So you’ve decided to get a website. You realized that your Flickr, 500PX, Instagram, and Facebook accounts are not cutting it. However, you don’t think you are ready to put in the time or expenses necessary to create a full blown website with self-hosting. You are looking for the starter package. You are going to create a free website using Wordpress.com, Tumblr, or Blogger.
To create a simple, professional website with a blog and your portfolio, any of the free services will be more than enough. However, while you can create great websites using Wordpress, Tumblr or Blogger, one thing they don’t do is give you a professional domain name. Instead, when you sign up for the free version, you will receive a subdomain that looks like yourdomainname.tumblr (or wordpress or blogger).com. This does not look professional to potential clients. You need a custom domain name or a “vanity” domain.
What is a “Vanity” domain name?
A “vanity” domain or a custom domain is the domain that you see on most websites. It is the web URL that you choose for your site with no extra words or numbers attached. Check out the difference:
Free subdomain: www.Johnthephotographer.wordpress.com
Custom domain name: www.JohnthePhotographer.com
Why use a custom domain name?
Custom domain names are easy URLs that look clean and professional to your potential clients. They also build trust and are easier to share: on business cards, in emails and over the phone.
Despite how beautiful and professional-looking a Tumblr, Wordpress, or Blogger site can be, they are also extremely easy to make. This means that people create and abandon blogs everyday. For this reason, many people associate using the free subdomain (.tumblr.com) in a URL with a low quality or unprofessional site.
Purchasing a custom domain name is extremely cheap and hides who is hosting your site so for all your potential clients know, you just commissioned a professional web developer to build your website. In most cases, a custom domain name will cost you between $10-20 a year.
How do you do it?
Wordpress, Blogger, and Tumblr all provide options for setting up custom domain names within their site. Here’s how to do it:
1. In the Wordpress Dashboard, navigate to Store. Then click domains.
2. Simply, fill in the desired domain name into the open field.
3. Follow the registration instructions.
4. After you have purchased and registered the domain name, go back to the dashboard. Click Store and then click Domains. Your new domain name will now be listed. Click the button next to your new domain and hit “Update Primary Domain.”
4. Wordpress will update all your website’s URLs with the new domain name automatically.
1. While in the Blogger dashboard, press the settings button.
2. In settings, click publishing. Below the text that reads “You’re publishing on blogspot.com” will be an option that says “Switch to: Custom Domain.” Click that.
3. Enter the domain name that you desire. Check it’s availability.
4. Follow the registration instructions. Google is partnered with GoDaddy.com who will be managing your actual domain registration. You can set your account to automatically renew every year if you like. Once you finish paying with Google Checkout, Google will automatically update all your website’s URLs with the new domain name.
Getting a custom domain name for your Tumblr site is slightly more complicated because they require that you purchase the domain name from an outside registrar.
At the Registrar (such NameCheap or GoDaddy)
1. Follow registrar’s instructions for purchasing your desired domain name
2. Make sure that the domain that you purchase is “Second Level domain name” (this is generally what NameCheap and GoDaddy sell). Once, purchased, you need to configure the domain name to point it’s “A-Record” or IP address to 126.96.36.199
3. Most registrars will have instructions on how to do this. To do it on NameCheap, after you purchase your domain, go to the NameCheap dashboard. Click “Manage Domains” and then click your new domain. On the left hand side, click “All Host Records.” Under “IP Address/URL”, fill in 188.8.131.52 and change the record to A (address). Do this for both “@“ and “www.”
4. Now go to Tumblr and login to your blog. Click the gear icon (for “Settings”) at the top of your Dashboard.
5. Click your blog on the left side of the page.
6. Check the box that says “Use a Custom Domain Name.” Enter your new domain name.
7. Click “Test your domain.” If there are issues, follow the instructions to fix them and test again. It may take up to 72 hours for your site to update to the new domain name.
8. Hit save.