My wife is fortunate enough to be a stay-at-home mom. She loves two things more than anything else in this world: her children and food. In fact, every spot on her Top 10 Favorite Things list is filled with something about her kids or cooking or eating out. I am actually afraid of how far down that list you have to go before I show up!
As the world's greatest mom, in my opinion, she spends a fair amount of time on blogs learning about the newest toddler activities and finding new recipes to try out. One evening, after an hour or so of looking at all these blogs written by people like her for people like her, she wanted to know more about how the blogging world worked. She figured it would be a fun project — and she might make some money on the side.
Testing the blogging waters
The first thing she did was start a blog for each of her favorite subjects using a popular free blogging platform. She launched a blog about baking with children, one about shopping, one on books and movies … She started so many blogs I doubt she could name them all now! Using a free platform was great in the beginning. She knew she would never be able to keep up with the few dozen blogs she had started, but since it was free she could try out each subject and see if the blog felt right to her.
Finding a niche
As time went on my wife’s multitude of blogs dwindled until she had found a niche that she enjoyed writing about as much as she liked learning and doing the activity itself: a food critic blog. She’d had some success bringing in visitors, but once she focused her efforts on one blog she was determined to get better results.
Making it personal
One of the first things she found is that not too many people take a blogger with an @yahoo or @gmail email address too seriously. She needed a more professional email address — an address connected to the name of her blog — so we headed over to GoDaddy to see if ColoradoCritics.com was available. It was, so we registered that domain name and set up an email address attached to it.
We printed new business cards that included the more professional email address — and my wife quickly saw an increase in the number of local restaurants requesting reviews.
Branding with a custom domain
After a few months of meeting with restaurant owners like Tom Ryan from Smash Burger and building her reputation in local culinary circles, my wife decided to go totally pro and brand her blog using her own domain name. We looked into this and found quite a few reasons to use a custom domain as soon as possible.
“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” … or not. Shakespeare’s famous quote can be a bit misleading. It is true that a good product under any name is still a good product, but people have strong ties to brands and names. As my wife began building her reputation in local food circles under the ColoradoCritics brand, she knew it was important to showcase her brand name in her blog’s URL. Her custom domain is a powerful tool in her quest to build a tribe of avid readers.
Once we had a domain name for her blog — ColoradoCritics.com — my wife wanted to try self-hosting. This gave her more flexibility with regards to her blog’s appearance and what types of ads she could include. It also enabled her to use a bunch of nifty third-party widgets and plugins. While she enjoyed the extra features, she found that she didn’t have time to keep up with the extra work so she switched back to the free subdomain platform. Thanks to the custom domain, she enjoyed the flexibility to change hosts without disrupting her viewers. More good news? She can still send all her traffic to her custom domain for a more professional appearance.
If your blogging goal is to make some extra money or even if you are just looking for some fringe benefits — like eating out for free — branding your blog with a custom domain can help. It boils down to giving the impression online that you’re the professional you are. My wife has found that restaurant owners are more willing to work with her because she’s got a credible online presence. She’s got an email address attached to a custom domain that mirrors the name of her blog. It’s one way to gain a competitive edge among all the food bloggers in her market — and that’s priceless.