Monday, 8 January 2007

Blogger, Google Apps, GoDaddy: custom domain hosting for blog and site, and buying your domain

Blogger will now let you use your own domain names with New Blogger blogs (as Kirk spotted, and since announced in Blogger Buzz). This isn't available for old Blogger blogs.

For example, in my case, after my blog is switched over to New Blogger I could set things up to use instead of for this blog.

They call this feature "custom domains" or "custom domain names". UPDATE: if you can, I'd suggest you switch to a custom domain ASAP - see this post on why, plus details of my experiences with drops in search engine rankings after I moved to a custom domain on Blogger.

Custom domains versus FTP publishing

Using custom domain names is not the same thing as FTP publishing, which has been available on Blogger for some time. The FTP option lets you use Blogger as your blogging tool - but, instead of publishing to Blogger's, you keep your blog webpages on a server owned by an external third party host, and you can use your own domain name with your blog (an example of a blog using FTP publishing via Blogger would be Nancy White's Full Circle blog).

So what's the difference? Well, with custom domain names you can, as with FTP, use your own domain name for your blog (e.g. in my case - but Google/Blogger will continue to host your blog webpages on their servers and you can continue to publish to your blog in the usual way rather than using FTP.

In other words, with custom domains on New Blogger you can:
  • hosting - still keep your blog webpages hosted for free on Blogger's servers
  • blogging software - still use familiar ol' Blogger as a free blogging system to publish and edit your blog, as before (including fast publishing, access control etc) - and now, in addition
  • own domain name - use your own domain name/URL for your blog, instead of
  • images - but note that images of over 400px won't then display on your blog (although Blogger thumbnails and other thumbnails of less than 400px will still display in posts, and could link to the full size image) (see the Blogger help page on this)
  • (UPDATED) use Layouts and widgets - see this - but you can't with FTP.

Blogger have provided full setup instructions for a custom domain name on your blog, including how to change your Blogger settings, plus links to setup instructions for common domain registrars. (You would normally need to change settings with both services.)

Will changing your blog's domain name affect its Google PageRank i.e. your ranking in Google searches or with other search engines?

One good thing is that Blogger say "Your original Blog*Spot address will automatically forward to your new domain. That way, any existing links or bookmarks to your site will still work", and "Your old Blog*Spot address will forward to your new custom domain, so the switch will be seamless for your readers." I assume this will work for links to individual post pages as well as the main blog homepage.

EDIT FOR UPDATE: at first I was concerned about the impact of a change to a custom domain on a blog's Google PageRank. With a normal type of domain name change, Google say a 301 redirect should help with search engine crawlers, and also, to help preserve your blog's ranking, that you should find out who links to your blog and ask them to change their links to point to the new URL too. I have a feeling the latter may not be very practicable and others may not bother to change their links if they're automatically getting redirected anyway.

I'm not clear how it will work, and I am the first to say I really don't know enough about all this. Kirk says "But instead of just a redirect, it appears Blogger will host the dns for the domain you select, and route it to your blogspot blog". I assume that's even better than a 301 permanent redirect from your previous URL, but it would be great if Pete, Lexi or someone else from the Blogger team would confirm the position and the impact on PageRank of changing to a custom domain from a Blogspot blog.

Kirk has kindly clarified what he meant. What he was trying to get across is that your old Blogspot address would be given a 301 redirect to your new domain, while your new domain's (or subdomain's) DNS would be hosted at Google / Blogger. Most likely your new domain wouldn't SHOW any Pagerank for a bit. But that's misleading, as what is public Pagerank and what is the actual internal Google PR isn't the same. For an example, see this post about a PR trick (and read Matt Cutts' comment - he's from Google - the last comment on the page).

So basically what it should come down to is, your old Blogspot URL will be 301 redirected to your new domain. Your new domain probably won't SHOW any pagerank for a bit, but internally at Google it will start to soak in your Blogspot URL's Pagerank (which is all that really matters)... and even then, most of your content will still be indexed at your old Blogspot URL, with it's old Pagerank. All that should even out, as the indexed content is gradually spidered in at your new domain etc., although there might be some lag in what you see for the new domain's Pagerank through toolbars etc... as they only get info when Google releases their public rankings.

This is confirmed by another Googler, Adam Lasnik: "Proper use of 301s (old-page to equivalent-new-page, not all-old-pages to new-root page) generally results in an appropriate flow of PageRank and related stuff to the new domain". Kirk has also verified from checking the response headers for a Blogspot blog that switched to a custom domain that Blogger do do an "old page to new page" 301. You request a permalink on a Blogspot blog, and get the 301 to the same page on the new domain. As a page to page 301 redirect seems to be the only way to preserve links from old Blogspot permalink to new domain permalink it appears that Blogger is doing it correctly, and (to quote Kirk) that Pagerank love should follow.

So as Kirk says you shouldn't expect any real problems from using a new custom domain, other than the panic of not SEEING the Pagerank immediately at your new domain. Blogger has it setup correctly that things should transfer over fine. There always could be a temporary blip whilst things reshuffle, but anything major seems unlikely.

Some might say that your own domain name is a lot more professional and, longer term, the sooner you change your domain name the more time you will have to let it absorb the old blog's PageRank, under the new domain name. Plus, the PageRank you build up by continuing to blog under the new name will of course be associated with the new domain name, so it won't be affected if in future you decide to change hosts and use servers other than Google's for your blog.

Myself, I'll probably bite the bullet and change over as soon as I can (it really doesn't cost much these days, see below). But that won't be for a while as I have a large blog.

UPDATE: I moved to a custom domain, and it was scary. See this post on the impact of the change to a custom domain on my blog's traffic and PageRank.

Getting your own custom domain name

You can of course only use the custom domains feature if you have your own domain name. How do you buy one for your blog?

Blogger have provided a list of domain registrars you could try, though you don't have to buy your domain through them - you can use any registrar you like, including a local registrar if you don't live in the USA.

GoDaddy are listed first. This is not surprising as they're well known, cheap, popular, and - probably most significantly - as Google had announced in December, they recently teamed up with Google to enable users of Google Apps for Your Domain to buy domains through Google for US $10 a year on signing up for Google Apps for Your Domain.

Google Apps for Your Domain?

Google Apps for Your Domain was launched in beta in August 2006 and enables organisations who have their own domains (or, now, who buy a domain name through Google) to use Gmail web email, Google Calendar shared calendaring, Google Talk instant messaging and the Google Page Creator webpage creation tool for that domain, in an integrated way, for all the organisation's members or staff. For free (during the beta period), with everything hosted on Google's servers, automatically configured to work with those services, and managed via web browsers - no extra software or hardware required.

There seem to be some good features for domains bought via Google, e.g. private domain registration (so your details aren't publicly associated with that domain on WHOIS).

So I wonder if it's worth considering whether to buy the domain name direct through GoDaddy, or via Google as part of getting Google Apps for Your Domain?

Because as far as I can see, there's nothing to stop a blogger getting Google Apps for Your Domain, including buying a domain name, thereby getting the advantages of Google Apps (so that they could e.g. manage email sent to their own domain, like, via the familiar Gmail Web interface) - but then setting things up to use Blogger rather than Page Creator for that custom domain, given that Google say you will have full DNS/domain management control for any domain bought through them.
(I'm not fond of Page Creator, the way it currently is - insufficient "power user" control, truncates long filenames if you upload your own files instead of using their built in webpage creator, won't let you upload usable favicon .ico files even though they're in my view essential for any website, etc etc.)

Now I haven't tried doing that yet myself, but it looks like a possibility to me. I'd be interested to know if anyone's done it successfully. I certainly plan to have a go once I've more time, probably next weekend now.

GoDaddy direct, or Google Apps for Your Domain for your domain name?

Leaving aside the mechanics of how to get Blogger to work with a domain name bought via Google Apps (which as I said I'm not sure about), there seem to be pros and cons to both options: namely, buying your domain name direct through GoDaddy, or through Google Apps.

Cost. One factor is of course cost. For a single domain name, GoDaddy seems to be cheaper, but if you add the private registration fee then there's little difference, at the moment anyway. However, GoDaddy often have a multiplicity of special offers, e.g. if you buy lots of domain names in bulk, there can be a discount. (You might want to buy up variations of your blog names as I have, e.g. in my case,, The price can also vary depending on whether you're buying a year's registration, or more than 5 years' worth, etc. And you can get private domain registration if you buy direct from GoDaddy too.

A minus from a consumer/usability viewpoint is that GoDaddy's offers are hard to figure out, with some inconsistencies or contradictions on the site. In particular it's not at all clear whether and when you can combine several different types of offers on their website. I spent a happy few hours (not!) hitting the Back button, opening lots of browser windows, trying out different combos.

The good news, although it wasn't at all obvious at first, was that - when I tried it, anyway - when I got to the final checkout page, it did finally list my domains and whether certain options (e.g. privacy) were included, or if not their cost. I wish they'd provide that info originally, e.g. it seemed I'd have to pay for email as an extra when I tried via the "bulk registration" page, but on another page it said it was free as part of the package. It's also not clear whether you have to manually pick certain options during the purchase process to get them for free under a special offer, even though they seem to be labelled as chargeable.

The moral is that you need to figure out exactly what package you want, then try different routes in to your desired package, from different parts of their website, and see if they make a difference to the final pricing and features.
Tip: for non-US residents, you can choose to see the pricing in currencies other than US dollars, if you prefer. It's up to you whether you want the conversion to your local currency to be done by GoDaddy or your credit company, really.

Simplicity. As mentioned, it's not clear what you do or don't get as part of your domain name purchase, with GoDaddy (email, etc), and what has to be selected and paid for as an extra. Though you could probably figure it out from the final page, or after the event! At least with Google Apps you know what you're getting, much more clearly: Gmail-type email, etc, for free. Which may be worth the (probably) slightly greater cost, if you're only buying a single domain.

You pays your money and you takes your choice...


Nancy White said...

Imp, a blogger aside. I got the "switch pitch" from blogger a few weeks back, tried it and then once underway, they said my blog was too big and they'd get back to me later. You have a fairly big blog... have you tried or had that experience?

kirk said...

You pays your money and you takes your choice...

That's a truism, for anything. ;-)

To clarify something on my quote, which I wasn't really sure of at the time. I think as far as pagerank, your custom domain is routed via dns entries which Google/Blogger takes care of, while your previous blogspot address is forwarded with a 301 redirect to your new domain from what little I've seen. So in other words, your new domain should start to soak up your prev blogspots pagerank.

Improbulus said...

Hi Nancy, no I haven't ever been given the option to switch, maybe because my blog is just so obviously a big one.

I guess they'll get to us biggies sometime.. hopefully this year?

Kirk, I shall do a separate comment and also update my post, thanks!

Kevin Stilley said...

I bought a domain name through GoDaddy. Then, when I went to set it all up I found the instructions to be inconsistent because they were evidently copied from Google Apps so there are some differences. No big deal, I thought. I thought I would just call GoDaddy and they would walk me through it, but instead they were completely clueless. Now, I have a domain, but no blog, so I guess I'm just stuck.

steups said...

It might be a good idea to write a how-to with regard to the C-Name record change at goDaddy

Improbulus said...

Kevin - just to check, you've followed these instructions and then these, in that order, and still no go? Have you tried Google support?

Steups, after I switch my own blog over to New Blogger I will have a go and do a howto if necessary, I thought that Google had already covered it in the links in the previous paras, but if that doesn't work I'll try to figure it out (I've already bought my domain from GoDaddy).

I've in fact just this weekend been offered the ability to switch but I am holding off a couple weeks more till I've mastered the new template code and tweaked everything in my blog to work with New Blogger from the moment I switch.

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James said...

I purchased a domain through Google, GAFYD, that is technically part of Godaddy. However, when I try to use my personal domain it does not work with Blogger. I get an error, Another blog is already hosted at this address. Any ideas how to fix this?

Improbulus said...

James, I'll see if I can spot any problems as & when I switch and try custom domains. I'm not ready with my New Blogger template yet.

When it's fixed up (probably in a few weeks as I'm quite pushed right now) I'll switch to New Blogger and a custom domain, and see if I can get it to work. I'll report back of course, particularly on any problems.

PericoSF said...

Hi; I have a problem,

I purchased a domain with GAFYD and managed to make it work under blogger. At the beginning I also got the error: "Another blog is already hosted at this address"; but I realized that it was because the same address was already used on GAFYD itself for Google pages. After disabling the Gpages on GAFYD I could successfully use the domain I had bought through Google with my blogger account.

What is the problem? you will ask. Well, now, once a day my blog goes doewn getting the horrible message:

*Not Found*
*Error 404*

I think that having linked before the domain with GAFYD, the Google maintenance process find some kind of inconsistency and put my blog out of service.

Have any of you experience this same problem? Is there any way I can solve it?



Improbulus said...

Pxxxx SF, I haven't switched my blog over to New Blogger yet nor the custom domain name, so I can't comment on that. As & when I do I'll see if I encounter the same issue.

Has anyone else please?

Rooster said...

I am also experiencing this. I purchased a domain through Google's GAFYD for $10.00 USD. I have disabled the Google Pages feature and am trying to get my Blogger account to now work with my domain at So far all it says is Another blog is already hosted at this address.

I hope I didn't just waste not only ten bucks but more importantly the Blogger name and the domain name.

It's driving me bonkers trying to figure this out.

One would think that if Google is offering this service, for the sake of making it easy to use their services for a custom domain, that it would add Blogger as one of the available services in GAFYD, since I am pretty sure that the vast majority of people using this will want it especially for Blogger. Why must they make things so difficult? I personally don't care about any of the other services. I just want it to work for Blogger. I really don't need 200 email addresses either. One will do.

Does anyone else have a solution which works?

Improbulus said...

Rooster, the problem seems to be widespread. Unfortunately Google seem to have a bit of a history of not being as focussed on Blogger integration as with some of their other products. I agree, it wouldn't take much for them to get it to work properly with Blogger, or at least explain what to do (or what can't be done). I'm still on old Blogger and will be for another couple weeks till I've time to finish my template tweaks for new Blogger so I can't speak from experience yet, but I'll be having a go myself in about a fortnight. And will obviously have to prepare myself for a potentially frustrating time!

manda yakiwchuk said...

I just purchased a custom domain name from Blogger, and I am interested in using the space for my portfolio website which includes video and images. I was going to make the website in Dreamweaver, would you know how to go about publishing it to my new custom domain?

Thanks muchly!

My tagboard said...

Dear, I need help.

This is the second domain I bought, which means I wasted $20 already. I don't want to switch back to blogspot and switch back again to my custom domain because the last time that I did it, when i try to switch back to my custom domain the error message tells me that "the domain is already hosted" on blogspot.

What can I do? Others seem to have much luck about purchasing the domain from blogger. I on the other hand got unlucky twice.

PLLease I need help. My site is nowhere to be found now, even if the old blogspot adress will be put.. which is

The two domains i purchased are: and

These two were purchased last June 6 and June 27, respectively.

I hope you can help me.
I have a tagboard at

or any message can be left at

Thank you very much in advance.


Nicholas Kilburne said...

I've bought a domain name and hosted my blog on it through blogger. However, I'm eventually going to want to use dreamweaver to create a site that I can host on the domain name so it looks less like a blog. How will I go about doing this?

M said...

I bought a custom domain through Blogger from godaddy but now when I go there somebody else's old web page is there. I am publishing through Blogger to the custom domain but the old site remains...

I do not know where to go to get rid of this site and post the content that had been on my blog.