Roles for Managing Your Website

Who’s responsible for your company’s website? The answer is likely to be “it depends” and “several people”. This is as it should be, because there are many different skills involved in building, maintaining, and growing your website.

When talking to our clients about support for website (re)building projects, SEO, and ongoing content marketing, we break it down into three simple roles as follows:

  1. Management
    Someone has to have the overview and ownership of your website holistically. This person coordinates work among the different specialists. The overall website manager could be one of your specialists.
  2. Content
    A copywriter / editor who is responsible for controlling, arranging, publishing, and reporting on all the content in the site. This person should also have a grounding in SEO although she is not necessarily your main SEO person. In your general marketing team skills mix you will also need to make sure you have at least one person who is good at graphic design.
  3. Webmaster
    All the semi-technical and actually-technical stuff needed for a website to work, which is not actual content of the site. Typically your site will be run in WordPress or some other templated CMS, so the webmaster is not really there to build web pages – just to run the system, keep it running, and support users with the ongoing development of the site as a service and resource.

Looking at the list above, obviously the more a general marketing manager can delegate to specialists with the skills and capacity, the better. By separating out the roles like this it does become easier to get outside freelancer or agency help.

We created the following graphic to pick apart all the key skills and responsibilities needed to run a modern business website:

As you can see in the diagram (click to view full size png) we have suggested some “stakeholder interests” which are important to consider, as well as responsibilities directly “owned” by marketing. These include brand adherence, control of intellectual property and digital assets, connection with corporate IT (depending on how you host the website and manage users), and establishing / maintaining integrations with other software such as your CRM.

Design

The one major thing missing from our 3-role concept is design. It’s not one thing: for websites you will need to consider all of the following skills:

  • Conceptual and graphic web design
    Most likely you only need this kind of skillset and creativity when you are building a new site or overhauling the existing one.
  • Web design implementation in actual HTML and CSS
    Again, assuming you are in a templated CMS like WordPress, you likely only need serious amounts of work here in the form of theme design and customization, at the time of a new site build… Once you have a working site, anything on the “tweak” level falls into the scope of your webmaster.
  • Web development
    This is where you cross the line from theme design into custom coding and integration, typically involving PHP and javascript skills, if not more exciting stuff for custom web apps and plugins… Typically you will only need this kind of “dev” skillset on a project basis rather than any routine part of your website and marketing team skills mix.
  • Graphics for marketing
    You need this skillset in your team! Every marketing team needs a versatile designer for banners, photo editing, and document design; pair up your graphic designer with your copywriter to compose nice-looking web content and ensure at least one of them is capable of formatting and publishing it in your website by themselves.
  • Artistic illustration
    Consider partnering with an expert creative if you plan to create a new campaign theme, banner series, or other stand-out content that will benefit from original artwork rather than stock imagery.

SEO

Using the above three roles, we advise clients to join up work on SEO as follows:

Should you have a full time specialist working on SEO? No, not unless organic search is a high priority in your marketing strategy. Even then, it makes sense to focus on the overall content marketing strategy, and pay attention to the SEO aspect of this via periodic review of technical matters (get expert help from outside) and continuous partnership / alliance building for 3rd party content publishing (aka link building, e.g. via guest posting and content syndication).

If you need help with SEO, ask us to set up a workshop.

The Webmaster Role

“Webmaster” is neither a common job title nor a widely agreed-upon set of skills and qualifications. Put simply a competent webmaster is the person responsible for hosting, and all the bits around that for keeping a website running, performant, secure etc, i.e. the “ops” of a website even if she is not necessarily the original “dev”. If you have ever wondered how to migrate a live website from one hosting to another, or found that your website is inexplicably “down”, then you have encountered the scope of the webmaster.

Who to hire for this? Basically what you are looking for is a generalist ops and support technician with a proactive connection to your team and website goals. In other words, a distant reactive hosting support contact is not the same thing. A webmaster is someone who has ownership over technical aspects of your site and is going to be fixing and improving things “under the bonnet” and behind the scenes without being told what to do.

Most but not all website-focused web designers will be more than capable of providing webmaster support. However, if your website has been built by a designer or web design agency, even if they are hosting and supporting it, you would be advised to clarify exactly what the scope of proactive and reactive support is going to be.

Most design-focused web designers are not going to be interested in all of the necessary parts of webmaster work. As above, if your “graphics person” is also de facto your webmaster, make sure you and they are openly in agreement about what scope is and is not covered from a list of potential responsibilities..

Is webmaster work a full time role? For most businesses the answer is “no”, unless you are running a complex site, are active in ecommerce, or running several sites with the intention of changing and building on them. If the work is not enough for a full time person, then either look for a multi-talented person who can do other things in your marketing work, e.g. research, graphic design, or even copywriting… or assign this work to a freelancer or agency on a retainer / contract basis.

Free Webmaster Checklist

At Adastra we offer managed hosting of our clients’ WordPress websites: our packages include proactive maintenance and reporting, covering from some to all of the responsibilities of a webmaster depending on requirements.

We’ve open sourced our own general checklist to show the kind of things a webmaster needs to check and work on in at least a once-monthly sweep:

Download the PDF linked from the above image, or get it directly in Google Docs here: https://fntc.li/wordpress-checklist

To get help with website content, site rebuilds, or WordPress hosting and migration, contact Adastra for a friendly chat.

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