I sometimes get asked about my workday. Many people I have been talking to about the workday assume that it is an easy peasy job which basically centers around researching topics to write about and writing articles afterwards, preferably in a very nice environment such as a garden or beach condo. I usually manage to perplex them quite a bit by talking about all the things that I have to do besides researching and writing articles. This article lists ten things that webmasters usually do besides producing content for their websites. It does concentrate on my experience which comes from blogging so keep that in mind.
1. Comment moderation and spam
Comment moderation and spam are two of the most time consuming aspects of a webmaster's workday. A high profile blog can get thousands of spam comments a day which are then queued up in a spam folder somewhere. Even the best antispam tools do not offer a 100% protection against spam. Another trade-off is that false positives tend to increase with every new antispam plugin and script installed which can frustrate visitors so that they either stop posting comments or leave the site to never come back.
2. Email Support
Most websites have a contact form or other means of contacting the webmaster or a person responsible by email. These emails can contain tech support topics, requests (either for new articles, help, guest blogging or advertising), comments, spam or rude remarks. Tech support questions are usually the most time consuming to answer especially if it is not possible to test the problem locally. Webmasters obviously do not have to answer emails but it is good behavior if they do in a timely manner (except for spam and the rude remark emails). It is still a time consuming process especially on high traffic websites.
3. Updates and Security
It is of uttermost importance to run the latest version of scripts and software on a website. Old versions can contain security or memory holes, incompatibilities or missing features. Many hackers wait for security releases and start searching for websites that still run an older version on the day the new releases get announced. Updates on the other hand are only one part of the security concept. Scripts on the server side can improve security by preventing brute force attacks or notifying tech support. Webmasters do not necessarily have access to these features especially on shared hosting but some security add-ons and features can be installed by them as well. This includes setting the right access rights for directories, making sure to use non-standard usernames, directories and database prefixes or installing scripts and plugins that increase a website's security.
4. Features and Plugins
Webmasters have to keep an eye on the development of new plugins and features. WordPress webmasters for example have thousands of plugins at their disposal that get constantly updated. Additions are posted in the dozens daily and it can be quite hard to keep up with them. There is however always the possibility to find a plugin or script that adds a new interesting feature to a website or is able to replace an existing script by providing an increase in performance or functionality. One of the main reasons why many webmasters stick with one content management system is that it is easier to keep an overview of the advancements (and other things including security) that are made.
Not all webmasters have to be design-aces. It is perfectly possible to download templates and themes for many different types of content management systems or websites and use these with little modification. Another option is to order a custom theme from a designer. Small changes on the other hand are usually performed by the webmaster. This includes changing a logo, adding a graphic or other elements.
A slow loading website does not necessarily mean that the server the website is hosted is not capable of delivering the performance the website needs. Other things can play a role here including scripts and plugins installed. External scripts, like advertisement or third party widgets, can slow down a website tremendously. Even more so if the domain the data is loaded from is experiencing technical problems as well. A webmaster needs to make sure that the website can be loaded as fast as possible. While third party scripts are usually in the top list of elements that slow down a website the problems can also be caused by large multimedia contents like unoptimized images, broken scripts, not optimized loading sequences or not making use of compression techniques or image concatenation.
7. Testing and Compatibility
A website has to be tested with various web browsers to ensure that the user experience is similar in all cases and that it is possible to connect to the website with all popular web browsers. Webmasters also do a lot of testing that include testing advertisement, plugins, scripts or element positions on their website. A classical example is to test various advertisement positions on a website to find the one that is yielding the highest earnings for the webmaster. Other possibilities include testing various positions for content to increase pageviews or decrease the number of visitors who leave a website on the first page without visiting a second one.
Not all websites and blogs run advertisements. Webmasters who do place ads on their websites open a new can of worms. Statistics have to be checked regularly to make sure that the ads perform well. Ads need to be tested (if possible) in various ways including different positions, color schemes and even different advertisers. Monitoring various webmaster forums and blogs for new advertising opportunities and tips is a must do.
9. Hosting, Domain and Billing
Webmasters using free webhosts do not have to worry about these. But webmasters with their own domain name and web hosting account need to keep an eye on a few things including expiration dates and paying subscriptions in time. This is usually not a big issue and not that time consuming unless hundreds or thousands of domains are hosted at dozens of different web hosters or web servers.
Networking is probably the most important aspect of being a webmaster. You tend to get the best tips from a network of webmasters who work in the same niche. I consider the day I met Everton from Connected Internet one of my luckiest days in my life. Not only have we exchanged information that helped us get rich (haha) and improve our websites; No, we also decided to run a joint project which turned out to be very profitable.
Not everything is about being profitable of course. Some tips are only passed around in close circles because many webmasters do not post their findings and experiences on forums or websites. This can be a better way of placing ads on a blog, a new plugin or script that a website benefits from or general tips.
I'm not sure if this article covered all the aspects. There are probably more including tax reports, law suites and the like. Please post a comment if you have something to add or would like to voice your opinion on the subject. Being a webmaster is more than meets the eye.
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.