Most people when they first start blogging sign up with one of the major free blogging platforms – either Blogger or WordPress.com. When you sign up you are asked to choose your blog name, which is the Internet address that people will use to find you. You will pick the first part of that address, and then to complete the address a suffix will be added – either “.blogspot.com” or “.wordpress.com”. So if you sign up at wordpress.com and choose the name “myblog” as your blog name, your full blog address will be myblog.wordpress.com.
For most people that kind of internet address is fine, certainly in the early days of your blog at least. However the day might come when you want something a little more memorable as your blog address, and that’s where vanity URLs come in. A vanity URL is an internet address that you own, for a small annual charge. That internet address can take any form you like as long as it has one of the standard internet endings (.com, .co.uk, .net etc) and as long as no-one else has already claimed it. Think of a vanity URL as your own personal address, much like a PO Box number. You register your own vanity URL, and then configure it through a few simple steps so that it automatically takes people to your blog.
The main benefit of owning your own URL is that it gives you complete freedom over where your blog is hosted. If you decide to go self hosted at a later date you can just reconfigure your vanity URL to point at your new self hosted blog and you won’t lose your existing readers or subscribers. You might just want to improve your branding by having a unique name for your blog. It is possible that some brands or advertisers prefer to work with bloggers who have their own domain names (bear in mind if you are on WordPress.com the terms and conditions prevent you from placing advertising on your blog, whether you have a vanity URL or not). It might be just that you weren’t able to get a good blog name through Blogger or WordPress – both platforms are so popular that many blog names have been taken by someone else already, leaving you trying to come up with a new name or adding random numbers to your name in order to make it unique.
So how do you go about getting a vanity URL? Well, the good news is that both Blogger and WordPress.com make it very easy to do. With WordPress you can set it all up through your dashboard, and they have produced a simple step by step guide to show you how it’s done. If you’re on Blogger then I recommend working through this guide from Sian at Mummy-Tips.
Is there a downside to switching to a vanity URL? Well, in the short term there will be an effect on your Page Rank and blog ranking in indexes such as the Tots100. As your blog now has a new address these systems see it as a brand new blog, and it’s a bit like starting again from scratch. It should only take 6 months or so for all your ratings to recover, and it’s a short-term pain for long term gain.
Whilst I would recommend everyone to get their own vanity URL, it’s by no means essential. Blogs like Sticky Fingers show us that it’s perfectly feasible to maintain a top blog without one.