7 Tips for creating your own website for networking and marketing your academic work
It has become increasingly important for academics to create an online presence as a means of networking and marketing your work. One way to do that is to create your own professional website.
To reap the most rewards from your website, John Soares, a freelance writer and author of the popular Productive Writers blog, offers the following advice for each step in the process:
- Register a domain name. It is important to create a name that is easy to remember, is fairly short, and is related to the content on your site. You can reserve a domain name at any time—even if you’re not ready to create your website yet—in order to make sure nobody else beats you to it. As Soares suggests, “At a cost of only $10 to $12 each, it is worth the effort and expense to reserve a domain name that you may want in the future.”
- Select a hosting service. Using a large, national hosting service is recommended so that you will have access to tech support immediately if you need it. Soares uses hostgator.com for his own websites.
- Select software. Soares has long been a proponent of WordPress blogging software for personal websites, even for people who don’t intend to blog. WordPress is a good choice for beginners because it is easy to use and customize, and it is easy to set up for social media sharing and search engine optimization. WordPress is free and comes in two varieties—you can download the software yourself through WordPress.org and host your site elsewhere, or you can create a website that will be hosted by WordPress itself at WordPress.com. Creating a WordPress.com site is the quickest and easiest option, but Soares prefers to download the software through WordPress.org because sites created through WordPress.com have less customizability, must include “wordpress.com” in the domain name, and can be removed by WordPress for any reason. Blogger.com, another free and customizable blogging service, is very similar to WordPress.com in terms of both benefits and limitations.
- Design a professional looking website. Make sure the content and formatting on your site is professional and proofread everything carefully. To make your website look as sharp as possible, Soares recommends having your website professionally designed. A professional website developer can help create a site that is attractive, easy to navigate, and maximizes social media integration. “The cost for designing a basic WordPress site ranges from $100 to $500, and the cost goes up from there for a more elaborate site,” said Soares. “It is well worth the investment because it makes a site look more professional. When considering a designer, check references and look at other WordPress sites that designer has created.”
- Make your site easy to find. To increase the traffic to your site, learn about search engine optimization (SEO). You can start by learning the basics with a book, but since SEO strategies change frequently, Soares recommends consulting websites such as SEOmoz’s Beginners Guide to SEO or Search Engine Land to stay up-to-date. Another way to increase traffic to your site is to officially submit your website address to search engines Google and Bing. This way they are immediately aware of it and will start indexing key words from your website in their databases so that your page will appear in relevant search results.
- Set up social media share buttons. Social media share buttons allow others to share your content with their networks on social media, which can help build your site’s popularity. Soares recommends setting up social media share buttons for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+.
- Optimize your traffic. Once your site is launched, your number one goal is to increase traffic. In addition to adding your website URL to your email signature and other print materials, you should also work to get reputable individuals and organizations to link to your site. If you write something for other someone else’s website, include a link to your site with your article, and be sure the content on your site is newsworthy so that related websites will link to yours as well.
Throughout this entire process, said Soares, it is imperative that you make sure your content is interesting, relevant, and updated on a regular basis.