Facebook was rocked with controversy today as many local bloggers shared their two cents in regards to a post written by Jeff Bullas. At hand was a question that many bloggers are faced with: do bloggers need to own their own domain names in order to be considered serious?
Here’s my take, as someone who blogs for both myself and other people.
Being a serious blogger does not mean you need to own your own domain name. There are plenty of popular, well-respected bloggers who have practiced this. For example, marketing guru Seth Godin has long had a successful blog on a TypePad domain (http://sethgodin.typepad.com/). One of the most important things in blogging is consistent, quality content – but we all can’t be Seth Godin, who has brand recognition well beyond his blog. He doesn’t need his own domain name to stand out – but some other bloggers out there might.
I don’t think it’s wise to turn a blind eye to all of the elements that play into blogging well. A successful blog needs other elements to grow besides great content. All bloggers can’t function on a “if I build it, they will come” mentality. It just doesn’t work that way.
Do I think all bloggers need to have their own domain names in order to be considered serious or successful? No - but owning your domain is a good idea.
From a reputation management and SEO standpoint, it’s smart to own your domain name. If you want to get into the nitty gritty details of why it’s good for SEO and reputation management, I recommend you check out some of these posts:
- Domain Best Practices for Search Engine Optimization from SEOMoz
- The Power of Owning Your Domain from FreelanceFolder
- Do You Own Your Own Domain Name? from BloggingPro
It lends credibility and looks more professional, simple as that. Plus, which is easier to recall: blogname.com or blogname.blogspot.com? Most people would go with the hosted domain, and that’s key for keeping readers coming back. It’s a good thing to have a blog that’s easy to recall.
Purchasing your own domain can also come along with the decision to purchase hosting, which is an entirely different argument – but it’s valid to bring up since many bloggers think that owning a domain and purchasing hosting are mutually exclusive. They’re not. You can own a domain name and still stay on the free version of a blogging platform. However, if you are purchasing a domain name, I would recommend exploring the options and benefits of having your own hosting.
Owning your domain name and hosting on your own can mean additional control over the security of your blog, whether or not you choose to make money, and even your own content.
P.S. You really should read the Terms of Service of your blogging platform – you may own your content but if you stick with their hosting, they might be able to reuse it in any way they choose. Just look at Blogger’s terms of service as a Google property: http://www.google.com/intl/en/policies/terms/
Now before we get into a debate over blogging platforms, focus on the point I’m raising here: when you purchase a domain, you have control. Whether or not this is a good or bad thing is something to discuss in another post. The point is that you are exercising a form of control over your personal brand and the brand of your blog when you choose to own your domain.
I understand that content is the real key to having a successful blog, but having solid usability is a part of the puzzle – and it’s definitely something all bloggers should take into account when they’re looking at making the decision of whether or not to host.
Having your own hosting means you can expand outward on the actual function of your blog. You can add in community components, forums, or widgets designed to expand your email subscriber list. You can incorporate elements of design that make your blog more appealing, which can attract more readers. You can also build out subdomains and turn your blog into something more.
I personally own my own domain name and I do so for several reasons:
- I wanted to purchase hosting to expand my blog design outward from a free template.
- I wanted to own my name and reputation so that when someone searched for me online, they would find ME – not a fictional book character.
- I felt that it made my blog address much easier to remember.
There are plenty of other reasons why people choose to purchase their domain or not purchase their domain. Do I think you ABSOLUTELY need it to be successful? No – but it’s a smart idea to own your domain and it can give you many advantages as a blogger, especially when it comes to cultivating an audience and monetization, as well as building a strong brand and community.
Remember – we all can’t be as recognizable as Seth Godin.