Guidelines for creating your vanity website

A few years ago, I wrote a story for the San Francisco Chronicle that explained how to artfully mount a multitude of framed pictures and/or artwork on a single wall. Some friends cut out the article and used it for arranging professional photos, articles and honors on the wall in their den. Now they call that their “I love me” room.

I thought about that room while I was remaking, because there was no denying that this qualified as an “I love me” vanity website. I believe that everyone who works independently should have an eponymous website that serves as a virtual business card and ranks first on Google when anyone types in their name. LinkedIn profiles are important, but, then what? A personal website’s style and contents can say much more about who you are and what you can do.

Yet, creating a vanity website raises many questions worthy of consideration. Here are a few of them.

What is the goal of your vanity website? Do you want to capture leads, sell books, entice potential love mates?

The answers to these questions will inspire the colors, fonts, features, keywords and spirit of your site. Someone wanting simply a virtual business care could make do with one landing page, an “about me” page and a contact page. Don Juan, however, will want to have lots of pictures! My goal was not so much to be found by someone looking for a writer, editor or publisher, but to showcase my expertise to someone who already had my name and wanted to know more about me. Because I also do public speaking and golf consulting, there had to be a few pictures as well.

If your personal and business websites are not one and the same, how will they relate to each other?

My business websites are, a professional custom publishing services firm, and, a wild and crazy women’s golf website. So I had to think carefully about how to present Susan Fornoff as an individual while incorporating the other sites. Several strategically placed reciprocal links resulted. You’ll also have to consider whether to include any social media accounts. I decided to embed the @SusanFornoff Twitter site rather than @GottaGoGolf or @bluecoastmedia, even though this brings my sports passions and political values onto the screen some days.

Which voice will you use?

In other words, is this an “I love me” vanity website with all messaging in the first person, or is it an “I love him or her” website with biography and credentials all written in the third person? “I love me” may work for Don Juan, but if you are a corporate executive engaged in philanthropy, you need a simple and elegant vanity website of substance, written in the third person. If your personal and business sites are one and the same, you might prefer to talk directly to potential clients with questions about “your needs” and “your goals” as we do on As a creative person and a public speaker, I struggled with this one and sought a balance of personal conversation with the reader on some pages and matter-of-fact delivery of information on others.

How often will you update your site, and how?

Perhaps you want to occasionally post a new page about an accomplishment or product. If you don’t know how to do this yourself, the learning curve may be tough to conquer with only occasional use and it may be worthwhile to farm this out. If, however, you want to post articles, news releases and your own essays more than once or twice a month, add a blog to your site and learn to use it or contract a content provider (like, uh, Blue Coast Media Group).

How are you going to integrate sales?

You can add shopping cart capabilities to your own site, or you can create pages, as I did for my books, that promote and connect to a remote sales site. And even if you have nothing to sell yet, give some thought to this question as you design the site, just in case.

How much “I love me” is too much on an “I love me” vanity website?

Ah, well, only the subject can answer this, the hardest question of them all. Those experienced in love know that it is a dance. It is as foolish to come on too strong as it is to conceal one’s feelings. So it is with the “I love me” vanity website. I know I’ll be watching my analytics for bounce stats. If visitors arrive at the site and quickly depart in disgust, a re-scaling of love could be called for.

Thankfully, virtually, love can be quickly downsized.

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