jay_beckner

I play poker and trade options, seeking edges from study, reflection and analytics.

Creating a Personal Website or Blog - Do These 10 Things

Creating a Personal Website or Blog - Do These 10 Things

Perhaps you’re visiting my website to learn about me and my trading and writing goals. ...or, you couldn’t care less: you landed here while researching how to create a personal website or blog. Either way, I’m glad you showed up, and I hope you find value.

One can spend a few to countless hours building a web presence beyond Facebook and Twitter. Your digital publishing options are that good/diverse. This post is about planning, launching and managing a branded personal website or blog using your own domain and website builders that don’t require software engineering skills. The story of how this website came to be, if you prefer.

Drawing from related professional experience (and mucho new research), I put together this comprehensive outline of recommended methods, technologies and first steps.

1. Brainstorm - On most projects, it’s unwise to jump in and start doing just because you’re excited. Bottle that energy for next steps. Begin by noting and refining your ideas on theme, content, biography, etc. Jotting them down frees up mental cycles for new ones.

Get: Google Account, Search, Chrome and Drive (desktop and mobile)

Accessing open tabs from all logged in devices with Chrome is productivity positive. Google Drive is a versatile document creation, scanning and storage platform that’s indispensable for content creators - the companion mobile apps (Docs, Sheets and Slides) are great for quick reference and editing.

1st Step: Open a “Doc” and record an idea

2. Organize - Still stick Post-it notes to your computer monitor? Even one-person projects benefit from better project and idea management.

Get: Trello (desktop and mobile)

I have enjoyed great success managing projects with Trello. The platform is simple and intuitive yet powerful; data syncs beautifully across devices and to collaborators.

1st Step: Create a new board, add lists (e.g. Brainstorming, To Do, Doing and Done) and add your first card

3. Clean Up - As planning for this site progressed, I started thinking about the social web awaiting my new content. Productivity slowed, so I grabbed my digital broom and started cleaning up my social media presence.

Checklist:

  • Use a single profile image on most platforms 
  • Update and standardize bio sections
  • Rethink visible personal data
  • Review privacy settings
  • Change profile links readable names (e.g. Google+ and Facebook)
  • (when you launch) Add your new website URL
  • Delete unused accounts

This is NOT time wasted. A solid social strategy will lend itself to the marketing, reputation and SEO (search engine optimization) of your new website.

4. Master Your Domain - Unless your domain name is rock-solid (i.e. you wish to register your given name and it’s available), this step may require some deliberation. As “xdaystogo dot com” settled in my mind, I refreshed my domain registrar knowledge. Admittedly, I have only used GoDaddy, but this process revealed other options and I chose namecheap ← please bookmark and use this ($) affiliate link.

With namecheap, I saved nearly 70% versus the equivalent GoDaddy shopping cart (including the best available discount codes). Well-designed and intuitive describes their website. Customer support and domain management has exceeded expectations. Private Email performs well based on my limited desktop and mobile use.

Get: Domain and Email

Generally speaking, nothing more (from a domain registrar) is needed to operate a branded personal website or blog. Whois privacy is optional but often recommended. If you choose namecheap, their "knowledgebase" has excellent articles for email setup, mobile access and connecting your domain to popular website builders.

5. Choose a Builder - It’s scary, the article deluge battering prospective users in this space. I waded through it looking for platforms offering clean, responsive and artful templates, design options that don’t require coding, standard content blocks with good controls, Google Analytics support, reputable customer support and integrated hosting.

Get: Squarespace (desktop and mobile)

This popular platform checked all the boxes. The blog templates drew me in. (I use Skye.) The refund policy and site portability made me comfortable. Integrated hosting sealed the deal. Growing with Squarespace is my only concern; they don’t directly support monetizing premium content.

1st Step: Scan the Videos library and watch “Starting a Squarespace Trial”

If you are working on something that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.
— Steve Jobs

6. Start Creating - Launching your personal website or blog means you signed up for a never-ending design, organizational and copy writing challenge. You bottled energy in step one - uncork it, and start doing!

Get: Dropbox (desktop and mobile)

While Google Drive offers robust sharing options for files and photos, the Dropbox public folder makes it clear which files are openly shared. Simply drop in a file and click the share button -boom- a link for web use.

1st Step: Choose a template and put the pages and navigation links in your preferred order

The simplest task often unlocks a productivity rush. Visualize new pages by adding filler text from this lorem ipsum generator. Writing great blog posts is hard enough without laboring over title capitalization.

7. Be Smart - Most website builders offer basic proprietary website analytics, but adding a true analytics platform from the start adds flexibility, accuracy and depth as growth demands more.

Get: Google Analytics (desktop and mobile)

Getting Started:

Personal website or blog KPIs are relatively simple - Users, New Users, Bounce Rate vs Exit Rate, Pages/Session, Duration/Session and Average Server Response Time (monitor your hosting solution). I created this dashboard to track them all at a glance:

Google Analytics Dashboard displaying KPIs for a personal website or blog.

Google Analytics Dashboard displaying KPIs for a personal website or blog.

Creating shortcuts to key reports is another good option - start with Acquisition > Overview and click “Shortcut.” Linking to your latest blog post on social media often generates new sessions - go to Real-Time > Overview to see the immediate impact. (It’s fun!)

Overwhelmed and thinking you need a web analytics pro to help? Google appears to be developing AI (artificial intelligence) for that. The Assistant, only on mobile, helps you “explore your data and find opportunities to improve.”

8. Build in Growth - Many web publishers generate revenue from their site as growth and engagement affords them the opportunity.

Get: Disqus, Stripe and MailChimp

Most website builders integrate with Disqus, a comments platform that helps “site owners power discussions, increase engagement and earn revenue.” Stripe facilitates Squarespace commerce including the donations block. MailChimp is the ubiquitous email marketing platform used by bloggers to keep users returning via RSS email.

1st Step: Review my donation block implementation (see page footer)

9. Be Neighborly - SEO talk makes many webmasters cringe, but it isn’t scary or complicated. I liken search engine optimization to having curb appeal. A good site title and description (among other things) will have you out-ranking your neighbors in no time.

Get: Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools

Google says, “If you read one document (about Search Console), this is it.” Probably because their Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide overwhelms even the most seasoned pros!

1st Step: Read your website builder’s SEO guide and find out which text fields appear in search results

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.
— Anonymous

10. Don’t Quit - Is the hard part done? That’s up to you. You are the master of your domain. Your unique platform tells the world who you are, what you think, what you do. Just keep learning and fulfilling your vision with compelling content and smart execution.

By the way, whatever your project, design simply and be concise. A busy UI (user interface) will jettison visitors faster than Felix Baumgartner!


I hope this helped! Please support my blog with a donation at the bottom of this page -and- Shop at Amazon.com!

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