The Definitive Guide to Building a Personal Website
This page is going to help you create something better than just a resume. Most experts will tell you that your resume is your #1 networking tool, I’m no expert but I can tell you from experience it isn’t. It’s having a personal website.
A resume is pretty boring if you ask me. Put yourself in an experts position, looking through hundreds if not thousands of white one-page, Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri font type, and 10-12 font size, no pictures, no personality. C’mon where’s the personality?
How is that suppose to make you different than the rest of the candidates?
Another problem I found with having a resume, was how fixed and out of date it becomes when you submit it to a recruiter. If you wanted to make changes to that resume you gave to someone, then you’d have to send them a new one.
This adds more reasons to building a personal website.
If you’re a student or professional (or unemployed), then you’d need one to show prospective employers how good you are and what you can do, so that they might hire you.
A personal website is the contrary to that resume. Say goodbye to your old resume, and say hello to your new website. Once you’ve successfully finished you’ll realize the opportunities you might have missed.
6 Pros of Building a Personal Website
- It gives hiring managers a glimpse into your personality. A website gives you creative freedom to express your personality in ways that would not be possible through your resume. Everything from the bio paragraph you write to the design you choose for your personal website says something about yourself, and gives recruiters more reasons to look at you as an interviewee.
- Having an informative, well designed personal brand also sends that employer a message that you take your career very serious-and employers will notice.
- It offers findability. Showing up is half the fight. It’s common for employers to search for applicants online, and owning your own personal website with your domain with your name, give you a better shot at showing up if your name gets searched.
- Lastly, having your own site gives you control over what people find when they search for you. Gives you an opportunity to demonstrate a portfolio of info about you and more.
- Only a few people have one. In today’s world you must stand out, and a personal site helps you jump out from the crowd. When they see that you’ve learned how to build a somewhat technical task, they’ll see you’re not afraid to learn new skills others won’t.
- You’ll learn something you didn’t know how to do before. In the future more people will be required to be slightly more technical. Going through this guide will help you gain skills that require customization, and optimization of things. Doesn’t matter that you’re not looking for a techie job, these skills will be noticed and valued.
For example: If you’re looking for a job in the sales field. You can show the employer that you’re not only great at sales, but also, you have somewhat skills on the web. This will make you look more attractive than the rest of the bunch.
I get it Wilson!!! How do I Get Started Building my Personal Website?
Thought you’d never ask, in the following steps you’ll get everything you need to get you live and running on the web. Because this guide is extremely specific, I ask that you follow each section step-by-step so you don’t get stuck. I’ve tried to make it fail-proof as much as possible.
The goal of this page is to teach you how to build a great personal website. Here’s my example:
Here’s another excellent personal site — it’s adellecharles.com I really like how she uses her picture to direct your eye to read the content. “sneaky sneaky….”
From this moment on it’s all up to you to complete your website, but it doesn’t mean you can’t email if you get stuck. I’ve tried to follow my favorite principle K.I.S.S “Keep it simple, stupid” as much as possible. Since it took me a couple of days to complete, I’m sure it will take you an hour or from scratch to done.
Here’s what you’re about to learn:
- How to link your domain name to your web host
- How to install WordPress in one simple step
- How to install a beautiful theme
- How to optimize your website to be found, fast, secure
- Internet connection
- Reading this article
None of the tasks that you’ll complete today will require any prior experience with coding languages, or web design applications to get you up and running.
All you’ll really need is your time and Google Chrome (personal preference), or whatever browser you use.
It took me less than half an hour to complete my sisters website (mariadelmarshop.com), I estimate that this tutorial will take you close to the same time, without counting reading time. Obviously going back and forth to this article will consume some time. I recommend putting 30 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes to complete your personal website.
Before we begin the tutorial I want to let you know that the services I’ve recommended in this guide are what I use for my sites and customers as well, but there’s hundred more to choose from.
Disclaimer: I’ve always believed in transparency on the web and so I am disclosing that I’ve included certain products and links to those products on this site that I will earn an affiliate commission (no extra cost to you – actually it will be cheaper with a coupon code I provide) for any purchases you make. My goal with the blog is to help educate you on the possibilities that exist for a blogger in practically any field, but please understand I am doing this as a for-profit business and, frankly, so should you with your site unless you have some charitable endeavor in mind. I appreciate you!
Step 1: Buying and Setting up your Domain and Hosting
When you first get started you have the option to get a self-hosted vs. hosted domain. You could easily get a free subdomain from sites like WordPress.com or Wix or Yola.
However, there is a downside. The domain isn’t yours and your website doesn’t look as legitimate. For example, instead of it being wilsonusman.com it would be wilsonusman.wordpress.com.
It’s really an easy decision if you can afford to spend 18 cents per day, that’s how much this investment would cost you. But the returns will be much bigger. If you can’t then just going with WordPress.com is better than no site at all.
Before we jump to deep into the step-by-step tutorial, I want to give you some pointer on picking an effective domain name.
Don’t make the mistake Itscrap.com or Whorepresents.com did, now they’re on a list as the worst domain names ever.
A good domain name is an important part of the overall design of a website.
- If your name is common, then it’s probably going to be taken. It’s was simple for me to find wilsonusman.com, rarely do you find people with the first name Wilson. Don’t worry if your name is taken, use your middle initial or full middle name.
- Look for other extensions like .net, .me (is becoming more popular), or .org. Just don’t use .biz. (only if .com is not available)
- Avoid using characters or numbers on your domain name.
- The ultimate domain name will be your name + last name.com. Your SEO will be greater and easier for employers to remember.
Ideally, your domain name should be:
- Short, catchy and memorable, easy to pronounce, easy to spell, not too similar to competing domain names, not a violation of someone else’s trademark.
Got your domain? Let’s move on…and get you a domain name and hosting account.
Getting my Domain and Web Hosting Account
If you’re a student, professional (currently unemployed) I going to assume you’ll want something that won’t cost you an arm and a leg.
The best option for you will be HostGator’s Hatching Plan. The alternatives for a good web host service are endless, but as I mentioned above, I use them and I’ve never had any problems with them. I am very happy.
I love their customer support, they’re nice and always helpful. The best part about them is their options for installing your site easily with no hassle with WordPress.org.
There were a few scary moments in the beginning of my web developments days when I pretty much wiped the whole website and they were able to get me back and running in minutes. Luckily I’m more technically savvy and I don’t do that anymore, but if you’re just starting out, this is a great resource to have.
You also get to save money with my coupon.
Just use my name wilsonusman and you’ll get a 25% off discount from your first hosting purchase – doesn’t matter what timeframe you choose to go with.
Although there are multiple hosting services out there, this tutorial is specifically designed to help you if you’re using only HostGator.
Now lets head over to HostGator and click on “View web hosting plans”.
Next choose the Hatching Plan. For a personal site, they’re no benefit in getting anything bigger than this plan.
From this step forward it’s pretty straightforward. As long as you just fill in the blanks and pick your options.
You must first “enter your domain name here:” to verify the .com domain name is available. You’ll see a screen that looks like the one below. If you get the Congratulations! alert your domain is not taken. Scroll to the next step.
Complete the following sections:
- Hosting Package Information
- Account Information
- Billing Information
Now, you must be in the Add-ons section. You’ll see “SiteLock:Highly Recommended-Secure your Website” will be checked, unless you care about domain privacy protection I’d keep it checked. I don’t use any of these add-ons.
Use the coupon code
This section will prompt you to fill in the coupon code I gave you. Enter WILSONUSMAN to get my 25% off
Lastly, make sure your information is correct, and then hit “CREATE ACCOUNT”
Soon you’ll get an email confirmation of your purchase, with some important information you’ll need later. Congratulations and Thank you!
Step 2: Installing WordPress with Fantastico and Setting Up Your Personal Website
In five steps, you can install one of the most robust content management systems on the planet. Three more after that and you’re a world-class webmaster!
This step is the most important step because it requires more than just a click. The information you enter here needs to be written down and kept in a secured place, especially the administrator username and password.
- The dropdown menu on the right will show you the various domains and subdomains you can install WordPress on.
- Select yourdomain.com in this case
- Installing WordPress in a directory is the selection you should choose if you do not want to use WordPress for the CMS of your whole site. (For your site you do)
- Just leave this option blank. If you wanted to intall wordpress for example in a subdomain like /blog then you’d write blog in this field.
- The admin username is what will be used to login to the WordPress install every time.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Do not use “admin” as your username because it decreases the level of security of your site. Many people choose “admin,” this means a spammer only needs to figure out your password to get in, rather than both password and username.
- Just like the admin username, the admin password will be needed every time you login to WordPress.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Like all passwords, the admin password should be very crafty as you don’t want a spammer to break into your site and well, you know the rest.
- The admin nickname will be displayed as the author’s name for any post made by the admin user.
- Don’t need to be to concerned with this, just use your name or nickname if you have one.
- The admin e-mail is a required field and should be a real e-mail address.
- This e-mail will be the go-to email for comments in moderation, e-mails sent through forms (unless otherwise
changed) and pretty much any other communication from your site’s users.
- The site name is a WordPress feature that displays the site’s name at the top left corner of most WordPress themes and links to the homepage. It is much like a logo on other sites.
- This can be changed at any time in the WordPress dashboard in the “General” settings dashboard under the “Settings” tab.
- The site description is also known as the “Tagline” of the site. The default description for WordPress sites is “Just another WordPress site.”
- This description will be displayed under the site name by default. The tagline changed at any time in the WordPress dashboard in the “General” settings dashboard under the “Settings” tab.
Getting Familiar with WordPress
Now what? You’ve just completed the 5 minute install with fantastico, what do you do now?
From the get go you’ll see a Welcome to WordPress! message, this section will help you get started, so I recommend you check it out later. You’ll see there a few boxes with titles like Right Now, Quick Press, Recent Comments, Recent Drafts, WordPress Blog, Incoming links, and Plugins.
This is all nice and nifty, but I suggest you follow along the tutorial. You’ll find time to play with your site later.
Instead, lets go over the various menu items individually. As you hoover over each item you’ll see a dropdown will fly out with more options. When you click on the Main item it will put the dropdown below the parent section.
- Dashboard – The Dashboard Screen provides you a number of links to start writing Posts or Pages, statistics and links on the number of posts, pages, Categories, and Tags. A Recent Comments box shows the number of Comments awaiting moderation and a list of the recent comments. Configurable boxes of Incoming Links, and RSS feeds from the WordPress Blog, the Plugins blog, and Planet WordPress are also displayed.
- Posts – Posts are the principal element (or content) of a blog. The Posts are the writings, compositions, discussions, discourses, musings, and, yes, the rantings, of a blog owner and contributors. Posts, in most cases, are the reason a blog exists; without Posts, there is no blog!
- Media – Media is the images, video, recordings, and files, you upload and use in your blog. Media is typically uploaded and inserted into the content when writing a Post or Page. Note that the Uploading Files section in the Settings Media Screen describes the location and structure of the upload directory.
- Pages – A Page is another tool to add content to a WordPress site and is often used to present “static” information about the site; Pages are typically “timeless” in nature. A good example of a Page is the information contained in “About” or “Contact” Pages. A Page should not be confused with the time-oriented objects called Posts, nor should a WordPress Page be confused with the word “page” referring to any web page or HTML document on the Web.
- Comments – Comments are a feature of blogs which allow readers to respond to Posts. Typically readers simply provide their own thoughts regarding the content of the post, but users may also provide links to other resources, generate discussion, or simply compliment the author for a well-written post.
- Appearance – From the Presentation Administration Screen you can control how the content of your blog is displayed. WordPress allows you to easily style your site by either installing and activating new Themes or changing existing Themes.
- Plugins – Plugins allow you to add new features to your WordPress blog that don’t come standard with the default installation. There are a rich variety of Available Plugins for WordPress, and with the following Screens, plugin installation and management is a snap.
- Users – Every blog probably has at least two users: admin, the account initially set up by WordPress, and the user account you, as the author/owner of the blog, use to write posts. But maybe you want more; perhaps you want several authors for your blog. If you want a person to be able to post to your blog, that person must have access to a user account; typically, every person will have her or his own user account.
- Tools – WordPress Tools provide you the ability to speed up WordPress for your local machine, import content from other sources, export your content, or to upgrade your WordPress software to a new release.
- Settings – You might think, “All these other things I’ve been doing so far at the Administration Screens have involved ‘Settings’. Are these ‘Settings’ any different?” The answer would be, “Yes.” All the settings you’ve encountered in the other Administration Screens have dealt with very specific parts of your site, or have been of limited scope (only applying to one Category, for example). In the Settings Administration Screen are all of the settings that define your blog as a whole: settings which determine how your site behaves, how you interact with your site, and how the rest of the world interacts with your site.
If you skipped through this section that’s okay, I’m the kind of person that learns more by doing too. But if you read through this section you’ll know more about WordPress and what each section does more than 75% of the people that have been using WordPress for a while probably.
Now, lets look at some important settings before you actually dive into creating content for your personal website.
How to change your WordPress Permalink Structure
In this section you’ll learn to change your permalinks, but also the reason why. I see there are quite a few articles that show the how, but never explain the why.
I’ll be sharing a tool created by Joost de Valk that will help you create good URL links. (If you want to skip the why, that’s okay too, you can always come back and read it.)
Why change your permalink structure?
According to Joost, a lot of times people have sites that have dates on their permalink structure. He recommends only news sites to have a date permalink structure, any other case it’s pretty much pointless if your content is “timeless”.
There’s even studies that prove that less people click through links that have a date a year old or more, even though it might be a valuable article with the content they’re looking for. This is a big problem for your site, because Google has been valuing CTR (click through rate) to rank websites higher each day.
Changing WordPress Permalink Structure
There are two steps in changing your WordPress permalink structure. The first is simple, go to Settings -> Permalinks and select Post name:
If you don’t have the post name option yet, you’re not on WordPress 3.3, the release of which is imminent. You could wait a bit for the update, or you could just add /%postname%/ as a custom permalink structure. (Just make sure you click the update WordPress button as soon as you log into your dashboard for the first time.)
How to Set Up Your Website’s Page Structure
In the section above, we discuss pages. Pages are primarily used to create evergreen content, like your about me, and contact page. These are the pages that will be found in your menu bar.
Here’s a good example of my top-level navigation on the top right:
To help you build some pages if you’re lacking some ideas at the moment I’ve research some must-haves every personal website should have:
- Get a professional photo – If you’ve already invested in professional photos, you’re ahead of the game. If you haven’t I suggest you do. You can find local photographers willing to build their portfolio. When my girlfriend was getting started she would shoot for free all the time. The payoff makes them worth it.
- Your Resume – Include a separate page for your resume and include current and relevant information about your skills, strengths and achievements. Include your areas of expertise and a summary like the one on your LinkedIn profile. (I hope you have a LinkedIn)
- A detailed About me page
- Your Contact page with the necessary information where recruiters can get a hold of you. I’ll show you a nifty plugin where you can create a form too.
- Do you have a Portfolio of work you’ve done for others? Maybe you’re an artist, maybe you’re a writer, marketer, etc… Show off whatever work you believe is worthy of showing.
The quantity of pages you put up is totally in your hands. I’ll show you how to create your first page, and from there on you can replicate the process for any page you choose to put on your personal website.
A couple of steps we must go through first:
- Click Posts > All Posts on the sidebar and delete the sample post, it should be called “Hello World”.
- Click on Pages > All Pages and delete any sample pages.
Creating your First Page
One of the most visited pages for personal websites are About Me pages. Since this IS a personal website, it should also be your homepage or landing page as marketers like to call them.
Basically, use this to promote yourself. A little intro about yourself, what school you are going to or went to, what you’re good at and maybe even what some of your objectives are. Don’t forget a good profile picture.
Let’s do this!
Find the button that say Add New and click it. Once you do, you’ll get something exactly like this:
Pretty simple right? It’s really like using Word or Google Docs. With the WYSIWYG editor you can change the text and body headings, center, left or right align, add links, indent, make lists, bold, italicize, or underline. Really simple once again.
The box at the top is your Title Bar, and the box under the tools is your Body section. You’ll also find the Add Media button above the tools to upload and insert any media files you might want to add.
To give you some inspiration for your about me page, check out some of the best practices of some effective about me pages later when you have some free time.
Inserting images to your page
To add a picture to your personal website just click on the add media button, make sure you have the cursor where you’d like that image to be inserted at.
You can just drag and drop into the inside of the box or click “select files” to find it in a folder.
Once you’ve followed all the steps above make sure you do a spell check and verify you have all the content you want structured nicely, just click Publish.
Your page is Live!
How to Make Your “About Me” Page Your Landing Page
- Go to Administration > Settings > Reading panel.
- Set ‘Front page displays:’ to ‘a static page’ and choose the about me you created above for ‘Front page.’ If your WordPress site will contain a blog section, set ‘Posts page’ to the page you created for this above. Otherwise, leave this blank.
- Save changes.
All you have left to do is create the remaining pages that you want, just repeat this process step-by-step.
How to Add a Blog Page in 60 Seconds
I know you’re thinking about gone in sixty seconds, It’s literally what I was thinking when I wrote that title. All joking aside, this literally is that easy.
All you have to do is add a page with the title as Blog, you don’t have to do anything to the blog page, just leave it empty and publish it.
Go to Settings > Reading and set Posts page: to that page called Blog you’ve just created.
You’ve Build a Personal Site By Yourself (Let’s Celebrate)
By now you should be all done with all your pages. If a recruiter visited your website you literally could get hired.
What a great feeling. But you’re not done yet. Now we’ll focus on the facade of the website.
Step 3: Learning to Customize Your WordPress Theme without any CSS Skills
You could let a web designer take over from here and break your bank. Or you could…. Find an awesome WordPress theme/template that will transform your website without a lick of CSS skills.
One of the many pros of WordPress is the library of themes of available to you.
I’m a big believer in the old proverb “You get what you pay for“, and because of it, I recommend you get something better than just a free theme. Although I will help you pick a free one if you’re budget doesn’t allow for a paid one yet.
My Favorite Themes
I’ve spent a lot of hours researching something more than just another WordPress blog from the WordPress library for you, this way your site is not so generic. My style tends to be a little minimalistic, so if you don’t like my choices, please visit the WordPress Theme library and choose one that fits your style or buy one from one of the places I’ve recommended below.
If you’re not satisfied with these any of the themes above, below are some paid resources I love:
Take your time choosing a theme that fits you well and let’s get it installed. That’s the next step.
Installing Your Theme Using the Admin Panel
Once you have downloaded your theme to your desktop we can get started. Make sure it’s a zip file or this step won’t work.
You have it? Let’s install it.
- On the WordPress Dashboard, hover over Appearance and click Themes.
- Click the tab at the top that says Install Themes.
- Find and click the link that says Upload.
- Choose your .zip file and and click Install Now.
- Make sure the theme was installed successfully, and click Activate.
Step 4: SEO Optimizing, Plugins and More
One of the most powerful features of WordPress is the ability to extend the functionality of WordPress with Plugins. There are over 20 thousand plugins in the plugin directory that allow you to do all kinds of things with your website
Anything you can think of, there’s a plugin for it. Below I’ll highlight some of the most powerful plugins everyone should have on their site.
A few things to watch out for are the ratings of the plugin, and last updated date. If a plugin has not been updated recently and it has a low star rating, it’s a bad sign.
Installing a plugin will be a lot easier because the directory can be found within the sidebar, it’s just a matter of searching the plugin repository. Here’s how to do it:
- Hover over Plugins in the sidebar, click Add New
- Type the name of the plugin and hit Seach Plugins, the more accurate the better chance of finding it
- Once you read the Details, click Install Now
- Go back to the plugins page and click Activate
- The plugin usually comes with a documentation page to set it up if you need to
5 Must-Have Plugins for Personal Websites
- WordPress SEO by Yoast (Free) – WordPress SEO by Yoast is bar none the best SEO plugin for WordPress. It allows complete control of page titles and meta descriptions on a per page/post basis as well as for each taxonomy (category or tag pages)
- Akismet (Free) – Although there are many plugins that help you combat spam, Akismet is one of the best options because it comes with WordPress out of the box and it’s free for personal use. Setting up Akismet is a piece of cake. All you have to do is go to Akismet.com, and register to get a WordPress key. Once you’re assigned a key, you can insert it in the Akismet settings on your website and say goodbye to spam!
- Limit Login Attempts – As the name suggests, this plugin limits the failed login attempts a user can make to enter your WordPress admin area.
- Google XML Sitemaps – This plugin creates a sitemap, which is crucial because it extracts links and some text so that a variety of search engines can succinctly index your site (found in Google’s Webmaster Tools section).
- Contact Form 7 – It allows you to flexibly design the form and mail. You can manage multiple contact forms as well.
You’ve Made it to The End
You’re site is now live, you have all your pages, you have a personal website to promote yourself to employers and recruiters. You’re one step ahead of the rest, pad yourself in the back and go celebrate with a beer or a bottle of wine.
When you complete your site please leave a comment below with your URL. Also if you run into any problems, please email me. If you found this useful or think someone else will, send it to them. Thank you very much!