Ongoing role of a website manager

Although there is a general acceptance that a website manager is required to “make the site happen” (as in go live) there is little or no conception in many cases that there is an ongoing role there.

Many organizations and individuals simply underestimate the enormity of the job faced by website managers/owners, failing to grasp that it is an ongoing commitment. It is our job as web designers to make clients aware that running a website requires somebody to be responsible for it over the long term. Every website requires a website manager.

This lack of understand about the role of website manager probably explains why it is often a fairly unrecognized position despite the fact that the website itself is considered an important asset. Although there is a general acceptance that a website manager is required to “make the site happen” (as in go live) there is little or no conception in many cases that there is an ongoing role there.

It is almost as if there is a “build it and it will run” mentality, where the organization fails to grasp that a website manager is needed throughout the entire lifecycle of a website to ensure that it evolves and remains successful.

A good website manager need to be constantly fulfilling three roles…

  • Evaluating site objectives
  • Refining the site
  • Promoting the site

Evaluating site objectives

A website manager should be constantly evaluating the objectives of his website and asking if changes need to be made to its overall vision and direction. This kind of assessment does not need to occur on a daily basis but should be done at least every six months (more often if things in your organization move quickly).

These reviews should consider questions such as:

  • Have the underlying objectives of the website changed?
  • How is the site performing against its success criteria and do those criteria need to change?
  • What is the competition doing and how are we performing against them?
  • How has the target audience changed and what response are we getting from them in regards to the site?

Refining the site

On a more practical level the website manager should also be refining the site in response to changes in these objectives. If the success criteria for the site are not being met, then steps need to be taken to address the problem. Equally, if the competition is luring away your visitors then the site needs to be altered to encourage them back.

This continual “tweaking” of the site can manifest itself in three different ways:

  • Changes to the front end interface of the website
  • The addition, deletion and editing of written content
  • The introduction of new functionality

For example a luxury holiday booking service might respond to increased competition in the sector by adding a flight price comparison tool to the site (new functionality). A tool like that is very appealing to some users and will draw them away from the competition. Equally, they might look at adding regular reviews of existing destinations (new content) to encourage users to keep coming back. Finally, they might refine the design based on user feedback to make it easier to navigate and improve legibility (changes to design).

Responding to user feedback is often the best way of refining the website, which is why ongoing usability testing, polling and analysis of site stats is so important.

Site promotion

Although it is possible to get online marketing specialists to help with the promotion of a website I have seen some organizations fail to allocate budget to this task. As a result it often falls to the website manager to pick up the promotion of a site.

Site promotion needs a definite ongoing commitment. The number of visitors coming to your website will slowly decline if you do not actively promote it.

You can promote a website in a number of different ways.

  • Offline promotion – Offline promotion includes letterheads, business cards, signage, phone systems and other marketing collateral.
  • Email marketing – Email can be a powerful marketing tool to drive new traffic but also a good way of encouraging existing users to return to your website.
  • Search mechanisms – Search mechanisms are more than good placement on Google. It also includes pay per click campaigns and social networking tools.
  • Guerilla marketing – Guerilla marketing is a catchall term for lost cost marketing methods. It includes techniques like forum speeding, viral marketing, blogging and even podcasting.

Site promotion requires more than mere lip service. It needs dedicated resources (either internally or externally) on an ongoing basis. It is important to decide early in the process who is going to be responsible for this work.

  • Simon Griffiths

    Great post, and I think it should be the subject of more discussion. A lot of the point you make are quite complex and can take a good while to get right.
    I have been developing our site and tweaking it here and there for about 5 years now. The result is hopefully the most usable site amongst our competitors, but we are still learning something new every day. This can make the difference between your site working, and just not.
    My personal tools of choice are analytics to look at overall trends and how we are going in general terms, Crazy Egg to look more closely at individual pages, and Clicktale to see in more detail if Crazy Egg is showing that there may be some confusion. It’s a lot to keep track of, but well worth the effort if your serious about your site.
    As you also say don’t forget adwords. They can push traffic to your site you otherwise wouldn’t get. We finished a new site at the end of last year, based on best practise SEO principles. We waited and waited for it to start to raise up the rankings, and nothing. Since we have pushed adwords ads towards it, it is now generating enquiries, repeat visits, and as a result of the validity of its content, it is starting to finally climb up the ranking.
    My only worry about this is that I am a bit of a geek, so am quite happy in HTML and CSS these days. For those of us in marketing that aren’t, site redesigns and navigational changes can be much more of an issue. For that reason I would say that Paul is right, the best way to work with our developer is to try to get some sort of an ongoing relationship where they say allow a few hours work every month for tweaks.

  • ed89

    Good article. I actually wrote a slightly similar post a few weeks back after becoming so frustrated with clients coming back to me time and time again requesting me to do THEIR job!
    If you buy a car, you don’t expect the dealer to fill it up every time you need gas!
    …I’ve included the link below.

  • Toni

    Great Post! I agree with you entirely, we often have clients ask for features such as updateable news, blogs etc and they don’t use them (or they give up after a few weeks). It takes an incredible amount of time to blog and keep your website content fresh. Competition on the web is fierce these days and you need to keep your customers coming back so making sure there is something new and interesting to read is a good start.
    Professional web and graphic design in Bristol; Deckchair UK

  • Simon Griffiths

    I agree with Toni’s comments, and have to say that a company we work with in Italy has just had a new Joomla based site put together. This includes RSS feeds of all sorts of different things, news, products releases etc etc. The interesting bit is that they had ported over their last 5 news items from their previous website. There was one from 2007, but they stretched back to 2003!
    Site owners (and I am one) beware. I know there are lots of articles out there that say you must have a corporate blog as a marketing tool, but if you do it will take a considerable amount of time and effort to maintain. The question you should ask yourself is what are you going to put on there, how regularly and will it interest your customers anyway. For me most companies that I have been involved in do not have enough product launches or press releases to make a blog worth while. If you can get customer testimonials on specific application regularly, that would be the only thing I can image would be regularly read.

  • Sally

    Under the term “website manager” you mean webmaster, am I right? Because actually you describe webmaster’s functions.

  • Andrew Young

    I found some online marketing classes on and was wondering if anyone else knows of any others that teach social media and interactive marketing.