Sunday, February 20, 2011

Express Yourselves: Simple Personal Websites

If you google my name, you will discover that I am a writer of romantic fiction. And a tennis pro who was flung into jail by Joe Arpaio, America’s toughest sheriff. And a medical librarian in the UK. Or not... Sadly for me, there are in fact several Alison Hicks who are either far more famous than me, or who have sponsored a lot of links about themselves. For those of you who have unusual names or who are secretly quite pleased about your new Googlified-self, maybe this doesn’t matter. But for many years, a search engine has been the default for finding out about people, whether this is professionally or socially. While I am neither vain enough nor rich enough to search engine optimize my name, Web 2.0 has made it much easier for me to ensure that people find more accurate information about me.

If you just want a quick, low maintenance online presence, the easiest way to get started is to sign up for a profile on a professional social networking site. Less intrusive than Facebook, these sites are ranked highly in search engines and only show snippets of information in search engine results. Linked In is the easiest, but is growing in popularity. Google profiles is another site which enables you to claim your name and control how you appear in Google. ClaimID is one more site which allows you to have more control over your name.

But I already have 3 social network profiles, a blog and a twitter feed! A more detailed solution, which is equally easy to create, is a personal portfolio or webpage to start promoting you, your projects and your achievements. Web 2.0 personal portfolios are easy to keep up to date, involve no knowledge of html,
are hosted for free and you can link in your social media sites too. Weebly is a very easy to use drag and drop site which has a lot of customization options. is a slightly trendier personal portfolio site which encourages you to link your social networking personas into one place. Finally, if you can get past the narcissistic title, provides an equally new and hip way to manage your online presence.

If you prefer html, have access to server space or want to make a more robust or in depth personal portfolio, there are a bunch of free templates available. is the version of the popular blogging software that can be used to create a webpage. Alternatively, do a search for “free web templates” to get suggestions for another easy way to create a webpage; Andreas Viklund has some cool ones.
Finally, there are some tools to track how you are represented on the web. Google Alerts is well known for tracking phrases or keywords, while Social Mention does the same for social media. You can set up searches in Twitter for any keyword, while TweetBeep claims to be the Google Alerts for Twitter.

And if this is all too typical millennial self-centered for you, all these resources would also work for groups and projects as well as people.

So go ahead, make a profile and reclaim your online identity! And in the meantime watch out for my novel that features a steamy romance between a tennis pro and a medical librarian...

Alison Hicks
University of Colorado at Boulder
Alison.Hicks @ Colorado.EDU

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