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.
Click the link and it will expand as shown below. Choose the name you want, and click the "Check Availability button.
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
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.
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!
If everything went well, you are now the owner of your new domain. Well, at least for a year.
In the above example, I ended up choosing bigmanlittledog.com, 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.
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.
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 apps.google.com and type in my domain name, as shown below.
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Click the "rename user" button as circled on the screen below.
Almost done! Now, I make the administrative contact on all my domains email@example.com 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.
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.
Notice I left the original @ blogspot.com address, which now shows as "redirect." I did this for a couple reasons. First, it really doesn't matter what your blogspot.com 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!