August 26, 2019

Should you use your university’s domain or your own domain name for your academic website?


TLDR: Get your own domain name for your academic website.
First of all, what is a domain name? A domain name is the address where Internet users can access your website. For Owlstown, the domain name is owlstown.com. For a university, it probably ends in .edu, like harvard.edu. For yourself, it could be a combination of your first name and last name ending with .com.

If your website is under your university’s domain, the primary consideration is what happens to your website content when you move institutions. Moving institutions would mean moving your website content from one domain name to another (for example, from harvard.edu/example to stanford.edu/example). The new location of your website will not have the same search engine ranking as its previous location. This means that content that you moved to the new domain will be harder to find through search engines. It’s also possible that your old content under the previous domain would still show up in search results, depriving readers from discovering new content that you’ve created.

With this consideration, I suggest using your domain name for your academic website. With your own domain name, you don’t have to move your website content when you move. Old visitors can always find you at your domain name.
If you’re early in your academic career (undergrad, PhD, postdoc), you will likely move institutions as you move up in your career. Even if you’re already a professor, I would still suggest using your own domain name. You never know when you might do a mid-career move. Such is academic life.
Some of you might say that you get some search ranking benefits from having your website under your university’s domain. Sure that’s true. But you can capture some of that benefit if you put a one-page website under your university’s domain. This one-page website could be very small with just your contact info (name, email address) and a link to your own domain.

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