How Agencies Can Lock You In

Most agencies are legitimate but over the years we’ve seen many instances of some of them using underhand tactics to lock companies or organisations in. Here are a few ways they do it and a few tips on how to recognise and avoid them.

When you hire an external agency it’s natural to rely on their expertise and let them handle as much as possible to free you up to get on with the important tasks of running your business on a daily basis. Be careful though to retain control of the core aspects of your online and intellectual property. Dragging things through the courts can be a costly and ultimately fruitless activity and even if you win, what you get back may well be worthless by the time they’ve finished with it.

Developer Scams

This is the most common form of extortion that we see. You pay them to develop your site and to do this they have to have access to certain things but access doesn’t need to be the same as control.

First and foremost you need to own and control your domain name, all too often we see developers offer to handle everything from registration and “management” of your domain ownership. In reality, it costs a few pounds or dollars to buy your own domain and the yearly upkeep is minimal.

If you take nothing else from this article, remember this; you wouldn’t let anyone else put their name on the deeds to your property in the real world so don’t allow it to happen online. The domain name is the fundamental part of your online identity. Own it.

Domain hosting is another way developers make sure you have to rely on them. Hosting is cheap nowadays and most developers have a hosting account that will cater for multiple or even unlimited domains so they give it away for free. Which sounds nice but when you want to do anything to your site or change developers, you find that you don’t have full access to your site and, in effect, don’t even own it. So your only options are to pay the original developers or build a new web site.

SEM – Search Engine Marketing

This has various other names like PPC (pay-per-click), Google Ads, Adwords etc. Basically you pay to be at the top of the search results.

An SEM management company can work in several ways, the most basic of which is to setup a ppc account, populate it with a number of relevant keywords, set the bids/budget, charge you a fee and leave you to it. All fairly reasonable.

The problem occurs when agencies charge you a monthly fee. There’s nothing wrong with a monthly management fee if the account is being managed i.e. monitoring conversions, testing keywords, trying new keywords, A/B landing page checks, remarketing etc etc. However, if you’re being charged a fee for the privilege of spending your money and nothing else, then questions should be asked.

PPC platforms are automated. SEM management should include testing, monitoring and engagement. If all you hear off your SEM agency is a monthly bill, it’s likely there’s no actual management going on.

You should also ask yourself, if there’s no management or monitoring going on, how are you getting the best return for your PPC expenditure?

SEO Search Engine Optimisation

This is rarer than the other two but worth being aware of. SEOs don’t normally lock you in per se but there are ways they can hold you to ransom.

To do SEO properly, agencies will need access to various things like Google Search Console, Google Analytics, FTP and any Content Management System like WordPress. They may even have cause to access your host Control Panel, DNS (Domain Name Server) and Database access. If you dispense with their services, to be on the safe side, it’s worth changing ALL passwords and checking the root directory for Bing or Google verification files.

If you need help with any of this, it should be within the expertise of a professional in any of the above fields. So if you have a preferred, trusted or local developer, SEO or SEM give them a call to see if you’re vulnerable. We cover all three disciplines so give us a call if you’re stuck.



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