If you scroll through our previous blog posts, you may have noticed that they tend to be informative more than rants. Lately, though, we’ve run across a series of vexing challenges and delays getting routine, but necessary tasks done on the websites of clients. In our work, the school of hard knocks is always in session. So, I’ll get some ranting out of the way and include a few useful tips that will help those thinking of building or re-building a website avoid these issues.

As you likely know, having the ability to track conversions (desired customers actions) on your website is a key benefit of search marketing. With online ads, we can track conversions back to the keyword that triggered them. In order to track conversions, small snippets of code have to be placed in the source code of certain pages. Website analytics code and phone number substitution code (for segmenting and tracking phone calls from web traffic) go all pages. PPC conversion tracking code from Google AdWords or Microsoft AdCenter goes on specific pages that we designate as conversions. Examples of online conversions: receipt page after online purchase; thank you page after a form submission, etc.

Normally, when we work directly with an advertiser’s webmaster, we supply the snippets of code needed for their situation, and the webmaster inserts the codes without undue effort. However, lately we’ve had some clients whose website is not managed by a qualified webmaster. Instead, these websites are built on proprietary website platforms, and a surprising number of these don’t accommodate conversion tracking codes. Or the platform owner/provider has employees who don’t know what conversion tracking is, can’t follow well-written instructions, or are so overworked that they can’t get these basic requests done in reasonable time. The result: routine website tasks related to conversion tracking – ones that should take one email and a few days at most – are either not possible or end up taking weeks and dozens of emails and phone calls.

What Is A Proprietary Platform?
A proprietary platform is a way to build websites where the underlying structure is built, owned or controlled by a private entity other than you. This entity usually owns the structure and controls what and how changes can be made. In many cases, using one of these is similar to renting vs. owning your home. You have to call the landlord to ask for certain tasks to be done, and they do them if and when they want. Like a rental property, when you decide to leave, the underlying framework and structure of your website stays with the owner. This is a strategic decision for your website, and there are a lot of potential wiggles in the details. Tread carefully if you are considering one of these.

Examples of proprietary platforms can be ecommerce or shopping cart websites, template built websites, or vertical specific sites with features geared for one industry. One would think that no matter how the platform is constructed, its architect would have included provisions to get something as essential as conversion tracking codes added easily. To be fair, not all proprietary platforms have this problem. We do know of notable exceptions. However, our usual advice regarding platforms is this: unless you have a compelling reason to use a proprietary website platform, go with a an open source platform that you own –not rent– and that you and your webmaster can control. More on this below.

More Good Reasons To Use An Open Source Platform For Your Website
For most businesses that need a simple website, WordPress makes a good choice for a platform. For more complex websites, Drupal (or Joomla) would be recommended platforms. With either of these, you own the structure of your website, and you can easily get tracking codes added. You can also make changes to existing content or add pages of content yourself. When you get ready to change webmasters, it’s easier to find one who works with one of these platforms.

if you have had a related experience with this, let us hear from you.