Signing a 12 month website contract with a digital marketing agency is almost never a good idea. If you’re a small business or non-profit, you have probably been offered a “deal” on a website in exchange for signing a 12 month contract with a digital marketing agency. Typically, this contract requires that any changes, redesigns, or updates go through the agency that built your website. Sometimes, the contract also offers a payment plan that allows you to pay for your website over 12 months.
Though they may seem like a good idea at first glance, 12 month website contracts lock you into a relationship with a digital marketing agency and make it difficult for you to escape if things go south.
Reason #1 Not to Sign a 12 Month Website Contract: Don’t Get Married on the First Date
The first, and probably best, reason not to sign a 12 month website contract is that when you first start working with a web design company, you can’t be sure that they’re the best company for your long-term goals. Most good digital marketing agencies have specialties. They are better at some things than others. Most agencies aren’t experts in all aspects of digital marketing. So, if you sign a 12 month contract with one company, then find they’re not able to meet your needs over those 12 months, you’re prevented from finding a better digital marketing partner.
Building a website with a new digital marketing partner is also a messy process. They may have the best portfolio in the world, and you may be very satisfied with the site that they built for you, but are you going to feel the same 12 months from now? If you don’t, and you sign that 12 month website contract, it doesn’t matter how you feel, because you’re locked into working with that company until the contract ends.
Reason #2 Not to Sign a 12 Month Website Contract: Technology Updates and Redesigns
One of the biggest reasons we encounter small business owners and non-profit managers who are unhappy with their website is that they feel it is outdated. Chances are, they built it a while ago, sometimes years ago, and haven’t really messed with it since. A year might not seem like that much time, but in the world of technology, it is. Google constantly updates the ways it serves search results to users and makes announcements several times a year about new best practices like they did recently with the move to HTTPS.
If you’re locked into a website contract, and you need a major technology upgrade, you’d better be absolutely sure that your existing company can make all major updates seamlessly before you sign that contract. Of course, if you do sign a multi-month contract with them, and you find that they’re not able to update you to the latest website technology, you’re still stuck with them.
Reason #3 Not to Sign a 12 Month Website Contract: Maintenance, Content, and SEO
Finally, the third reason not to sign a 12 month website contract is that websites tend to grow and evolve over time. They require constant care and feeding to be successful. This includes overall maintenance of the technology the site runs on, content development and updates, and SEO. As we mentioned under reason #1: not all digital marketing agencies are made the same. You may have lucked into a great agency that can meet all your needs over the long haul, but are you absolutely sure that is the case? As your needs grow and change over time, are you absolutely sure that your current digital marketing partner is up to the challenge?
Shop Around Before Signing Any Website Contract
Don’t get us wrong: contracts are important. We require our clients to sign contracts with us for any work we do for them. We just don’t lock them into a single contract for 12 months. 12 month website contracts favor the digital marketing agency, not the client. They’re a way to prevent dissatisfied clients from shopping around for at least a year. But the best way to prevent this is to be good at what you do, not to lock clients into contracts they will later come to regret having signed.
And as a consumer, don’t you want the ability to shop around? There are lots of solid digital marketing agencies out there that do outstanding work and don’t require you to sign long-term contracts. Just make sure any contract you sign meets your needs before committing to anything you might later regret.