I didn’t sign up to be a webmaster
What happens if, whatever your main job is, one day you find that you’re now also responsible for managing your company’s website?
- by Peter Labrow
Website content management systems are wonderful things. They enable someone with no HTML-coding skills to manage a website just as if it were a series of word processing pages.
The upside of this is that a company can reduce its website management costs, make changes far more quickly without having to rely on external help.
The downside is that it can drop someone who’s relatively unskilled into the alien world of website management, leaving them to wrestle with unfamiliar and complex topics such as search engine optimisation, content/keyword strategies, social networking and on-line publicity.
As anyone who knows a thing or two about photography can tell you, it’s not the camera that takes the picture. You can put a great camera in the hands of a newbie, and a terrible camera in the hands of a skilled pro – and it’s the skilled pro who’ll deliver the best shots, every time. (Just look at the work of Ansel Adams; then take a look at the kit he used to take the pictures and the conditions he typically worked under.)
So, many people end up being webmasters without having the skills needed to do the job. Expectations from a website and on-line marketing are always high. When things don’t work, it’s interestingly ‘the website’ that gets the blame (“the website you built can’t be seen on the search engines” is a common one, when the truth is that the content written by the client isn’t correctly optimised, or the site isn’t being publicised on line so can’t be found).
It’s not the ‘fault’ of the person responsible for the site. I’ve been building and managing websites since the birth of the Web and believe me, I’m still learning, each and every day. There’s a lot to learn.
And looking after a website needs a wide range of skills – creative copywriting, planning and project management, editing graphics, managing and building social networks… the list goes on… and on. It’s a lot to ask, even of someone with a marketing background. (I remember back in my art college days, someone asked me if I could draw; I said sure I could – he then asked me to draw an elephant to prove it. Yes, I can draw, but not ‘anything’ and not without reference.)
It’s a common problem, and one that many companies – including several clients of mine – wrestle with. What’s worse, their competitors may not be operating in this way – they may employ experienced webmasters or search optimisers, who can understandably (but annoyingly) achieve more in less time.
It’s a problem we’ve decided to do something about.
We’re launching a series of coaching programmes, aimed specifically at people who have to look after their organisation’s website – to help provide the support and skills they need.
Essentially, we aim to coach website teams on the most essential skills they need to get the most from their website and to build their presence on line, including:
- search engine optimisation.
- website content strategies.
- website copywriting.
- social networking.
- on-line publicity.
We believe that our approach will be unique: because we’re proven practitioners, can provide the coaching as an integrated part of planning and implementing real activities, giving customers a double-whammy of consulting and training. While some of the content is delivered using the presentation/workshop approach, as much of it as possible is provided as part of creating real website marketing projects – combining experiential learning with actual marketing progress.
We’ve been piloting our approach with several clients now for over half a year, and the results have been excellent, not only in helping them do ‘the things that they do now but better’ (such as editing website content) but also helping them to ‘do new things much faster and more successfully’ (such as building a social networking strategy).
In a sense, it’s something we’ve always done – because we like to make knowledge transfer part of our website development process. Well, there’s no point in handing over a website that a client can’t then manage. But now we’ve refined and structured our approach into something that a client can buy without needing to buy a website.
As I said earlier, it’s not the camera that takes the picture – and it’s not the website (at a technical level at least) that’s going to deliver the best results. It’s what you put into it and how you promote it. Improve your skills, improve your website: we can help.