There are a lot of sites showing how to brand yourself, but few of them show the technical side of personal branding. This post will show how to do it.
There are two general ways to start a personal branding site. The first is to sign up with a blogging site. You have a lot less control over things, but it is free and easy to set these up. The second way is to set it up yourself and host things with a hosting company. You have the benefits of customizing the site more and the ability to choose your own domain name. Since there are good tutorials for the blogging sites, I will focus on creating your own site.
To help you decide which type of branding site to go with, please check my personal branding site. This is the basic setup we will be discussing in this post. Another benefit of setting things up yourself is creating sub-domains for other things like your online resume.
*end shameless plug*
The first step is to identify a hosting company. I use DreamHost and have been happy with it. If you use the promo code “jesseanderson”, you will get 2 free domain names! Additionally, some of the domain setup instructions will be specific to DreamHost. At $8.95 per month, DreamHost is very affordable.
The second step is to choose a domain name. If you use my promo code, choose 2 domain names. Dreamhost’s domain search is not very good. I use GoDaddy’s or Network Solution’s. Don’t buy the domain through them or you will have to set the DNS manually and keep track of when your domains expire. If a domain is taken their searches will recommend other possibilities. Remember that numbers and dashes are valid domain names. In my case, jesseanderson.com was taken, so I added a dash (jesse-anderson.com) and it was available.
Now you are ready to up with your hosting company. When prompted for a domain name, enter the one(s) you have chosen. Depending on your DNS provider, it can take hours or as much as 2 days for your domain’s DNS entries to propagate. It usually takes 12-24 hours to propagate.
When purchasing your domain on Dreamhost, you have the ability to use Google to host your E-mail, calendar and Google Docs. I recommend you do this as you can use Gmail for all of your E-mail needs. If you don’t plan on using your new domain’s E-mail address, I recommend you create a forwarding address or E-mail alias.
You have your domain, but it isn’t showing anything yet. Don’t worry, you don’t have to code a website from scratch anymore. There are high quality, open source programs to run your website. Best of all, these programs are skinnable and extensible through plugins. For our purposes, WordPress is a good one.
Log in to the DreamHost panel. Go to Goodies->One Click Installs. Click on “Install new software – Advanced”. Select WordPress if it isn’t already selected. Under “Install To” choose your domain and leave create database checked. DreamHost’s install bot will taken care of the install and configuration. You will receive an E-mail from Dreamhost with the login instructions. If you want a more advanced install, look at Dreamhost’s wiki entry on WordPress. If you are not using DreamHost, check your hosting provider’s documentation for how to install and configure WordPress.
Login into to your site and give it title, a user, a password and your E-mail address. Click on “Install WordPress”.
For more information on working with WordPress, go to their documentation site.
We are almost finished, but we want to extend our site with plugins and make it look better with a theme.
We want people to be able to contact us through our site, but we don’t want to publish an E-mail address. This will lead to massive amounts of spam. We will add a contact form, but those a susceptible to spam bots so we will add a CAPTCHA to our contact form. We also want to know if people are even coming to our site and how they are finding out about it. Google Analytics is good tool for this.
Login to your WordPress install and go to Plugins->Add New. Install “Really Simple CAPTCHA” and click on “Activate Plugin”.
Install “Contact Form 7” and click on “Activate Plugin”. Go to the Plugins page and click on “Settings”. In the form textbox, add the following lines where you want the CAPTCHA to appear:
<p>[captchac captcha-203] [captchar captcha-203] </p>
A full form might look like:
<p>Your Name (required)<br /> [text* your-name] </p> <p>Your Email (required)<br /> [email* your-email] </p> <p>Subject<br /> [text your-subject] </p> <p>Your Message<br /> [textarea your-message] </p> <p>[captchac captcha-203] [captchar captcha-203] </p> <p>[submit "Send"]</p>
You can get more information on “Contact Form 7” by going here.
Install “Google Analytics for WordPress” and click “Activate Plugin”. Go to the Plugins page and click on “Settings” under the Google Analytics for WordPress section. In another tab or window, sign up for a Google Analytics account. Once you are done, click on “Authenticate with Google”. You can go here for information on what you can do with Google Analytics.
Now we will create a contact page. Click on Pages->Add New. Give it a title like “Contact”. In the editor add whatever other means of contact you want to have on your website. Add the following line for E-mail contacts:
[contact-form 1 "Contact form 1"]
E-mail sent from this form will go to the E-mail address setup in Settings->General->E-mail address. I suggest you use the E-mail address you created for you domain.
Next, we want to make your site look as good as possible and WordPress uses themes for this. Wordpress is full skinnable and many nice, free themes exist. As usual, the best ones are for pay. Google can help you find sites with themes. Choose a theme that conveys your personal brand as much as possible. Many of themes add extra features like icons and images for your pages and blog posts. You can install themes via the Appearance->Themes page. Changing themes is very easy and you can try a few before settling on one.
From here, you can create the blog posts and pages that create your personal brand. Here are Bret Simmons’ posts about personal branding or go through my presentation on technical personal branding.