The year was 1997 (thereabouts) when I created my first website, using a book called “HTML for Dummies”. It had everything you would expect from the standard Geocities website of that era (RIP!): animated gifs, a cool SCROLLING title (which took me a little while to code…), you name it! It was a little light on actual content, but hey, no one seemed to mind. Probably because I don’t know of anyone actually visiting my site.
Thankfully, the years since have seen a huge increase in resources for easily building and hosting your own personal website and blog. My post from yesterday, July 9th, my top career tips for seminarians, has setting up a personal website and starting to blog as the most important first step. Easier said than done, right? It may seem like a hassle, but it’s really important (and surprisingly fun). Basically, you want to take control of your online reputation and the Google search results for your name by having the personal website you created front and center. And all throughout your job and/or call search, you’ll want to have a great looking site to direct your potential employers to.
I received questions on the best way to go about creating and managing a personal online presence, so here are the best resources and tips I’ve discovered in setting up my own websites and blogs.
- Decide how much (if anything) you want to spend. This is a vital first step, because it determines where you go from here. The main advantages to paying to have your site hosted professionally are that you can have your own domain name and email address associated with your site, and you’ll just have more overall flexibility. Sure, it’s very slick and professional to have your own domain (adambowersmedia.com vs adambowersmedia.wordpress.com) and it’s great to have your own separate email address (firstname.lastname@example.org). And you might want your own domain and professional hosting if you plan on publishing your site via FTP from a program like iWeb for Mac. Depending on the bells and whistles you choose, a domain and professional hosting from a good hosting provider like Bluehost, which is what I use, will run about $100 a year. If you think about it as an investment in your career and future, and divide that by the cost per month, that’s really not terrible. However, you might also decide that you don’t need all that much flexibility, and don’t really want to spend money on this project, which is fine. In that case, I would definitely recommend checking out WordPress. As I said yesterday, they have a ton of great looking “themes”, which are basically pre-built websites that you customize with your own images, text, etc., so it makes getting a really sweet looking site up and running pretty easy. And since it’s built around blogging, you don’t have to do much to get your blog going – just click “new post” and you’re ready to go! I used to have a blog on Blogger, Google’s blogging interface, but since I found WordPress I haven’t looked back. Weebly is another free website creation and hosting site, which I tried once but decided it wasn’t for me. It didn’t have the flexibility I needed, but it might be perfect for you! All these are worth checking out. See what works best for you.
- Decide how much time you want to spend. If you’re worried that this sounds like an impossibly time consuming task, you shouldn’t fret, completely, that is. The great thing about having a personal website and blog rolled into one is that you can spend as much or as little time on it as you like. With WordPress, for example, you have the option to create “pages” that are static pages that will always display regardless of whether you update your blog frequently or not. You can even set your homepage to be a static page or to display your latest posts, like I have. Yes, I’ve spent many many hours creating and updating my site, but for a counter example, I helped my girlfriend set up a WordPress personal website/blog today, and it didn’t take long at all! What took the longest was designing a custom website header for her, which is something I would definitely recommend doing (I can create one for your site as well! Contact me for an affordable custom website header).
- Create a Facebook Page and Twitter Account for your Website/Blog. This may seem like an extra and unnecessary step, but in terms of visibility and creating a cohesive online presence, it’s pretty essential. Link your Facebook page and your Twitter account together, then adjust your blog’s settings so that whenever you post something new, your Twitter account will automatically send a link to your followers, which will also be sent to your blog’s Facebook page. Whew! That sounds like a lot, but when you have everything linked, it all happens automatically. Plus, you’ll be adding to the critical mass of sites that will come up in a Google search for your name, all good things.
- Create an About.me profile to seal the deal. About.me offers a simple and free personal landing page you can use to direct people to wherever you are online. To get an idea of what one looks like, check mine out: http://about.me/adamcbowers. The advantages of doing this are that you can add links to your online presence for pretty much whatever site you’d like, and hopefully make it easier for people to connect the dots about who you are. Mine has my Linked In, Twitter, Youtube, Flicker, Facebook page, a link to my work published in A Fly Came Near It, and a link to email me.