I’m regularly asked about the mistakes I made when starting out with blogging and the first two words that usually spring to mind are ‘Domain Names’.
Most of the early mistakes I made (and some of the more recent ones) have revolved around domain names. Let me run through a few:
1. Not Getting My Own Domain Name
The first mistake I made was not to get my own domain name at all.
The year was 2002 and a couple of hours after reading my first blog, I was ready to start my own. After looking at how everyone else was doing it, I decided to use Blogspot (Blogger) as my platform because it promised me that I’d have my own blog up and running in minutes. At the time I’m not sure Blogspot allowed me to use my own domain (you can today) but within a few months of starting that blog I was already regretting not using one of the other hosted blogging services.
I felt trapped on the Blogspot domain and realised how little control I had, especially in terms of design. So began to research switching. I initially switched over to MovableType and later to WordPress and at that point I registered my first ever domain.
Having your own domain name is beneficial in many ways. It shows readers you’re serious about what you’re doing, it helps build your brand and credibility, enables you to have an email address with that same branding and can also help with SEO.
Lastly, having your own domain name gives you more control, which means you’re not going to be switched off for breaking the terms of service of whatever host you’re on.
Switching my blog to a hosted blogging platform and getting my own domain name was a big part in my blog’s growth in the early years. At the time of switching, I was nervous that I’d lose all my readers and any search rankings I achieved but I need not have worried – it only grew my readership!
2. Getting an Aussie Domain
OK – so I’d made my first big decision to switch my blog to my own domain. This helped my blog a lot, however in doing so I inadvertently made another mistake (in fact, two mistakes).
The first one was registering the .au extension for my domain name. Now this may not be a mistake for everyone but for me it was.
I’m an Aussie but at the time of choosing my domain most of my readers were in the US. I didn’t realise it but by choosing an Australian (.au) domain name I was making my blog more findable in search engines to Australians – but not to a global audience.
This was both a blessing and a curse. It meant I got some nice traffic from Google.com.au as there were fewer Aussie sites competing for that traffic however, the overall number of people searching the web in Australia is much smaller than the global number of people searching the web.
If you’re looking to build a localized audience by all means consider a local domain. If you’re looking for a global audience I’ve found .com domains to be much better.
3. Not getting a .com domain
The other mistake was choosing the .org domain. At the time legally entitled to use the .org domain as I was involved with a church and a leader of that community. It seemed appropriate as part of what I was doing with my first blog was related to that church but in time, my goals with the blog changed to become more commercial.
Using the .org.au domain and running a commercial blog wasn’t really a good idea. It probably didn’t comply with the rules but it also wasn’t very good for my branding either.
4. Conflicting Brands
By this point I’d only been blogging for 18 months but I saw a real evolution of my blog. I started blogging about church, spirituality, almost as a personal blogger. As I developed my voice and began to experiment with different topics and with making money from my blogging, I made the mistake of keeping all my blogs on the one domain.
My domain name was livingroom.org.au (it’s still live today if you want to take a look) but on it I hosted a number of blogs that didn’t sit well together as an overarching brand.
I had a church information site, my personal blog, a camera review blog, a camera phone blog, an olympic games blog and more – all sharing the ‘livingroom’ brand.
It was messy, particularly when I began to try to grow my readership and start talking with potential advertisers for my main blog – the camera review blog.
Having said all of that and having made all of those mistakes – the blogs did grow to a point where I was able to make a decent living from blogging. This should hopefully serve as an encouragement to those of you who might have made similar mistakes – you can still have success!
5. Not Getting the .com for ProBlogger When I Could Have
In 2004, I decided I wanted to start a blog about blogging where I’d share tips on blogging and how to make money from blogs (something I’d been doing for almost a year). I’d previously been writing on the topic of blogging in a category on my personal blog but wanted to bring all those posts over onto a domain specifically for bloggers.
I decided upon the name of ProBlogger but someone had already registered the domain ProBlogger.com (they were originally developing a tool for bloggers) – so I got ProBlogger.net.
At the time, I didn’t reach out to the owner of that domain because they looked to be building something and what they were building was quite different to my intentions for ProBlogger so I thought we could co-exist.
In time, the owner of that domain stopped developing their tool and ‘parked’ the domain. At this point I reached out to see if they’d sell it to me. I don’t remember exactly what they asked for but it seemed steep (it was somewhere around $1000 from memory).
I reached out to the owner numerous times after that initially approach but the numbers they asked for got higher and higher (mainly because I was growing demand by having success with my blog and the word ‘ProBlogger’ began to be commonly used to describe people making money with blogs).
It was important for me to get the .com domain, mainly because I wanted to defend the brand. Having ProBlogger.net was ok, but .com was more common and I knew everyday readers were ending up on someone else’s site looking for me (note: ProBlogger.com is coming up for a big overhaul in the coming months).
Eventually, they put the domain up for auction and after a roller coaster of a ride I purchased it (for quite a bit more than they’d originally asked).
The lesson I learned was that if I am serious about a brand, back myself and buy the domain early.
The last mistake I made with domains was when I started Digital Photography School in 2006.
The site was started as something of an impulsive experiment so I didn’t put a lot of thought into the domain – but I wish I had.
While having hyphens isn’t a terrible thing in terms of search engines (although lately I’m wondering if that is changing) it is a real mouthful to communicate to people when you’re telling them the domain of your site.
As with most of the above mistakes – this wasn’t a mistake big enough to sink my sites development, dPS is my biggest site today, however it is/was a regret of sorts!
What ‘Mistakes’ have you Made with Domains?
I know I’m not the only one who has made mistakes with domain names – help me feel better about mine by sharing yours below!