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Web hosting and domain names are two very different things. Yet very simple. A domain is the URL, like YouTube.com.
A domain registers the location of your address to the internet.
But, for all of the files and folders - that make up your website’s content - to be stored and accessible via the World Wide Web, the domain needs to point to a server (managed by a web host).
You could think of the domain as the intended address on the World Wide Web, and the host as the means of getting there .
Make sense? Let's jump into more detail and give you a fuller picture.
Most Asked Domain Questions
What is a Domain Name?
The domain name is what people enter into the browser URL bar. A user types out the site that they want to visit, e.g. Google.co.uk, BBCNews.co.uk, MSN.com, and the sort of expensive but somehow very well-worth it Audible.com.
To create your own website, the very first step is to purchase a domain name. Suddenly... Wham, you exist in Google searches and have a “street address” on the internet.
These are easy to buy from a domain registrar. The moment you get your domain name, it becomes exclusively yours... No one else can use it to host a website.
Choose a domain name that reflects the service you want to provide, or what you want to talk about. Or don’t … and have fun. But, this can be helpful for SEO.
Web Host vs Domain Tip 1
Consider purchasing both the “plural” and “singular” forms. For example, the domain name AudibleRocks.com, and AudibleRock.com.
Automatically direct the second URL to the first, once you sign up to a web host. If a visitor misses the s, when typing out the URL, it will still take them to the right site.
What Do Domain Names Cost - and How Much are Renewals?
That depends on what domain registrar you choose.
If you already have a domain name, then you can simply use it with a different host. Alternatively, some hosts give you a free domain when you sign up with one of their plans.
Be aware that the more popular your name choice is, the more expensive. For example, using a single word like Car.com would be very expensive, if it was available. Popular combos can kick the price up, even into the thousands.
Generally, you should expect to pay between 8 and 13 quid. The most popular TLD (top level domain) ends in .com... “Dot Com” sites make up the bulk of websites. But, if you choose a name carefully, it should still be cheap.
Going for a longer contract leads to a cheaper monthly cost overall, but you have to pay more upfront.
Can I Get a Domain Without Getting Hosting?
Well, yes and no.
Buying a domain is the first step. But, imagine opening a new coffee shop.
Let's say you buy an entrance sign. You hang that sign around a tree pointing to your place. New visitors will see the entrance sign but no coffee shop. This is what getting a domain without a web host is like.
Once you want to put the domain online, you need to purchase a hosting plan (preferably from elsewhere). While some registrars offer hosting plans, we recommend specialist providers.
Web Host vs Domain Tip 2
You need these 3 things to get a website running:
- A domain & host (covered in this guide)
- A CMS (content management system)
How Do I Connect My Domain to a Host?
Before you even talk to your host provider, you need to set up your domain service:
- Make sure you have your domain - This is step one.
- Purchase / get a free web hosting plan - So you have an active hosting account.
- Do a quick Google search - Find out what “nameserver” addresses your web host uses (your DNS settings)
- Log into your domain area, on your registrar’s site - Go to the area where your domain’s nameservers are, and replace the ones you have with the ones your host uses (delete the rest). This will point your domain towards your web host
Web Host vs Domain Tip 3
A solid managed WordPress host will offer a live chat support function, so you can message the support team. Simply tell them you would like to connect your domain name with your web host.
They will actually set the link up for you. After doing steps 1-3, they will add your domain directories to their databases, e.g. as an “add-on domain” (meaning, a new, totally separate website).
Now, you will see the directory available on the host site’s dashboard. (And can install WordPress.)
Can my Domain Name Be Connected to ANY Host?
Yep. Even in the case of all-in-one website builders that do not allow you to connect a third-party web host. (That's another way of saying that those website designers also handle the web hosting.)
Still, even in those cases, you can connect your domain to any website builder and any web host out there on the market.
It's actually very normal to buy a domain name from one provider and then use another provider for web hosting, or an all-in-one website building/hosting solution.
That said, you can also buy a domain from your host, or get one for free, depending on the deal you choose. And, if the web host you choose is not up to scratch, learn how to transfer your domain name from them to a different one.
Web Host vs Domain Tip 4
Some hosts limit what features they offer if you have not bought your domain through them. You may have to wait up to 60 days before you can transfer the domain fully to your web host, after purchase from a domain registrar. (Those limits are typically trivial, so no need to worry about those terms and conditions.)
Who are the Best Domain Registrars?
In no particular order:
There are few things to look out when grabbing a domain name registrar:
Have a look for extra services like free SSL badges, marketing tools, and email hosting. These can be valuable for helping your business expand.
Is WHOIS privacy free?
When registering a new domain name, you have to enter personal details such as your name, email address and telephone number.
To prevent opportunists from snatching up this information and using it for spam attacks, it is a very good idea to enable privacy settings.
Top-tier domain registrar's like Namecheap.com include free privacy protection as part of any domain purchase.
There are differences in pricing and renewal fees for each domain registrar. Keep an eye out for hidden charges. One effective technique is to head into the checkout and signup stage, and see what the actual total adds to. If you don't like it, just click out.
The worst thing that could happen is for your domain name to expire but not be automatically renewed. This will leave it open for purchase by someone else.
Particularly if your website has built up strong SEO over that time (which a new buyer would heavily benefit from), this could be a major loss... Make sure your domain registrar automatically renews. Some also offer a grace period that remains in effect for a time, even after expiration.
What are TLDs and What TLD Should I Choose for My Domain?
These are the most popular TLDs:
- .com - Companies
- .org - Companies
- .net - Companies
- .gov - US government institutions
- .edu - Educational institutions like colleges
There are few alternatives, such as .live, .biz, and so on. But almost all websites have a “dot com” TLD. And, in terms of SEO, it is usually a good idea to stick with a more well-known TLD.
(Bit of technical knowledge, for the curious. TLDs are also sometimes called domain suffixes. Domain suffixes, names and IP addresses are managed by a company called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN…) TLDs are organized and grouped by it by, er ICANN, e.g.:
- Generic (gTLD)
- Country Code (ccTLD)
- Sponsored (sTLD)
- Infrastructure (iTLD)
Web Host vs Domain Tip 5
Many registrars also offer combo deals for buying domain names with more than one TLD. For example, you can snatch up a .bizz, .com, and .co.uk set, with a discount.
Most Asked Web Hosting Questions
What is Web Hosting and Why is it Important?
You need a web host provider in order to store the contents of your website and get your domain name online. You cannot create a functioning website without setting up your web host plan. Safe to say, this step is critical.
Host providers make their money by offering space on their servers. Oftentimes, these servers are contained inside huge data centers.
You can rent out space to store all your website’s contents, such as coding scripts, media documents and so on. These all need bandwidth space, in order to exist on the world wide web.
Nobody will be able to visit your website unless you transmit it across the Internet by using a web host. The domain name is only a signposting to the actual location on the internet, which is occupied by your web host. The more resources you purchase from your web host, the quicker that visitors can access your site pages.
Web Host vs Domain Tip 6
If you want to get off to a flying start, consider skipping basic and standard hosting packages. In fact, consider skipping shared hosting altogether.
Consider getting a VPS hosting plan… even a reliable free VPS. The reason is that your site loading speeds are so incredibly important for page rankings, that investing a little bit on the front end - when it comes to your web host - may leave you reaping dividends, later down the line.
Rather than taking a long time to grow, you might shortcut that by a large margin, and avoid developing an online history of mediocre SEO (one element of this is your Authority Score.)
What are Typical Costs for a Web Host?
There is quite a lot of variation here. This really depends on what web hosting provider you choose, and what level of service you go for. Contracts are cheaper if you go for longer-term contracts.
The cheapest option is usually shared hosting. In this setup, you are sharing server resources with many other sites who are all using the same server as you are.
You can usually find shared hosting prices that range from about £2 to a tenner / month.
The next step up is WordPress Managed hosting (typically). This may have tiers where you can buy shared hosting, VPS, or even higher - inside a managed plan.
After this, you're looking at virtual private servers (VPS). The lower tiers can cost similar to premium shared hosting tiers. At the upper levels, they will cost more because they are faster - say £25 or double that, or more.
Then you have cloud hosting, which essentially mimics giving you a server to yourself, and is very scalable and secure. But the price point is even higher than VPS, with crazier speeds.
Finally, the best dedicated host servers, which are all to yourself, will cost you a crap ton. But they will provide you with the highest level of security, stability and distributed loading speeds. It might not have as much instantaneous flexibility as cloud hosting, but it packs a wallop.
Web Host vs Domain Tip 7
With shared hosting, you may have the same IP address as other sites owned by others, on your server. Or, you may have been given a dedicated IP address (usually for an extra fee).
By the way, Google's SEO algorithms view shared hosting websites, by being catalogued by Google with other shared websites, you probably will notice a lower SEO score. In other words, your IP will fall near to shared sites.
Not with VPS, cloud or dedicated. This is because VPS/cloud servers mimic dedicated servers, by creating an environment where a portion of the server is allocated only to your website. The IP will be associated with faster sites… VPS is faster than shared hosting, typically.
What are the Main Web Hosting Types?
All web hosts store content that will make up your website.
But they do not do this to the same standard.
Some are much faster, some allow unlimited bandwidth, or have a higher storage capacity.
The best hosts tend to have strong reliability in terms of the unbroken length of time the website stays up during the month.
You need to have an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each type, to serve your audience as well as you can:
Used by rookies all around the world. If you are starting out a new business or blog, or whatever, and are low on budget, this is the perfect solution. For a very low initial cost, you can get your website’s data stored on the same server as a multitude of other, unassociated websites.
Managed WordPress Hosting
This could also just be managed hosting, but there is a reason you never see managed Joomla or managed Weebly hosting... This is because WP makes up most websites on the internet.
By choosing this option, you're usually given a support team of experts in technical WordPress issues. Managed hosting providers also take care of daily management of the OS and hardware, including updating plugins and so on. It's a bit like giving a baby it's bottle.
The next step up are virtual private servers or VPS hosting. These mimic dedicated servers by eeking out a portion of a server that others are using, but blocking it off only to your website…
This is a more secure solution, and more powerful, as you have dedicated resources. We recommend this plan, if you can stretch your budget as a new business, as the SEO benefits here will be much better.
This is somewhere near to VPS, but can be more powerful. Many different servers in many different location geolocations around the world, speak to each other in this set up; feeding a portion of resources to your website.
This is more secure than VPS and more reliable, because if one server location goes down, another x number can compensate for it.
You get a whole server to yourself, with no other sites using its resources… Get more root access. You’ll have much more technical control, allowing you to manipulate the operating systems, hardware and security systems. The most complicated websites on the planet use this setup to handle their high graphic.
There are other types, like with reseller hosting (there are great reseller hosts out there), and colocation. But the above five are the main most people will need to consider.
What about Free Web Hosts?
If your budget is really tight, there are a few superb free web hosts that do a great job, relative to the fact that their services are free.
Understand that going for a free web host, however, will put you at a severe disadvantage in terms of SEO and return visits.
SEO or search engine optimization is a measure of your capacity to rank high on search engine results.
This is a large way that people find your website’s pages and content, if you are using organic search traffic as a large portion of your website’s growth.
A free website could leave your website with page loading loading speeds at over 5 seconds, even ten and higher. This is terrible for conversions (under one second is optimal) and for SEO scores.
One SEO element that will affect how search engines view your site’s importance is your website's Authority Score (we’ve seen numbers as low as 1 out of 100 before).
And, ever since mobile-indexing happened, in terms of how SEO ratings occur, page loading speeds have become more and more important. This may be less of an issue as 5G becomes more widespread, and the average mobile experience is much faster. But … this will take many years, and the competition could just become even higher.
Web Host vs Domain Tip 8
Consider making your web host an allowable expense, if you are intending to compete in the SEO Arena. Going for a free web host may be too much of a disadvantage to overcome.
What Should I Look for in My Web Host Provider?
HostingData tries to make the job of choosing a web host simple, rather than daunting and overwhelming.
The truth is that there is a horde of options to go for… There are small prints to look out for, with hidden fees like renewal charges, and upsells. It's important to find a reliable source of information that can collate this information. But here are a few things you should want to keep your eye on:
- Free SSL's
- RAM (a competitive number to start out with is 2GB)
- Uptime (anything under 99.94% should be avoided)
- Loading speeds (under 1 second is optimal)
- Options for customer service (the live chat function is a life saver)
- Unlimited emails
- Number of websites that can be attached to your plan
Here are a few standout web hosts we recommend time-and-time again:
- A2 hosting
Final Web Host vs Domain Tip
Do a bit of research. Scan a few guides, to get a feel for which providers are ideal for your website.
If you have any questions about domain names or web hosting providers, just leave a comment below and we will try to answer it .