Get Off the Beaten (Domain) Path

Lots of bloggers add a custom domain to their WordPress.com sites to simplify their URLs. But what happens if the one you want isn’t available, or you want an address that’s a bit . . . different?

Enter the offbeat domain. You’ve seen them around the internet; think of sites like:

  • deli.cio.us, the social bookmarking site.
  • bit.ly, the link-shortening tool.
  • ma.tt, personal blog of Automattic founder and WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg. 

Of course, you might see URLs like this on other sites as well — like picturesofthin.gs, my own humble photo blog. That’s because no special technical powers are needed to set up an offbeat domain with a WordPress.com blog.

If you’re new to custom domains, give this primer a skim first. If you’re ready to get off the beaten domain path, read on!

What are these weird URLs?

They’re all just custom domains — just like myawesomesite.com — that you can register and map to your WordPress.com site.

There are a few ways to have fun with domains. First, you can get creative with “regular” domains like .com, .co, .me .net, and .org, and end up with a tailored URL that’s perfectly you. Think:

  • fishing.net for a fishing enthusiast forum.
  • macra.me for your crafting blog.
  • simpati.co for a site about relationships
  • casta.net for your Flamenco blog.
  • cyb.org for your science fiction fan page.

When you start exploring alternate extensions, even more possibilities open up, like ma.tt — a custom domain that simply uses an extension (sometimes called a Top Level Domain) that you’re not used to seeing.

At WordPress.com, you can register and map custom domains using some of the most common extensions: .com, .co, .me .net, and .org. Outside the US, though, domains often have country-specific extensions, like .uk (United Kingdom) or .ca (Canada).

There are hundreds more, for countries and organizations around the world — and you can register them with an outside domain registrar and map them to your WordPress.com site. Register with Libya for .ly, the South Georgia Islands for .gs, Trinidad and Tobago for .tt, Belarus for .by, the tiny island nation of Saint Helena for .sh, and many, many more.

(Sadly, one of the extensions with the greatest potential to create fun URLs — .le, perfect for goog.le, app.le, or michel.le — is the extension of the extraterrestrial “Lunar Embassy” and is not recognized by earthly domain registrars. No, really.)

How do I find them?

Yourawesomesite.com, .co, .net, .org, or .me are available directly through WordPress.com, which streamlines registration, mapping, and setup into a single step — for more detail, check out our Domains 101 series. To get started, head to the “Store” tab in your dashboard.

For other extensions, you’ll need register the domain with an outside registrar. WHO.is is a useful tool for looking up domains to see if they’ve already been registered by someone else. For the registration itself, you’ve got a range of options from big names like Network Solutions to smaller companies like iwantmyname. If you’re considering the offbeat route, domai.nr is a particularly handy tool; plug in a word or name, and it will return a list of domain variants, with prices and links to sites where they can be registered.

I registered my custom domain. How do I set it up?

Adding a custom domain with a non-traditional ending to your wordpress.com site is exactly the same as adding a custom domain with a .com or .me extension. Whatever your custom domain is, it’s a three-step process:

  1. Register the domain name (that is, purchase the right to use the URL).
  2. Update the domain’s name servers to point to WordPress.com.
  3. Purchase the Domain Mapping upgrade on WordPress.com to connect the domain to your blog.

If you’ve never done this before, “Domains 101: Intro to Custom Domains” demystifies the process, while our support documents on updating name servers and domain mapping offer step-by-step instructions. Some non-US domains also require a zone record, which we’ll create for you using this simple form.

Quirky vs. easy to remember? Get the best of both worlds

Just because you can register a quirky domain doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. They’re cute and personal but may be harder for your fans to recall; we’re accustomed to remembering web addresses as “something-dot-com,” not “something-dot-gee-ess.”

You can have the best of both worlds by registering and mapping a .com (or .co, .net, .org, or .me) domain and something offbeat. For example, say you want to use the domain “offbe.at” (based on Austria’s .at extension) for your very offbeat site.

First, register and map offbeat.com to the site, so visitors have a memorable address:

offbeat.com

Then, register and map offbe.at to the same site — multiple domains can point to the same website — and set offbe.at as your primary domain. That’s what visitors to your site will see in their browser toolbars, even though they typed in the more familiar URL to find you:

offbe.at

Your fans get an easy-to-remember URL, and you still get some custom branding with a fun domain!

Want to learn more about custom domains? Check out:


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Michelle W.

15 Comments

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  1. kaimonington

    I named my blog http://ambigr.am/ after the art form the posts are about ;)

    Like

  2. 3Bishops

    While I didn’t use a cutes.ie (see what I just did there? : ) domain name, I JUST did — after almost 2 years of blog-publishing — finally take the plunge and buy my domain from WordPress; now I can point people to a much shorter address — scurrytails.com — an aid to marketing, and a move that makes my efforts seem more, well, bona fi.de …

    Like

  3. Sunite

    Oh that’s pretty neat, next time I get a blog, I’ll be certain to do this to it. Saving both time and characters, plus creative!

    Like

  4. timethief

    Thanks so much Michelle for this interesting post on creating and registering offbeat domain names. It’s a great addition to the series on domains and you now have me considering registering one for a funky blog I have in mind.

    Like

  5. frugoal

    “geni.us” post!

    Like

  6. ananddr1

    Great Post, Michelle! I’m about to start a blog and this post got me re-thinking about the name..

    Like

  7. Musings from a writer's life

    love it – hadn’t even thought about it before, but now I will!

    Like

  8. simonreeds18

    If only I was blogging about Namibia and not china… Then I could have crashingabikeinchi.na- seems like a bit of a strange career move just for a domain name though! :-/

    Like

  9. Jenn Besonia

    I want to believe cyb.org is cybermen’s official website.

    Like

  10. akTed (@akTed_)

    One of the cleverest domain hacks I’ve seen is OMG facts’ URL shortening…”omgf.ac/ts/[insert shortener here]“

    Like

  11. chrisdeacon02

    Clever possibilities just spring to mind thanks!

    Like

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