:: By Larry Alton, @LarryAlton3 ::
Every entrepreneur and Web professional knows just how important personal branding is in today's Internet-based marketplace.
Whether you're looking to funnel customers to one of your businesses, pick up speaking engagements, explore new career opportunities or grow your social media following, a personal brand is key to being successful. But did you know that it all starts with your website?
Here's How to Build a Successful Personal Site
When you speak to today's leading entrepreneurs, it becomes immediately apparent that online personal branding is paramount to visibility and sustained success. Count 26-year-old success story Sam Ovens as one of the believers.
"Each media hit, speaking opportunity or social media post has the potential to bring you a new customer. Personal branding is an essential tool for business success," he explains.
And while social media plays a role, your website is the best place to begin. It's your home base, so to speak, and should be given priority. Specifically, you should focus on the following five elements:
The key to a successful website is to make it simple. Don't try to wow visitors with complex multimedia elements and confusing graphics. Instead, deliver a consistent and poignant message that says, "Here I am and here's what I do." Your website should feature just three or four different pages - one of which contains a portfolio or referrals - and all should be easily reachable via the homepage.
"The design of a website's navigation has a bigger impact on success or failure than almost any other factor," web designer Andy Crestodina says. "It affects traffic and search engine rankings. It affects conversions and user-friendliness. Everything important about your website is connected to the navigation, from content to the URLs."
Why, then, do so few entrepreneurs spend time perfecting this aspect of their sites? If you want to have a successful site that keeps visitors engaged, make sure you're placing a bigger emphasis on agile navigation.
While static pages - such as your homepage and contact page - are the bread and butter of your site, your blog is what generates backlinks and helps you enhance your name recognition.
You should be posting regular content to your site's blog every single week. You don't have to publish multiple posts per day, but do make it a habit to regularly share high-quality content that resonates with your target audience and encourages social sharing. These are the lures to your site and they constantly need to be baited.
4. Landing Pages
If you're selling a specific service or product, then you need to get familiar with landing pages. These are dedicated pages that pull targeted visitors in and push them through the conversion funnel. You can use landing pages to quickly grow your audience around a specific topic or niche.
5. Opt-In Forms
Part of building a personal brand is growing your audience. And while acquiring website visitors is great, you ultimately need to convert these visitors into leads. The best way to do this is by integrating email opt-in forms into your site.
According to ExactTarget, email is the number one channel for delivering marketing messages. Their research reveals that 77 percent of customers like receiving permission-based marketing communications through email. Develop simple and attractive opt-in forms and you stand a much better chance of monetizing your traffic.
Make Personal Branding a Priority
It's easy to assume that in-person networking and the occasional LinkedIn request is adequate, but in today's hyperconnected business world, online personal branding is critically important. And it all starts with your website. Develop a strong website and everything else will fall into place. What are you waiting for? Start building your site today and discover what you've been missing!
BONUS: Take personal branding a step further and consider the addition of a vanity phone number into your marketing mix.
Larry Alton is a professional blogger, writer and researcher who contributes to a number of reputable online media outlets and news sources. In addition to journalism, technical writing and in-depth research, he's also active in his community and spends weekends volunteering with a local non-profit literacy organization and rock climbing. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.