Lots of new bloggers start their blogs on free WordPress, Blogger or Tumblr sites.
There’s a lot to be said for using these platforms, but one of the downsides is that you’re stuck with a website address that includes .blogspot.co.uk or .wordpress.com.
It’s not necessarily a big problem, but having your own domain (website address) looks more professional, gives you more flexibility in future, and allows you to streamline your communications by combining your blog, emails and online accounts.
First of all, what do we mean by a domain?
A domain is the part of your website address that comes after the www or http://. For this site, our domain is foodies100.com. Foodies100 is the domain name and .com is the TLD (top level domain).
For obvious reasons, only one person can use a specific domain-TLD combination at a time – there can only be one bbc.co.uk, or cnn.com at a time!
So, website owners must buy their domain from a registrar – this is a company authorised by ICANN to sell domain names.
There are thousands of great domain registrars out there, and domains generally can be registered for anywhere from 1-10 years for a few pounds each year.
How does a domain work?
Think of a domain as being like a street address for your blog.
If your blog lives at www.myblog.wordpress.com, then web browsers know where to look for your site when someone types that address into the URL bar.
When you buy a custom domain it’s like redirecting your post. The user will think they are visiting www.myblog.com but the domain will actually ‘point’ the web browser to the server where the blog is hosted – which may be wordpress.com or blogger.com.
You don’t have to be self-hosted to have your own domain. Your domain can point to your existing Blogger or WordPress hosted site.
Why would I want a domain?
Having your own website address looks more professional. Some advertisers prefer to place ads on sites without a wordpress.com or blogspot.com address.
Many domain registrars also provide email inboxes alongside domains – so you can buy email@example.com, and forward it to your regular email address.
Buying your own domain also means that if you decide in future to move away from your current blog platform (to go self-hosted, for example) then you don’t need to change your blog’s address, and risk losing all your readers.
How do i get started?
If you decide you’d like your own domain, the first step is to consider what your domain should be.
This isn’t as simple as you might think.
Look around and see if there are lots of sites with very similar names – if so, you might want to rethink your domain choice.
Think about whether your domain could potentially be misread – domain addresses with lots of Ts close together are easily mis-typed for example – losing you readers before you start!
If you’re buying a custom domain you’re going to want to use it for a while, so choose something that fits you in the longer-term and gives you some flexibility to evolve your blog.
And finally – is your domain available?
A quick search on a registrar such as 123-reg.co.uk. will show whether someone already owns your domain – in an ideal world, you should look for a domain where the .com, .co.uk and .net are available – and buy them all. Even if you only use one, owning them all means you won’t get caught by surprise by someone setting up a site with a similar title to your own.
Using your Domain on Blogger
If you have a Blogger blog, and want to use your newly purchased domain, the process is fairly simple.
- First, set up your domain settings in your account with your domain name provider.
- Specifically, you’ll need to change the DNS settings on your domain account. This is relatively simple, but most hosts will help if you need it – or check out Google’s own tutorial about changing CNAMEs for various registrars.
This means your domain is now ‘pointing’ at your Blogger address.
- Now you need to amend your blog to ensure your posts are visible at your new address.
- In your Blogger dashboard click on settings
- Under ‘Basic’ click on ‘Publishing’
- Click on ‘Add custom domain’
- Type in your domain details
- Click Save
Don’t panic if you do this and your blog isn’t immediately visible. It can take 24-72 hours for domain names to ‘propagate’. This is because ISPs tend to only update the version of web pages they show to web browsers every day or two. So you’ll often find some of your friends can see your blog before you do. This is annoying, but normal! If you’re lucky, your website should be all ready to go within 24 hours.