In order to start a website on the internet, you need two things; a domain name and a web hosting provider. In this tutorial, you’ll learn about domain names, web hosting providers, and how they work together to create your new website.
What is a domain name?
A domain name is the name you choose for your website. It’s the website address you’ll give to your family and friends and it’s where Google and the other search engines will send people to. You’ll be using the same domain name for as long as you want your website to exist. So you’ll want to choose an awesome domain name.
All domain names are unique and must be registered through a domain name registrar.
A brand new business needs a brand new name. And choosing the right domain name is crucial to the future success of your business. More on that a bit later.
What is a web hosting provider?
A web hosting provider stores and maintains other people’s websites on its giant computers. Their hard drives are called “servers” and the servers store the files for all the websites they are providing hosting services for.
The hosting company is responsible for keeping your website up and running 24/7/365. Yes, all websites can go down occasionally but a good hosting provider will keep your site alive and well 99.9% of the time. Guaranteed!
A website consists of a number of files and folders which are stored on a server and accessed as required. Don’t worry, it’s not all that complicated and pretty much all of the techie stuff is automated or done for you.
How much does it cost to build a website?
Before we go any further you’ll probably want to know how much this is all going to cost.
Can you start a website for free?
Yes. If all you want is a simple blogging website to share with your family and friends then you can get a free site at wordpress.com. But it does have its limitations.
- You don’t actually own the website, it belongs to the company that owns wordpress.com.
- Your website’s rather awkward domain name will be something like example.wordpress.com instead of example.com.
- You can’t sell or advertise anything on your site, but they can put their ads on your site. Oh, wait a minute… it actually is their site.
- You don’t have unrestricted access to the many thousands of themes and plugins. You just have to make do with what they allow.
- And you have to strictly adhere to their Terms of Service and User Guidelines. They are very quick to delete any website that they deem violates any of their conditions. No warning, it’s just gone.
You really do get what you pay for.
Can you can start a website on a shoe-string budget?
Absolutely. If you want to actually own your own website and turn it into a profitable little business it’s not going to break the bank.
A domain name will cost less than $15 a year and web hosting can be as little as a few dollars a month. You may want to upgrade to a professional theme and get a few commercial plugins later on but these are not essential. You can get up and running for less than $200 for the first year.
Compare that to the startup costs of a bricks and mortar business.
Choosing your domain name
All domain names are unique. So when you’re ready to buy your domain name you’ll most likely discover that the name you first thought of has already been taken by someone else who registered it before you. That’s OK. We’ll just keep looking until we find the right one that we can buy.
The best domain names are those that are brandable. Think Nike, Google, Amazon. Those names don’t bear any relationship to the type of website content, they’re just simply memorable brand names.
And the .com is pretty much the only way to go. Domain names that end with .net, .info, .org, .blog, etc. can confuse your potential website visitors who expect a website’s name to end with .com. People may ask “Is that example dot blog dot com?”
Try to keep it as short as possible and avoid hyphens and numbers as part of the domain name. And make sure it’s easy to pronounce and remember. If you told a friend the domain name over the phone would he be able to find your website easily?
The logical exception to this is if your website is for a local business. In which case you may want a country-specific domain name such as .ca (Canada), .co.uk (United Kingdom), .com.au (Australia), etc. If you want your website to be found mainly in one country then the country-specific domain name is the way to go. But if the world is your target audience you’ll want a .com.
Spelling is important too. Avoid words that are difficult to spell or are spelled differently in different parts of the world (e.g. color/colour).
And you’ll want to make sure that you get this right first time and don’t make any spelling mistakes. There are no refunds on domain names so if you make a mistake or change your mind you’ll have to start again with a new domain name.
If you are an expert in any subject, or would like to become one, then try to get your own name as a domain name. If your name is already taken then try yournameonline.com.
Domain name alphabet soup
Domain names have been around for decades now so it’s getting harder to find a new awesome domain name for your website.
Fear not. I’ve found a site with apps to help you choose your domain name: namemesh.com.
A word of warning here. Some of the domain names they’ll suggest are premium domain names. This means that someone else has already registered the name and is trying to sell it for a profit. You could easily blow the budget.
How to register a domain name
Most of the web hosting providers are also domain name registrars so if you want to keep all your eggs in the same basket you have that option. But it’s not what I recommend.
I’ve heard some horror stories which would indicate that some companies make it difficult to transfer a domain name to another registrar and hold up the process for an unnecessarily long time.
You’ll be keeping the same domain name for the life of your website and you may want to change web hosting providers from time to time if your current host becomes less than satisfactory.
I had the same web host for several years but website downtime increased and the quality of their technical support dropped off considerably. So I migrated my websites to a different hosting company.
Note: Some pages on this website contain sponsored links and advertisements. Full disclosure.
I strongly recommend that you register your domain name first and then compare the web hosting providers.
When you use the link above, registering a domain name is very straightforward. Simply use the search bar at the top of their page to check domain name availability, then follow the prompts to complete the registration process.
How to choose a web hosting provider
There are a few excellent web hosting providers and there are some rather dodgy ones. I did a lot of research when I decided to change web hosts and found just three that I can actually recommend.
You’ll want your web hosting to be fast and reliable with:
- 99.9% guaranteed uptime
- Fast technical support
- Options to upgrade to add more websites and
- Recommended by someone you like and trust
I suggest that you start with a basic plan bearing in mind that you can always upgrade at a later date if your requirements change.
You could save a lot of dosh in the long term if you pre-purchase your hosting plan for 12, 24, or 36 months. Use the buttons below to tell them I sent you because I’ve tracked down some special discounts for you.
My recommended web hosting options:
Linking your domain name to your web hosting account
Once you’ve registered your domain name and set up your hosting account you’ll want to link them both together. You’ll do this by setting the domain nameservers (DNS) at your domain name registrar to point to the servers at your new web hosting provider. It’s very straightforward and should only take you a few minutes to complete.
You should have received a welcome email advising you of the DNS settings and you’ll also find the info in your web hosting account settings.
Log into your account at your domain name registrar and select your domain name. Find the DNS or Nameservers settings option and use copy and paste to set the nameservers.
Once you’ve got your domain name and web hosting sorted you’ll be ready to start using your brand new website.
Thank you for reading,
- Register your awesome .com domain name.
- Choose your preferred hosting provider and purchase a 12, 24, or 36 months package.
- Set the DNS so that your domain name is pointing to the servers at your new web hosting provider.