It’s a fact. If you don’t manage your online image, it will manage you. Remember those embarrassing pics you posted on Facebook last New Year’s? Your grandma saw them the next day. That drunk tweet? Bet you wish you could take that one back. But for many people, this issue gets real when they decide to look for a job. That’s when they realize they have to control what potential employers see about them online. And there’s no better way to do it than with a personal website.
I’m a great believer in the power of a website to promote a brand. When I first began writing for GoDaddy.com in 2006, we got a little more than 100,000 unique visitors per day, most from the United States. Today, GoDaddy.com receives more than 1 million unique hits per day and caters to customers in 37 countries around the world.
But you don’t have to be a multinational company to benefit from the promotional power of the web. Anyone who wants to make an impression online — whether it’s to land a sweet new job, promote a pet project, or just connect with like-minded netizens — can do it with a personal website.
Let’s say you have a kick-ass LinkedIn profile. Do you really need a personal website? “Yes,” says William Uranga, director of Technical and Corporate Recruiting for GoDaddy. He explains:
“The more pieces of original work you have to show, the more important it is to have your own site. If someone is claiming to be an expert in something, I want to see the evidence.”
Yes, you can attach documents, photos, videos and slides to your LinkedIn, but you’re limited in how many files you can upload. And you can’t include customer testimonials — a must for independent contractors looking to get hired. “Consider LinkedIn more of a business card that points to your website,” says William, “especially if you currently work for yourself.”
Benefits of a personal website
He’s not alone. According to Forbes, more than half of all hiring managers are more interested in personal websites than any other branding tool. A custom website gives you free reign over what’s on it, so of course a headhunter would expect it to provide the best view of your personality, skills and experience. It’s actually kind of amazing that less than 10 percent of all job applicants have them.
Having your own personal website:
- Gives you complete freedom to show who you are, in everything from colors to layout to the type of imagery you choose.
- Shows you’re serious about your career and willing to put in time and effort to move up.
- Serves as a living archive of your job history, education, accomplishments and hobbies.
- Can feature customer testimonials, as well as numerous pictures, project documents and videos.
Running a business while also looking for a job? Having a separate website for your job search just makes sense. That way, clients won’t be confused by seeing a resume and recruiting managers are never presented with a shopping cart.
It all starts with a domain name
I’m the GoDaddy.com domain queen but even if I weren’t, I’d still say, “Behind every website, there’s a domain name.” I like to think of it this way: Just as we give friends our street addresses so they can find our houses, we give people our domain names to help them locate our websites. It’s what they type into their browser bar to find us online. Only in this case, the real estate’s virtual.
Given the fact that hiring managers routinely use Bing and Google to research a job applicant, it’s in your best interests to register a domain with your name in it. That way, when anyone searches for you online, your personal website will be more likely to come up on the first page of search results.
Can’t get yourname.com because someone’s already bought it? Pffft … no worries. Thanks to the hundreds of new top-level domain names now rolling out, you have a whole new world of options. If you’re a veterinarian, I suggest you search yourname.vet. If you’re a lawyer, try yourname.lawyer. There are hundreds more — including increasingly popular domain extensions like .photography, .nyc, .guru, .mba, .dentist and .engineer. And since they’re all new, there are still lots of names to choose from.
Then the fun begins
Once you’ve found your domain name, the next step is to build a website. There are many website building tools on the market, including GoDaddy Website Builder and Managed WordPress. Of course, you can always hire a pro to build your site if you don’t have the time or talent.
It’s a mobile world, so make sure the website you end up with will be viewable on mobile devices like smartphones and iPads. Nothing turns visitors away faster than a website that’s hard to see or use on the device they happen to be using at the moment.
Personal website tips and tricks
A few tips on making a personal website that gets results:
- Include a brief intro, bio, job history, description of recent projects, testimonials from clients and a list of publications, awards or patents. Check out this great article from Business Insider for ideas.
- Keep the tone neutral – do include your professional opinions but not your views on divisive topics like politics or religion.
- It’s easy to get lost in the details, but try not to. Once you have your site put together, step back and look at it objectively. Ask others for their opinions.
- Be sure your contact details — email address, cell number, social handles — are on every page of your website.
Once your website is live, show it off! Add your web address to your business card, resumé, email signature and LinkedIn profile. Keep your site up to date, even after you’ve landed the new job. You never know when a hiring manager might be looking for someone like you to fill an even better position.
Building websites can be addicting
Remember that diorama you built in middle school? You did it because you had to but once you got started, you were obsessed. All those tiny trees and bushes! The crystalline brook that curved through the clearing! It was a tiny little universe and you its sole creator. Building a personal website is a lot like that. It takes a little time to learn the ins and outs of your site builder, but once you get rolling, you won’t be able to stop. And you’ll thank yourself when the requests for interviews start rolling in. So get cracking!