Have Webmasters Gone the Way of the Buffalo?

I’ve been hearing for some time that “the Webmaster is dead.” If that’s the case, I wonder what will become of my webmistress? 😉

The truth is that the web over the years had gone in two divergent directions: specialization or home hobbiest. While the corporations have become the province of ui designers, database administrators, back end developers, analytics mavens, search engine optimizers and search marketers, to name only a few of the disiplines, for some reason many small businesses think they can go it alone, and many seem to think that means they have to deal with non or semi-professionals.

So what is a webmaster then? For me, it’s a simply a title that was hung on me at a job in 1995 and I stuck with it. It seemed to sum things up, without being overly pedantic and it fit the basic criteria of “you can have any title so long as it doesn’t have the words President or Executive in it.”

Moreover, the term implied responsibility for keeping the site running and fulfilling the business’ objectives. I’ve never had any illusions about that. Often the job simply came down to “do what needs to be done.”

From Wikipedia:

Webmasters are practitioners of Web communication. Typically, they are generalists with HTML expertise who manage all aspects of Web operations. On a smaller site, the webmaster will typically be the owner, developer and/or programmer, in addition to the author of the content.

I’m shocked by the lack of quality of work I see in the small business arena today. I regularly look at sites for people who have paid good money, expecting results and have gotten none, often due to incompetence. This can be avoided fairly easily: use a professional.

I’ll forgoe my usual harangue about the lack of professionalism in small business web design. Suffice to say that I reviewed a couple sites launched recently by “other” supposedly professional designers, and I was shocked at the amateurish mistakes made.

Instead, let’s say that a webmaster is one who has a good grounding in all the areas of specialization within the regimen. As such, who then could give you a good specification for what a small business site should contain? Here’s mine:

  • It must provide an excellent marketing point of contact.
  • Local search – it should get you in front of your core customers using the tenets of Search Engine Optimization.
    • Proper use of keywords, descriptions, keyword loading, page naming, etc.
    • Use of Google Sitemaps and Yahoo Sitemaps
    • Several other proprietary tricks I’m not about to share in an open forum…
  • It should track – analytics aren’t just for big sites anymore. Small businesses need metrics on what is happening at their sites as much as anyone.
  • It should be editable – content management is key. Even if you don’t choose to make changes to your site, it makes it easier for me to make changes later.
  • It’s got to fit the business need. One size does not fit all. A product site is vastly different from a service site, which is different from a content site. While using a template for a design may be acceptable, it’s got to fit with your business need(s).

That’s the short list, without even touching on any of the Web 2.0 bells and whistles. And I see so many sites that are failing to even hit this lowly list.

A great webmaster will provide this and more for your small business, and you should never settle for anything less. “Good enough” isn’t when it comes to your business.

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