Saturday, April 6, 2013

How To Setup A Custom Domain For Your Google Blog

Most bloggers eventually come to the realization that they need a top level domain for their blog. It improves their search rankings and also looks more professional. Nobody wants to tell people to visit Having your own domain gives you other benefits, such as the ability to move your blog to a different host other than Google. If the day ever comes, your users will still know where to find you.

This post will guide you through creating your own domain through Google. While it's possible to point your Google blog at a domain purchased through any provider, using Google to register the domain gives you convenience and one key advantage.

Why buy the domain through Google? They partner their domain registrations through GoDaddy, so why not just use GoDaddy? The compelling reason is that you get Gmail free with your domain when you buy it through Google. You get a limited version of Google Apps which you would otherwise have to pay for. Going through Google, you get one free email address @ your new domain. You can also add aliases for the same account, which can be useful as well.

Step 1 - Choose Your Domain

Go into the basic settings screen of your Blogger account and you will see a link that says "add custom domain", as shown below.

Google Apps Domain Registration - basic settings

Click the link and it will expand as shown below. Choose the name you want, and click the "Check Availability button.

Google Apps Domain Registration - check availability

Unless you were lucky to pick something nobody has ever thought of before, here is where you will spend quite a bit of time trying to choose a name you want, which also happens to be available. Keep trying until you see the screen below showing that it's available.

Step 2 - Purchase Your Domain

Google Apps Domain Registration - domain available

Once you are sure this is the domain you want, click the "Continue to registration" button, which will take you to step 2 of the registration process.

NOTE: It is very important that you give Google a good contact email for your domain as circled below. Without access to the email account you enter on the screen below, you will not be able to complete the registration process, and in a dramatic twist of irony, you won't be able to get technical support either, because that requires you complete the registration. And it will only go downhill from there. So, make double-dog sure you give it a good contact email. After you are done with the registration process, this will be the secondary contact for your domain.

Google Apps Domain Registration - domain contact email

When you are done filling out the information required for your domain, click the "I accept" button to move onto the payment screen. At this point you will need to create a Google wallet account if you haven't done that already.  Then you can complete step 3 of the registration process as shown below. Now place your order!

Google Apps Domain Registration

If everything went well, you are now the owner of your new domain. Well, at least for a year.

Google Apps Domain Registration - domain registration finished!

In the above example, I ended up choosing, because most people can't spell "chihuahua." The name you choose is a strategic choice. You obviously want something that's easy to remember and type, but the name you choose also affects your search rankings. For example, having "dog" in my domain name gives me a little ranking edge on searches that are dog related.

Step 3 - Activate Your Domain

Now that you own your domain, it may take a few minutes for Google's system to see your purchase. At that point, you will receive an email with a link in it to activate your new domain. Click the attached link, and it will start the activation process, as shown below.

Google Apps Domain Registration - domain admin setup

Enter your contact information and click "continue with setup." I'm not really sure it matters what you choose for a password, because when you click the button, your activation will always fail, as shown below. If you Google the problem, you will find lots of people frustrated, and not much help from Google.

I'm also not sure if it matters what you put for the administrative contact email @ your new domain. At any rate, it's easy to change once you get into the control panel.

Google Apps Domain Registration - domain admin setup failure

This is where most people get stuck. This took me quite a bit of time to figure out the first time around. The information is out there in bits and pieces, but I couldn't find a complete walk-through that went end to end through the entire process.

Heck, I'm not entirely sure you even needed to start the activation process, but I'm following the set of steps I know works. But what I do know is that if you "try again later" it won't matter. You'll try to you turn blue, and it will still give you the same error.

Step 4 - Access Domain Control Panel

Your registration email will also give you a link to access your Google apps control panel. I never use those links because I can just go to and type in my domain name, as shown below.

Google Apps Domain Registration - Apps Login

When you go to sign in, you will be disappointed to find out that neither the user name you chose, nor the password will work. Again, this is the incredibly frustrating part. You will want to click the "can't access your account?" link at the bottom

Google Apps Domain Registration - Reset Password

Once you click the button, you'll see the following password reset screen. Choose the "reset your administrator password" link.

Google Apps Domain Registration - Reset Password 2

As if to torment you, a captcha will appear for you to type to prove that you are an actual human being that likes to jump through hoops.

Google Apps Domain Registration - Reset Password Captcha

At this point Google will email you a link to reset your password. Clicking on the link in the email will lead you to the following screen, where you can type in a password that will actually be used to administrate your domain!

Google Apps Domain Registration - Reset Password Actual Screen

Ok, whew! Now you can sign onto the control panel. There's just one little problem, you don't know your real user name. You just reset the password, but the system is still using the default user name.

By default, Google creates your admin account with the name of "bloggeradmin". Once your domain registration is activated, you must go into the control panel and change the administrative contact @ your domain to the name of your choice. But for the first login, you will need to use this default user. The problem is, nowhere does Google tell you that your user name is "bloggeradmin" because I'm guessing they intended that to be temporary thing before you set the actual name you want on that screen that gets an error.

Google Apps Domain Registration - Login for default user "bloggeradmin"

Ok, you did it! Now you can manage your new domain. It only gets easier from here, I promise. All you have to do here is click the "I accept" button. I believe at this point your domain is also live (assuming you clicked the "return to blogger" link from your purchase, which is probably in a different tab).  I like to continue the whole process of setting up the administrator account before I try the domain, which still isn't done, unless you want to be bloggeradmin@yourdomain, which I don't want in this case.

Google Apps Domain Registration - Domain Welcome

Step 5 - Setup Administrator Account

Now that you're in, you should see the control panel similar to below. Notice that it's still set to bloggeradmin@mydomain. 

Google Apps Domain Registration - Google Apps Control Panel

At this point you want to click the the link for your user name. It would be tempting to select your user name and choose an action from the "more actions" button, but that doesn't work. Just click on your name, not the checkbox. This step can be a little confusing.

Google Apps Domain Registration - Google Apps Control Panel: Users

Click the "rename user" button as circled on the screen below.

Google Apps Domain Registration - Google Apps Control Panel: Rename User

Almost done! Now, I make the administrative contact on all my domains because I'm a guy that's easy to get in touch with. You can put whatever you want for your contact email, and create as many aliases (nicknames) as you want, too.

Google Apps Domain Registration - rename user screen

Once you rename your user, it will kick you back out to the login screen. Now you're at the point you should've been at about an hour ago when you followed the original link after purchasing your domain.

There's lots you can do in the control panel that I won't go into here, but at this point your domain should be functional. It can take an hour or so for your Gmail to activate, so don't panic if it doesn't work right away. The first thing I do is go into the new Gmail account, enable IMAP, and then add that account to my phone, tablet, etc. since I run multiple domains. There's a couple tricks to setting up your new domain for email clients like Android or Outlook, which I devote a separate post to.

At this point, I still have the tab open that says "purchase complete." There's a "return to Google apps" and when you click it, it takes you back to your basic settings screen. This is an important step, which if you forget, Google will somehow think you don't own your domain, and you'll have to jump through a few more hoops. I believe this step can be done even before you click the original registration link in the email it sends you. Either way, don't forget!

If all went well, you will be returned to the basic settings screen of your blog, which is where you started.

Google Apps Domain Registration - finished

Notice I left the original @ address, which now shows as "redirect." I did this for a couple reasons. First, it really doesn't matter what your address is, because after you have a domain assigned to it, Google pretty much ignores the blogspot address for search rankings and so forth. Your domain is what your visitors will see as well. For most purposes, your blogspot address is dead to the world at this point.

Another reason I left it this way is, this blog is about 6 months old. It's possible that some folks might have links to content at the blogspot address, which would break if I changed it. Unfortunately those links do not help your search ranking, but it's nice not to screw the few people who linked to your blog out of that content. Those links, while hopefully minimal, will remain valid.  Some people have a form of OCD that will not allow them to accept that the blogspot address is different than the domain. In that case, you need to switch it before you purchase the domain, at the point you see the domain you want is available.

Note that it may take up to 24 hours for your domain to become available for people to type the address in and have your blog come up. In reality, it's usually less than an hour, but I have seen it take longer.

That's it! Google has made it a supreme hassle to register your domain this way. My theory is that they really don't like giving you that free Google apps account with Gmail, even though it's a limited account. They seem to think that jumping through all those hoops is a fair trade, and honestly, I think it is, which is why I wrote this article.

..and just like clockwork, my new domain comes up right about at the half hour mark. I forgot that the last post about 6 months ago was about my bossy girlfriend Zoey

Well, that's about it. I hope that this walk-through helps save a few people the many hours of frustration it took me to figure this stuff out the first time around. Heck, it's still confusing. It dawned on me that to do a complete walk-through, I needed to buy another domain. Enjoy!

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