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Being a webmaster. increasingly difficult

When content doesn't seem to be king anymore

4:27 pm on Oct 9, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Hi webmasters, I always research and try things before posting a thread of a problem, sometimes I find the answer and other times when it's a discussion I might be surprised answering my own question, this is not the exception but can't find the light.

Been a webmaster for years, first website in 1998, and several running with decent traffic to this day. I remember the Wordpress chapter, when everybody said WP was the solution to everything, easy to use, etc, this is not about WP or against it, is about that time when people thought X brand or X cms was the universal answer to all questions. At that time it was difficult to sell something that wasn't Wordpress based, and sure Google even supported blogs and their ecosystem with pingbacks etc. During that period I had two choices (1) keep working to sell non-wordpress and talk about the risks, and (2) work some WP and still talk about the risks. Sure, many had their sites built on WP (by me or by someone else). Soon problems appeared... get a new hosting company, increasing costs, the site is slow, upgrades break the site, plugins breaking the whole thing, etc. It would take too much for a webmaster not knowing what I'm talking about, WP is not a word for problems, but you know how things can turn out.

Later I found clients and companies walking away from WP. "WP? no thanks!", WP is not bad but lost the crown on being an universal magic solution. At that point I haven't mentioned clients or companies talking about content because that's... difficult to find, rare. No WP? good, still many asked for it while hating it, why? they wanted something easy to give to someone else, another webmaster, or one webmaster in the long list to come. I understand standarization, when you want and need something that other developers can pick up. Propietary systems are often rejected in that area, often... didn't say always.

Now. Seems like a ghost shadow of the WP chapter. It doesn't matter if you can build a solid website, content, traffic, etc, people and specially companies want to hear you talk Angular, React, Ruby, Sass, Django, Kendo, Laravel, Symfony, Yii, etc. The profile asked for a regional webmaster, here... usually demands: C#, C++, Java, Laravel, Ruby, Cake, Skeleton, Bootstrap, Jquery, .NET, Crystal reports, MYSQL, PHP, Oracle, PostGress, VB and Microsoft Dynamics (also Facebook, FB marketing, social media, video editing...) No kidding, all of them basically (some ask some more). Then you question yourself what kind of task demands all of that, is the system built with duct tape too? you might be an expert on something and might fail on one of the test in other areas.

One big problem is... I've found new hirings are rarely being made by people in the field (coders) is mostly done by human resources personel. I rarely (never?) hear people talking about UX, interface design, testing, traffic, content, strategy... instead they replaced Wordpress by all of that "but you talk PHP + some-weird-framework?". Then I see the job position open again in 6 monyths, workers being replaced and if you think "oh God I finally got that job" being good, then you surprise yourself pickup up ugly code written by someone who has no idea of what was doing, at times seems better not to get that job rather than getting it.

Clients? is happening again. Years ago desktop coders created a chaos, now is happening on the web: clients with terrible past experiences not wanting to invest, why? nobody told them 5 pages of terrible content on a WP would get them nowhere. Still charged big bucks don't want to spend anymore. The local webmaster market is looking more and more like a bad place to be. When you bring this up people tell you "oh but... here and... you did something wrong there"
only to discover this person telling you this never buit a decent website, 200 steady visitors per day seems like a miracle for them, but sure they talk to clients about thousands and thousands of visitors (an actual lie). When you prove your work has 1,000 visitors per day minimum, o worse, more: 2K, 3K, 4K... they don't get it and look at you as if it wasn't true.

Been working on my own for quite sometime, but the market is not good, kinda dead. Working for a company has proven to be a nightmare and I'm finding more and more sad stories from developers. The only ones that seem happy are 20 years old. A quick search on the web about "I hate being a webmaster" is bringing some interesting results with similar stories, also searches like "I quit my job as a coder". For most jobs in the region, when you make the numbers about hours-work-paid-sallary, you think "meh..." but when you actually take a look at the amount of hours per week... it looks terrible, you begin early, leave the office really late and you must be connected, you know how this is, online work never ends. If something fails at the office everyone can pick it up next week, not the webmaster... not the webmaster.

Doesn't look fun, doesn't even look like a good idea anymore. Comments?
11:36 am on Oct 23, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Great topic, I can definitely relate. Things have changed, that's no secret. These days, the smart "webmaster" is concentrated on doing their own online projects. It seems my worst days start with a call from a potential client. It's always a low baller, tire kicker or someone with a big idea and or nonexistent product. I still manage a sizable number of sites, but I'm very wary of taking on new clients. At my age, I've started to back away from doing low return work for others. I'm just glad I lived through the "easy" milk and honey age of the web. Now it's become dominated by corporate interests from all angles.

WordPress is still a great platform, just depends on how you use it. Load it with useless plugins and it's a dog. I see a lot of local "webmasters" pushing bootstrap, but that's about it. These are usually ex-html part timers and non WP adopters. The sites are flashy, but non functional to be sure. That's what I like the most about WP, you can do a lot without having to re-invent the wheel by hiring a custom developer.

There are still opportunities out there for webmasters. Companies like HIBU have left customers high and dry with hefty hosting fees. There will be more business coming as (yeah, with the way the US gov works, that's a a big IF) the economy improves, I already am seeing a shift away from social networks like FB, and a slight decline in Amazon sellers (weeding out the non hackers) but there's still no end in sight for those 8 trillion pound gorillas.
I have personally used the latter to make up for my "webmastering" losses. If you can't beat 'em...

I always say "they moved your cheese" (read the book, it's a 15 minute task, but an eye opener for those stuck in a rut). The trick today is to adapt, even if that means pounding some pavement again. If you can build a personal relationship with customers, it will work wonders. Hiding behind a M&P webmaster website just doesn't cut it these days. My best clients get personal on-site visits which really adds value. If nothing else, it gets me out of my office and helps regain some social sanity. The bottom line in any career is: when you stop having fun, stop beating that dead horse and go find another line of work. Cheers!
3:25 am on Oct 24, 2017 (gmt 0)

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One big difference today is the amount of help available. When I started in the late 1990s we had HTML, Photoshop and Flash. That sounds easy enough but we didn't have YouTube tutorials and a million articles that explained how to do almost anything.
3:35 am on Oct 24, 2017 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Senior Member keyplyr is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

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One opportune part of "being a webmaster" nowadays is the current changing web standards. I have more work than I want, if fact I don't really want it.

All these sites that need to be mobile friendly for the upcoming Mobile-First Index [webmasterworld.com] as well as the need to be HTTPS [webmasterworld.com] should keep every developer as busy as they can handle.
8:07 am on Oct 24, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Some of the current "new work" will eventually be rolled into service plans (https example) and new folks will start as mobile first and never see the "conversion" routine.

Once responsive has been accomplished that work is "done" and it will return to marketing and other "work" to remain relevant, fresh and "top of the serps".

The beauty of evolving technology is the new kids coming in will be doing the "new things" from the beginning and will (usually) avoid the mistakes we made over the last 20 years.

These kids ride on the back of others and start in a "better place" with more tools, more cut and paste, more "packaged solutions", integrated CMS, etc. And most, likely, will be working for a conglomerate, have no admin access, and sit in a cubby banging on a dumb terminal to the company's "cloud" (mainframe).

Meanwhile, old dogs can learn new tricks, and that will work as long as the new tricks don't break what they have already accomplished!
3:59 pm on Nov 1, 2017 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Administrator martinibuster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

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Content hasn't been king for a long time. I realized this about six years ago while sharing the stage at PubCon with a speaker who spends most his time speaking getting his name out than doing actual SEO or webmastering. So right away, my BS meter was fluttering. In response to a question, he started by saying, "Content is King..."

And as I sat there listening to his answer and contemplating the question, I realized his answer was all wrong. The answer wasn't found in the Content at all. This domino of insight about content then toppled the keyword research domino because the motivations behind the way keyword research [webmasterworld.com] was done was also, imo, all wrong. The user was king.

We can say that WP has taken away a lot of what we do and thrust it into the hands of the masses, unwashed as well. But to really succeed, there are important undercurrents to understand. As I thought about the user being king, I felt that there was more.

Contemplating what many of the successful sites in various niches had in common and how that connected to users and money.

The user is king insight was only part of what I needed to understand. The extension of that insight is what's powering the direction of my content. And that is the kind of thing that today's webmaster won't ever put their finger on.

There are many ways to make sense of today. But it's important, imo, to be pragmatic (willing to accept doing what needs to be done, without preconceived ideology to stop you) and to be intelligently discerning about what people say is real (to stop you from taking a wrong turn focusing on a non-existent ranking factor or tactic).

So yes! I agree. It's harder now. Which is why the SEO formulas and recipes have to be continually reviewed and revised.
12:12 am on Nov 2, 2017 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Senior Member ergophobe is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

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Reading martinibuster's post makes me think of something... as an industry professionalizes, as the stakes get higher, as the competition evolves, it always gets harder.

In 1900, all kinds of people could make it into the Olympics. One thing we've seen in high-level sports is that 120 years ago, there was often no specific body type to be the top at many sports. Sure, weightlifters looked different than marathoners, but marathoners could be comparatively stout. All kinds of people could win and did. Now, if you have thick calves, that increases the swing weight and you will not do well in an Olympic marathon. East Africans have slim calves and this gives them an advantage as a general rule (and actually, the best marathoners are not from East Africa, they are from a particular, relatively small region of East Africa).

What does this have to do with webmastering getting harder? Simple, *everything* gets harder as competition increases and minor optimizations start separating not the winner from second place, but the winner from 102nd place.

Yup, it's tough. It's life.
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