I have recently heard from a number of clients and potential clients that they have been offered a ‘Local’ internet marketing package for only £299+VAT including a targeted domain name like ‘hairdressers-york.co.uk’.

All sounds pretty good at first glance, everyone is going on about having a local strategy for internet marketing, it’s ‘cheaper than Adwords’ and it’s all done for you. Some companies offering this will even bundle in a dedicated phone number so that they can track the leads generated.

So what’s the risk?

On the surface this all looks like a good investment and a local strategy should be an important part of any business’ online marketing. However when you get into the detail there are some serious business risks with letting someone you don’t trust do this for you and this is how you can tell.

Who owns the domain?

The first issue is that the provider of this service owns (or is buying) the domain and won’t be registered to you or your company. Which means they could sell it from under you or choose to charge you more in future and you’d have no option but to do so if you wanted to maintain the service. Read the small print or if you have already purchased a deal that sounds like this check who owns the domain at whois.domaintools.com.

Who’s branding are they using?

You may not care where your business leads come from but if the consumer can’t identify the branding as being you, then how could they tell if in future the business details have been changed. If the domain you have purchased does not identify you and you don’t own it (see above) then actually any leads generated could be easily diverted to the highest bidder. Once again, who is really in control and are you putting you business at risk?

Who owns the phone number?

Many of these services are offered by telephone or business directory providers who have cheap access to virtual phone lines, ones that divert the caller to you. The grounds for this are normally given as ‘So that we can track the leads for you’.

Of course, if you ever stop paying for the service the provider can quite easily divert the number to another business. Also consider that if a potential customer has made a record of this number rather than your standard business contact number then in future you could lose that business. You will effectively be tied in to their charges, since in order to continue receiving leads you will have to pay for their service.

What are you paying for?

Finally a domain of this type with a sensible FREE website tool will cost you a bit of time and around £50+VAT for 2 years registration fees and hosting. Why not do it yourself or ask an independent provider to help you who will make sure that any decisions are made in your interests and not those of the supplier. Chances are it won’t cost any more and you’ll not be putting your business at risk!

You may be convinced that you are buying a personalised domain, website and internet marketing solution but in reality you are buying it for the provider!

I hope this blog saves a few businesses!