Notes from the Studio

5 signs you don’t own your own WordPress website

5 signs you don’t own your own Wordpress website

It happens about once a month. I will get an emergency referral from a past client. “My friend Sophie* can’t make changes to their WordPress website, they need help ASAP.”

After talking to the referral in question I try to collect the information I need in order to access the backend of their WordPress website and I start getting a better understanding of what’s happening. 

9 times out of 10, I come to the conclusion they have signed a contract with a digital marketing agency, a developer or designer who has locked them into what I call a limited access website. It’s a website tightly managed, controlled and hosted by the vendor where the site owner who owns the business tied to the website has limited access to managing their site in the way they see fit. 

How can you tell if you own your own WordPress website?

  1. Your user is not setup as an owner/administrator. 

You know your site is setup on WordPress, and you even have a username and password but you cannot access all the features in the WordPress dashboard. That’s the first sign something’s amiss. 

The first user on a brand new WordPress setup is automatically registered as a site administrator. From there, the administrator can add additional users and set proper permissions and levels of access according to their needs. 

Regardless of your proficiency level with WordPress, you should always have access to the backend of your WordPress environment as an administrator.

  1. You don’t have access to the hosting account where the site is hosted.

The second warning sign comes when I ask for hosting access. Even if a WordPress dashboard is technically locked, access to the cPanel from the hosting side of the account can allow a developer to access and create additional user profiles inside the WordPress dashboard, or change the password to an existing account. 

It’s not super elegant, and my developer certainly doesn’t like to do it, but if there’s no way around it we can make it happen.

If you’re paying your digital marketing agency, developer or designer for your hosting month to month instead of paying a hosting company directly, odds are that you’re paying more than you should be for hosting. For many service providers, having this type of captive clients helps create a monthly passive income stream with minimal risk.

If you’re paying to have a WordPress website built for your business, you should request that the site be built in a hosting account with a vendor of your choice, that the account is paid for with your credit card and that your name and business information is the contact for the hosting account.

  1. Your email is not setup in WordPress as the emergency contact.

Do you get warnings and emails about normal backend website activity? If the emails are coming from a domain other than your own, it might mean you are not setup as the main administrative contact for your WordPress website. 

Regardless of your proficiency level with WordPress, you should always have an email address from your domain act as the main contact for your website. This will ensure you receive all alerts, and also that if there are access problems the reset emails are coming to an inbox which you have direct access to.

  1. You’re paying more than $50/month for hosting.

Hosting prices go from the very cheap (around $2.50 per month) to around $35 per month for a top of the line hosting vendor. If your hosting bill is any number above $50 per month, you might be paying for hosting plus other fees for your digital marketing agency, developer or designer to run your site for you. 

Many small business owners pay third party vendors for site maintenance. If you are in such an agreement the amount you pay for hosting should be a separate line item than the maintenance fee for the service level you’re paying for. And it should not exceed $50/month. If it does, you are probably paying for services you don’t need in your hosting.

  1. You cannot make changes to the website yourself.

You’ve paid for a third party service provider to create a website for you, but you have to pay them every time you want a change made to the site. You have not been trained to make basic adjustments to the content of your site, you cannot create new pages, update plugins or otherwise run any backend processes on your website. 

If you own your own WordPress website, you should have basic information on how to change at least the basic copy that appears on your site. Your vendor should have included a users guide outlining basic maintenance procedures, like pulling a backup, or updating plugins within the services provided when your site was built. 

Wondering if you own your own website? Contact me for a free consultation. I can help ensure that you have the access you need to help your business grow. 

Astrid M. Storey

Astrid M. Storey

Astrid Storey is originally from Panama and arrived in Denver in 2003. During the next decade-and-a-half, she’s juggled a career in a variety of creative and marketing roles while building her own studio, Storey Creative, with clients in real estate, health care, publishing, and tech.

Astrid M. Storey

Astrid M. Storey

Astrid Storey is originally from Panama and arrived in Denver in 2003. During the next two decades, she’s juggled a career in a variety of creative and marketing roles while building her own studio, Storey Creative, with clients in real estate, health care, publishing, and tech.

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