Understanding website domains and hosting
In Chapter 1, you'll learn the ins and outs of domains and website hosting so you can build your website with a strong foundation.
Before you can start designing your shiny new website, it’s important to understand two things that happen behind the scenes: domains and hosting. Technical website jargon can get confusing, so let’s walk through it together.
By the end of this chapter, you’ll:
Understand how to choose a good domain name for your business
Research and select an available domain name
Differentiate between free subdomains and paid custom domains
Learn what hosting is and determine if it’s necessary for your business
What is a website domain (and how to pick one)
A domain is the address or name that people use to find your website. For example, the domain for Podia is www.podia.com . It’s where your business “lives'' on the internet, and it should be a good summary of the work you do.
But choosing a domain name isn’t as simple as stringing some words together and pressing go.
Here are a few things to know about choosing a domain for your website.
#1 Choose the right top-level domain
Your top-level domain (TLD) is the end of your URL, like .com, .org, .net, or .biz. You can even get some super-niche TLDs like .photography, .horse, or .pizza.
If you can, choose .com as your TLD. It’s one of the most popular domain name extensions and people are often more familiar with .com domain names than others, so they’ll probably automatically type .com into their address bar after your website name.
If your top domain name choice isn’t available as a .com, try your second available domain choice before choosing a different TLD. You can also pick an alternative TLD that matches your niche.
#2 Make your domain descriptive, short, simple, and easy to spell
A great domain name represents your business and what you have to offer your customers. Potential customers are more likely to remember your domain name — and visit your site — when it matches your brand and is easy to understand.
Make your domain name the same as (or at least very similar to) your business name.
Here are a few domains used by Podia creators and their corresponding businesses:
https://www.billettoblade.com : Ben Abbott sells bladesmithing courses, and his business name uses common phrases for that discipline.
If you run a business where you share personal expertise and experiences, it might make sense to use your own name for your website domain, or your name plus a word describing what you do.
Ideally, your domain name should be easy for fans to remember and spell. Google recommends domain names have a maximum of three to four words to make them easier to search for.
You should also try to avoid fancy punctuation and abnormal spellings of words to keep things simple. Imagine telling friends at a party that your new business is www.cats-n-cookiez.com but having to say “www dot cats dash letter-n dash cookies-with-a-z dot com.” Not ideal.
Stay away from domain names that:
Include numbers, hyphens, or other non-standard characters.
Use unusual spellings or double letters (unless they’re part of your name, of course).
Are longer than about 15 characters.
For my new website about road tripping, I know that I want a phrase related to road trips in my domain. Off the top of my head, I thought of the following names:
I ran these options through a domain availability checker, and RoadTripPlanner was already taken. YourFavoriteRoadTrip and YourBestRoadTrip are both available, but I want to do some more research to see what’s out there.
Time to check out domain name generators.
#3 Try out a domain name generator
If you’re stuck on what to call your website, take a domain name generator for a spin. You’ll type in a word or phrase related to your business and the domain name generator will give you ideas that are available.
(One caveat here: Domain name generators don’t necessarily take search engine optimization or branding into account. Use the generator as inspiration rather than taking it as the final word.)
Here are some popular domain name generator tools.
Lean Domain Search: Type in a keyword relevant to your business and get a list of available [.com] domains. For example, when I type “road trip” into the generator, I get over 4,000 results.
From this list, “ThinkRoadTrip” stands out.
Domain Wheel: With Domain Wheel, you can type in keywords and filter by character count, number of keywords, and domain extension. Domain Wheel is good for finding synonyms and related terms that you might not have considered before.
Here’s what comes up when I type “road trip” into Domain Wheel:
By default, Domain Wheel has other extensions (like .org, .net, and .blog) turned on, but I’d prefer to only see .com domains. I really like the name “GoRoadTrip”, but it looks like it’s only available as a .net, so I’ll keep looking.
Here’s what comes up when I adjust the filtering to only show .com domains. From this list, I like “RoadTripHub”.
I also looked at what comes up for “road tripping”, and “RoadTrippingToday” could be a candidate.
Here’s the list I have after running my target keyword through a few different domain generators and checking their availability.
I sent this list to two trusted friends to see which one they liked best, then went for a walk to let the names simmer.
In the end, I decided to use yourbestroadtrip.com because it feels like the exact thing I’m offering. I’ll teach people how to plan their best road trip yet, and I like how the word “your” makes the brand feel more personal. Plus, having “best road trip” as a keyword in my URL can help search engines understand what my website content is about.
#4 Make sure your domain name isn’t already part of someone else's trademarks
Just because your domain name is available for purchase doesn’t mean you own the website or business name legally.
Do your due diligence before buying your new domain name to ensure that you’re not infringing on anyone’s trademark. In the U.S., you can search the trademark database through the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
If the domain name is a registered business or legal entity, choose a different one.
Check for matching social media handles, too. When you buy your domain name, register social media handles with the same name to stay consistent, and make it easy for your customers to find you online.
#5 Pick a trustworthy domain registrar
Once you choose your perfect domain name, your next step is to purchase the name from a domain name registrar. Make sure you choose a domain name registrar that’s accredited by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
Buying a custom domain usually costs around $15 per year, unless it’s already owned by someone else in which case you might have to negotiate for a higher price.
Once you have purchased your domain from a registrar, your registrar will provide you with steps for how to connect your domain with your website builder of choice.
All in all, the perfect domain name:
Reflects your brand
Is easy to remember and spell for your customers
Last but not least, choose a domain name you love. It’s an investment in your brand and your business, and — like so many pieces of running your own business — it should be something that makes you feel excited and proud.
Free subdomains vs. custom domains
Some website platforms include a free subdomain, like yourbusinessname.podia.com, with your plan. This is great when you’re starting out because you don’t need to worry about paying for your domain. But as you grow, you might want to purchase and connect a custom domain.
In most cases, your website builder tool will require you to upgrade to a higher-tiered plan to use your custom domain, so keep this in mind as you budget into the future.
I’m going to use a free Podia subdomain ( https://yourbestroadtrip.podia.com ) for my website since I’m still in the early stages.
But if you’re worried about someone grabbing your domain, it might make sense to purchase it once you’ve landed on your first choice, even if you don’t connect it right away.
What is website hosting?
Website hosting is renting space on the internet to house your website. Many website builders like Podia, Squarespace , and Wix offer built-in hosting. But if you want to use WordPress , a popular open-source website-building software, you’ll need to pay separately for hosting.
When you purchase hosting, you’ll pay a monthly or annual fee for a company to store all the code and behind-the-scenes data that makes your site look beautiful. Depending on your traffic and the amount of website storage space you need (images and videos take up the most space), hosting can range from a few bucks to hundreds per month.
If you don’t want to deal with hosting, stick to an all-in-one platform with hosting included and you’ll be good to go. ( Sign up for your free Podia account here – your website and hosting are part of the free plan.) You can read more about website domains and hosting in the following articles:
Next, we’ll look at different website builders you can use to construct your digital masterpiece.