How to take (or retake) control of your website

If you’re going to invest your time and money into a single marketing tool, your website is the place. Whether someone on your team manages it, an outside agency keeps it regularly updated and fresh, or it’s something you tackle when you have free time, it’s critical to make sure your website serves your needs—and, most importantly, serves the needs of your customers.

Here’s the deal—as small business owners we often power through (or struggle through) getting our website up. Then, after it’s launched, we breathe a sigh of relief and quickly refocus on other tasks. Those thousands of other things that have to get done as we start the business or work to keep it moving shove the website right out of our minds.

Then your website goes down. Or you need to make an update to your messaging or, more crucially, a crisis hits, and you realize that you have no idea how to make the necessary changes on your best customer service resource.

There you are, ready with the exact changes you want made, and you can’t find (or never knew) the log-on or password information.  After a frantic search, you can’t find the email, you learn the website firm who did it is no longer in business, or the neighbor’s nephew who built the site has changed careers.

Now, the hard truth: as a small business owner, you need to have full control of your hosting and domain accounts. It doesn’t matter that websites may not be your thing. Do not give away sole control of your most important sales tool to someone else.

This control starts with identifying and gaining access to your domain (the URL for your website, i.e. 3foldcomm.com) and the website host (this is where your domain points and where your website files are stored.

Make sure you know:

  1. Where your domain name is registered and how to login to manage it.
  2. Where your website is hosted and how to login to manage it.

You can use the Whois database to see where it was registered and who is the contact for it. A couple warnings, if it was registered for privacy, you may not get much information. Also, the contact may be outdated. Either way, it’s a place to start.

Some key information you can get from a Whois search:
  • The listed “Registrar” is the domain provider. This is not necessarily your hosting provider.
  • The “Registrant” is the person or company who registered the domain. Sometimes this could be you, sometimes this will be your designer.
  • The “Admin” is who is registered as the main administrator for the domain name. Sometimes this could be you, sometimes this will be your designer.
  • The “Name Server” is where the DNS for your domain is managed. DNS is a list of instructions that tell you domain what to do—point to your web host, set up and point sub-domains, point to your email server, etc. This will sometimes be with your domain provider but it can also be somewhere else (usually set up for additional security or website speed services).

If you can find your login information, store it in a safe place that you can easily access as needed. If you can’t find it, start with the Whois, try contacting the person who registered or set up your domain/hosting, or contact the domain/hosting provider and see what steps they can help you take to reclaim access.

Don’t risk alienating your clients or customers with an outdated site.

This information gives you power. You can update your site yourself; you can enlist assistance without hassle; and you can even change providers to save money or improve service.