Advice for SME’s Working with SEO Agencies and Web Developers

I have had the (dubious) pleasure this week of working with a couple of sites that I didn’t build and don’t host.  So I’ve come to realise a) how lucky I am that I’ve never had to deal with ‘page builders’ (oh boy do they slow sites down!!) and also b) to see a couple of common problems that can arise when site owners don’t have enough understanding of the solutions they are paying for and developers and agencies don’t take the time to explain (for whatever reason).  The result is these two gems of information which I’m sure will benefit small business owners who are buying web development or digital marketing services.

1. Own your Google Analytics data and understand how to manage access

Your business data is so important.  As a business owner you need to understand how you can share or allow access to your Google Analytics data.  Others may have a different view but my view is that the data belongs to the  business owner.  I’ve seen a few instances where agencies have set this up on a new Gmail address on behalf of the client and then grant access to the site owner.  Whilst this can get things set up fast and doesn’t require the client to have to use tech (yes this does slow things down sometimes),  I don’t think this is a great solution for anyone.  My personal view is that Google Analytics accounts need to be setup with the business owners email address (even if they are not tech-savvy because these days it’s easy enough to walk someone through the steps via TeamViewer or similar).

Why is this data useful? Digital marketers use analytics data to measure the success or failure of marketing strategies, to compare past and present metrics and to ensure your marketing is budget efficient.  The process is 1) Set up a Google Analytics account 2) Add some tracking code to the website 3) Verify in Google Analytics 4) Grant access to those who will be managing your digital marketing.  Think carefully about who has the right to add or remove users when you do this.  One of the sites I recently took on had granted access to an SEO agency, and when they cancelled the service the agency actually removed the business owners access to their own data and deleted the Gmail account!  We managed to get access to the data again of course but this is a situation that shouldn’t happen.

Set up your Google Analytics Account here (Click ‘Analytics’)

If you already have a Google Analytics account check who has access via this tutorial.

2. Understand WordPress theme and plugin licensing

I don’t use these myself during builds but for better or worse many of the lower cost solutions for websites will be built using a pre-purchased theme with a little customisation and a page builder.  Visual Composer is one I commonly see in these kind of websites.  If this is the case there may be a theme license or plugin licenses to consider.  A license gives you access to updates.  If you don’t have updates,  your site becomes vulnerable.

Sometimes the web designer will have a developer or agency license and they pop that in which is great as long as you are still working with them.  As soon as that relationship ends then you might be left with an unlicensed version that you are unable to update with no clue what to do next.

So when you are commissioning a website build with a website supplier, ask about the licensing.  Questions such as:

  • Is this a custom WordPress solution or a pre-purchased / pre-built theme?
  • Will I need to buy a license to get theme updates?
  • Will I need a developer to install updates to the theme?
  • Do I need to buy any licenses for the plugins you are using?

An agency or developer license is probably OK if you have a good relationship with your supplier and a long term service commitment.  If your web site project is just a quick build with no ongoing relationship then my view is you should consider buying the theme and plugin licenses directly and raise this point with your developer (hopefully they will already tell you this).  It’s often not possible to transfer licenses if your developer has purchased them in their own name.