Kill the Personal Website? No Way

One Author's Suggestion Makes No Sense for Professionals

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Should you kill your personal website?

Rachel Kaser of The Next Web answers this question with a yes, then gives the worst possible explanation as to the reasons why she answered that way, including convoluting the reasons why she issued her proclamation to kill the personal website in the first place.

It makes no sense.

Let me paraphrase her article for you: Social media sites exist. They compete for online readers’ attention. Because social media sites exist and offer so many ways to feature every angle of your life, you should kill your personal website.

Well, it’s a great way to “create a complete picture of yourself” if you’re a professional or an avid amateur. And you should be commended if you do this, but wait, it’s not, because social media can do everything you want.

Confused yet? She somehow arrived at the conclusion that yes, you should kill your personal website, but then argues that it’s commendable if you want to keep it. Then goes back to telling you, for example if you’re a professional photographer, that you should rely on Facebook and Instagram alone.

I suppose if her goal was to simply be contrarian in order to gain views and comments, she succeed. There are 73 comments at the time I write this, and an overwhelming majority of them disagree with her. As a side note, if you’re at all like me, you come to expect a certain amount of thorough thinking to go into the writing found at high-traffic websites. And then you run across ones like this.

In Kaser’s mind, because Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Medium, and Tumblr exist, you should throw in the towel and let them dictate if and when you’re found, and how it’s presented to the rest of the world.

Do not kill your personal website. And if you haven’t created one yet, start planning it now

I have three reasons why you should start planning your personal website. Any single one of these should be reason enough.

Don’t give in to flimsy recommendations that offer no depth.

Reason #1 for why you need a personal website: The rules change

This alone is reason enough. All three of the major social networks Kaser recommends you rely on instead of creating your own personal website are driven by algorithms. If you want to make sure you see the content that everyone you follow puts out, you’d literally have to visit their individual pages and comb through them.

So, whether you see the entirety of others’ content, even if you follow them, is out of their control as the content creators, unless they publish so frequently that the algorithm is overrun, or unless you engage with them so frequently that the algorithm detects this.

So if we flip this around, that means the people who follow you will not always see the content you put out, it’s entirely out of your control. The only way you can be more certain they’ll see it is if you buy advertising and target them.

Fact: Facebook’s algorithmically curated News Feed decides which of the ‘status updates’ a Facebook user sees from his or her friends.”

As AJ Agrawal put it in 2016:

Unfortunately, Facebook alters its algorithms all the time, making this a constant race between marketers and everyone else. Right now, these are the main factors that influence this algorithm, and whether you appear on someone’s newsfeed:

  • How often have you interacted with this type of post?
  • How often have you and everyone else hidden this type of post?
  • The level of engagement that page and post has received.
  • The performance of each post among users that have already viewed it.

If you want more insight on this for Instagram, still the hottest social platform, go read this article on how to beat the Instagram algorithm here.

The rules change. You’re not in charge of the rules at these other networks in any way because the platform makers set the rules of engagement. And the rules favor the aggressive business account-holders that pay to play.

You don’t own your own content, really. 

Even Medium, a free-to-publish platform for all, has changed its rules substantially in the last year.

Numerous, well-funded or well-trafficked online publications like The Ringer, Think Progress, Film School Rejects, Backchannel and others have recently moved away from Medium because the rules changed.

If they’re willing to change the rules for companies they could earn revenue from and/or share revenue with, without real warning, they’re unlikely to be a destination you should put all your hopes and dreams in.

Free platforms are great until they need you to make them money.

Reason #1 for why you need a personal website: Control the message

This reason is similar to reason #1 but stands on its own. With any of these platforms you can choose what you say about yourself for your profile. But you have to follow the network’s parameters. There are limitations in what you say, how you structure it, and where it’s placed. For instance, on Twitter, your profile is no more than a two-sentence summary.

Further, even your profile image and cover photo have to be set at certain dimensions. And you can select (Twitter calls it “pinning”) one single tweet that sets the tone for and represents what you like to talk about—one single tweet! What’s that you say, you sometimes like to talk about numerous topics? Choose that pinned tweet wisely then.

At your own personal website, someone may arrive by virtue of an article you wrote. You can control the entire experience. You can control the header. The call to action after they’ve read that article. The sidebars. The font. The mobile-friendliness of the website. What distractions (or lack of distractions) they face.

You are in complete control. You own the experience.

What will the reader who discovers you or seeks you out on LinkedIn or Twitter see?

They’ll see countless other distractions.

On Twitter they’ll see a list of others to follow and trends specifically chosen for them to explore.

On LinkedIn, they’ll similarly see other profiles to consider previewing and Lynda training courses they could take, as well as ads of course.

A million distractions.

Instagram is the only network where, when people visit your actual profile, they’ll almost exclusively see your content.

Reason #3 for why you need a personal website: Differentiation

Every LinkedIn profile is structured the same way. Every Twitter profile. Every personal Facebook page. And every Instagram profile. They’re all the same look and feel for a reason.

With your own personal website, you set the terms for how you’re branded. Your design, your layout, your colors, and more. Want to launch a video at the moment someone arrives on your home page? Do it.

Want to provide a handy list of frequently-asked questions on your sidebar? Go for it.

Want to give site visitors just three choices of where to go next, your About page, your Speaking page, and your Contact page? Sure, it’s in your hands. Do what you like.

The terms for differentiating yourself from any other CEO, professional speaker, freelancer, salesperson, job candidate, photographer, videographer, artist, ANYTHING, are yours to set.

Summary

It makes no sense to discourage people from creating a personal website and instead rely on the ever-changing landscape of social media networks and profile pages. If you have any need to control what’s said about you, launching and managing your own personal website is the way to go.

We didn’t even address the search engine optimization benefits of doing this, but those are just as crucial.

It’s 2017. Own your message.

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