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10 steps to an effective journalism portfolio website using WordPress.com

By Simon Williams

Using WordPress.com for your journalism portfolio means you can have your own website in just a few hours. But to be as effective as possible, spend some time planning it first.

1. Why a website?

To promote yourself online, building your LinkedIn network and getting active on social media are probably more important than creating a website. And if you just need a convenient list of links to your online articles to show prospective clients or employers, sites like Journalisted and Pressfolios could be easier options.

So before you spend time and possibly money, make sure you really do need a website, and work out exactly what you want it to do for you.

2. Check out the competition

Search for other journalists’ sites, particularly in your specialist area. As well as maybe finding some good ideas for your site, you’ll become more familiar with the potential competition, and be clearer about your own unique skills and knowledge you’ll want to highlight.

3. Who’s your user?

Commissioning editors are busy people. Think about what they’ll want to see on your site, and how they’re likely to use it. Developing personas and scenarios is a great way to really understand your potential users and how to serve their needs.

4. SEO research

Work out the keywords and phrases you want to rank for on Google or other searches. Is your location important to your potential market? What are your specialist subject areas? Do you want to be found by users searching for specific publications?

Then use these keywords in the right places on your site – see Search engine optimisation made simple for more.

5. Choosing content

The busy commissioning editor you’ve identified in your persona and scenarios is definitely not going to look at every word on your website, and is unlikely to spend time reading complete articles. If they’re not convinced by your talents within three clicks and a few quickly scanned paragraphs, your site is definitely not doing its job.

But showing the range and extent of your work could be important, and it will definitely help your SEO to have plenty of content – Google ranks sites with a large amount of appropriate content far higher than those with just a few pages. And pages with at least 300 words do better than those with only a few paragraphs.

6. Organising content

Use categories (not tags) to organise your content, using the keywords you identified in your SEO research to name them. Don’t have too many categories – between 4 and 6 is usually about right.

If you’ve got enough content, think about using some or all of the categories as items on your main menu.

7. Choosing a theme

The design and layout of a WordPress site can be completely changed in just a few clicks by changing the theme. So look through some of the 100’s available using the theme browser to narrow down your search. Some are premium themes costing about £15-£50 to use, but it’s easy to use the preview feature to try before you buy.

One of the key things to consider when choosing a theme is whether you have strong images to go with your articles. If you do, look out for ‘magazine style’ themes that use ‘featured images’.

WordPress theme browser

Use the WordPress.com theme browser to search for themes by features, layouts and styles

8. Go ‘responsive’

Access through mobile devices will soon make up over 50% of internet usage in the UK. So if you’re planning a website, it makes a lot of sense to make sure it works well on phones and tablets. A ‘responsive’ theme will resize and change its layout according to the device used to view it, so tick ‘responsive’ when searching with the theme browser.

9. Your own domain name

You don’t have to use mywebsite.wordpress.com as your website address. A $13 a year upgrade lets you use your own domain name with your WordPress.com site.

10. Remove the ads

If you’re using the free version of WordPress.com, some of your visitors will see ads at the end of some pages. If this is something you want to avoid, a $30 a year upgrade removes them.

 

This resource was created by Simon Williams who runs the Writing for the Web and Build Your Own Website workshops for NUJ Training Wales. Simon’s website

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