Quick Answer: Yes, unless you expect to do a minimal amount of business on the Internet. Domain names are a valuable part of your Web presence and most of the time people view domains only as a branding tool and overlook the SEO potential the right domain can deliver. Choosing the right domain name, however, should also be considered an important part of your SEO strategy and as such, is a decision that should not be made lightly. If you are unsure about it’s SEO potential, see an example of blogbank.org on my previous post.
Domain Name – Isn’t it just Pure Vanity?
As I see it, this could be more of a personal preference than anything else. However, if you are blogging for money or thinking about it, these are some reasons why I strongly suggest to get your own custom domain name:
- Increases name recognition (Branding)
- Makes it easy for your readers to remember your address
- Suggests that you are a serious Internet player (although not necessarily)
- Allows your Internet address (URL) to go with you, even if you decide to change your hosting partner, if necessary.
- It helps to get easier located on search engines (see blogbank.org example mentioned above)
- You own it, it is yours forever (as long as you keep your bills under control:)
- You can get a free Google Apps Account:)
What is a Domain name, DNS and subdomains?
If you are not yet familiar with Domain terms, I suggest you read this article and get familiarized with some of them. Subdomains, such as, yourname.blogspot.com, are names that you do not own. In this example, blogspot.com is the Top Level Domain (yourname being the subdomain) and as such is owned by blogspot.com (or Google if you prefer). You can not transfer this name to another host because it is not yours.
Here is a good definition from Wikipedia of what DNS is.
What Domain Name to Choose?
As I said before, this is more of a personal preference. Obviously, if you can register a name that is easy to remember, is relevant to your sites topic, has keywords included in it (e.g. blogmoneyonline.com), is a dot com, the better. You can also choose to register long tail names, such as, wordpressthemeframework.com, as most short domain names are almost all taken (maybe even your existing sub-domain name) and are difficult to find. You can also buy an existing domain, one that already carries a PR or one that has been registered a long time, but these options will cost you a lot more. If you are still uncertain about what to choose, some domain registrars have a good tool that helps you find a name for you. Just remember to do your research first and choose wisely.
How Much Does a Custom Domain Name Cost?
Depends on your registrar and the type of extension (e.g. .com, .net, .org, etc). You can get domain names for as low as 3.00$ a year and there a number of registrars out there. Just google it and you will see. I personally use dynadot (no additional payment for DNS control). There re also web hosting companies who offer free domains for unlimited web hosting packages you purchase.
If you are not prepared to invest some money on a domain yet, you can obtain one from .co.cc for free. They have been around for a while and appears to be reliable. They offer full DNS control and direct integration with google apps. The drawback is that it is not a highly acclaimed dot com, top level domain.
When should I use a Custom Domain Name?
The earlier you use your own domain name, the better. It has been reported that many people have had problems maintaining their page ranks, traffic statistics, RSS Subscriptions, etc., due to changing domain names. While there are ways around that (such as using 301 redirects), this process can still be complicated, specially for the non-tech bloggers. When you change your domain name, everything associated with your previous name can be lost. Thus, all your hard work can easily go down the drain and this is the reason why I strongly suggest for you to do this at the earliest stage possible. Think first before you act and evaluate the risk. If you have nothing yet to loose, do it now.
How to setup your Custom Domain?
This will vary depending on where your blog is hosted. Generally, your web hosting provider will provide you with specific instructions on how to do this. If you are on blogger.com, the easiest way to do this is through the dashboard. Under settings – publishing tab, choose switch to custom domain and at this point you will have the option to buy a domain name or in case you have one already, click on switch to advanced settings – enter your domain name, save it, and you are almost good to go. Now all you need to do is to create a CNAME that points to ghs.google.com and you’re done (see specific setup instructions here). Google will then do the rest of the hard work. You do not have to worry leaving your readers behind.
There you go, I hope this answers most of your questions, whether having a custom domain name, is or is not, worth the trouble.