As websites grow and offer more information, the web content manager is an increasingly vital role - combining organisation and writing skills with the necessary technical knowledge
Web content managers ensure that the content of a website is well-structured and easy to find and that it meets the needs of its users by covering all necessary topics and being up to date and accurate. The content you'll manage can include web pages, images, videos, blog posts, guest articles, reviews and occasionally social media and marketing copy.
You'll sometimes produce copy and edit the site yourself, but on larger sites you'll normally act as a coordinator, commissioner and project manager, overseeing the work of other writers and editors. You'll produce content schedules and audits, which writers and editors use to keep copy up to date and to create new content at appropriate times.
You'll be an expert in your organisation's content management system (CMS) and will produce user guides and deliver training, as well as work with the CMS developers and internal IT staff to ensure the system has been configured to meet the needs of the organisation.
Web content managers also organise user testing and market research projects to ensure that the website's content is suitable for the audience.
As a web content manager, you'll need to:
- manage your company CMS, working with developers and editors to ensure it's meeting the needs of your organisation
- conduct content audits to identify gaps and redundancies in the site content
- create and implement content schedules for people to produce or update content
- produce maps and visualisations of the site to help staff understand the structure and function of the website
- write and edit web copy
- source, commission and sometimes edit images and videos
- develop policies relating to your organisation's web content, such as a house style
- analyse analytics data to learn how users interact with your site
- survey users and hold focus groups to learn about how they view your site
- train staff in writing and producing content for the web
- stay knowledgeable about your site's subject area.
- Starting salaries for web content coordinators are around £20,000 to £25,000.
- Experienced web content coordinators, web content executives and web content managers can earn between £25,000 and £40,000.
- Senior web content managers and website managers can earn between £40,000 and £50,000.
Salaries usually depend on the size and importance of the website, as well as on whether you have any extra responsibilities, such as managing writers and editors. London salaries are usually higher.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
You'll typically work a 9am to 5pm week. Occasional evening and weekend work may be necessary to coordinate with large marketing campaigns, events, product launches or the development of a new website.
Part-time work and job sharing are possible for web content managers, as you'll usually put in place policies, content plans, and schedules for your organisation to follow in your absence. Companies may hire on a fixed-term basis if they're looking for a web content manager to come in and set up guidelines, or to complete a specific project, such as migrating content to a new website.
What to expect
- You'll be based in an office, with regular meetings, presentations and training sessions with website contributors and other stakeholders. You may have a chance to work with users directly, running focus groups, for example.
- You'll coordinate the work of different web contributors, who might have different priorities or ideas. This can be challenging but also a good opportunity to understand the needs of the whole organisation.
- In smaller companies, you'll be expected to produce a lot of the content yourself, so you can expect a lot of independent, computer-based work.
You don't need a formal qualification to become a web content manager, however a degree can provide useful experience in writing, editing, presenting and group coordination, particularly if it's mainly assessed through essays and presentations.
A degree or qualification in a similar subject to the website you are managing can be advantageous as you'll be able to apply your knowledge to identify gaps and inaccuracies in the content.
Sometimes employers look for candidates with a qualification in information management, media management or digital communications. The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) provides a list of accredited qualifications, which include undergraduate and postgraduate courses, foundation degrees and short courses. See the list at CILIP - Getting Qualified.
Skills and experience are most important and these can be gained through education, work experience and volunteering opportunities.
You'll need to be:
- highly organised, with the ability to work on multiple projects at once
- experienced with one or more CMS
- strategic, and able to oversee large projects and coordinate the work of others
- an excellent writer and editor, with good spelling and grammar and the ability to adapt to house styles
- able to research, collate and summarise information from different sources
- logical and analytical, with an ability to spot patterns, gaps and repetitions in web content
- able to communicate confidently and clearly with a variety of stakeholders
- knowledgeable about the website's users and industry
- willing to stay up to date with developments in your subject area and in developments in the digital world.
If you don't have any experience managing websites you should use content management systems like Wordpress and Drupal to build your own site or personal blog. Focus on how to categorise your content and divide it into clear, easily navigable sections, as well as on gaining experience of analytics tools, like Google Analytics, to analyse usage data.
Volunteering and helping friends and family to build, reorganise and maintain websites can give you experience in managing the content of a site with real stakeholders and users. Offer to do a content audit and set up content schedules, policies and produce training guides, as well as write and commission copy for missing or out-of-date sections. Look out for opportunities at university to manage a society's website.
There are many transferable skills that employers look for when hiring a web content manager. Experience in managing a project, working in teams, negotiating and influencing, problem solving and analysis, user and market research, and producing clear written communication will be viewed favourably by most employers. As well as looking for internships, part-time work and volunteering, think about times during your degree and your personal life when you have demonstrated these skills.
Not every website requires a web content manager. The demand for such a role is usually confined to large websites or those which are content-heavy. It's more common to find vacancies in public sector organisations and large private sector organisations, than in SMEs and start-ups.
Typical employers include:
- charities, museums and heritage organisations
- educational institutions
- large commercial organisations, which need to provide a lot of information to their customers, such as banks
- professional and government bodies.
If an organisation doesn't have an in-house web content manager they may use a digital agency to hire a temporary web content manager or consultant to carry out a large update to their site, implement a CMS, or set up future content plans and schedules. Digital agencies can therefore be a good source of vacancies.
With experience, you could consider freelancing and approaching companies yourself to implement content management solutions. Freelancers have full responsibility for sourcing and completing their work and it can be difficult to maintain a healthy work/life balance.
If you're interested in working for a particular employer or in a certain sector look for jobs in the specialist press and journals.
Look for job vacancies at:
Agency work is likely to be a lot more varied than working in-house, though often an agency will still specialise in one industry or type or organisation, as their clients' content needs are likely to be similar.
Early on you'll receive in-depth training on your employer's CMS, as this knowledge is often difficult to transfer between companies.
Often CMS providers offer courses and assessments, which you can take to become a certified user and trainer. Large CMS companies may also hold annual meet ups and conferences, which you can attend to stay up to date with any developments and to network and share ideas with other users.
Other training that your employer may fund or provide includes:
- project management, perhaps specialist training in the methodologies your organisation uses, such as Scrum and Kanban
- writing for the web
- web accessibility
- negotiating, persuasion and influencing skills
- analytics, data analysis and market research
- information classification and management
- user experience and user interface design.
If you're lacking experience you'll usually start your career as a web content assistant, writer or editor of the website, company blog or social media account.
After a couple of years your next step up may be to an intermediate level where you'll fulfil a role such as web content coordinator. At this level you could also manage a section of the website.
You'll need three or more years of experience before you can take on the management of an entire website, though this may vary depending on the size of the site.
Once you've achieved a web content management role you could take on more responsibility and become a digital content manager, which typically includes working on social media accounts, blogs and digital marketing campaigns. You may gain more strategic responsibility and become a website manager or head of digital in your organisation, where you'll be responsible for helping to steer the direction of the company's digital strategy.
The skills you acquire as a web content manager lend themselves to a sideways career move into areas such as project management, digital marketing, and digital publishing and archiving.