Thousands of new domains are registered every day, but sometimes the process can be confusing, especially when you don’t understand the words like domains, hosting, and name servers that you hear being thrown around. This is true even for people who have been using the internet for many years. Don't let your lack of technical knowledge intimidate you. Read up a bit, and you'll have the vocabulary down in no time.
In this post, I'll break down the difference between the terms domain and website, as well as provide some of the basic information on hosting your first website and domain.
What's a domain?
A domain is a name that you register and use to direct people to your website. As a business owner, your domain will be one of the most important aspects of bringing your business online. If your business name is long or not available as a domain, you will want to choose something short, to the point, and memorable. This will serve as a branding tool for you and help with your marketing efforts.
If you're an individual solopreneur and not a business, you'll still want a domain name. Domain names are basically your calling card on the web. They're how people find you and how they will remember to come back.
Domains now come with a choice of many extensions on the end. If you want to register a domain name for your brand, you have a lot of choices. Most people try to stick with .com or .net because they are still the most prominent domains on the web, and the most memorable. There are, however, unlimited options for other domains that can help you differentiate your website from the competition. Domain extensions such as .accountant are appropriate for professional accountants as a business domain, while domain extensions such as .boutique are usually chosen by upscale retail shops.
You can choose a domain name that's creative, but don't go overboard. People need to know what your website is about. Keep the name short and memorable. After all, your name is your address on the web as well as an extension of your brand.
What is a website?
Once you have registered your domain name, you'll need a space on the web to store your content and make it available to the world. A website contains all the files and content that will be stored at your domain's address. Your website may be designed by a professional, or you may use a template to create the website of your dreams. The website design and content is completely up to you. Make it easy to read and navigate, and make sure you install buttons for social sharing.
Hosting your website
When you have a completed website, you'll need a place that will host it (i.e. store it) online and make it available to visitors. The web host will help you configure your website so that the domain you have chosen will point to the website's front page.
There are different kinds of hosting available, depending on your website's needs, including hosting that's optimized for WordPress blogs and lightning-fast hosting that's essential for high-volume business websites.
Keep this in mind:
In the early days of the internet, free hosting was plentiful, but you always got what you paid for. Often, these hosting services would shut down and take your website with them when they went out of business. A few free web hosting services exist to this day, but they're not appropriate for anyone who wants to make a good first impression.
Free web hosts often place a large amount of flashy, distracting advertisements on your website in exchange for the "free" hosting. This is why most people consider "free" web hosting a gamble; they are often fly-by-night operations that make no guarantees about availability. If you choose a free host, there will be periods of downtime. There is also an increased risk of hacking and other internet trickery, such as installing malware through the host's ads.
Choosing a web hosting option
Once your website is ready to be seen by the world, you'll want to choose a web hosting plan that's appropriate for your website size, type, and traffic. Most people will start with an inexpensive hosting plan until they outgrow it. Building traffic takes time and energy.
You may want a virtual private server or a website that's optimized for WordPress or another blogging platform. Whatever your needs are, make sure that you ask about each pricing option and ensure there is room to scale up if you need more space or bandwidth. You'll want a website that's up most of the time and grow into a bigger hosting plan, if necessary. Now that you understand the difference between a domain versus a website, it's time to decide what hosting package helps you get the most for your money.
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