quora aggregate the conversations had between their users.
In doing this they procure great commercial benefit for their owners.
Owning a large share of online conversations and traffic.
Such user generated content is search engine crawl-able and therefore visible in the rankings and results.
This increases your website online content footprint everytime a user chooses to add a valuable contribution.
These user additions to content are typically sent via your content management system to your SQL database.
Therefore ownership of these functions underpins ownership of such content.
15. On-site SEO
Meta tagging, descriptions, titles, keyword densities, etc. are all integral components of your website.
They directly impact it's ability to appear prominently in the search engine rankings.
Such information is stored within your SQL database and controlled however via your content management system admin dashboard.
Specialist plugin software like Yoast SEO are admin management interfaces for such onsite SEO factors.
If you have suitable access to the admin dashboard of your website CMS, then you can control the settings.
Ultimately, ownership of the site's files via the hosting account is the foundation access.
Backlinks are the primary indicator and influencer by which search engines like Google decide and judge their search rankings.
Brand mentions are also an indicator of ranking order, although of lesser prominence.
Both of these search ranking indicators, or online marking assets, can be found on website other than your own.
Therefore they are, by definition, owned by and controlled by the owners of other websites.
Backlinks are linked to one specific webpage destination.
The owner of the destination web page/web site is the beneficiary of that digital recommendation.
As webmasters and website owners, the more external recommendations (i.e. backlinks and brand mentions) you generate, the greater popularity of your website.
Also the higher your search engine rankings.
It is advised that you build as many relationships as can provide your website the leading edge in visibility which you desire online.
Build a database of corresponding webmasters at the website which host your backlinks for admin purposes.
17. Search Rankings
The positioning of your web pages throughout the search engine rankings is directly related to your respective page URLs.
As is popular knowledge, positioning in the search engine rankings is a major determinant of online visitor footfall.
The website owner is the leaseholder to the search engine's freehold in search ranking terms.
Google and others own the real estate and rent it out on it's own terms to a freeholder who acquires the pleasure of occupying at particular location.
As long as the leaseholder upholds the terms within a valid agreement and they hold the keys - they have the enjoyment of occupation.
The freeholder however is the legal owner and has the controls at their fingertips.
18. Sale Pipelines
A sales pipleline is commercial gold dust.
The stuff that prospectors will search far and wide to amass.
With a firm handle on conversion rate, a business like yours will know on average how many pipeline opportunities of a given quality will equate to sales revenue.
Sometimes a sales pipeline is gathered using in-built website software.
Where this is the case, such pipeline management software is a repository for collating user generated enquiries & form submissions.
The owner of the website which hosts the sales pipeline, by virtue of that fact, is both the owner and controller of the same sales pipeline.
19. Marketing Automation
Marketing automation is software that maintains digital communications with known contacts automatically.
A modern marketer's autopilot, if you will.
It operates by a chain of digitally automated events, finely sequenced for the purpose of nurturing customers & prospects into sales.
It uses remote communication such as emails, SMS messages etc. to get the job done.
Such well timed and programmed automatic marketing campaigns sit within the folders of the corresponding website's hosting.
If they are held on a 3rd party website, then the campaign author (or customer) does not own the content, although temporarily being able to access and control their campaign detail.
However, all it would take is a missed subscription payment and what you otherwise thought was your campaign, could be lost.
This wouldn't be the case if you self-hosted this automation activity.
20. Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)
Conversion rate optimization comprises the visual arrangements, cues, call-to-actions & web applications that are responsible for converting web visitors into prospects, leads or customers.
To own or control the CRO of your website you will need ownership and access...
...both to the CMS admin dashboard (with appropriate privileges), alongside hosting access.
Do you have any more to add to the issue of website ownership?
Do you disagreed with something?
Feel free to comment below.