Properly Owning, Managing and Growing Your Website
You own everything on and about your website. You may change it, edit it, use it to interact with new visitors, customers, members… to entice them to sign up, buy, shop, join… so on and so fourth.
As an owner, you may not always have time, or want to do these task (Website Governance). Or have any level of involvement at all, aside from simply owning the property and earning income. So, just as with any business, bricks and mortar, or in the virtual world online. You should have staff… sales persons, moderators (supervisors), managers, bloggers, even for some websites, actors. They are the ones that would be handling these operations if your business is to grow. You can attempt to do all of these task yourself, but expect little business growth at all, sales and conversions included.
And especially for site moderators or managers… They should always be active on your site, interacting with new members, posting to the activity stream or adding new blogs to your website, posting these blogs to social media, managing your social media business pages, reviewing new sign ups, customers and profiles to make sure that they are not bots, spammers, soliciting… basic website governance and what have you.
Since you would be paying theses employees / team / staffers… a percentage of what your site earns monthly, you want to make sure that they are doing their job! The same for any blogger and / or social media managers and salesman you hire. All of your team and employees should be solely focused on growth and promotion!
Or, simply outsource it all to a website management company. Every business needs management and sales, or they don’t business for long.
For your website to succeed you’re going to need a way to increase your traffic and customers. Your launch may have made a big splash, but what are you going to do to sustain that momentum?
Luckily, there are a number of online marketing methods for you to choose from. We won’t go into each one in detail, but instead give you an overarching view of the channels you can potentially focus your efforts on.
When choosing which marketing method is best for your business, it’s important to start with the central question: Where does my audience hang out? By answering this you’ll be able to build a plan on how you can best reach them using the methods below.
Social media is usually used to build a community of followers you can then direct back to your website, or use as social proof to increase conversions. Large social media followings take time to build, but can be an incredibly powerful source of influence.
Essentially content marketing is providing value to your readers via both onsite and offsite content. This is usually done in the form of blogs, eBooks, special reports, and guest blogs.
Email marketing is the method of collecting visitor email addresses, so you can provide value and sell them on your services later on. This is usually used concurrently with content marketing and other marketing methods like PPC.
Search Engine Optimization
At the core, SEO will help your website rank higher in the search engines for terms related to your business. These will be keywords that your potential customers will search when looking for the problem or solution your business solves.
The more visible your site is in the search engines, the more traffic it’ll receive.
Pay Per Click
Pay per click is the act of setting up ads on platforms, such as Google Adwords, to then direct traffic back to your website or landing page. But before you dive into this method of advertising, it’s recommended that you properly optimize your website to make the most of the traffic you’re receiving.
General Website Maintenance and Protection
Common Maintenance Protocols
Without a proper maintenance plan and schedule there’s an increased risk your website is going to break or become vulnerable to being hacked. None of these are fun to deal with and they can be easily avoided through the steps below.
To avoid any unnecessary website headaches, stay on top of your maintenance procedures and stick to a regular website maintenance program.
Regular website backups
The frequency of your backups will depend upon how often you update your site. When running a website backup make sure you store your backup in a secure location.
Ensure themes and software plugins are up to date
If your site runs on WordPress, or a similar CMS, then your site will become vulnerable the moment it’s not up to date. Often, all it take is a few minutes to update your themes and plugins.
Run a database sweep
Your database is similar to your library. Over time it becomes crowded and unorganized.
Do routine website tests
It’s important to consistently monitor your website data by checking your site’s performance, loading speed, and traffic numbers. Google Webmaster Tools can give you all kinds of valuable data and insight into your site’s performance.
Configuring You websites team, employees, staff…
People are the #1 most important resource for any website. Hire good people and they will generally find clever & innovative ways to get maximum bang for your buck.
configuration of a typical Web Team – including the skills, staffing, structure and leadership systems it requires.
As with so many other aspects of Web Governance, the starting point for building such a team is the concept of Website Scale.
To arrive at a configuration of people that is appropriate for a website of this (or indeed any other) Scale, we need to consider 3 criteria…
1. Skills & Staffing
- What skills are needed to operate this site (based on its Scale)?
- How much manpower is needed to ensure all operations can be completed to the quality desired?
2. Roles, Responsibilities & Team Structure
- How should roles & responsibilities be assigned among staff?
- How should they be structured as a team?
3. Control & Leadership
- What overall leadership & control systems are needed to ensure the site can be managed to a high standard and achieve its overall goals?
1. Skills & Staffing
Many Web Teams are run on wishful thinking.
Inadequate resourcing means that the only thing that often keeps the show on the road is the flexibility & adaptability of staff. The problem with this is that when things go wrong, they can go badly wrong.
For example, if a staff member suddenly goes sick or some new initiative demands unforeseen attention, no redundancy is available. A team that has been stretched to the limit suddenly snaps – and everything falls apart.
The aim of good people planning is to equip your team with the right number of staff and the right mix of skills in order to meet the demands of online operations.
As regards skills, it is interesting to note that the same type of core expertise is seen again and again on Web Teams of almost every scale. These skills are:
- Content … incl. Journalism, Social/community.
- Design … incl. Graphic design, User experience.
- Development … incl. HTML/CSS, Server-side/client-side, Database scripting.
- Marketing & CRM … incl. SEM/SEO, Social/community, Analytics.
- Infrastructure … incl. Hardware & software management, Data security.
- General management … incl. Strategy, Operations.
Happily, this consistency means that (despite differences in emphasis) deciding on the expertise you’ll need for your team is often the easiest part of Web Governance to plan for. For a Mid-Large Scale, at the very minimum you are going the basic skills listed above.
The next step is to decide how many people to hire.
If we consider the most basic of sites – a Small Scale Brochure ware site – its supervision requirements are so simple that all activity can be carried out by a single person. Indeed, it is still common to find sites where a ‘Jack-of-all-trades Webmaster’ designs, codes, writes content, posts on Twitter, manages analytics and a lot more besides.
Yet, this ‘all-in-one‘ model becomes less and less appropriate as a site grows in Scale.
A single Webmaster (owner) simply does not have the time to expedite all the tasks needed to manage a large site. In addition, as a site grows in complexity, some activities demand specialist skills that probably lie outside the ability of the original ‘Jack-of-all-trades‘. As such, more people must be hired to keep pace with operational needs.
2. Roles, Responsibilities & Team Structure
In the last section, we saw how teams evolve as a site grows. As online activity increases, more and more people come on-board and skills begin to disperse into groups. What was once a close-knit team becomes fragmented. In order to keep pace with this change, basic Governance structures also need to be updated.
The problem on many sites is that this never happens. The result is individuals with badly described roles & overlapping responsibilities, jostling for position along unclear reporting lines.
Indeed, wars have been fought with less bitterness than some organizations experience when attempting to update their Web Governance.
Although retraining and incentivization can go a long way to easing transformation, in the worst cases it may be necessary to throw everything in the air and start from scratch. That is, to design a new Web Team with new roles & responsibilities and require existing staff to reapply for a position.
Inevitably this process is very painful and is likely to see some staff side-lined or excluded. But magic wands do not exist and such tribulations seem to represent the birth-pangs of a new standard of Web Governance – a standard where Web Teams have clearly delineated roles, responsibilities and reporting lines.
As may be seen the central role is that of the Website Manager (who reports to the owner directly, or a senior executive). He/she is the individual responsible for all Governance activity on a site. If something goes wrong, the buck stops here.
The Web Manager role emerges directly from that of the original Webmaster. As the scale of a site increases, the Webmaster starts to find he/she does not have the time or skills to do everything required, so new expertise/manpower is hired in support.
Overtime more and more responsibility is devolved until the Webmaster assumes a managerial position; overseeing the activity of staff whilst driving design & development from the high end in pursuit of online goals.
It is up to the Web Manager to allocate responsibilities among his/her staff based on core competences and to structure them in a way that works in terms of reporting. Inevitably, solutions tend to cluster around common skill groupings (as above), with a senior staff member in each area overseeing activity and reporting to the Web Manager.
3. Leadership & Control
The purpose of online leadership is to ensure that decision making systems are in place to prevent the unseemly and wasteful mess that has occurred on many Web Teams.
As online has grown in importance the realization has dawned that a Web Team with no clear lines of authority will be pushed and pulled every-which-way as various departments vie for influence. It is no longer good enough for a Senior Management Team (SMT) to simply sign off on an annual web budget and walk away. Someone needs to be responsible.
It would be nice to say there is one group to which a Web Team should always report. The endless debate about whether a Web Team should be ‘owned’ by Marketing, Communications, Product or IT is reflective of this desire. Personally, I don’t think anyone can give a definitive answer as too much depends on the emphasis of an organization.
Nevertheless, a useful model for arriving at a solution is to consider whether your Web Team is primarily a ‘Service Provider‘ or a ‘Service Leader‘.
A Web Team that is a ‘Service Provider‘ has no mission other than to serve the needs of customers within its websites organization.
The purest instance of this may be a government department where a Web Team has no independent agenda of its own – it exists merely to facilitate the Housing Office, the Water Office, the Transport Office, etc.
The Web Team may advise how to do things online (design, content, etc.), but it does not decide what to do.
In such an organization, there is no obvious home for the web. Being a shared service, no-one really ‘owns’ it. As a result, it is likely to gravitate towards the department that most closely matches the type of work it undertakes.
For example, if its work is mainly communications – then PR, Marketing or Communications may take ownership. Alternatively, if its work is mainly about providing online applications, IT may take ownership.
In contrast to a ‘Service Provider‘, a Web Team that is a ‘Service Leader‘ has its own agenda and may work independently.
For example, a Web Team in a financial services company may be told to maximize revenue for an owner / owners, regardless of what product or service contributes to that goal.
In this sense, the Web Team operates as a standalone entity and gets to choose which departments to work with, e.g. Pensions, Credit Cards, Life Assurance, etc.
In an instance like this, it makes sense to break out a Web Team on its own and allow it to operate separately – or as an independent section within an existing department, e.g. Product or Retail.
On the whole, my own experience is that the era of IT Departments ‘owning’ the web has mostly expired. Web Teams that are broadly autonomous but closely linked to Marketing, Product or Communications are more common and tend to work best for the current state of online development.
Yet, no matter where a Web Team resides, strong cross-organizational links are vital to ensure multi-various needs can be met. At the highest level therefore, a structure of linked-up leadership is required, perhaps reflecting the diagram below.
In this system, leadership responsibilities are as follows…
- The Senior Management Team approves online strategy & monitors high-level adherence to business goals.
- The Executive (within whose remit the Web team is placed) is responsible for achieving this strategy.
- A Web Steering Group (chaired by the Executive) brings together departments with a stake in the web in order to thrash-out development priorities.
- The Web Manager expedites these priorities & supervises operational activity.
While ultimate online decision-making authority rests with the web executive (who reports to the SMT), this does not mean that he/she acts alone. As may be seen above, in order to ensure organizational interests can be aligned and to maintain a degree of ‘online peace‘, a Web Steering Group (WSG) is required.
The Web Steering Group is composed of senior managers representative of all departments with a stake in the web. Its purpose is to agree development priorities, but also to act as a forum where frustrations (that could trip up the Web Team) can be aired. In this sense it acts in a ‘collegial‘ way both as guarantor for the website and as a ‘Court of Last Resort’ for any conflicts that arise.
This collegial agenda is important, as there may be a temptation for the Executive who ‘owns’ the web to prioritize his/her department’s objectives. But this cannot be allowed to occur, as the Web Team must operate cross-functionally if online is to be successful for the organization as a whole.
Indeed, it may make sense for this to be formally iterated so that the web performance can be measured in two ways.
Firstly, performance may be measured based on the quality of web operations. All else being equal, how well does the Web Team expedite the 4 Primary Activities of Governance (based on available resources & budget). Does it make sure everything is carried out to a high standard and in a timely manner?
The Executive in charge of the Web Team is wholly responsible for this.
Secondly, web performance may be measured based on the achievement of online goals.
Responsibility for this may be shared by all members of the Web Steering Group (chaired by the Web Executive) as they have equal input into setting priorities at their scheduled meetings.
Inevitably, such a (short) article cannot go over all the many exclusions, qualifications and caveats necessary for the topic of Web Teams. Suffice it to say that each organization is different and requires its own solution.
Nevertheless, there are useful patterns to follow (particularly for skills) and it makes sense to use them as a starting point on the long road to reconfiguring a Web Team.