Why you need a personal domain name

When it comes to personal branding, having your own domain name can be a great resource. Registering a domain that consists of your first and last name is something worth considering for a bunch of different things. How about an online portfolio to show off your work, a web-space to connect with family around the world, or simply give your kid a head start by registering their name before someone else does?

Personal domains aren’t only for personal use. They can accommodate many aspects of your professional life. Your domain could include examples of your work to date and a link to your LinkedIn profile. It can be a living, breathing business card or a resume to showcase your talent.

You might want to set up a fully-fledged blog and website on it for greater control of your brand, including the address you give to recruiters. Even if you don’t have a new site to launch, or you’re not a fan of blogging, you can use your domain for fun or self-promotion.

The point is that you’ve got a domain name, and you’re free to use it for whatever you want!

That extends to creating a place to link out to all your social media outlets, a page to link to your blog, or a virtual business card or an online resume. Let’s take a look at how you can have a slice of the internet.


How to use a personal domain

Perhaps you've registered a personal domain name because you thought you'd create a website and never did. Or maybe you're just hosting a custom email address and you wish you were doing more. There are plenty of clever ways you can use your custom domain name to promote yourself, provide quick information, or just do something cool. Here are our favorites.

As a central location for your social channels

In the early days of the internet, it was en vogue to build your own website bursting with content. Today, third-party sites like Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, etc. host most of our content and general online shenanigans.

You may have a sizeable social presence that you want to continue to use. Having a an individual domain won’t conflict with that. Personal landing pages are commonly used to forward or redirect to other profiles you may have online. Use your personal domain to place the sum of your content spanning the web and bring it into a single, centralized location.

Your special domain could then serve as the hub for your digital life. Share stuff you post on all social networks all in one place, or embed shortcut to your all your social media networks. Naturally, your data seems secure on Facebook, Twitter et al, but, you can’t be 100% sure. With a personal domain, your information is safe as long as you renew your contract.

A place to host a blog

Registering exclusive domains to host a blog is a popular practice. Seth Godin runs one of the most popular blogs on the net using a personal domain URL (sethgodin.com). His site offers a glance at the books he’s published including a link to his blog. White hot truth blogger Danielle Laporte has also fully branded her blog around her name.

For branding - present yourself or your business

Everyone has a story to tell, whether it's your business, your day-to-day life or your passion. Take a domain that’s as unique as you are, to tell your story. A unique URL shows interested parties that you’re running a professional outfit.

Trailblazers like Laura Roeder branded their entire business and web strategy around their persona. With her signature domain, she’s created a page that reflects her love of videos, and the branding that goes into her products.

Keep your digital profile up to date with your latest work, so your older clients and people that may have heard of you in the past can be impressed with what you're doing now. They may keep you in mind for future projects.

To impress clients and recruiters

“Where can I find you online?”

“Do you have a website?”

These are now common questions, especially if you run a business or are self-employed. In this digital age, people expect businesses and individuals to present themselves in a professional manner on the web. There are a few ways to go about this.

Create a virtual business card

Think of those times you’ve been given a business card. It gets crinkled up in your pocket and becomes indecipherable, lost, thrown away or stuffed in a drawer never to be seen again. That’s why online business cards are becoming commonplace.

You might simply want to be more environmentally friendly, or maybe you enjoy the real estate a website affords you to flex your acumen. An online business card is a smart, and cost-effective way to run your business. Plus, when recruiters Google your name, your digital business card will be presented to them. How about that for a first impression?

There are plenty of free services that help you create a business card on your own domain. Sites like about.com have created a space to easily display all your networks, however, you will have to have an URL which is any username that’s left available.

Alternatively, you could create a site with WordPress and whip something up quickly with a free template like Digital Business Card WordPress theme. The theme divides into a section for your online profiles and another as a contact page with a large picture of your choice. You can even use this template now to display your basic contact information and turn it into your own website later. Your full site might include extra pages for your portfolio, display your client base to date, or even include an automated booking system.

Present your Virtual CV or resume

One step up from a business card is a full web CV. Creating something unique that reflects your personality can be an important asset for your professional career. Having a personal resume site brings benefits in two ways:

  1. It boosts your credibility

  2. It makes you easier to find if employers, HR managers, or recruiters receive your resume in their inbox. Chances are, they’ll discover what they can about you online anyway.

You can include as much information as you want and present it in a visually appealing way, compared to the stacks of PDF Word documents recruiters are sent. Compared to your traditional one-page version, a virtual CV can be more elaborate. It can also be dynamic, which will be a nice surprise to anyone browsing between competitive candidates. Just remember to keep updating your site as you acquire new skills.

Best selling author Joshua Millburn uses a full name domain as a resume. From there, he uses his full name domain to direct people to everywhere he can be found online, and show anyone a glimpse of the press attention he’s had over the years.

Forwarding a virtual resume is miles more professional than a LinkedIn address. Make it easier for yourself with tools like VisualCV, a visual résumé service that uses your LinkedIn profile to automatically generate the relevant graphics. The results are pretty stunning, and of course completely customizable.There is, however, no option to customize your own domain. This is true for most online resume builders, your website’s name will look something like yourname.resumebuild.com. They often add watermarks or ads unless you upgrade to a paid account, which detracts from the ‘professional’ angle. Also, in this sense, they’re not really ‘free.'

There are some online resume builder alternatives where you can use your own domain name. Use an HTML resume template for example, where you simply replace the text with your information. Wordpress is another option. It’s not only free, but you can use your own custom domain and there are hundreds of WordPress resume themes so you don’t have to concern yourself with any ‘coding.'

Register a personal domain to take control of your online reputation.

Prove that you are who you say you are, and control your name in search engines to give yourself legitimacy. First things first, you might think to yourself: What's in a Web Name, really? Well...sometimes, mistaken identity – as is the case of Roger Simon:

  • Roger Simon (political columnist and blogger)

  • Roger L Simon (screenwriter)

Syndicated columnist Roger Simon, with his personal domain “rogersimon.com,” is constantly confused with Roger L Simon. The later is an accomplished screenwriter using the domain rogerlsimon.com. If one of the Roger Simons didn’t create an individual domain, people searching could easily mistake them with each other.

There’s more to it than that. People with the same name might not share the same perspectives as you. For example, the internet houses left-leaning blogger at rogerailes.blogspot.com – not to be confused with former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes. While the blogger has not posted since 2016, his site remains online with the deletions that include the following disclaimer ''Not affiliated with Fox News Channel or any other houses of ill-repute.” This way, whether the blog is active or not, people searching for former blogger Roger Ailes will know for sure, instead of assuming that he’s changed his political leanings.

So if you have a familiar name, or simply want more control over your reputation online, take steps to manage what people when they search for you.

For family business

Thinking about crafting a space online dedicated to your family? Use your family name as your domain name. You can set up family members with pages and email addresses like your sons firstname@yoursurname.com. To make it easy to manage, get a hosting contract with a basic email management system. You could even use a .family extension such as lastname.family for example.

To secure your child's namespace on the web

You’ve had a baby and you want to reserve their place online. It’s not just the rich and famous snapping up domain names relating to their children's names. It might sound a bit presumptuous that your newborn will want their own website, but it helps keep cyber-squatters at bay.

Cybersquatting is the practice of buying the domain name of a person or company and making a profit by selling the name to the relevant person. Mark Zuckerberg recently bought a domain name from electronics student Amal Augustine. Amal registered a version of the short form name of Zuckerberg’s daughter Maxchanzuckerberg.org (full name Maxime Chan Zuckerberg). The deal closed at a reasonable $700.

Whether you are famous or not, your baby’s domain name-sake is still at risk of being snapped up by someone else. The number of people registering their baby's name is reportedly growing at 400% each year, so it seems more and more parents are keen to secure a little chunk of cyberspace for their children.

Your own personalized link shortener

Being online is all about branding. If you already have a personal domain, and it’s on the longer side, create a shorter link that’s easier to remember. Shorter URLs keep your shared posts and those of your readers, uncluttered. If you are someone who promotes a lot of their own events, you might want to make the URL shorter. Shorter URLs are easier to share on sites like Facebook, Twitter and the rest.

Let’s say your band wants to link to your tour dates, or you might have some book readings scheduled nationally. You could use a URL shortener. For example, your Beatles tribute band the thebeetles.com could use the URL thebeetles.com/indianapolis for your gig in Indiana. Using a URL shortener not only gives you a more memorable address, but helps track where your traffic is coming from, and what your visitors are doing once they get to your pages, you can even use them to track how well your tweets are performing.

With a unique domain, you can set up your own URL shortener. Bitly is the most popular service to date, but you can host your own short URLs. This involves setting up a few things to get more control over your analytics. It’s also a matter of branding. With short URLs, you get more recognizable links so people who don’t visit your site often will remember your name.

Your own start page

A bit off the wall, but if you like things “just so,” create your own startup page on a custom domain. Many browsers offer the chance to see a selection of your most visited sites when you open a new tab. The benefit of creating your own means it’s always online, so you can access it from anywhere. This means you can keep any bookmarks or other information readily available and accessible from any computer with an internet connection.

A more attractive and customizable option is to take a static site. There are a bunch of free self-hosted start pages you can use. The following options require no coding knowledge and are easily editable. You just need a domain and hosting.

  • Estacado is an elegant startup page template for web browsers. Group your favorite websites in one place, and as many pages as you like. It’s compatible with many different browsers. You can add your own thumbnails to represent websites, and personalize to your preferences to make this a highly flexible start page option.

  • Alternatively, check out Startpage.wrt by developer Christian Brassat. This one’s incredibly easy to configure and can be set up in five minutes. Download the package, open up index.html in any text editor and start adding links. You’ll need a URL and a link name in this format: https://namecheap.com || Namecheap.

For use at a later date

As long as your desired domain is available, someone else can snatch it. You don’t have to use it now, as long as you renew it. Just secure the name now in case you want it for bigger things later. At a minimum, you should at least use it to redirect people to your current website, blog, or primary social media presence.


Tips to help choose your personal domain name

Choosing a URL isn’t simply a matter of taking what’s available, or picking a name at random. There are some rules to stick to have the best chance of being successful online, whilst equipping yourself with a domain name that’s appealing to you.

After seeing some of the examples above I think you will agree that using your FirstNameLastName.com or a variation to “brand yourself” with an online calling card should definitely be at the top of your to-do list. Location Business domains are also worth getting hold of.

What type of domain should you get?

To help you start forming ideas consider:

  • What you want the domain to be (Isobel Weston vs WestonIsobel)

  • What extension is available (.com, .bis etc)

Ideally, you’ll land a yourname.com domain name.

There is only one you, but chances are many people share your name. Unsurprisingly, a personalized URL based on your name can be tricky to get hold of. So how do you go about finding a domain if your first choice isn’t available? Fortunately, there are some guidelines to help you find an excellent alternative.


Advice for when .com isn’t available

1. Creative combinations

Focus on your domain name before the extension. Ideally your full name together is available, but a personal domain name doesn’t have to be a strict FirstnameLastname.com format. The first port of call is to play around with different combinations of your name. For example, when Sophie Jones’ personal name isn’t available she might try:

JonesSophie.com LastnameFirstname
soph Nickname
sjones FirstinitialLastname
sophiej FirstnameLastinitial
sophjones NicknameLastname
sophj NicknameLastinitial
sojo TwolettersfirstnameTwoletterslastname

If your first name and last name isn’t available in any combination, add a middle initial, or even your full middle name. How about a combination of first and middle initials followed by your surname for a domain? For example, SophieHannahJones is on the longer end of the spectrum, so how about SophieHJones?

The important thing is to simply keep your full name together as photographer Jen Wojcik has done.

2. Add your occupation or other terms

If your full name isn’t available, add a qualifying term. The most important thing is that your domain name indicates what your site is about. Of course, there are many factors in play but a site domain using your full business name has a much better chance of ranking vs. one that does not.

Leverage any keywords that support what you do. For example, if you run a cafe in Boston, you might want to check if yournamecafe.com, or yournameboston.com is on the market. The word resume can also be used: michaelwalmanresume.com.

When you first begin the search, it helps to have at least 5 terms or phrases in mind that describe your business. When this list is ready, you can start adding suffixes and prefixes and pair the keywords to create good domain ideas.

3. Keep it short and simple

Keep your domain name as short as possible. There’s less chance of making a typo in a short name that’s under fifteen characters. If people routinely misspell your domain name because it’s hard to spell, think about the potential traffic lost.

“If you have to spell it over the phone, you’ve lost.” According to Jason Calacanis (entrepreneur and investor behind Uber).

It just makes sense that your domain is readable so avoid quirky spellings if possible. For personal domains, it will only increase ambiguity and confusion, and misspellings because it’s hard to figure out.

Going with a short domain will make it easier for people to remember, but, anything too short can have the opposite effect. Despite having fewer characters, some abbreviations won’t work in your favor.

Compare “rogercam.com” to “rogercameraman.com”. Strike a balance. Don’t be tempted to hack off parts of words for the sake of a shorter domain. Many people use an acronym for their domain name instead.

4. Play with domain extensions

As you search for a domain name, chances are you noticed there is more than one extension available. These are known as TLDs (the bit at the far right of the domain name). Shoot for .com where possible. If you don’t find a .com extension to go with your chosen domain, don’t despair. There are many extensions suitable for personalized domains. Extensions like .name and .me have risen in popularity and have come to be associated with personal domains. To create short and memorable domain names with alternative TLDs, go for whatever else is available, and makes sense.

Use a descriptive TLD

There might be a suffix that talks for your business, how about .design, .graphics, .consulting, or .engineer. For resume sites how about .bio, .career, or .resume? There are countless to match your .film blog or just .life to cover general musings.

Get local

You can also play around with country code top-level domains (ccTLD). Search engines will rank you for local searches, and employers or customers will immediately know where you are based. Well-known ccTLDs like .uk, .ny, .com, and .eu are all a good choice.

Check which extensions are coming

The powers that be, aka the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), are constantly expanding the internet by rolling out new domain suffixes. Check here for the most up to date list of available TLDs on the market right now.

You can also check which extensions are coming soon, and the latest TLD drops just here. If you see something that catches your eye, work on your web design in advance so you’re ready to go when the new TLD goes live and is available to purchase.

5. Avoid using hyphens

When a preferred domain name is no longer available, people often resort to using hyphens. They keep costs down, and you can include lots of keywords. While it might be tempting to go with something like your-name.com or youname-yourprofession.com, It’s best to avoid using a hyphen in your domain name wherever possible.

Hyphens are a hot topic in the SEO community. Experts in the search engine optimization field collectively denounce the dash. While they make some reasonable arguments, we can’t say with 100% certainty that it matters to Google. It matters to the person doing the searching.

According to David Ball of Silktide, we should avoid hyphens at all costs. “Avoid Hyphens. Hyphens detract from credibility and can act as a spam indicator.”

He makes a fair point. If you saw the domain sarahs-portfolio-services-website.com, would you expect to see a quality site? Another issue with hyphens is that people tend to forget them and end up on a different website, or a nonexistent page.

6. Don’t double up on letters

If your first name finishes with the same letter as the first letter of your last name, switch them around to avoid typos and potentially losing traffic. For example, LauraAndrews.me to AndrewsLaura.me.


Look up expiring domains

Keep your eyes open for expired domain names. Millions of domains have been registered over the years and a fair chunk of them are up for sale once again. If your dream domain had been registered by someone else, check to see if it's available on a domain marketplace.

Expired domains are re-released and available to the public after a grace period of around 75 days. One of the advantages of snapping one of these up is snapping up some of their traffic. Registering it can work to your advantage but don’t be tempted to buy a domain based on existing traffic alone. You’re on to a good thing If a relevant domain name that was receiving traffic has recently expired.

A domain that’s not renewed by its owner reaches expired status. If you are interested in an expired domain, make sure the name is relevant to the purpose of your personal domain. Once this happens, the domain is listed on an auction service and scheduled for the near future. For example, if a domain is registered with Namecheap (the registrar), and the domain reaches expired status, the domain will be listed on our Domains Marketplace. Each listing includes an additional entry ‘Closing On.'


Some things to keep in mind

  • Purchase immediately

    It’s nearly impossible to claim a domain once it’s been taken unless you’ve got deep pockets, so act fast.

  • Register it for as long as possible

    Registering for longer periods saves you the hassle of renewing each year, reduces the risk of expiry, and usually means discounts .

  • Pay it forward

    Also works out cheaper if you can afford to pay for hosting etc in advance. The advantage being you are saved the hassle of renewing each year.

  • Shareability

    A clean URL, one that is not full of numbers and letter just looks better. People are more likely to share a simple URL that doesn’t take up two lines of text. Keep it as simple as possible such as your full name or company name, for a cleaner look.

  • Private vs professional

    Might make sense to get two distinctive domains, one focusing on your professional life, one on your personal life.

  • Upkeep

    You should build high-quality profiles, and a website if desired, and optimize all to rank as high as possible for your personal domain name.

Another key point to remember is consistency. It’s good practice to maintain a consistent name across all the platforms you are using. Use your business name or actual name (or a variation of it) when creating vanity URLs on Google+, Twitter and Facebook for example. This lends credibility to your brands. It also keeps things memorable and helps avoid any confusion as to whether visitors have stumbled on the correct profile. Plus they will find your profile more easily .

You’ll also get an SEO boost. Sites like LinkedIn all rank at the top of search engines. Search engines like Google read through URLs for keywords. So if you want to be found online, include your brand name in the site address.


Setting up your personal domain

To build a website on your personal domain name, you’ve got two options. Use a website builder which comes with hosting, or choose a self-hosted option. How do you build a website or blog with a custom domain? You have a few options.

Using a custom domain with a website builder

Website builders are fantastic if you need to create a website from zero, and have little experience creating websites. A common question we get asked is ‘“Do website builders allow you to connect customer domains”, whether people can use a previously purchased domain name, or “Are there any site builders allowing to connect my own domain for free?”

The answer is a resounding yes. Many website builders allow you to connect your custom domains. Let’s look into how to go about that.

Paid plans

Most of the free website builders will offer a custom domain as part of a premium package. Otherwise, the basic free plans allow you to create a site and host it on a subdomain. It’s important to have your own domain instead of a subdomain (example). Subdomains lose some professionalism and SEO brownie points.

Popular builders like Wix and Weebly will only allow you to create your site on their domain if you pay extra to use your own domain name. The danger in buying a domain name through sites like this is that you’ll often pay a markup, For example, a domain that you can buy from Namecheap for $8 can cost $38 through Weebly.

If a website builder is what you want, choose one according to your personal needs, your budget and its simplicity to use. Alternatively, take one from a domain registrar. Almost every web hosting provider offers some kind of site builder when you buy a domain through them. For example, Namecheap has a free site builder for our customers to use.

Another option is to avoid a site builder completely and use your personal domain in tandem with a content management system. Most are free, and the only price you’ll pay is for web hosting to put the site live on the internet. To make this process as straightforward as possible, for WordPress, the world’s most popular CMS, there are options for managed hosting.

Using your custom domain with a CMS

Alternatively, host your domain independently and use a content management system to build your website. WordPress, Drupal, and all the other CMS heavyweights are set up to cater for personal sites. With dedicated personal domain templates, in a few clicks, you can have a professional resume, or personal site live on the internet.

All CMSs are self-hosted meaning you buy your domain, set up hosting, and choose someone to create your website with. WordPress is the most popular CMS by a longshot. Managed WordPress hosting solutions like EasyWP take the heavy lifting out of hosting a domain yourself. Start a website in minutes and connect it to your particular domain. It does the hard work for you.


Conclusion

Once upon a time, domains were expensive things only big corporations and high flying professions could afford. These days, you can register a domain for a few bucks.

Looking forward, it doesn’t seem such a stretch of the imagination that personal websites will be commonplace. Creating an online profile helps to promote yourself and that’s good news whether you're looking to start a new company, looking for a new job, or simply want to draw attention to your blog.

Spend some time thinking about which distinctive domain name will have longevity in terms of what you want to do with it. Then do it!

It goes without saying that it’s desirable to have a personal domain to showcase your work online. But, don’t fret if your .com version isn’t available or is out of your price range. Direct your effort to the next best thing. Fill the page with interesting and related content and it will be traced back to you in the SERPs.

Right now, for the price of a drink or two, you get endless benefits, a matching email address, and control over your online image. If you don't have your own domain name, go get one. Go out and get one. Find the best and most relevant domain name you can find, and if you decide after a year you don't need it, just let the registration expire.


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