Your platform is where you interact with people online. It’s your blog where you publish content, your social media profiles where you engage in discussions and it can be so much more. I want to walk you through building your blog and setting it up to be the home base for your personal brand.
This post is based upon the experiences I made with building my brand. It’s easy to make mistakes in that process and I certainly made lots of them. After all, that’s how you get better. Nevertheless it’s good if you can skip making mistakes and learn directly from mine.
We’ll talk in-depth about how to set up WordPress, because your blog will become the main hub for your personal branding. Your blog is where you create your unique content, where you direct people to when you’re selling and where you are giving information about yourself and your business.
But don’t worry, it isn’t hard to set up.
WordPress is a content-management-system that is designed to be used by non-techies. You can easily create blogposts and pages in WordPress and do lots of other fun things.
But before you can start, you’ll need a domain. A domain looks like jkoch.me or www.google.com and is the address where your website will be accessible.
Make sure that you select a domain name that fits with your brand. I usually recommend to go with your name as the domain, because your name is as personal as your brand can get.
However, if you are too shy to go with your name (or it’s taken already) you need to find a domain name that aligns nicely with your brand. Go through your workbooks and take a look at your core strengths and the customer benefits. What are those? What emotions are connected to your strengths? Play around a bit, talk to others and maybe even share your thoughts in the comments below this post - so that the other Restarters can see what’s going on.
You can easily buy a cheap domain at Bluehost, together with web hosting. Web hosting is required to make your site accessible, it’s currently somewhere around $5 per month. So nothing too expensive. Hostgator would be an alternative to Bluehost.
I’ve created a step-by-step tutorial on how to sign up at Bluehost.
After you’ve signed up, it’s time to install WordPress. Bluehost comes with an easy-to-use installation process for WordPress. I created this video to showcase how to install a WordPress website on Bluehost.
After you’ve successfully installed your WordPress website, it’s time to personalize your website.
WordPress designs are called themes, which can be switched pretty easily. Some people tell you to focus on your content first before buying a professional theme, but I think your theme is very important.
When a new visitor comes to your site, you have around 8 seconds to make him stay or go back to the site he came from. In 8 seconds, he’ll have a look at the design of your site, not at your content. If your design isn’t visually appealing and aligned with your brand, people will leave your site right away, without ever reading your great content.
Finding a good theme can be challenging, since there are lots of „great“ developers creating themes. My mistake was that I bought my first theme on a platform called Themeforest. While Themeforest has some solid professional themes, I wouldn’t recommend most of them. That’s why I’m not even linking to that platform.
Instead I should have bought a theme based upon a reliable framework that’s used by thousands other bloggers - just like the Genesis Sixteen-Nine theme on my new design. That ensures the quality of code, the ease of use, the extensibility and it ensures future updates.
When you buy a theme, you’ll also want to choose a theme that’s responsive, meaning it resizes it’s elements on smaller screens automatically so that it looks good on smartphones, tablets, etc. Responsiveness is mandatory, so test the theme on several devices to see how it looks.
Also make sure that the color scheme of the theme is either customizable or is already in line with your brand. You can refer to color psychology if you’re not sure which colors to go with.
The most important part when choosing a theme are the theme functions. What layout presets does the theme have? Can you easily create blog pages, archives,portfolio pages, contact forms and other kind of pages? What sidebars and widget areas does the theme support? You need to get clear about the kind of content that you want to create and check whether the theme allows to structure that content in a way that’s useful for your visitor.
My personal recommendation for choosing a theme is Genesis. It’s a framework backed up by StudioPress and it’s used by 100,000+ websites. There themes are easy to use and to extend for non-techies, reliable and easy to update. I’m using the Genesis Sixteen-Nine theme on this site.
Plugins are little extensions for WordPress, adding functionality that will make your life easier as a blogger and entrepreneur. Let me showcase a few free plugins that I use on all of my sites.
WordPress SEO by YoaST
This plugin allows you to add information to your content that help you optimize it for search engines. You can add a target keyword and then check the post in helpful details to see what you can do to make the post more appealing to search engines.
Whether your doing SEO or not, this plugin is great for your blog to build a solid foundation. SEO itself is not topic of this post, that’s why I’ll refer to the specialists over at Quicksprout.
This plugin automatically reduces the file size of uploaded images and thus helps you to speed up your WordPress. Loading time is crucial nowadays, it shouldn’t take your page longer than 2-3 seconds to load.
Images are one of the biggest factors slowing down WordPress, that’s why WP Smush.it is very useful.
WP Super Cache
WP Super cache is another tool to speed up your WordPress significantly.It would be too much and too techy to explain all functions in this post, that’s why I’m referring to this tutorial. Important is that it's easy to use and has drastic effects on your pagespeed.
Caching is a must have in WordPress and you should either go with WP Super Cache or W3 Total Cache.
Obviously you’ll want to know how many visitors you have on your site. I recommend tracking those with Google Analytics. This plugin allows you to easily connect your Google Analytics account to your WordPress website and thus enable your stats tracking.
Somewhat hand-in-hand with Google Analytics goes Google Authorship. This is when Google displays your image besides your posts in the search results. Copyblogger wrote a great documentation how to add Google Authorship to your blog.
Flare is tool that allows your visitors to share your content easily. I’m not using this specific plugin on my websites, but nevertheless it’s great and I highly recommend it. Getting social shares is mandatory nowadays.