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Should You Connect a Custom Domain to Substack

Pros & cons, how to do it & what to keep in mind

These days, having an online presence is super important for writers and creators.

Substack is a popular platform for publishing newsletters and blogs.

But did you know you can set up a custom domain on Substack?

This means your newsletter’s web address can look really professional and be easier for readers to remember.

So, should you add a custom domain to your Substack? Let’s explore!

What is Substack and What are Custom Domains?

For the newbies:

What is Substack

Substack lets writers create, publish, and even make money from their newsletters.

It’s an easy way to build a community around your writing. However, the default Substack web address (like yourpublication.substack.com) might not fit your brand as well as a custom domain.

What’s a custom domain

custom domain is simply a web address you can use just for your Substack newsletter.

Instead of the default substack.com URL, a custom domain lets you create a URL that fits your brand (and name).

In short, you use yourname.com instead of yourname.substack.com.

Benefits of Using a Custom Domain

Okay, now we know what it is, why should you use a custom domain for Substack?

  1. Better Branding and Professionalism: Having a custom domain adds a professional touch and reinforces your brand identity.
  2. Improved SEO: A custom domain can boost your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.
  3. Attract More Readers: This is subjective, but my opinion is that a custom domain could appeal more to potential readers and customers.

How to Set Up a Custom Domain on Substack

Substack makes setting up a custom domain pretty straightforward.

Here are the steps:

  1. Buy a Domain Name: First, purchase a custom domain name from a registrar like GoDaddy, Namecheap, or Hostinger. This shouldn’t cut too deep into your pockets.
  2. Connect to Substack: Once you have the domain, go to your Substack publication’s Settings and click “Custom Domain.” Follow the instructions to enter your domain and set up the required CNAME record with your registrar. This might sound a little techy, but it’s no rocket science. Substack’s support is also always there to help.
  3. Verify and Wait: After the CNAME setup, Substack will guide you to verify your domain connection. It could take a few minutes (or even hours in some instances).
  4. One-Time Fee: There’s a one-time $50 fee per Substack publication to enable custom domains. That’s unfortunate, but at least it’s not too expensive and not a recurring fee. It’S worth it, in my opinion. I’ve done it for my main Substack publication.

Maintaining Your Custom Domain

It’s pretty easy.

After setting up your custom domain on Substack, keep that connection working well:

  • Renew your domain registration before it expires, or the custom domain will break.
  • Check your DNS settings periodically to ensure your domain points to the right place.
  • Watch your website traffic for any big drops, which could signal a domain issue.
  • Contact Substack support if you have any problems or questions.

Why You May Not Want a Custom Domain?

So far, we’ve talked about the benefits of connecting a custom domain to Substack.

But are they downsides?

Well, yes there are some key cons to think about beforehand:

  1. You loose Substack’s high domain authority: Domain authority is a score (from 1 to 100) which helps websites rank higher in search engines, simply put. The higher, the better. Substack’s domain has a very high authority score of 92. A new website starts at 1, a new domain as well. That means you go from 92 to 1 with a new domain. This will have some effect on search engine rankings. But if you improve the domain authority score — and you will — it’s yours to keep for this domain, whether you use it for Substack or some other platform in the future (like your own blog).
  2. Redirecting: Once you have connected a custom domain to Substack, traffic will automatically be redirected from your old Substack subdomain yourname.substack.com to your new custom domain yourname.com. That’s not an issue. The problem comes when you decide to remove that custom domain. Then, you have to manually redirect everything from yourname.com to the subdomain (or the new destination you use). That could be a pain in b*tt. But it’s doable. Just remember that for future reference.
  3. Legal: Since you run a domain under your name, your legally responsible for it. And depending on the country you live in, having a domain with content from Substack (including many things like links, mabye affiliate marketing, and such) might have some legal implications, for instance, you might need specific terms or disclaimers, privacy policies, and more. I can’t give much advice here, as this is entirely country-specific, and a total mess in general.

Apart from those 3, I don’t see issues with connecting a custom domain to your Substack publication.

Conclusion

In 2024 and beyond, using a custom domain for your Substack newsletter provides key benefits like better branding, improved SEO, and more reader discoverability, but also a few notable downsides.

Make sure to learn both sides.

By following the simple steps Substack provides, you can take advantage of custom domains and grow your newsletter on your own part of the web while improving your domain authority score as well.

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