Could Your Web Marketing Be Hijacked?

Jonathan Fashbaugh | April 21, 2015

There are several practices in the Internet marketing world—held as standard procedure for many companies—that are not in the best interests of unsuspecting dentists. In most cases, these techniques only come to light when the dentist wants to make a change and move to another Internet marketing company. Without exception, the outcome in these scenarios is a loss for the dentist.

Proprietary Tactics

Many SEO companies say that they use propriety tactics to position your website. This sounds very intriguing, and it may be that they have tactics they use that they don’t want to disclose to the rest of the world. However, when it comes to on-page SEO (the modification of the code of your website to help improve its chances of ranking for various keywords), the SEO work is there for the entire world to see. It has to be publicly available in order for Google to see it.

If the company insists that removing their SEO is part of their standard practices when a client leaves them, what they’re doing is removing a portion of the work that you’ve paid for. If you knew this going into the relationship, that’s one thing, but it’s frequently a surprise to dentists who sign on with these companies.

Even if you signed a contract that includes this stipulation, it still feels like a spiteful practice. You wouldn’t hire a company to mow your property if failing to hire them the next go ‘round meant that they had the right to come back and dump the grass clippings from the previous job on your lawn. The practice robs the dentist, and it makes no sense for the SEO company either, because they have to do extra work for a parting client to remove the on-page SEO.

One could argue that the only reason a dentist would switch SEO companies is if the current SEO wasn’t working, but the on-page SEO may not be to blame for the lack of ranking success. Why waste time, money, and momentum on having the next SEO company start from a blank slate? There may be valuable information and time-savings to gain from analyzing and improving upon the existing SEO, especially when you combine this analysis with traffic and ranking data.

Locked Down Traffic Data Due to Privacy Concerns

Many dentists have switched web companies multiple times since the launch of their first website. Somewhere along the way, they’ve almost certainly lost some of their historical traffic data. This can happen for multiple reasons. The most common reason used to be that the web company was paying for a license of a traffic analysis program hosted on their server. When the dentist left the company, the web company would shut down access to the program that they were paying for and the data was usually a complete loss.

Then came the advent of Google Analytics. Many web companies made the switch to this free, powerful analysis tool, but still housed all of their client data under a central account. They were able to provide clients access to this data via permissions settings, but didn’t help the client set up his or her own Google Analytics account, which could have housed the tracking data that could then be shared with the web company. Unfortunately, most web companies fail to take this extra step.

When a dentist wants to leave the web company, at best he has the ability to share the access to the data with his new web company, but does not have ultimate administrative rights to the account since it is a Property housed under a central Google Analytics Account, and the dentist only has rights to the Property—not the Account.

The web company tells the dentist, “Sorry, we can’t provide you with access to the account because then you’d have access to all of our dentists’ data.” This is true, but it’s not your fault as the dentist that the web company couldn’t conceive of the idea that you might not be working together forever.

The situation comes to a head when someone at the web company cleans up their Google Analytics account and, knowingly or unknowingly, decides, “We don’t work with that doctor anymore. I’m going to delete this Property from our Account.” When they do this, you lose your historical traffic information and there’s nothing you can do except start over with a new Google Analytics account of your own. The loss of the historical information means you have no idea of whether or not the coming months are better, worse, or about the same as the same month last year.

Loss of Report Access

Another area of data loss is in the overall campaign reporting sent to you from your SEO company. Most SEO/web companies send their clients a report of some kind. If this report is sent to you in some sort of file format that you can store on your computer, you’re naturally protected from data loss to a certain extent because you have a copy of the reports.

However, if the company only provides you with a login to an online reporting platform that they pay for or have built themselves, there is a danger that switching companies will mean that you lose all of your access to past reports. Online access is fast, convenient, and powerful, but an online system can be a liability if you’re not careful to export your data when it comes times to part ways.

In some cases, companies may even refuse to export the data from their proprietary systems. In these scenarios, all you can really do is try to copy and paste as much of the data as you can into files on your computer. It’s a low-tech solution, but at least you have something to show for the months or years of paying for indirect access to your own data.

Website Ownership

Most dentists have learned through personal experience or colleague horror stories about the problem of ownership when it comes to building a practice website, so I won’t spend a lot of time on this. If you don’t own the rights to your website’s design and content, you’re essentially leasing your website. Depending upon your marketing goals, you may be fine with this. After all, website design trends are constantly changing, so if you don’t need a strikingly unique design to stand out from your competitors, then what’s the harm in using a fabulous design that happens to belong to the company who built your website?

If your only goal from a search engine positioning standpoint is to have something that comes up when someone Googles your name, then you don’t even need to have unique content.

However, if you practice in a competitive market and need long-term success on the search engines beyond searches for your name or practice name, then it’s not a good idea to spend money building momentum behind a website that you don’t own. Doing so means that if your current SEO/web company doesn’t work out, you’re essentially starting from scratch when you start with the next company. The only thing worse than not owning your website is not owning or controlling your domain name.

Domain Name Pains

If you had no web presence before you launched your first website, it’s entirely possible that the company that built your website also registered your domain name (the thing people type in to get to your website) and that this company actually owns it. This means that they have complete control of your website’s future.

Keep in mind that you may or may not own your website’s files, but they still have to be tied to some sort of domain name to be seen on the World Wide Web. If that domain name is controlled by another company, then they have the power to turn it off or point that domain at another website in the future. They can demand anything from you that they want to, and you’ll have little recourse but to either give the company what they want or start from scratch with another domain that you register.

If you do start over, any clout that you built behind your old domain will be lost. Worse yet, the company controlling that domain can reassign this SEO clout to a competing dentist.

The companies that use this tactic don’t usually make outrageous demands if you want to part ways with them, but they do ask for an additional payment if you want to take your domain with you. It’s typically only a matter of a few hundred dollars, but it can be thousands.

Jumping Through Hoops Can Bite You in the End

You can temporarily avoid some of the downfalls of these web marketing hostage situations by way of some workarounds, but this is a dangerous game to play. For example, let’s consider one of my dental practices whose domain was registered by a one-time patient years ago.

We’ve approached the gentleman a couple times about moving the domain into an account owned by the dentist, but he insists that he needs to keep it in his account for “safe keeping.” This guy doesn’t trust me. I’ve explained that we want to move it into an account owned by the dentist, but he insists that it’s safer if he maintains control.

What happens if this guy’s company goes bust or his server that points the domain at the dentist’s website dies? What if this guy fails to renew the domain name? The dentist will pay the price in the form of down time. And the longer we wait to rectify this situation, the more the dentist has to lose because we’re constantly building momentum behind his website. It’s a ticking time bomb that we simply haven’t defused because it’s easier for the dentist to avoid conflict with this guy who’s not even a patient anymore.

We can look at this scenario objectively and shake your head at how pointless this workaround is. Be sure to take a hard look at how you have things set up and make sure that you are protected from having your web marketing hijacked at some point in the future.


About the Author

Jonathan Fashbaugh has been working with dentists on their marketing for 10 years. He is the president of Pro Impressions Marketing Group, holding a degree in Digital Media Arts from Full Sail University. He has written many articles about website design and search engine optimization. He has also taught Internet marketing courses at the Las Vegas Institute for Advanced Dental Studies. You can learn more about Jonathan and Pro Impressions at

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