Many bloggers, when they first start out, are unsure if they are going to continue blogging over the long term and either don’t want to spend the time or invest the money into securing a domain name of their own.
It’s an understandable decision considering that WordPress.com and Blog*Spot, along with a slew of other services, make it trivial to set up an account at their sites and get blogging within just a few minutes.
But while getting started on one of these sites might be a great way to get up and going, there is a hidden danger in it. Relying on someone else’s URL carries with it not only a lot of baggage, but a lot of risk.
If you’re serious about your blog and it is something that you want to take beyond a short term whim, even if it is just a “slightly more serious” hobby, securing a domain of your own is a rite of passage you need to undertake. Failure to do so will not only hold your site back, but may cause your site, along with all of your work, to simply disappear.
The problem with not having your own domain is that you are, quite literally, at the mercy of whoever is hosting your site. Though you always depend on your host for many things, a relationship that can easily go sour, not having a domain that you control linked to your site makes it virtually impossible to move.
For example, what happens if you are using a WordPress.com site and you become dissatisfied with the service for some reason or, as unlikely as it is, Automattic closes the service in a rush? Bookmarks and links will break. Visitors who are used to finding you at yourname.wordpress.com will find an error page waiting on them when they try to visit.
It doesn’t matter if you have kept good backups of your site or notify as many people as you can of the move, since you lost the URL, your site is going to suffer a major setback in terms of traffic and recognition. In many regards, you have to start over.
However, using another site’s domain comes with other issues as well including:
- SEO Issues: Though Google sees subdomains as a separate site, you can still find yourself hampered by the sins of others on the domain, especially if there is a bad spam outbreak. Most major blogging sites don’t have this issue but it is still worth being aware of.
- Preconceived Notions: Rightly or wrongly, people stereotype blogs by the sites that they are on. These stereotypes are based largely on personal experiences but you don’t want your site colored by what others have done on your domain. For example, if someone primarily associates Blog*Spot with personal blogs, opening a corporate blog there first means changing those notions.
- Lack of Professionalism: Finally, and possibly most importantly, people just don’t take blogs without their own domains as seriously as those that have one. Most people recognize that it is trivial to set up a site on the Web and that getting a .com is a small, inexpensive step to show that you are more serious about your site.
This is why a domain is a necessary step for anyone who wants to take their blog more seriously than just an experiment. Once you know that blogging is going to be a part of your life, no matter how small, a domain is something that should follow quickly.
How to Avoid It
The obvious answer is “Buy a domain”, something you can do at literally any registrar on the planet and usually for under $10. However, it isn’t that simple.
The reason is because many think that getting a domain also means getting hosting, moving the site and setting up all over again. Fortunately, that isn’t the case.
Every major blogging provider offers a means to add a domain to your existing account. All you have to do is know how to set it up.
- WordPress.com: Automattic offers a simple Domain Mapping feature that costs $17 per year for both the domain and the mapping to the account. If you already own the domain, the cost is only $12.
- Blog*Spot: Google has a simple and free means of mapping a domain to your existing Blog*Spot account, all you need to do is edit the domains DNS settings and add the domain to your account.
- Tumblr: Tumblr is the easiest of all as you can add a custom domain to your account there by simply editing the A Name of your domain in its DNS properties.
- Posterous: Almost the same as Tumblr, Posterous lets you add a custom domain by altering the A Name record of your domain. However, extra steps may be needed to enable Facebook commenting on your site.
- Other Sites: If your blogging site doesn’t offer a direct way to add a domain, you may be able to enable domain forwarding and point the domain to your site via your registrar. Though it will lack most of the benefits of a mapped domain, it is better than nothing.
All in all, the process doesn’t cost much, less than $20 in all cases, and other than the 24 hours one has to wait for the DNS settings to propagate across the Web, it only takes a few minutes of time.
Best of all, you get to keep your old account, your old links will still work and you don’t have to do anything on your part other than start sharing the new new domain as your URL.
Getting a domain for your site not only adds a level of respectability and seriousness to your site, it is also an insurance policy. When you have a domain that’s under your control, you can point it anywhere you want, making it possible, with good backups, to move your site to a new server in very short order.
Without control over your URL, you are at the mercy of the owners of the domain you are using. If they decide to close up or stop providing a good product, you could be stranded.
Your best bet is to take control over your URL and the easiest way to do that is to simply buy a domain and use it. Considering how easy it is, how low the costs are and that you don’t even have to sacrifice your current setup, there’s literally no reason not to.