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Before I started out in Digital Marketing, I naively assumed that everyone was a web developer and would naturally have super-flashy, well-optimised super-sites boasting all the latest technologies, so I set about trying to imitate them. Whilst I’ve pretty much got nowhere near that standard, I’ve learned a few things along the way.
Your website can be your personal playground to learn new skills and improve on existing ones, whether that be technical, written or otherwise.
There’s nothing more fun than messing around with markup, experimenting with CRO techniques, writing about what you know and love, and testing out what Google’s latest algorithm updates do and don’t like without the fear of messing something up on a client account.
It can also be rewarding to see real-time improvements in traffic and rankings for something that is your own, especially when you’re trying out new ideas and getting results.
Apart from improving your skills, testing things for yourself can be great in other ways. Often findings from a successful experiment can form the basis of a great blog post, so its worth tinkering away to find that one bit of gold-dust and exploit it.
We also know that Google doesn’t tell us everything, so take what they say with a pinch of salt, and try things out for yourself.
This is particularly beneficial if you are new to the industry, or a student/graduate.
Being able to explain how you have optimised your own site and promoted yourself shows you have relevant skills without having had work experience, giving you a bit of an advantage when it comes to job interviews and networking. You’ll always have at least one good case study.
It also proves to potential employers that you’re proactive and enthusiastic.
You could take advantage of your blog to link out to industry figures, and build new relationships that way. It’s a tried a tested conversation starter when it comes to conferences and meetups.
The world of SEO is full of famous faces and ‘thought leaders’ (eurgh), and should you want to become one of them it’s probably best to start building up your personal brand.
If you’re ever thinking of working in a freelance or consultant capacity, it’s a no-brainer to have somewhere to showcase your work and really sell yourself. Even the site itself will be an example of what you can do, so you may as well go nuts with the design if you’re technically inclined, or have some top class written work if that’s more your thing.
Showing your work on your own site has much more impact that on any Social Media site. You wont be competing with others for visitor attention and there wont be any distracting third-party branding and restrictions.
Most first impressions happen online now, so if you have a particularly impressive track record or great content (or both), you’ll never be out of work.
Remember, in this industry, you can count on getting Googled a fair bit, so take control of what appears and make the best impression possible.
Who doesn’t like free money?
Ok well it’s not exactly free, but if you are getting a decent amount of traffic, why not use it to generate income?
Depending on the subject matter, there are a tonne of ways to make money from your site. I would list them here if Matthew Barby hadn’t already compiled pretty much every conceivable method in a nice PDF. Go and subscribe to his email newsletter too – well worth it.
Display advertising is the simplest method, if its not of detriment to your site’s UX and design. You could whip up an Adsense account in a matter of minutes and start getting a bit of passive pocket money.
Probably the most important point I wanted to make is that; should you decide to take the plunge and learn to develop your own site, the skills you can acquire will be really useful day to day.
By no means am I a good web developer, but I’ve learnt enough to understand where my code sucks, and even with just this amount of code knowledge at your disposal, you can start to streamline tasks and identify problems and opportunities quicker.
For example, CMS’s no longer have limitations, as you are able to manually edit the backend files, and the seemingly unlimited potential of API’s becomes unlocked. You’ll lose that apprehension of not wanting to touch something in case you break it.
These kind of benefits may seem trivial, but it can save a lot of time and hassle going back and forth with a developer when you can just implement changes yourself. Which brings me to my next point.
Having a good knowledge of code languages can improve your relationships with developers.
No longer will they be able to spew a load of jargon at you and attempt to quash your optimisation suggestions. You might even be taken more seriously as a result.
You could even teach them a thing or two, and get them implementing SEO best practices before the work even makes it way to you.
If you’re part of the creative content crowd, a bit of code knowledge can add another string to your bow.
Some of the best pieces of content these days are the interactive, long-form, multimedia kind, such as the Museum of Mario, yet they don’t actually need to be as technically complex to be impressive and shareable.
Even a standard written post, marked up and presented in the right way, can dramatically increase its appeal and share-ability. For example, this annual report, which probably started life as a bunch of figures on a spreadsheet, was achieved predominantly with HTML and CSS.
Whether its a development project, a blogging project, a career-enhancing tactic, or just for fun, I can’t think of a bad reason to have your own website.
Whatever way you go about it; enjoy.
If you feel I’ve missed something out, or want to share something cool to do with your own site, don’t hesitate to holla @ me: @Jack_Evershed or let us know in the comments below.