Domains 101: An Introduction to Custom Domains

Wasn’t it Shakespeare who once said, “A blog by any other domain would read just as sweetly”?  While it’s true that, as long as you are writing good content consistently, you will find your niche and audience, your site address is an important part of your online presence. A memorable site address is a direct link to your and your readers. Without it, they can’t find you.

Your web address is what connects users to your site. Without it, they can't find you and your fantastic content.

Your web address is what connects users to your site. Without it, they can’t find you and your fantastic content.

When you sign up for a site on WordPress.com, you automatically receive a free WordPress.com subdomain, like dailypost.wordpress.com. Your site is always available through your WordPress.com address and you can use it for free for as long as you’d like. As your blog grows, you may find that you’d like to further customize your site address and replace your *.wordpress.com subdomain with your own .com.

To help familiarize you with the world of domains, we’ve crafted up a series of posts for you on domain basics, domain ownership, and the nitty gritty of how domains work.

The basics

It’s a habitual act for many of us: you sit down at your desk or pull your laptop onto your lap while lounging on the couch. You press the power button, the screen glows, and your cursor moves, almost automatically, to your browser of choice. In the address bar, you begin to type a web address, press enter, and voilà!

When you type a URL into your address bar, you send a signal through your computer to request the files that make up that website and display them in a neat little package on your browser. But guess what? Anyone can register their own, unique domain, including you.

To use your own custom domain, you first need to register it. Registering a domain means that you own this particular web address, just like we own the domain WordPress.com. No one else can use your domain while it’s registered to you, since the same URL can’t bring you to more than one site.

Domains are a series of memorable letters and numbers we use to connect to a website.

Domains are a series of memorable letters and numbers we use to connect to a website.

Before registering your domain, there are a few options you’ll want to note. The ending of a domain, such as .com or .net, is known as a TLD, or top-level domain. The TLD you choose doesn’t affect how visitors access your site or how your site is presented to the web. Instead, TLDs are primarily a style preference. A domain’s TLD can act as a regional marker, such as domains ending in .ca, which is the country code for Canada, or an opportunity for a clever play on words, such as allabout.me. Through WordPress.com, you can register .com, .net, .org, or .me TLDs.

During the registration process, you’ll also run into the option to register privately. By default, the contact information for the registrant, or owner, of a domain is publicly available through Whois (pronounced “Who is?”) which is a tool that allows you to see who owns a domain name. If you’d like to keep your information private, a domain registrar will offer a private registration. For private domain registrations, it is still important to keep your contact information accurate, but your information will be protected from Whois searches.

A few common questions

Q: Once I buy a domain, is it mine forever?

A: Domains need to be renewed yearly to maintain your ownership, and it is very important to make sure your domain never expires as long as you’d like to keep using that address.

If you register your domain through WordPress.com, it’s possible to set up an automatic renewal so that it’s renewed automatically each year. Automatic renewal for domains goes through 30 days before the domain expires. This way, if there’s a problem with your payment, we can alert you before the domain expires.

At WordPress.com, you can register domains ending in .com, .net, .me, and .org.

At WordPress.com, you can register domains ending in .com, .net, .me, and .org.

Q: No one can buy a domain with my name in it.

A: It’s a great idea to buy the domain that matches your name, but it’s not guaranteed to be yours. If there’s more than one person with the same name as you, it’s quite possible that one of your namesakes may have already bought the domain. With domains, it’s first-come, first-served.

Once a domain is registered, it’s not available for anyone else to buy. Some registrants will offer to sell a domain they own, but the price can vary considerably.

If the domain you want is already taken, consider a different TLD. For example, janedoe.com may be taken, but janedoe.me may be available instead.

Still have more questions? Don’t worry, we’ve got your covered. Stay tuned for the next part of our series on domains when we cover hosting, name servers, and DNS, oh my!


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59 Comments

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  1. garythomson

    If I have registered a domain through wordpress is the domain name mine to use to build/host my own site. I mean do I have to use WP to host my site, or as a cms for my site? or can I keep the domain name and start from scratch and build my own site. I love WP, this is just asked out of curiousity.

    • Erica

      You can certainly use a domain registered through WordPress.com with a different host. We’ll be going over it a little more in the next post, but to do so, you would update your name servers to point your domain to your new hosting provider :)

  2. nickfranks

    Brilliant!

  3. christrocks

    If you change from .wordpress.com to .com, will people who search for you at .wordpress.com still reach your site? Thanks!

    • Erica

      Yes :) Your .wordpress.com address will redirect visitors to your .com address, meaning they will be able to find your site through either URL.

  4. yellowragelingerie

    So glad you decided to do this as I’ve never understood it!

  5. cameraconnect admin

    I have a .co.uk domain registered, can I use that? It’s not on the list. :O)

    • Erica

      Yes, you can use a .co.uk domain with WordPress.com, but you can’t register it through WordPress.com. Instead, you would be using a Domain Mapping to link your custom domain to your site.

  6. Nicky Wells

    Okay, so I’ve been debating changing my url for a while now. I hastily created my blog under nickywellsklippert.wordpress.com nearly two years ago. but I’m thinking of changing to nickywellsa or nickywellsauthor or somethting similar. HOWEVER! I have links to my blog embedded all over the place adn I’m worried about losing those if I register my own domain name. Do you have any advice? And also, is it possible to move my blog from the current domain name to something that is a little different, as opposed to ‘just’ dropoping the ‘wordpress’ from it? (I hope that makes any sense, I find this all very confusing!) Thanks for any advice!

    • Erica

      If you decide to change your .wordpress.com address – for example, going from nickywellskippert.wordpress.com to nickywellsa.wordpress.com – a Site Redirect would redirect the links from your old site address to your new one.

      However, if you decided to register a custom domain, your WordPress.com address would still bring people to your same site. I hope that helps!

      • Nicky Wells

        Sort of. I do apologize, I really am a bit blog-technically challenged. So what if I wanted both to change and then register my domain, say, moving from nickywellsklippert.wordpress.com to nickywellsauthor.com (but staying at WordPress of course). How would that work and would old, embedded links still get people to me? What about my subscribers? So sorry if I’m taking this into a technical level of detail that bogs down the comment section, I have no intention of hijacking the conversation here ~ it’s just something that I’ve been wanting to explore, and it’s only *not knowing* that’s stopped me from making the change. Thank for your patience, Erica!

        • Erica

          When you connect a custom domain, like nickywellsauthor.com, to your WordPress.com site, your .wordpress.com address will still bring visitors to your site and previous links won’t break.

          For example, visitors to nickywellsklippert.wordpress.com would still be taken to your site, but the address that would appear in the address bar would be your custom domain, nickywellsauthor.com. Since you would only be changing your site’s address, but not moving the site itself, your subscribers, followers, and your blog content would all remain the same :)

  7. Artist Patti

    Nice!

  8. begladconsulting

    Thanks. That was very helpful. I’ve been a little hesitant to get started, but you made it seem easy.

  9. Casey B

    Thanks for the informative post. I imagine going from .wordpress.com to .org is a different matter with regard to links staying the same?

  10. fitness4gyms

    I was wondering can you attach other domain to another to get your main domain rank higher in the internet.

    • Erica

      You can certainly attach more than one domain to a single site, but you will have to pick a single Primary Domain. The Primary Domain is the address visitors will see when they come to your site.

      In terms of ranking, I would recommend our post on SEO on WordPress.com for more information about building an audience.

      • Alexsandra

        Hi My Dashboard is inactive I cant work on my account. The wordpress upgrade of 3.5.2 wont change.

        Please what do I do?

        • Erica

          It sounds like you’re using a self-hosted installation of WordPress, as all sites on WordPress.com run the most up-to-date version of the WordPress software and we update it for you.

          For help with a self-hosted WordPress site, please see the WordPress.org support forums. You can also learn more about the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org here.

  11. Diego Bolívar

    Hello Erica, I want to change the name of my current domain that I have in WordPress.com, which is marketerostools.com and go from .com to .org, also. Will I lose the domain that I have currently if I don’t use it anymore?

    Thanks for your post,

    Diego

    • Erica

      Hi Diego!

      If marketerostools.org is available, you can register and connect more than one custom domain to your site through your Store > Domains page from your Dashboard.

      However, if you’d like to switch from a WordPress.com site to a self-hosted installation of WordPress, that is a bit different than registering another domain. Instead, you would need to purchase hosting on which you could install the WordPress.org software. You can still use a domain you registered on WordPress.com with a self-hosted site by changing your nameservers :)

  12. Catshade

    I know that the domain have to be renewed yearly, but can you just pay for 5 or 10 years worth of renewal upfront?

    • Erica

      Through some registrars, you can buy your domain registration for 5, 10, or more years at a time. We don’t currently offer this on WordPress.com, but we do recommend setting up automatic renewal through your Store > My Upgrades page if you’d like to renew your domain automatically each year.

  13. Angela H

    Thank you for this commentary. I have been “parking” angelamhaigler.com for quite a while now since angelahaigler.com is taken. I am planning to move the contents of angelicmusings.wordpress.com to angelamhaigler.com. (Is this a good idea?) Is there an easy way to do this? Whups is this considered support?

    The comment below was VERY helpful.

    Pasted from another reply above: ” Since you would only be changing your site’s address, but not moving the site itself, your subscribers, followers, and your blog content would all remain the same” 

    • Erica

      Hi Angela! It looks like you registered angelamhaigler.com through GoDaddy. Are you interested in using that domain with your WordPress.com site?

      If you already own the domain you’d like to use with your site, you can “map” it to your WordPress.com site, instead of registering it. (This guide has the full steps for mapping a domain to WordPress.com.) What the mapping does is allow you to use your custom domain name in lieu of your WordPress.com address, which means all of your content remains in the same place, you’re just updating the address that your visitors see :)

  14. judeagbayani

    just what I needed! looking forward to the next posts ;-) Thanks

  15. Guns N' War Maniac

    My domain right now is gunsnwar.wordpress.com. Thing is, I have dozens of internal links. If I change my domain, will these links keep working just like now?

    • Erica

      Yes, previous links to your .wordpress.com address will still work. When you add a custom domain to your site, it’s almost like having two active addresses. Visitors who type in both gunsnwar.wordpress.com and your custom domain, like gunsnwar.com, will still be brought to your site :)

  16. abakadesign

    Dear Erica

    I don’t have any credit card but would like to buy a domain name for upgrading my wordpress account. Is there any other way to do so,? will western union do the payment?

    Regards

    • Erica

      At this time, it’s only possible to use a credit card or PayPal for a domain registration on WordPress.com.

  17. ilfaraone89

    bel sito complimenti

  18. Niejan

    Thank you Erica. I plan to buy a custom domain and this post helped me A LOT. :)

  19. Amy P. Reed

    abakadesign, If you don’t have a credit (or debit) card, you can use your bank account for PayPal. That way you can use PayPal to register a domain with WordPress.com. I hope this helps out. :)

    Amy

  20. Danielle D.

    Hello! I’ve been wanting this for a long time. I have two blogs in WordPress under the same email address. I’m wondering if only one of the blogs could have the .com domain? Or can I create a new blog with the same email address and make it my .com blog? Many thanks! :)

    • Erica

      Yes, you can have more than one blog on a single account and use a domain-related upgrade on just one of those sites. Since upgrades are per blog, adding a domain registration or mapping to one will only affect the site you add it to :)

  21. Catshade

    Other questions:

    1. What happens when my custom domain expires (let’s say, because I forgot to turn on automatic renewal, or my credit card expired)? Will WP.com keep it for me for some time, or will it immediately available to be bought by anyone on the internet?

    2. What will the visitors see when they go to that expired custom domain?

    • Erica

      When your domain expires, there’s about a two-week grace period during which you can still renew the domain normally. After that, the domain goes through a lengthy expiration process during which it may be bid on at an auction or go into “redemption,” which means it’s renewable with a late fee. This guide explains the full process for expire domains, and is applicable to any registrar.

      Your site will still work normally during the grace period. After, visitors may have trouble accessing your site since the domain will no longer be active as it goes through the expiration process.

  22. idowebid

    I use domain mapping but my dashboard is still on my .wordpress domain

    • Erica

      Yes, that’s correct. The address shown to your visitors will be your custom domain, but the administrative tools will show your .wordpress.com address.

  23. gk

    Very useful information, for me especially about whois! Thanx so much!

  24. Freedom Literature

    This post is very informative. Thank you ;)

  25. CA Priyanka Srivastava

    Hi Erica, great article. I have a doubt though. I recently changed my blog url from camatters.wordpress.com to camattersonline.com on wordpress.com only. Now I need to submit my sitemap to Google and Bing Webmaster but am not able to find the link url. Can you pls guide?

    • Erica

      Are you looking to connect your site to Google/Bing Webmaster Tools, or are you trying to update your Webmaster Tools since making the change to your domain?

      Because the Change of Address option in Webmaster Tools is only available to root-level domains (like wordpress.com, rather than a subdomain like camatters.wordpress.com), it won’t be possible to update your new address. If you want to start tracking under your custom domain, it will be best to set up a new site in Webmaster Tools under your new domain.

  26. Georgia's Bath Products

    Fantastic post! It (and the ton of information in comments) answered a lot of my questions. I look forward to more of these informative posts!! Thank you for this!

  27. cameraconnect admin

    So if it changes from .wordpress.com, can then start integrating advertising or is that still only allowed on .org templates?

    • Erica

      That’s right – because your site will still be hosted on WordPress.com, the same rules will apply regarding advertising.

      For plugins and advertising, you would need to switch hosts to create your own installation of WordPress and then the regulations for WordPress.com wouldn’t be applicable to your site.

  28. Njaka

    Is it possible to use the domaine name I buy here for creating an email address?

  29. palmcoastnow

    Thank you for the information. Very informative

  30. jeddacp

    I’m stalling on buying a domain for myself… but I think I’ll do it soon :) Very informative article.

  31. letstalkaboutlife365

    I currently have a .com account and was wanting to add the option for ads. Do I need to get a separate domain with an outside web hosting company to do this? Great article. Very informative.

  32. @herouxma

    Nice article. It is always good to inform people about domain name convention and the various attributes to think about when selecting a domain.

  33. gnomong

    Does WordPress.com allow AdSense links for their free service ?

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