ECommerce Best Practices for Small Business Website Owners: Maintain Control

Would you give your banking password to your grocer? Or your car keys to your drycleaner? Probably not. In the realm of internet operations, however, it is often necessary to provide key information and credentials to third parties so that they can assist you with your business goals. If you are building, upgrading, marketing or analyzing an online enterprise, you might consult a firm like ours. Or you might even decide to build your own new web site and see what happens from there. In any case, there’s a good chance that one or more other people are going to end up with access to your account(s). You can be successful and avoid headaches as a customer or client by following e-commerce best practices.

Understand the Components of Your Web Site

There are two core components to any web site on the internet. There is the domain (the web address – i.e. www.widgets.com), and there is the web hosting (online storage area for the content of the site). Depending on how you go about purchasing these, you may have anywhere from one to several accounts associated with this one web site. The most efficient way to launch a site is to purchase your domain and your hosting from the same party and therefore be able to manage them all in one place online or via one customer service phone number. But, what if you buy the domain long before you know what you will do with it and therefore have no hosting, and then decide to host somewhere other than where you bought the domain because of price or other lure? We had a client recently who actually had 3 different logins associated with one domain because she had purchased the domain through a reselling service. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing to do, but it resulted in her having login information for the reseller’s access point as well as the original registrar’s access point. These were in addition to her web hosting account which had separate login credentials. Email had yet its own set of login information….. you can see how this gets complicated.

So, for a basic web site with an associated email address you will have your DOMAIN, your HOSTING and your EMAIL. It’s not a bad idea to have all of these in one spot. There are lots of options available to facilitate this. We like GoDaddy and Rackspace for their economy, options, and customer service.

On top of these things, if you are really analyzing what is happening with your web site using Web Analytics and/or paying for advertising via search engines such as Google AdWords or Bing Shopping, guess what that means? More account logins. [Side note: we use and recommend an amazing, free resource called KeePass to manage all of these various logins].

Give Access – Not Control

Let’s say you decide to call on subject matter experts. Whether you want these experts to build your site, revamp it, analyze it, or market it, you’re going to have to fork over some login credentials for some or all of the aforementioned accounts. If you’ve done your homework on the folks you’ve hired, this shouldn’t be a big problem. We highly recommend, however, that you don’t simply turn over your keys to the kingdom. This isn’t because we assume these folks are going to fail you. It’s because sometimes unforeseen failures happen. If you put all of your eggs in one basket and that basket moves to Kansas, then what? What if said person/firm takes ill and can’t serve you anymore? What if they go out of business? Things happen… don’t let them happen to you. The risk of being left without access to your own accounts can be eliminated by taking some simple steps.

(1) Use reputable service providers for your domain and hosting.
Research the ones you are interested to get a feel for how long they’ve been around, how good their customer service is, and how reliable they are. This might help you avoid being stuck with a hosting service that goes out of business or decides to stop answering your calls, as happened to our client referenced above.

(2) Do not give away your own login credentials to any of your accounts. Rather, grant access to your accounts for the individuals who need it. The procedure for this varies by the different domain registrars and hosting services but most have straightforward instructions online. (I’d even go so far as to say don’t use a service that doesn’t have this sort of info readily available).

(3) Make sure that YOU or your business is listed as the REGISTRANT for your domain name. This is a failsafe that will allow you to communicate with your registrar and get back into your account should there be any mishaps. If possible, do not allow anyone access to the settings for your domain registration. This, however, is frequently necessary so just make sure you really trust anyone who is allowed to access these settings.

 

(4) Take a walk around your own accounts. Understand the components and interface. Know where information is and WHAT it is. This will be time well spent if you’re a hands off person who finds yourself thrown into the mix without help down the road. Specifically, make sure you have owner/admin access to the following:

-Your domain registrar (the website where you registered your domain)
-Your hosting provider (the service that hosts your site)
-Your email administration portal
-Your web analytics accounts (e.g. Google Analytics)
-Your Google Adwords and Bing Shopping/merchant accounts
-Your Google and Bing Web Master tools accounts

If you don’t know what these are, make sure you take time to learn about them

(5) Stay engaged and accessible during work by a third party. Know what your web developer/designer/marker/SEO are doing in YOUR electronic universe. Ask questions if you have them and stay engaged. This is not only in your best interest but will enable those third parties to better serve you…. and will also help you see any potential derailments before they occur.

 

What To Do If Your Basket Moves To Kansas

So you didn’t see this post before your world spiraled out of control? Fear not. You can recover. And in so doing you will be sufficiently aggravated as to make sure this doesn’t happen to you again. Let’s say you’ve lost access to the account(s) you need in order to run your web presence. Here’s what you do:

(1) Remember that you are the owner of your domain, site and other related accounts. When you’re trying to get help logging in, approach the situation with courtesy – but with authority. You can verify your identity and you are paying for service. So let the service provider(s) do what they’ve promised they would do. You are the customer. Note: You can even get assistance from Google and Bing for getting back into such things as Google Analytics and AdWords. The process isn’t painless but you can do it!

 

(2) Be persistent. It might take quite a few emails or phone calls to get back into your domain and/or hosting accounts. Keep asking until you get results.

 

(3) Consider changing service providers. If the failure happened as a result of the actions of the actual service provider (as with the reseller that our client above was using), find a better service. Your domain can be transferred. Your site can be moved. These things may be irritating to take on but if they leave you with better service afterward, it’s worth it.

 

(4) Once you have regained the keys to the kingdom, guard them carefully. Refer back to number 2 above here. Keep master access for your accounts to YOURSELF.

 

Sometimes hard learned lessons are the most valuable. Just remember, you started with a vision in mind. No one can disrupt that vision without your consent. If you have questions or think we can assist you, drop us a line.

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