Jim walks you through the questions you need to answer when constructing a personal website for your brand.
(When you’re done here, check out How to create a personal website, Part 2)
For those that know me or have been listening for awhile, you know that I always have multiple projects going on, whether it be this podcast, my work at Wired, my teaching at NYU, or my book. I’ve decided I want one central hub for all these projects to live.
And while some “social media experts” just “talk the talk,” I prefer to “walk the walk” with the podcast and take my readers/listeners through actual new media events that I am doing myself. So since building this website is on my radar, and I always preach about controlling your own brand presence, I thought this would be a great opportunity to walk people through what goes into setting it up.
As always, listening to the full podcast is the best way to get all the info, but here is a summary of what I cover.
Questions you need to ask when creating your own personal website.
1) Do I need my own personal website?
The first question is whether you need a presence at all. Some people have privacy concerns, like to keep a low profile, and don’t want to be “discoverable” on the web. That’s totally fine. You need to operate at your own comfort level. But others WANT to be found on the web. My guess is the larger audience for my show falls into the latter category.
Some reasons you’d WANT to have a web presence.
– You want to be found on Google. Whether it’s fame, fortune, or ego, when someone else types your name into the #1 search engine, you want to drive people to a certain website about you.
– You want to steer people to a POSITIVE light. There are a few internet rules in our modern society. Don’t post any photos or videos that you wouldn’t want your mom to see on the web. Likewise, if someone tells you “Oh, no one will ever see this,” there’s a good chance EVERYONE will see it.
So what do you do when that video of you doing the electric slide at your boss’ wedding goes viral? It’s tough to get something bad removed, so a better tactic is to generate more positive content about you so that video gets relegated to page 2 and beyond.
– You are conducting a job search. Let’s face it. If you’re going for a job these days, there’s a good chance your future employer is going to Google you. Don’t believe me? Check out this story in the NY Times titled Social Media History Becomes a New Job Hurdle.
Take the case of two students I’ve spoken with. One had a simple personal website listing their college experience, their resume, and what type of work they wanted to pursue. When the other person was Googled, “my high school tennis stats come up.” Who would you hire?
– You want to start a blog. Whether it’s a for-profit business, a gardening blog, or just a journal of your thoughts. If you want to share your thoughts with the world, the internet is your destination.
For me: I wanted to consolidate multiple projects on the web
2) What is the goal?
Once you’ve decided to move forward, you want to set a goal for your blog or web presence. Whether it’s a business, a personal blog, a hobby, or a personal branding page, having a goal will help you stay on topic and make sure you are building something to last.
For me, the new website at JimHopkinson.com has two goals. The first is to serve as a launching pad to my various ventures. Sometimes I’m in a purely work situation, and I hand out my Conde Nast business card. Or I talk to someone about the podcast, and drive them there. But often times, the conversation hits on multiple things, and it will be nice to have one site to direct people to.
The second goal is to serve as a hub for my public speaking. Wow, it pains me to look back and see that friend and mentor Mitch Joel gave me this advice in October 2009 and I’m just getting around to it, but check out my post Mitch Joel has what 96% of public speakers are missing.
Use Tumblr because… it’s free, it allows you to do fast updates, and if you have one major topic that you want to cover.
Use WordPress if… you want more control over your design, you want multiple pages and subtopics, you want to me a little more professional, you plan on having mulitple websites, and you’re in it for the long term.
4) How will you design it?
You can narrow this down to 3 choices
1. Pick an existing theme
Both Tumblr and WordPress give you a ton of free (or paid) themes to choose from, letting you find just the color, layout, and style that you want. Do a search on the general theme you want (ie, free Tumblr theme for food blogs).
2. Do it yourself
If you’ve got some design or technical chops, or maybe you’re taking a class and want to learn, have at it yourself.
3. Hire a designer
I went with this option, and will be working with Meghan O’Neill of Monday Designs. Why? Read on…
5) How much will it cost?
I strongly considered using 99 Designs. I went through all their options, looking at Website Design ($500-$1000 depending on how many concepts you want) and a WordPress Theme ($500 for 15 designs, $800 for 30 designs, and $1300 for 50 designs).
The huge advantage of 99 Designs would have been receiving dozens of diverse, unique designs to choose from. You’re basically crowdsourcing the work, and the results look amazing.
But in looking at cost, the designs don’t include coding, which adds another $300 to the price. Then if you want the code installed, you tack on another $130. Suddenly the $495 web design starts to creep into the 4 digit range.
In the end, I went with my local designer. I felt that Meghan, who lives in nearby Brookyln, would:
– Give me more flexibility in customizing multiple sub pages
– Was able to give me an all-in-one package (she does design, coding, installing, and testing)
– Be a one-on-one connection, where we could meet in person to sketch out ideas vs constant online contact
6) Before you buy your URL
If you’re going with Tumblr, head over, sign up for free and get started
But it’s a little different if you want your own URL. Your first thought might be to go to GoDaddy, which is fine. They are the market leader and great for looking up URLs. They also offer hosting.
But don’t buy that URL yet.
One major thing that many people don’t consider right away is hosting.
– If you want multiple websites
– If you’re going to get some decent traffic
– If you’re conducting business online
You want to choose your hosting company first.
1) The first domain is usually free when you sign up (saving you $10).
2) It’s a pain in the butt to transfer or redirect a url you bought on one site to another
Some notes about choosing a web hosting company:
– It’s a very competitive industry. Like a cell phone or car insurance, once you’ve signed on, most people stay there. They are looking for long-term customers.
– It’s a little complicated. It helps to have some tech skills when you need to get in there and deal with a little bit of code, navigate dashboards, and set up emails.
– It’s hard to decipher reviews. If you don’t have any problems, the hosting company is fantastic. Five stars. If your site goes down just once and you lose business because people can’t get to your site, suddenly they are “the worst hosting company ever.”
– Recommendations? Read reviews, check with friends, and ask around. All I can do is offer up feedback on what I have used.
– I’ve been using Dreamhost for 4 1/2 years, and have had very good success.
What should you look for in a web hosting company?
* Is the first domain name free?
* How many domains can I run? (Dreamhost is unlimited… I currently own 9)
* How much storage do I get?
* Do I have unlimited bandwidth?
* Do they have a one-click WordPress install?
* Do they have a money back guarantee?
* What kind of support do they have, and where is it based (DH is in Los Angeles)
* What is the monthly cost? (Expect to pay about $100 a year for most beginners. For example, Dreamhost has a flat fee of $8.95 per month, while GoDaddy has tiered plans of $5, $8, and $15 per month).
7) What should the url be?
The default for a personal brand should be your name, such as JimHopkinson.com.
But what if you can’t get it? You have a few options:
– Tack on “online” (Ex: JimHopkinsonOnline.com)
– Use a general descriptive term (TheHopkinsonReport.com)
– Be creative (MikeIndustries.com, HopkinsonCreativeMedia.com, etc)
Or, create a business or blog name
A few tips for this:
– Use Keywords (Ex: a Security Guard Training site might be called SecurityGuardTrainingHQ.com)
– Avoid numbers (Ex: Cash4Gold vs Cashforgold — both are bad)
– Stick to .com
– Avoid trademark names (No: iPadTrainingTips.com Yes: TabletTrainingTips.com)
– How does it read as a URL? (Note that Lumberman’s Exchange.com can become LumberManSexChange.com)
– Get alternatives (Ex: SalaryTutor/TheSalaryTutor/SalaryTutorApp/SalaryTutorBook)
That’s enough to get us started. I will follow up in a few weeks with my progress of my project. For now, you should:
1) Look at other sites you like (I’m going with something like Seth Godin has)
2) Wireframe the content (I’ve got a main page plus 7-9 sub pages, and another 10 question marks I need to address)
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