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I've just started going through this so I don't have all the answers but....I've bought the .com and currently have it forwarding to my blogspot.com location. Eventually, I'll self host wordpress and mirror the blog at blogger (IE, have my rss feed auto update the blogger blog...I think this is possible ) then they will exist simultaneously and I won't lose any links I've built until now.
Let me see if I can shed some light on this. I'm not sure there are any "right" or "wrong" answers to this so someone else might be of a different opinion.
Blogger is great as are other free places. (typepad is not free) They are usually OK if you want to blog for fun however for a more professional look your own hosted blog gives more creditability. If you blog for money this can become even more important as many companies wants to use self hosted blogs instead of free ones. This also has to do with Big G (oogle) and the fact that they own Blogger. If they want to ditch you they can, however if you have your won hosting it will definitely be harder.
If you change your domain name you also need to change your links. You can redirect but you wills till need to change URL.
In the beginning I had a hard time understand why I should pay for self hosting but after a while it became more obvious and I started to see the advantages. And the cost itself is not that much, it might seem but if you think about it you probably just need to cut down on one or two trips to the coffee shop a month. :) if you want to make a name out there it is even more important to have your own hosting.
Free is great but paid has it's advantages.
You can transfer /import your free blog to a paid account through your host.
Both of you had great replies. Thanks so much. A couple more quick questions. Is there a company you recommend for hosting? How do you go about forwarding your blogger traffic to your new domain? Is there an advantage to having a .com name over a .net name, or does it matter? Thanks!
.com is more standard and I know myself, when I'm typing in a url I hit .com without even thinking about it - it's almost a reflex. So that's why I went with .com. For hosting, there are a ton of providers. I know GoDaddy.com is good, and they have good phone customer service too. Hope it all goes smoothly for you!
When you switch to your own domain name, do you have to know html? What about designing your blog? At least at blogger, I can choose a template and customize it from there, but as for designing a page, probably not. Well, since I have adobe, maybe, but the work! I guess that's when you pay a professional to design it for you, huh?
If you are going to invest in a domain name and you are wanting to go pro I would opt to purchase a design or at least a premium template. Especially if you don't have a lot of experience with WP, html, and php. You have to remember you have only seconds to make an impression to your viewers.
I function as a .com through blogger. I have yet to run into a problem with it, and not sure I will. if I do, i have no qualms switching over, but I like the ease of blogger, and it's worked great for me, my ads, and my traffic volume.
I started off self-hosting at the outset for a couple of reasons:
1. I knew I wanted to monetize my blog and didn't want any limitations or restrictions
2. As a graphic designer, I wanted nothing less than full control over the look of my blog and didn't want to be restricted to certain templates
3. I wanted to own my domain and not have to redirect it and confuse readers
I have no regrets. Even with self-hosting, WordPress is a breeze to use, and I have freedom and control to do with my blog as I see fit.
If you decide to self-host and change your domain, all of your links will have to be updated unless you keep your previous domain and redirect it to your new one, though I'm not sure if that's even possible with blog.