Below are observations I’ve noted, some my own, some from others, about the kinds of psychological changes that occur in webmasters. These changes don’t apply to everyone equally, of course. Webmasters come in all shapes and sizes, and each looks at their role in a unique way, with unique ambitions and plans. The list is by no means exhaustive, or ordered, either.
Generally Applicable Statistical Awareness
A spike and then nothing – nothing, and then a spike. After enough time in the game, webmasters start to realize that sales aren’t the only things that follow trends and long term averages. In the same way that video game scores illuminate the psychology of reward, traffic and conversion stats tend to humble and wisen a person, over a long enough timeline. For a webmaster who’s been in it long enough, emotional peaks and valleys no longer run parallel with sales. It’s a strange and maturing feeling, to take the luck out of luck.
Dealing Better With Perfectionism
Being a webmaster, you have to make decisions. Lots of them. Being a perfectionist doesn’t help decision-making. With all the delays that inevitably set in, the last details can drag on forever. After enough times seeing a lot of later effort bring little to no extra returns, a perfectionist webmaster learns, quicker than ever before, to drop their standards. Webmasters know that the best looking site doesn’t necessarily convert the best. The shock of what can sell, once you step out of the polish of traditional advertising channels, takes some time to shake off. More neutrally, web work opens you up to being more readily accepting of tastes nowhere near your own. By seeing the behaviour of so many out of your real world social circles, you take a lot more with a grain of salt, and learn when expectation is foolhardy.
Webmasters also learn that for any decision, there are enough factors webbed in consequence that no decision is perfect. Better put, just about every decision is rough and wrong in some way or another. Waiting for the absolute perfect time to strike means for no strike. No strike, no money.
Webmasters Know There’s Always a Reason
The web has rules. Even when they’re broken, the rule breaking takes place within another, bigger set of rules. This online world is not unbounded. It is a massive, fleshy Frankenstein machine of a billion ideas and pathways, but complex as it may be, there’s always a process. Webmasters know this, and with eyes that reflect this knowledge, they crave explanation – the good ones come to expect it, on and offline.
Webmasters Know the Value of a Minute
There’s always something to do. Always! Part of adjusting to the near-endless options the web provides, big and small, launches and tweaks, is accepting that you don’t have time for all of them. When you know there are so many ways to try to sell or promote so many things, you have to accept only doing a small part of them, tucking the majority of your legitimate what-ifs out of your mind. Webmasters develop a sense for their time being used badly. Even if they go along with it, they’re well aware of it. Small businesses all work on a reward-for-the-time-you-put-in basis, but the nature of web work exaggerates the psychological effect. Knowing you can slip online in your pyjamas and do a valuable 5-minute’s work can mean for long days, late nights, and plenty of time management guilt to go around.
Improved Tolerance of Other Cultures
Having actually had contact with people from around the world on a regular basis, webmasters get desensitized to the novelty of it all. Everyone knows the web is international, but everyone loves seeing the range of places visitors can come from for the first time. Yes, some dude in Ecuador was on your site for 12 minutes, and loaded every page. Very nice. Move on. But there was something special to that first reaction. It was honest, and it was accurate. Being able to communicate around the world as webmasters do is unprecedented in human history, and no one takes that for granted better than them.
That being said, webmasters are known to travel, acting on their contacts. Genuine international relationships have never been easier, and in profiting from them, webmasters bridge gaps and inform each another about their respective cultures. Few careers can be so multinational on a daily basis.
A Penny Shared is a Penny Earned
Nothing builds a friendship better than two people helping each other earn money. The web offers economic win-win situations more than any business platform or industry (for purely online industries with no real world product). Never mind the robust affiliate/referral structures in place, webmasters profit from shared information, too. Yes, much is kept secret, but no other platform has a structure that rewards information sharing like the web. Whether it’s through helpful bloggers that get rewarded with traffic and exposure (for both their generosity and their skill), or through an off-the-record secret trick exchange between online business friends, it’s easier to win with someone else against everyone, than alone. If you want to do well, you’re better off knowing how to help. Surfers can visit two sites almost just as easily as they can visit one, after all. The web teaches us how to share, and that it’s okay to. Webmasters know what it’s like to be cutthroat competitive, but the nature of the beast helps webmasters meet others as potential friends before likely enemies, even if they sell the same things – a luxury not often enjoyed in the business world.
- Matt Cutts on Web Spam @ Pubcon 2009
- Jim Hedger on Local & Mobile Search
- SES Toronto 09: The Search Marketer’s Free-to-Cheap Goodie Bag
- SES Toronto 2009 - Interview of Bryan Eisenberg
- SES Toronto 2010 Live Blogging: Keynote Inside Google Webmaster Central