By the end of this article, you’ll be able to do at least two things.
One, be able to drop some brainy geek terms about dental website ownership at your next cocktail party (probably won’t happen).
Two, save yourself approximately 73.5 hours of headaches and thousands of dollars because you dodged some of the biggest mistakes regarding website ownership.
Dental website ownership is a super tricky subject. There are parts of your website that you own and others that you do not own. Before you head out to spend your hard-earned cash on a new dental website or upgrade your current website, knowing the difference between what you own and what you control will make all the difference.
The parts of a dental website that you DO NOT own
If someone says you have absolute ownership of your website, it’s misleading. Ownership implies that it’s yours forever, but that is not the case with the following items:
You DO NOT own your domain name
In the process of building a dental website, you choose a unique domain name that acts as your website’s online address.
Domain names are a lot like phone numbers. When you first established your dental practice phone service, your service provider gave you a number. You might have that phone number forever, and no one else can use it as long as you have it.
However, if you don’t pay your bill or switch to another number, the provider can reassign your number to someone else. You never own your phone number. Essentially you’re renting or leasing your phone number.
A domain name is similar. It’s only yours as long as you pay for it. You can’t buy it outright.
The right way to buy a domain name
Set up a personal account and purchase a domain name through a domain name registrar. The five largest registrars are:
Once you’ve set up an account and decide on a domain, you pay for annual or multi-year ownership of the domain name. As long as you pay your bill, you control the domain.
Don’t ever do this with your domain!
DO NOT move your domain or allow your domain to be transferred into someone else’s account. If someone needs access to your domain, you can give them access without moving it into another account.
Why do you want to keep your domain in your personal account?
Whoever owns the account where the domain name is located has near-absolute control of the domain.
Ask yourself what would happen if the relationship between you and the website company you’ve hired goes south and they have your domain in their account? There is the potential that they could hold the domain hostage.
Obviously, this won’t happen with most dental website design companies. The dental industry is small; everyone talks, and tales of bad business ethics travel quickly.
But that doesn’t stop it from happening. I’ve spoken with dentists whose domain name was held ransom for thousands of dollars, which is ridiculous when considering that domains only cost about $20 a year.
You DO NOT own your hosting
If you want to be found by patients online, you have to have dental website hosting set up.
Hosting is similar to paying a company like Verizon for your mobile service. You can purchase your phone, and you can have a phone number, but without paying for cell service, the phone doesn’t do you much good.
A website hosting company puts your website files on one of their servers, and their job is to ensure that it’s always working correctly. Reliable hosting is necessary so that if anyone, any time of the day, clicks to your website, the files on their server display your website quickly and correctly.
You can host your website yourself, but it’s not worth it
You can set up your own hosting by purchasing a server. But you’re in for a potential disaster because servers can go down and they require 24/7 upkeep.
The potential problems of hosting your website are not worth the few hundred dollars you’ll pay for hosting each year, which is why almost no one does their own website hosting.
You DO NOT own your content management service (CMS)
A content management system (CMS) is the software or platform used to build your website.
CMS systems help web designers create websites quickly with improved functionality. They are incredibly complicated. Almost every website design company uses one or more CMS platforms to build websites.
Here are the top five CMS platforms and their market share:
Ownership of the CMS is not necessary, but the type of CMS used to build your site is important.
Open-source CMS software like WordPress and Joomla are very flexible and depending on which website designer you use you have the ability to own all of your assets including your design and layout.
Closed-source CMS software like Wix and Squarespace have drag and drop builder functionality are easy to build in but you have less flexibility and options.
Dental website items you CAN own
Whether you’re building your website using a service like Wix or Squarespace; or hiring a website designer using WordPress or Joomla; find out if you have ownership over the following assets.
You CAN own custom images and copy
You should always own custom images and custom copywriting. If the marketing company you hire creates them for you, you may not retain rights to them so make sure to ask. If you’re building your website using Wix or Squarespace and using their library of images, you most likely won’t own them, but make sure to ask.
You CAN own your design and layout
If you’re building your site using Wix or Squarespace, you probably won’t own the design. If you’re hiring a website design company to build your site for you, ask if the visual elements will be yours to keep if you move your website to a different provider.
You CAN own your website code
Owning the code is one of the main reasons to build your website on WordPress or another open-source CMS platform. Make sure to ask your website design company if you own the website code. The benefit being if you decide to change your website hosting or support, you can download the code and give it to your new provider, and voila, you’ve kept your awesome website design intact.
Who has control of your dental website?
One of the biggest frustrations I hear from dentists is that after having paid for a website, the website company disappears or doesn’t answer the phone. Lame!
Access to the site’s admin can be highly complicated if you can’t get a hold of the website provider. Now the dental practice has nowhere to turn for updates and changes to their site.
Another horrible situation is when you’re unhappy with your current website provider and find out that you do not have control of any of the assets. Some companies force you to pay a fee to gain ownership or you lose everything.
All of the time and effort you’ve spent is now gone. Once you find a new provider, you’ll be required to pay another setup and design fee. A costly situation that doesn’t need to happen.
I’ve spoken with dozens of dentists who think that they own their site but are actually leasing or renting the site and have little to no control.
You’ll never own everything in regard to your website, but your decision to use a website builder like Wix, hire a marketing company that uses a private closed-source CMS, or work with a design company that allows you to keep control or all assets; will be a big part of which direction you end up going.
Never pay for dental website design again!
The simplest way to never pay someone for website design again is to build it yourself using a closed-source system like Wix or Squarespace.
If building your own website is not your gig, then you’ll want to find a dental website company that gives you ownership of everything and builds on an open-source CMS like WordPress.
If this is the direction you go you can make edits and changes over time. You’ll want to, update your website with custom graphics, improve your about me and team page, write blog articles, add service pages or even change the layout.
Our final words on dental website ownership
Don’t pay for a new website design when switching providers. Once you understand the logistics of website ownership and control, you’ll know that you can build a site that will last as long as you’re in business.
About the author
Adrian Lefler is a dental marketing expert and a key member of the dental marketing team at My Social Practice. My Social Practice is located in Salt Lake City, Utah. Adrian is passionate about helping dental practices grow through transparent and effective dental marketing services. If you have any dental marketing questions, give us a call at 877-316-7516. And, don’t forget to read our Google My Business reviews.
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