Domains and hosting can be a very tricky thing to understand about owning a website. Think of it this way: your website is like your house. Your domain is your address, or the house numbers on the front of your house. Hosting is the location where your house sits. You need to have a domain to tell the world where your website lives. You need to have hosting to house the actual website. They are not one in the same and you must have both.
Whether you’re hiring someone to create your website, or doing it yourself, it’s usually a good idea to get your domain yourself. At least be sure you have account information (name, login, etc.) for the place it is purchased so you have the ability to move it, shut it down, or access it at any point in time.
Some companies sell both hosting together in one package. The domain will often be free. If that sounds like a great deal to you, go ahead and register your domain with the hosting package. It’ll save you about $15 per year. However, it might be a good idea to purchase your domain separately because should you ever decide to leave your hosting company, it can be annoying to try to move your domain along with it. If the domain and hosting are kept separate, you only need to worry about one piece at a time and won’t have a domino effect of things going on if you need to change hosting providers.
The easiest place to purchase a domain is through GoDaddy. Domains are inexpensive and there are many different places you could go to purchase one, but you don’t want to mess with a no-name company when purchasing your domain. GoDaddy is the most well-known and their business is all about domains, so it’s a good bet. (Note, We don’t recommend GoDaddy for hosting services. We’ve had lots of trouble with their hosting services and many people complain about websites going down frequently. We’ll talk about how to choose a web host in another article.)
Purchasing with GoDaddy is simple: Go to their website, search for your domain, and follow the instructions through to purchase. Don’t pay for extras like Protected Registration, or any other service they try to sell you for a few dollars. They’re unnecessary, and as long as you enter your email address to receive reminders when your domain expires, you shouldn’t have to worry about someone stealing you domain. It’s a scare tactic they use to make a few more dollars.
Choosing Your Domain Name
Try to choose a domain name as close to your business name as possible, but don’t get bent out of shape if you have to add an extra word or abbreviate something. Unless you think you’ll be verbally telling people your domain and will need to spell it out frequently, it’s more likely someone will be going to your site via link or it will be typed out on a business card anyway. Here are some tips for choosing a name that works well:
- Keep it as short as possible
- Try to get something with a dot com (.com) extension. You don’t need to get the same domain with multiple extensions.
- Don’t search for your domain before you’re ready to purchase. Some not-so-kind domain hawks may swoop in and purchase the domain you’re searching for before you have a chance.
- Try to avoid strange spellings, hyphens, and other things that will make the domain hard to read, understand, or remember.
- Make a list of 4 or 5 options you’re willing to purchase in case the one you want isn’t available. When you go to search, be ready to purchase right away.
Once you’ve figured out what you want to buy and you’ve gone through the checkout process, you’ll receive a domain control panel that contains the settings you’ll need to link your domain to your hosting. Save this information in a handy place so you can access it when you’re ready to go live.
If this all sounds overwhelming, you can have a trusted web professional purchase it on your behalf. Just be sure you receive login information from them so you are able to make any changes to your domain registration yourself.