FREELANCING

January 21, 2023

Kaitlin Last

Kaitlin is a mother, marketer, dreamer, and doer—and oftentimes, all four at once.

Building a Personal Website: It’s a Dumpster Fire

For someone who now works in marketing and publishes content on a company website for a living… I’m embarrassed to admit that my own personal website site is seriously neglected. 

Okay, that’s being modest… it’s a complete and utter dumpster fire.

Back in late 2020, I thought it might be fun to start my own blog about the things I’m interested in: homemaking, motherhood, faith, and holistic health. There weren’t any grandiose dreams of it being a money-maker, just somewhere to put some thoughts and perhaps build a community of like-minded people. 

Having never built a website from the ground up, I did what any logical human being would do.

I hit up Google. 

And that’s when it all went downhill. 

I searched for things like “how to build a personal website” and “easy WordPress tutorials”... I even searched “WordPress for beginners”. The internet said that WordPress was the best blogging platform for sleek and smooth-running websites. That’s what I wanted.

Not knowing any better at the time, I jumped in.

I had exactly zero website-building skills and Google assured me that it was “so easy, anyone could do it!” and “you can make a website in only a few hours!”...

Lies, lies. It’s all lies.

CTRL + Z

Suddenly I was met with words such as 

hosting and 

domains and 

plugins and 

sitemaps and 

indexing. 

Pardon me? 

I needed a Ph.D. in websites just to understand what was going on and hadn’t even made it past the intros.

I just wanted to put words on a page and reach people who could use the knowledge I had to share. The barrier to entry felt steep.

I struggled through it. I read articles and several of “the ultimate guide to” building a personal blog (turns out they were in fact not the ultimate). I managed to get my WordPress website to the point where I could choose a theme and get words flowing. 

It worked out for a little while until I decided I didn’t care for the theme anymore. 

So, feeling a little dangerous, I decided to change it.

And it jacked everything up. Pages went missing, headers were all over the place, formatting took a sabbatical… it was chaos. I prayed that a hearty CTRL + Z would take me back to functionality. But it was too far gone.

Feeling defeated, I walked away. Maybe you’ve been here, too.

The Second Act

Fast forward to present day, and I’ve made it my goal this year to build out my website. I’ve even gone so far as to say (out loud, nonetheless) that I’ll put 50,000 words on the blog this year. 

Sheesh. 

Why? Because it’s my own little experiment. I am in marketing after all…

I want to see how quickly and effectively I can take a website from a ground-level dumpster fire to a mean, lean, lead-generating (and converting!) machine using the knowledge I’ve gained since I began my marketing role.

The trouble with building a personal website is that without prior experience, you really don’t know what you don’t know… until you know you need to know it, ya know?

I’ve compiled a high-level overview of what I’ll be doing and have done so far to build a personal website. My hope is that it streamlines the process for you. Read on. 

How to Build a Personal Website

This step-by-step is for WordPress and Bluehost users, and while there are many other ways to build a website, this is what I went with. Here is how I built my personal website:

  • Set up Bluehost as my web hosting company with WordPress Managed Hosting
  • Set up a WordPress account.
  • Register the website on Google Search Console (GSC). This is critical and something I completely missed doing while I was caught up in the world of plugins…
  • After every blog post or page is published, I’ll be submitting it to GSC for indexing. There are plugins that can do this for you, too, so you won’t always have to do it this way.
  • Choose a theme (I finally settled on Astra), and find a YouTube video like this one to walk through it. The presenter does such an incredible job of getting the Astra theme up and running. 
  • Choose and install plugins. But don’t get lost in them! They're designed to enhance the functionality of your site, not cause you anxiety. They can be added and removed easily. I deleted all of them at one point and went with these three: Jetpack, Social Media Share Buttons, and Google Analytics Dashboard.
  • Hit publish! 
  • You can add and publish new pages as needed, now that your site is live.

That’s the quick and dirty of it. Once your site is up and running, you can tinker with the customization as you see fit. I’ll be doing my best to not accidentally set it on fire.

What Comes Next

Now that I’ve got a semi-functioning site, here’s what I’ll be doing to make every one of those 50,000 words count:

  • Get specific. Zero in on the ideal customer/audience and create messaging that resonates. A message to everyone is a message to no one.
  • Build out a content strategy, using the topic cluster framework and thorough keyword research.
  • Then build out the pillar and supporting blogs, which must be interlinked.
  • Track metrics. Throwing content into the abyss of the world wide web without tracking metrics is definitely not recommended. 
  • Track keyword rankings with SEMRush to see where you stand and where you can pivot.
  • GSC provides useful metrics on things like top-performing pages, queries, total clicks, total impressions, and average position. These will help you identify what people want to see and guide your future content.

Building a personal website can be daunting, but I’ve learned that it doesn’t have to be super complicated. Be brave, be courageous, go forth and share your knowledge with the world!

If you’ve got your website on lock but need help getting your message across, contact us at Hire a Writer.

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