Do I Need a Domain?

WordPress.com hosts many types of blogs and you can determine if the kind of blog you want to establish is allowed or not allowed very easily.  These are the characteristics of successful bloggers: Purpose, Passion, Productivity, People Skills and Persistence. You don’t need a domain to become a successful blogger but it helps. Blogs on their own domains communicate the message that the blogger is serious about blogging, serious enough to purchase a domain.

Committment To Longevity

Whether you are a professional blogger, a business blogger or a hobby blogger, if you are committed to developing your brand by producing quality content over the long-term, then I recommend getting your own domain and a no-ads upgrade from the get go.

Increased Credibility

Theres’ no doubt about it. Blogs on .blogspot.com or .wordpress.com or other free hosted sub-domains do not have the same credibility with readers or with search engines that blogs on their own domains do. Blogs on sub domains like .blospot.com or .wordpress.com lack the credibility that blogs on their own domains have because those on domains are less likely to disappear over night or to be spam sites.

Consider where search engines find the majority of low quality content, duplicated content, and stolen content blogs plastered with Google Adsense ads? The answer is on free hosted .blogspot.com sub-domains. In contrast,  no blogger initiated advertising is allowed on free hosted WordPress.com blogs. The ToS Staff at WordPress.com are extremely vigilant. WordPress.com actually has a “community” and the bloggers in it report such blogs without hesitation to Staff who examine and delete the ToS violating blogs “tout de suite”. Hence blogs on WordPress.com sub-domains have more credibility than blogs on other free hosted sites but less credibility than blogs on their own domains have.  Search the internet and you will find that stated by the top blogging tips bloggers and SEO bloggers over and over again.

When it comes to rankings both age of the site and the length of time the domain purchase reflects (1 year, 2 years, etc.)  are factors that search engines like Google take into consideration. It helps significantly with SEO if you also register the domain name for as many years as possible, rather than for just one year.

Registering a domain provides an opportunity to convey your brand through keywords to your target audience. If you are a professional or business blogger geographical location (.ca; .uk; etc.) is a consideration for top-level domain purchase. There are many articles on length of domain names that advise registering a domain name that has few characters as possible  (67 characters maximum). Related post:Typosquatting Impact.

Increased Flexibility

Without doubt, a domain name is a powerful branding tool and purchasing a domain mapping upgrade obscures the fact that you’re not paying for your hosting here at WordPress.com. Purchasing your own domain  makes it easier for your target audience to find your site. It provides more flexibility for an easy move to self-hosting should you care to move, and helps you keep your RSS subscribers if you do move. If you’ve registered your domain through WordPress.com and want it to point to a blog or website hosted elsewhere then you can do this by updating the nameservers.

Domain Mapping – How it works

Most bloggers have published content under their .wordpress.com URLs prior to purchasing a domain name via a domain mapping upgrade. The reason they do purchase domain mapping is so that all the URLs from the .wordpress.com root blog when clicked seamlessly redirect to the same content in the same posts and pages under the new domain URLs.

The page rank and authority the blog earned was earned by the .wordpress.com URLs and belongs to them. It’s not transferable and that means the domain starts from zero. In about 4 – 6 months time the same content originally indexed under the.wordpress.com URLs,  will all be re-indexed by search engines under the domain URLs.  All things being equal, the blog will probably have the same page rank and authority it had prior to purchasing domain mapping.

Domain Mapping – Three Choices

If you don’t own a domain you can register a new domain through WordPress.com. If do own a domain registered elsewhere you can map that existing domain to your .wordpress.com blog. If you already have a website, and you want to add a blog to it by mapping a sub domain you can do that too.

Expired Domains

If  you do not renew your domain mapping then all the domain URL’s will be broken and the blog will revert to the old .wordpress.com URLs.  The broken domain links all over the internet and in Google search results will produce 404 (page not found), until Google and the other search engines re-index them again under the .wordpress.com URLs, and clear their caches (3 – 6 months).

There’s a huge industry focused on buying, squatting and selling expired domains. Failing to renew your domain before it expires may mean a domain name squatter will buy it and then charge you the moon to get it back.

Related posts:
Setting up a Self Hosted WordPress.org Install
Moving from WordPress.com to WordPress.org Resources and Tips

68 thoughts on “Do I Need a Domain?

  1. Pingback: Thoughts on Blogging | We Live In A Flat

  2. Hi there! Well, ive just spent a couple of happy hours reading all over your blog and my previously battered brain is less so now!

    I’ve previously had a .org self hosted site (closed last week actually!) and while I loved the whole plugin tweakability of it, the main thing I liked was having my own domain for it.

    The blog I have now, pootles.wordpress.com has only been going for 4 months, but already I get around 400 uniques a day, about 1000 pv.

    Because my blog is picture heavy, much of my work ends up on pinterest which in turn brings more traffic (yay!)

    I have a couple of questions that I hope you can answer please.

    I own the domain I want to use, but not bought throu wordpress. Can I still map it?

    And for the hundreds of visuals on pinterest etc that are linked to pootles.wordpress.com, if people looked at those in the future, will they still go to the correct post on my blog?

    I sort of understand how the mapping works, but will I lose seo in the interim?

    Many thanks in advance, oh and your blog looks great on an android phone at 2am!

    Sam

    • I own the domain I want to use, but not bought throu wordpress. Can I still map it?

      Yes. If you would like to use your domain name purchased elsewhere and map from your free hosted wordpress.com blog to it, then you will first need to set up domain mapping. http://en.support.wordpress.com/domains/map-existing-domain/

      And for the hundreds of visuals on pinterest etc that are linked to pootles.wordpress.com, if people looked at those in the future, will they still go to the correct post on my blog?

      Yes. My post explained the the links are seamlessly redirected ie. that’s exactly what domain mapping does.

  3. Pingback: Domain Mapping Tips | one cool site

  4. I let ocdbloggergirl dot com expire because I preferred wordpress.com. Someone bought it and made it a portal to a p*** site. Pretty funny and horrifying at the same time.

  5. Thank you for answering my blog question before but maybe I’m still a little confused. So if I map a subdomain (meaning an original domain URL right?) does that mean all my posts, stats and everything I customised go towards my new paid domain?

  6. Your blog has been so helpful to me. I am at the point where I started a blog just for fun and now it has some readers. I haven’t purchased my domain yet and I am trying to decide if I should buy my domain on wordpress.com or hire a host most likely blue host which you get your domain for free. Or does it really matter?

    As of right now, I only have a net-book computer to work with and am worrying about downloading everything on that computer for a wordpress.org site. Any suggestions would be helpful at this point. I have been reading over all your posts and it seems like going over to .org would be best. But, I am terrified about all the costs and if I will be able to do it all on my own and making mistakes. HELP!

  7. Hi there! Thank you for writing this post– it was much more helpful than a lot of other forums I’ve read so far. I’m still so confused though; when you have your own domain, all that happens is that the link name changes? Nothing else harmed? WIll my template stay the same, will my posts all be there, comments, stats, etc? Does having your own domain allow you to play with the template more? Uggggh! I wish I had someone to help, I’m so confused. Also– if I’m about 20 posts in, is it too premature to get my own domain?

    Sorry for the million questions I just asked, but you seem like a good source!

    • WIll my template stay the same

      Wordpres.com themes are adapted to run on WPMU wordpress multiuser software. They are not exportable. You need to upload a theme for wordpress.org software. http://wordpress.org/extend/themes/

      will my posts all be there, comments, stats, etc?

      You create an export file and all your wordpress.com content is in it. Then you import that file into the wordpress.org install. Stats cannot be transferred. Email followers can be transferred after you install and activate the JetPack plugin. http://jetpack.me You post to the wordpress.com forums and supply both URLs and Staff will transfer the email subscribers for you.

      Does having your own domain allow you to play with the template more?

      No having your own domain does not result in that. You can have your own domain as I do and still be here free hosted by wordpress.com. There is no upgrade your can purchase from wordpress.com that changes anything stated here http://support.wordpress.com/com-vs-org/ and restated again here http://en.support.wordpress.com/custom-design/#frequently-asked-questions

      Yes, you can edit wordpress.org templates and themes and do CSS editing free of charge. That is, of course, if you have those skills in the first place.

      Advice: if the only reason you want to move to self hosting a wordpress.org install is to hack a theme and you don’t have hacking skills then I advise you not to make the move. I see people going this and they don’t have the skills required to manage their own installs so months later I see them moving back to wordpress.com. Frankly, I find the focus on theme hacking to be completely off-base. People come to blogs to read content.

  8. Hi timethief

    I too have taken your advice which I found in the forums and last night purchased a domain name via the dashboard. I also followed a link to your site in one of the forums and found my way here – what a find!

    Having just read through all the preceeding posts I am even more pleased that I have purchased a domain name before developing my blog too much. I am now considering the no ads upgrade aswell. It is a really good point that as the blogger you might not actually see the ads that your readers would do.

    I am as new as can be to the world of blogging (but have lots of enthusiam and am hopefully learning fast!) and agree with the other posts about how helpful the sharing of this information is from yourself and others.

    Thanks again.

    Tracy

  9. Pingback: Top 5 Site Title Tag Tips | one cool site

  10. Hi there

    Thank you for this it inspired me to purchase my domain name as I was thinking pretty much all of what you was saying here! I am a newbie blogger (only 3 weeks into it) and still so much to learn but I have a feeling your blogs are going to be a massive help for me!

  11. Well – I did the whole thing backwards – found an expiring domain name I liked and bought it when I reverted into the wild – then not a clue what I was going to do with my web site .

    Did a very crude html site with some handouts from classes I taught – then installed WordPress.ORG software on the site because it was free – no idea what a “blog” was – learned about upgrading the software as the version installed was way old – put some stuff on the WordPress part of the site and eventually migrated most everything to the WordPress part when I found out that WordPress called Google when a new Post was published.

    Then moved the content to WordPress.COM and mapped the domain to my site here – kept the old email host which was an adventure – I was so worried about the move that I bought a new domain and went through the move, mapping, email changes and such – since my site was up and running and linked to by others I did not want to mess up things

    In the end it worked well and I like not needing to do the software update thing.

    • Hi there,
      Thanks do much for sharing your experience of learning all the how-tos the hard way. Thanks also for all the answers you provide when other post to the support forums for help with domain issues. I have learned a lot from your comments made in those threads. :)

  12. Wow this was a very interesting and thought provoking read. Has really made me consider switching, but the thought of losing traffic due to the switch of image/content URLS etc puts me off. A year or so in I have generated over 27K in views from 33 posts. I want to continue that momentum. What would you advise? Love all the help and advice you give people TT we appreciate it dearly.

    • The reason we purchase domain mapping is so all the traffic to the old URLs is seamlessly redirected to the new URLs. I don’t think you will experience any traffic loss if you aren’t moving your content off WordPress.com hosting.

  13. Thank you so much for you answer on the forum earlier today! ( question about Facebook and pinterest buttons). I already have my domaine.com at GoDaddy, I am building the website with ecommerce. I started my blog at WordPress with the same name. How can I link them together? Will people be getting directly tO my blog or through the website homepage? The goal is to drive traffic to my we site and shop.
    Thank you!

  14. 100% agree with the domain from the outset and the no-ads upgrade.

    I got myself in SUCH a tangle with Google Webmaster tools etc changing to my own domain some months later. The instructions are worded as if you do this first up and do not deal with moving to your own domain some months later.

    I also renewed well into the future for rank reasons as well.

    Great article, TT.

  15. I purchased my own domain for the reasons you listed. It’s really not that expensive and having ownership is nice. On a side note, hope you’re feeling better!

    • Your domain name is such a perfect fit for your blog and you’re right purchasing a domain isn’t expensive.

      P.S. I’m getting slowly getting better. Thanks :)

  16. I wonder if I can afford to buy my domain with a credit card from a brother of mine (since I have not), and if so whether to purchase the domain properties out on behalf of the owner of the Blast Card (my brother) or if it comes in the name of who makes the purchase request, the owner of the blogg bone, which in this case is me
    thanks

    • Click “Store” in your dashboard in the left hand side menu. The only methods of payment for upgrades there are the approved credit cards and Payapal. If you have other any other questions I can’t answer them. You will have to contact Staff.

  17. I’d love a custom domain, but I don’t have a proper method to buy one yet. Because I am studying and do not have a steady income, I can’t get a credit card, and most sites accept cards only (my debit card does not work).

    Making money online is very difficult when you don’t have any to begin with.

    But, on a positive note, I will probably be able to get a domain name next year once I start work.

    • Why you are blogging this year why not devote time to researching the various ways to make money online and determining the right fit for your content? So many people go into business impulsively with unrealistic expectations and fail, simply because they don’t practice due diligence and come up with a feasible business plan. Purchasing a domain name is only a small step when it comes to blogging for money. One has to consider web hosting costs as well as what they allow when it comes to advertising on sites they host.

  18. I just recently went through this process, learned a tremendous amount, and found everything went off without a hitch. Love your blog. It’s always so helpful!

    • It’s so great to hear that everything went well for you. On the forum we experience bloggers who are not patient and don’t understand it can take up to 72 hours (though it rarely does) for a domain name change to proagate throughout the internet. They expect instant results when that’s not the way it works. There is no control over how long it takes their ISP to flsuh their caches. In some cases we Volunteers have had to stop people from editing URLs. They just didn’t understand what domain mapping was and what it does before they purchased it.

  19. I didn’t appreciate the importance of the no-ads upgrade until I happened to be looking at my blog one day without realizing I wasn’t logged. It was the first time I’d seen an ad on my blog and it was particularly unfortunate (an ad for earthquake preparedness kits appeared on a carefully written message of condolence to the people of Japan after their earthquake; the ad was bigger than the post!). I bought the upgrade that day. I was protecting my brand and my image, just as when I got the domain name.

    • Hi there,
      I deactivated my AdBlocker and I also chose to log out a lot and view many blogs. What I saw motivated me to purchase a No-Ads upgrade too.

      In 2010 a study conducted by Connect Insight revealed only 17 percent of Internet users find online advertising to be appealing and most people considered it to be “intrusive, repetitive, unappealing and cheap”. The demographics on that are fascinating as the younger generation directly interacts with brands and companies through social media and 24 percent of the 16-to 34-year-olds do think brand advertising is appealing. 50 percent of those over 55 years old said they avoid websites where ads would pop up and “interrupt their online activities.”

  20. Having previously been a business owner, I tend to want to market my blog the same way. You bring up a real good point about owning your own domain, and why not? They’re really inexpensive. Along with that goes the email address…not such a big deal on non-business blogs but really makes a glaring statement if you’re trying to market yourself or your brand. Usually domains come with emails…use them. There is almost nothing to be gained by marketing gmail.com, yahoo.com, etc. All it shows is you set up a free account, and that doesn’t go far in trying to establish credibility.

  21. Hi! Thanks for the great info. I learned the hard way about the “page rank and authority” you mention. I lost all the ground I gained when I changed my domain from a WordPress URL to my purchased domain name, but then again it’s not like I had a huge following at that point. It has slowly come back just like you mentioned.

    • You have done a good job when it comes to creating an attractive reader and search engine friendly site. Not to worry as your blog will recover the traffic provided you invest time and energy into attracting traffic.

      My advice is to focus on creating high quality content, and as there are many similar blogs in your niche don’t be a fashion follower be a trend setter. Start thinking of small ways you can make your site unique. Articles on preparing your house for sale (decluttering, minor repairs, cleaning, garden and yard revitatization) including lots of images do attract traffic. You might also consider publishing an image rich local neighbourhood event or attraction in a different neighborhood in the city periodcially, as we factor in lifestyle, neighborhood flavor and friendliness when we buy a home. Aside from that you might consider having a testimonials page and a guestbook page.

      • Thanks for the feedback! I do have a testimonial page, but I changed the title to “Reviews”. I think I read somewhere that people would be more likely to click on it?? And yes, lots of competition in real estate. I am actually working on a new site that is devoted entirely to Home Styling/Staging, but it’s on the DIY Thesis Theme via WordPress.org which is a lot more complicated than I thought. Not a simple template, that’s for sure.

    • Thank you for letting me know how you feel about my article. You are a gifted writer and I think you ought to consider purchasing a domain.

  22. Hey timethief, I’ve really been improving my blog lately, and am definitely getting more serious about blogging. I’m thinking about getting a domain name, but which is better, a shorter address ending in “.net” or a longer domain ending with “.com”? I have found a domain that I like, but the only the “.net” is available. If I made the domain a little different, I could probably find a “.com” domain, but would that hurt possible traffic?

  23. Hi, I was wondering if you could give me some advice. I’m in 2 minds as to whether to sign up to wordpress.com or build my own site using wordpress.org. If I sign up to wordpress.com and purchase a .com domain from them when i sign up, can this domain easily be transferred at a later date if i choose to build a site with wordpress somewhere else? Many thanks

    • You cannot build your own theme on WordPress.com, there is no FTP access, you cannot install plugins or third party themes, and themes you purchase and/or customize are not exportable. The only themes we can use are those found here > Appearance > Themes This is a multiuser blogging platform. All blogs wearing the same theme are using the same underlying template and we cannot access the underlying files and edit templates or themes. http://en.support.wordpress.com/themes/editing-themes/

      Yes you can easily move the blog content and links and re-point the domain at any time. It’s yours and it’s portable. http://en.support.wordpress.com/moving-a-blog/ If you’ve registered your domain through WordPress.com and now want it to point to a blog or website hosted elsewhere then you can do this by updating the nameservers. http://en.support.wordpress.com/domain-mapping/domain-management/#update-nameservers

      I strongly suggest that anyone who uses the phrase “build my own site” hire a web host and set up a WordPress.org install from the get go.

  24. StumbleUpon was a useless referrer to my blog, before I registered my own domain and was referring 0-2 visitors a day only. After registering my own domain, I figured it as one of the strongest referers. So, in a single phrase; ”StumbleUpon loves top level domains.”

    • Hi there,
      It’s good to hear from you. That’s such an interesting observation. I hadn’t even considered that aspect so thanks so much for sharing what you have experienced. I’ve been a long time member of StumbleUpon but haven’t been active recently.

  25. A beautiful summation, TT, thanks.

    I think the expression “taking ownership” really comes into play here. Ownership implies commitment, and commitment inspires credibility. And without the latter, one is fighting a losing battle.

    • Well said, Mark. We receive a considerable number of questions about domains on the forum. In some cases those who ask the questions have no idea how domain mapping works so I find myself explaining it almost daily. What surpises me is those who do purchase a domain and then want a refund within a couple of days of the purchase.

    • Hi Marty,
      I gain so much insight from your aphorisms and the comments you receive. You evoke thoughtfulness and that’s reflected in the responses you receive. I do consider you to be a serious blogger and expect you may be taking this step in the future.

      P.S. I’m slowly recovering my health again. I fell behind on my contracted work when I was ill in February. I got an extension and had to work very hard to meet the March 31st deadline but I made it. :) Hopefully April will be a good health month for me. For my husband it’s a month that features travel and that means I’m on the front line in our business while he’s away.

  26. After a year of blogging, I admitted to myself that I liked it and intended to continue. So, I got the domain, upgrades and no ads thingey. Yay me. I’m loving it.

  27. I have been considering this for a while – mostly because I changed by blog name a week in and my URL does nto match.

    I told myself that if I did it for 4 months then I would invest in it – that four months is almost here and you article is very timely. Thank you!

    • Hi there,
      I wish that I had purchased a domain for this blog earlier on than I did. I waited too long and another purchased the name I really wanted. In the end I had to purchase a domain name that was longer than I wanted — oh well.

    • Both of my domain are on auto-renew and we do get warning notices. In addition to that I now have file cards on the message board next to my computer to remind me not to forget to renew them before they expire.

  28. I’ve been blogging for nearly five years now, which sort of indicates a commitment. Although I’ve read several things you’ve written on this subject, I’m still suffering from domainophobia. I worry that I’ll lose my posts, or that I’ll be too technologically stunted to do all that would be involved (I can’t even figure out how to change the font on my blog). I think there should be some branch of psychology devoted to this fear. It’s really frustrating. That being said, this is an excellent post, and I’ll tuck it away with several others you’ve written– those I know will probably be helpful once I conquer my phobia. :)

    • Hi there Sweet Lady,
      I’ve never heard of domain-phobia ;) The process is very easy. Nothing changes except the URLs. Your visitors see the new domain URLs and you see the .wordpress.com URLs on the admin side of the blog. No matter where a .wordpress.com blog link to your content is located and clicked the visitor is seamlessy redirected to it.

      If you are expecting to be able to click a button and change fonts throughout your blog then it’s not that easily done.

      These are 3 ways to change fonts on wordpress.com blogs.

      (1) Changing font families, colors and size in text in posts or pages either post by post or page by page by coding into the HTML editor. http://en.support.wordpress.com/editors/font-size-color/

      (2) Changing font colors in text in posts or pages either post by post or page by page using the #4 icon (Select text color – change the text color) in Row 2 the Visual editor. http://en.support.wordpress.com/visual-editor/#row-2

      (3) Changing all font families, colors and sizes throughout the whole blog by purchasing an annually renewable Custom Design upgrade and using Typekit Fonts with Staff support. http://en.support.wordpress.com/custom-design/

      Note: A few themes do provide for changing font color in the Blog Title and/or optional Tagline and/or links. In the majority of themes font changes to font families, colors and size in the blog title, tagline, menu, post titles, page titles, categories and tags, widget headings, comments, and links cannot be done without CSS editing.

      • Thank you SO much. This is incredibly helpful. It’ll be a while before I can do it, but I AM going to do it. All of it. Thank you for simplifying this– you’re my hero.

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