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How To: Create Your Personal Brand Online

Personal Branding has become a new buzzword in the Online PR industry. This has been an emerging trend for quite some time now and is focused in main part as a tangent from its larger corporate counterparts. So why do you need to employ some of the same techniques and efforts that large corporations use? Because, just like corporations, the market is competitive out there. People are the ones behind companies and its these people that make hiring, firing and all sorts of personnel decisions behind the brand. Creating your visible brand to compete with other people, other companies (your work COULD just be outsourced), or automated processes is something that is gaining much recognition and should be seriously considered.

Should you decide to take that plunge and dive into personal branding, you’ll find yourself in good company. As of now, you’ll still be ahead of the curve and that could be the little extra needed to take you to the next level. All this can be done relatively cheaply, too. Here’s our recommendations and a step-by-step guide to creating your personal brand online.

Step 1: Create Your Name

The first step towards creating a personal brand is owning your name. It’s (of course) ideal to own your actual full name and use that as your domain name, also known as a URL. Your URL is the web address that people will visit to find you. Having your name as your URL makes it easier for search engines to find you and is one of the critical criteria in ensuring you show up on top of the rankings. Owning your name is not only memorable, it’s also professional and eliminates any confusion about who you are. No longer will people have to discern which facebook is really yours, but they’ll have one single aggregate source for everything that is you.

If your name is already taken, attempt to brand yourself under a professional nickname or include an initial. For example, if JohnDoe.com is already taken, you might try JohnHDoe.com, JDoe.com or JHDoe.com. Alternatively, if you go by any nicknames such as Jonny you may want to also purchase JonnyDoe.com or a full name such as JohnathanDoe.com. The more names that you own, the better the chances are that people will find YOU online and not others with your name.

Step 2: Own Your Name

Now that you’ve created your name, you’ll have to purchase it. There are plenty of registrars out there willing to do this for you. You’ll want to register your URL with a reputable company that will be around for some time and with the support you need if you run into any problems. Register.com is a popular choice, but my preferred favorite is Go Daddy. Their rates are competitive (you shouldn’t need to pay more than $12 a year for your domain) and you can find coupon codes on various websites such as Retail Me Not. By using a provider such as this, you’ll be ensured that you won’t suffer vendor lock-in when (and if) you decide to choose to host a website elsewhere online. Be wary of those tactics of other companies that sell you a free domain name with the purchase of some other service as oftentimes they will retain ownership rights of that domain name. GoDaddy doesn’t do this, so you’re safe with them.

Registering your domain should be a fairly straightforward process. Don’t fall for the “extra” services such as domain certification or private registration. You shouldn’t need these things as few should doubt the validity of your domain (more of a commercial option) nor should you hide from registering the site in your name. The only reason to add a private registration would be if you would like your name and address hidden from the general public. To some, such as doctors, lawyers, etc this service may be applicable but in general it is no different than being listed in the phonebook.

The length of ownership is something that you should consider when evaluating costs, but nothing else. If you purchase your domain for a longer term, you can think of it as locking in your domain for that long at that price. If you decide on owning your domain for just 1 year (or if you’re on a college budget), that is fine too. GoDaddy and other reputable registrar’s will keep you notified of expiring domains and give you plenty of chances to renew the domain later on. Just remember to keep your email updated on the registrar’s website. If you forget and your expiration date passes by fewer than 30 days, you may still be okay. Your domain isn’t released into public domain until 30 days AFTER the length for which you paid, but your website will stop working.

Step 3: Direct Your Domain

So you’re a proud owner of a new domain name. What does that get you? Well, nothing really. Just the assurance that nobody else owns your name online (which is actually quite a lot if you think about it). But realistically, you’ll want to do something with your domain and your newly forming online reputation. You now have two options:

1) Redirect to an Existing Web Presence

Many people maintain social web presences online. These may include a facebook profile, a twitter account, a flickr site or maybe even a linkedIn. It’s best to choose something that your intended audience will relate to and like to see about you. For many people, that eliminates a facebook profile as information is often more social and potentially harmful than helpful. My recommendation would be to point to your linkedIn page and use that as your professional starting point for people looking to find out more information about you. From there, they will be directed to other pages you might want them to see on the web in a clean and reputable fashion.

2) Building Your Own Site

Building your own website has gotten easier and easier lately. There are many web companies that will host your site for you and give you the tools needed to build a decent-looking website. That said, if you aren’t willing to drop some serious hours on a website, you might want to consider choosing option 1 above and re-direct your URL to an easy site creator such as Google Sites or Yola, though your domain will change once you visit your site created with these 3rd party tools into their URL.

If you really are serious about creating your own web presence, though, you can either ask a web professional or go at it alone. If you’re looking to go it alone, here’s a few quick tips I’d recommend:

1) Get a good, reliable host. Don’t skimp out on hosting, but don’t fall for the high and low priced gimmicks that are our there too. Personally, I’ve heard great things about HostGator and their customer service seems fantastic. The hosting provider is the person who will store and make your whole website accessible to the world, so you want  a host with good support and a good reputation for uptime. You may have to deal with these people more than anyone else if anything goes wrong with your site, so make sure you like their service. Oftentimes, reputable hosts will offer a trial period. Just remember not to get hooked on any marketing campaign offering a free domain. Don’t take it!

2) Consider using WordPress as your content management system. Content Management Systems (CMS) are downloadable platforms that help structure your website so that you don’t have to worry about learning HTML, CSS, PHP, AJAX or any of those other tricky web languages. It makes updating and building your site A LOT easier as your website will act more like a web application (think facebook) than lines of yucky code. Of course, if you’re into the code thing you can always edit the appearance of your site using a theme editor which will allow you to tinker with the PHP, HTML etc if you’d like. But that’s definitely not required.

If you choose to use WordPress, you will most likely be able to install it in a single click using your Hosting provider’s backend. Every hosting provider I have seen that uses the cPanel interface (including HostGator) offers 1 click installation of WordPress through their Fantastico or Softaculous Software/Service Package. Many other hosts will also offer free and easy WordPress installations as well. Its something certainly worth looking into and if you don’t see it readily available, feel free to call support and open a ticket. They’ll most likely be able to guide you through the necessary steps to get your CMS up and running.

3) Picking a good looking theme is critical to the overall feel of the site. The theme is what people will see when they visit your site. It is the look, the feel, the features, the colors and the fundamental experience of your site. For that reason, pick a theme that suits your target audience the best. If you’re the artsy type, pick an artsy theme. If you’re business professional, pick a professional corporate looking theme. WordPress has thousands of free themes available on their website and also under the “Appearance” section of their control panel. If you’re looking for something else, there are hundreds of other sites out there with either paid or free themes. My personal favorite is WooThemes, though any should work. The only difficulty here is you will have to download these themes on to your computer and then upload and unpackage them using an FTP client. This really isn’t too difficult, but if you’re not computer-inclined, you may want to ask for some assistance. WordPress also has a free tutorial here.

4) Adding content. Now that you have your URL, your CMS, and a sweet-looking theme, it’s time to add some content. Depending on the theme you have chosen, you may want to simply leave your site as a landing page with basic contact information, or you might want to add in various level so media, embedded Youtube clips, etc. At the very least, make sure that your site has a picture of yourself and some way to get ahold of you. If you are more into developing a robust and feature-rich site, consider looking at the various plug-ins available to make WordPress do some pretty neat things with your content. Plugins are available, typically for free, in the WordPress control panel under a tab called plugins. No matter what you post, make sure that it is representative of you and gives your audience the appropriate feel and information they want and need.

Example simple: HireDavidLanphear.com
Example robust: DavidLanphear.com

Step 4: Unify Your Handles

For the layman among us, handles are those usernames that you use with third party websites such as facebook. Handles are your tags of the internet and it becomes what you are known by when you visit various sites across the internet. That is why it is so crucial that you build your name across different websites so you are easy to identify no matter where you visit. Try to choose handles, much like URLs, that easily identify you. Whether it be your full name, JohnDoe, or a shortened version, JDoe, try to make it as consistent as possible across all your frequented websites. KnowEm is a great automated service that is able to do this for you, albeit for a fee, or you can use their site to check the availability of a potential handle across many popular websites. Securing your identity online eliminates confusion and helps others recognize your presence in an increasingly cluttered atmosphere.

Step 5: Update, Revise and SEO

Never forget to update your information as it changes. You’re the one ultimately in charge of your online destiny and you must work to maintain and improve it over time. The world has access to your information you post here so keep it current, keep it fresh, and keep it interesting. The more you update, and the more effort you put into it, the more the search engines will like your site. Talk about it online with other people, on social media, and include it in blog postings. The more you talk about your site and the more you keep it current the more likely it is for your search rankings to increase and your visibility to improve on the web as well. In all, be an active participant in maintaining your web presence as its not only good practice for your audience, it’s great for your online reputation as well.

Written by

David is an avid social entrepreneur and Boston sports fanatic. He founded Diversified Data Technologies way back in 2009 and stuck around to see it grow. His party quarks include unnecessary dancing and being an overly hospitable host. When looking, he can be found capturing the twitterverse at @DLanphear, being professional on LinkedIn, or bouncing around town with Foursquare.

1 Comments to “How To: Create Your Personal Brand Online”

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