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Options to set up your personal academic website
The two most common options are All-In-One or Hosting + Domain + Platform. All-In-One companies like Wix make it extremely easy to have your website up and running in a matter of minutes. All you need to do is sign up and use some drag and drop templates to have your website with multiple pages set up. The disadvantage of all-in-one platforms is the cost. While at first glance they seem cheap because they include a domain, hosting, and software, as soon as you want to do anything other than a few simple pages, it becomes expensive quick. Therefore, if you think that in the future you would like to monetize your site (make money from or on it), then I recommend you go the Hosting + Domain + Platform route.
Setting up a domain for your personal academic website.
You should have a custom domain. While free platforms/domains exist, they create complicated and unprofessional URLs. They do not give you flexibility with external integrations, build your own website authority or restrict your ability to make money from your site. On average, it should cost you between $10- $15 a year when registering a new domain. I recommend that you purchase a domain with your actual name (or some combination) to build your personal brand.
Wait, back up, what is a domain? A domain is the online address of your website. Just like a physical address, it allows people to find you. The domain for this website is theleveragedphd.com my business website domain is melbruce.com
You can buy a domain through a company such as GoDaddy or Google and then change the DNS setting to point to your host, or you can purchase a domain through your site host directly and not have to change any settings (e.g. Siteground or Bluehost). If you have a common name, you will have to get creative for your domain as a simple FirstLast.com will be unlikely to be available. Take some time to get this right, as it is better not to have to change this later. Consider how you will write the domain and how you will explain it verbally. Having to say it is: ‘First, underscore, Last dot com’ or ‘First, Last, number one dot com’ is not going to strengthen your personal brand. If your FirstLast.com is not available, consider adding your middle name or initial, using just your first initial plus last name or use a word in front such as TheFirstLast.com or DrFirstLast.com. Say the domain name aloud and write it down with and without capitals to check that it sounds and looks good.
Bluehost provides a FREE domain name for your first year.
Site Web Hosting for your personal academic website
A host is a company that keeps your website live and possible for others to view. I host all of my websites with Siteground, and I have used Bluehost in the past. These are the most commonly used hosts by individuals and companies large and small. I switched all of my sites to Siteground for better site speed last year. Bluehost is perfect for a simple personal website, and it’s where I started my first website.
Other options include hosting with GoDaddy, but I don’t personally recommend them because they are primarily a domain service and do not have the dedicated hosting services’ features. That being said, I assume the simple features of GoDaddy will suffice for a personal academic website; however I cannot talk from experience.
Platform for your personal academic website
If you use an all-in-one, then your platform will be part of your site hosting. If you are using Siteground or Bluehost, then the most common route is to use WordPress. It has simple to use click and insert abilities to design your website. You can have your website up and running in 30-60 minutes (depending on how much content you are creating). There are easy to follow tutorials online for everything you want to do, so a quick Google search will allow you to learn new features quickly. I personally use WordPress on all my sites (including this one).
If you want to sell physical products, you can also use a platform such as WooCommerce on all major hosting sites. If you are interested in selling physical products only, you should also check out Shopify (but that is a different post for another time). Let’s get back to developing your personal academic website.
Build your content on your personal academic website
1. CREATE A SIMPLE HOMEPAGE
Visualize yourself and your accomplishments. Your homepage shouldn’t be text-heavy and include a menu with links to your other pages.
2. CREATE AN ABOUT ME PAGE
Write a brief bio (think elevator pitch) and include a professional photo or two of yourself.
3. CREATE A CONTACT PAGE.
This is important because you’ve spent all this time building your personal brand; you want people to be able to contact you to hire you, work with you and develop long term relationships. I’ve been contacted through my contact page for paid speaking gigs, so don’t skip this page!
Include an email and social media handles. Don’t make people work to connect with you by having to search for you – include a hyperlink to your social media sites rather than your handle in text.
Avoid including a mailto email address as is as it is likely to be picked up by spambots. A contact form is the easiest way to avoid spam. If you want to include your email, you can write it so that humans can understand it but not bots. You can write it in a sentence, e.g. Email me here: melanie[@]theleveragedphd[dot]com While it does mean that users will have to type out your email, as long as it is a simple email, it will be worth it, so you don’t get spammed.
4. CREATE OTHER PAGES.
Depending on your personal brand and what you are trying to accomplish from your site, such as
- Media/Press Kit
- Work With Me
Embed links to a portfolio of items, YouTube videos of presentations, or PDFs of articles you’ve written. Don’t make it hard for people to find your material.
SHOW YOUR PERSONALITY.
Add your personal interests and passions to build rapport with your target audience. Maintain your professionalism but show your personality and that you are relatable and friendly.
Updating your personal academic website
An outdated website is worse than no website. Now that you have your website set up, you will need to maintain it. I recommend that you set aside time to update your website a few times a year. Use each new season as a reminder to check and update your website. When writing anything on your website make sure that it will stand the test of time. Don’t say later in 2022 in case you don’t get back to updating it until 2023.
For more content-heavy websites you will need to update more often, particularly if you decide to blog. If somebody comes to your site and sees that your last blog post is two years old, they’ll assume the whole site is outdated.
Examples of academic personal websites