Table of Contents
We need to register a domain name for a personal website. Like a username, a domain name is part of our Digital Identity; therefore, it should match our username. Additionally, we can register a short domain name for marketing and URL shortening instead of cluttering the main domain’s namespace. As an example, my main domain is jaantollander.com, and my short-domain is jaan.me.
We can register domain names in a domain name registrar. Be aware of the prices between providers and always check the renewal price. Some providers offer lower prices for the first year but higher renewal prices. Regular domain names cost between 15 - 25 USD per year. Security and reliability are also critical when choosing a domain name registrar, especially if you operate a business on your domain. We advise searching for the highest-ranking domain name registrar and comparing their offerings.
I use Hover, a domain name registration service with fair prices and an easy-to-use interface. Their domain registrations include whois-privacy, transfer lock, auto-renew, domain forwarding, and two-factor authentication.
Static Website Generator
From a technical perspective, a static website generator is the easiest option for creating a personal website. Static websites are efficient, economical, and secure because we generate them only once, store the generated site, and serve the stored site to visitors without modification. In contrast, dynamic websites must actively use servers to regenerate websites for users, which is costly. We can still utilize dynamic functionality, such as forms, on static websites in two ways: either by creating dynamic elements using client-side scripting or using third-party applications that provide the required dynamic functionality as a service.
I recommend Hugo, a lightning-fast, versatile static website generator. Hugo’s speed enables a near-instant preview of the website, making development easier. Its robust content management, built-in templates, and Markdown support make it convenient to create different content types. Shortcodes allow extending Markdown with custom HTML elements. Hugo’s efficiency makes deploying websites faster and cheaper.
A personal website works as a landing page for our online identity. It is our digital portfolio and platform for publishing content. At a minimum, the site should display our profile photo and biography. Additionally, we can add education, professional experience, and skills. On our website, we can publish content such as articles, newsletters, podcasts, books, and courses. If we publish content on third-party platforms, we can add links to them on our website or embed the content. The benefit of not relying primarily on third-party platforms is that we have better control over our content and audience.
I use Wowchemy, a website template and theme for the Hugo website generator with a large community. Wowchemy templates are simple to set up and use. Its widgets allow you to customize your home page.
Deployment and Hosting
Publishing a website online requires a service to deploy and host it. These services enable us to configure a custom domain name for our website. We should look for services that support Git-based workflows where pushing to the master branch deploys the new website automatically. It makes static websites are easy to develop.
Serving websites requires sending data across the web. By keeping the website file size small, we minimize unnecessary data usage, which makes the website load faster and decreases hosting costs or keeps hosting free. For example, always compress the images on your website. Share large files by sharing links or embedding them using a dedicated service, such as video or audio hosting service, cloud storage, or torrent.
I use Netlify to deploy and host static websites. Their free plan offers 100 GB of data and 300 build minutes per month – plenty to support well over ten thousand monthly visitors with an efficient static website. Their paid plans offer advanced features for serverless backends, more data, and build minutes. Netlify also makes using Git-based workflows trivial.
Content Creation Strategies
Successful content creation requires adopting a long-term view and aiming for consistency and quality to build trust in your brand. It requires creating high-quality, practical content for niche audiences in multiple content formats. Different content formats include text such as articles and newsletters, videos such as YouTube and Twitch, audio such as podcasts, and code such as GitHub repositories. We can engage with our audience by enabling comments.
People can find our content in many ways, for example, through direct links and organic search. We can improve how easy it is to find our content with organic search with search engine optimization (SEO). Adding relevant metadata such as tags, categories, featured images, thumbnails, and descriptions is part of SEO. Metadata determines how our content appears in search results and shared links, critical for being findable. Cross-linking the different formats with one another is useful for SEO and necessary for funneling people to our website. For example, an article on your website should have links to your videos about the same subject and vice versa.
Analytics enables you to track how much traffic your website and content is receiving. However, don’t take the number of views at face value. For example, creating content about challenging subjects takes more effort to produce and usually receives fewer views than popular topics. However, a smaller, loyal audience willing to invest time into consuming your content is much more valuable than a large, uninvested audience. A high-quality audience allows you to use better monetization models. For example, we can use a subscription model, selling premium content such as courses, books, or premium newsletters, or affiliate marketing products that you use yourself. With better monetization models, we can avoid using online advertising-based monetization. Therefore, not becoming part of the attention economy that thrives on producing clickbait.
I recommend Plausible Analytics as a privacy-friendly, light-weight tool for tracking of website traffic that does not rely on cookies.
As a reference for digital marketing, I recommend Digital Marketing for Dummies, by Russ Henneberry and Ryan Deiss. It is a technical book for understanding and implementing an effective digital marketing strategy. It covers fundamental concepts such as content marketing, social media marketing, and email marketing.