Recently I have been helping new customers switch from other providers or website hosting companies. Sometimes the way clients are held hostage is frustrating and unethical.
Just the mere thought of switching SEO or marketing companies can be a bit dreadful. If you’re not tech savvy it can seem like a daunting task especially considering there can be downtime if you don’t make the switch smoothly. Website downtime can hurt your business and if it’s not done correctly the results can be dramatically worse.
Since this is such an important decision for attorneys to make, I have compiled this list of questions to ask before switching SEO Companies along with some reasons as to why you should be concerned.
1. What is your cancellation period?
Over the past year we have been working on migrating a lot of Findlaw customers from their platform to a WordPress based platform. Usually by the time they’re ready to jump ship they want out in a hurry. But not so fast! While almost every company will have a cancellation period in their contract, the Findlaw terms of service typically indicate that you need to provide a 90 day written notice before cancellation.
That’s just one example. Keep in mind that if you’re switching to a new company you should expect something a little less, maybe around 30 days. This is up to you, but be prepared to wait if your contract says so.
2. Will I Own My Website?
Did your SEO Company build your website? About twice a week I hear a story where a law firm is ready to jump ship with their provider only to learn that they don’t even own their website design. In 2015 I can’t think of a good reason why you shouldn’t own your own website outright. This is usually a red flag if you see this as the only on-going costs for just having a website are typically website hosting ($5-$100 depending on your server hosting) and your domain name registration ($15 a year or less). If you wan’t to leave the company you’re with but don’t have a website you could be in a bad position. It’s important to plan properly for these situations.
3. Is My Website Linked To A Proprietary Content Management System?
If you’re switching providers and you’re not staying on the same platform you can expect some back end changes. Some lawyer SEO companies like Scorpion Design and Findlaw use proprietary back end systems. This is not a problem unless you’re switching your website away from them as you won’t have the same back end login and access your’e used to.
This is another reason why we advocate WordPress. If you have a WordPress website hosted with one company you can easily move that to another provider. The software stays the same and you’ve learned something you can keep using.
4. Can I Host My Website Anywhere?
This one is more of a personal preference for me. While we do host some of our clients websites we typically recommend a hosting provider other than us that they use. The hosting is where your website resides on the internet. We like to make sure our clients own this and always have access to it, no matter what. Giving up control of your hosting makes situations more difficult if relationships go sour.
5. Is Your Email With Your Current SEO Company?
How do you check your email? Do you pay for a service like Google Apps or was it just setup by whoever setup your website? Before making the leap to your new company make sure to ask about your current email situation. If you’re not sure how it’s setup a quick MX record check will show you where your email is likely hosted.
Make sure your new company knows about the email you use. If you end up switching your email as well it’s good to coordinate this with your IT person.
6. Do I Own My Domain Name?
A domain name is your www web address like www.JurisDigital.com. In some cases your current provider may own your domain name. It’s important that you always OWN and have control of this. If you work on building a brand it’s difficult to switch domain names and in some cases it’s very expensive to buy it back.
Always own your law firm’s brand and own your domain name. You can register one at GoDaddy for about $12 a year.
7. Can I Keep My Current Website Design?
There are really two parts to this question. Not only should you find out if you can keep your current website design, you should really ask yourself “Should I Keep This Design?”? First off, if you’re switching CMS’s like I mentioned above it can require a lot of extra work to turn your current design into the same looking design on a new CMS like WordPress. So before you take up the effort you need to ask yourself if you should.
What do I mean by this? I see a lot of websites and while sometimes clients are happy with the look and feel of them it’s important that you make a data driven decision. If your website is not converting, do you really want to keep it? If there are better changes that can be added like adding trust signals more prominently, wouldn’t it make sense to change if it’s going to result in more contacts?
Each situation is different so it’s important to talk to an expert about this.
8. Do You Own Your Content, or Are You Leasing It?
Another very frustrating practice by unethical companies is that they lease content and in some cases duplicate content. You should own your content once it’s on your website as it’s an asset for you. Make sure to ask if you own the content if you’re not sure.
9. Do You Provide Google Analytics Access? Webmaster Tools Access?
This is a basic question but an important one. Sometimes companies use proprietary analytics software to track website visitors and their behavior. While this is fine you should find out if you will still have access to that data before you leave or whether or not you can take it with you.
Even if a company is using a proprietary system you should ask to have Google Analytics installed where you can have the data reviewed or audited as necessary. Also, Google Webmaster Tools tracks a lot of important data like the health of your website and whether or not you have a manual penalty. It’s a good idea to get setup on email alerts so you’re always aware of your websites health.
Switching Providers Sounds Complicated, But It’s Really Not
With the items I outlined above you might be scared to switch a website, but don’t be. If you hire experienced professionals you don’t have anything to worry about. At the same time it’s important to be educated on these issues to prevent any possible issues in the future. If you’re looking to give another SEO company a shot at your website make sure you vet them first.
If you’ve had a horror story or an issue moving providers before I would love to hear about it in the comments below.
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