One of the most common beginner’s questions or confusion about online marketing is domain names vs hosting. 

I am often asked what is the difference between web hosting and a domain name. 

Many beginners don’t know what they are, their differences, and how important hosting and domain names are to an online presence.  

So, to clear the confusion, I wrote this comprehensive beginner’s guide on web hosting vs domain name differences.  

After reading this post, you’ll understand their differences and why they are equally important to building a website. 

Without hosting, a domain name is not found, and without a domain name, hosting is inaccessible. 

So, let’s begin with the obvious questions.

What is a Domain Name?

A domain name is your website’s digital identity, registered with an ICANN-approved registrar, and associated with an internet physical IP address, and it’s unique to only your website. No two websites have the exact domain name. 

A domain name is a second-level domain to the left of the TLD (top-level domain) extensions like .com, .org, .gov, and others. 

Example: www.google.com – in this example, Google is the second-level domain (the main website name), while the .com extension is the top-level domain. Together, they form the address for the website named Google. 

There are dozens of domain name extensions today. The most popular are .com, .org, .net, .gov, .ai, .info, .biz.

If the domain name definition above is too much jargon or grammar, let me break it down into more simple and beginner-level. 

In the physical or offline world you live in, your house/building has an address. This address is what people use to locate your building if they need to visit. Is that right? 

The same process applies to websites. 

For a website to be found online, people need to know its address and type it into a web browser to reach it. That’s just it.

But, unlike your house address, you must search for domain name availability and register it before you can own it. 

How long you own a domain name is up to you. You reserve the right to a domain name for as long as you keep it active by paying its annual renewal price. 

What’s The Purpose of Domain Name?

Every website has a unique IP address, a string of numerals, and always a set of four numbers. 

These numbers or IP addresses are what connect a computer to web servers. Since a website file and content reside on a computer, it needs an IP address that connects it to a web server in the cloud that hosts its files and content. 

The problem is that most humans can’t remember IP addresses due to their complexity and identity. IP addresses look similar but are not generated randomly, although they differ from website to website. 

Here are examples of IP addresses:

  • 193.168.1.39
  • 212.189.2.24
  • 196.221.57.5

To solve the complexity of IP address, domain names developed to help people easily remember a website address instead of IP numbers. 

So, primarily, the purpose of domain names is to help internet users remember a website’s name or address more easily and type into browsers. When you type in a domain name, technically, you call the associated IP address or the web servers hosting the website files and content. 

Don’t bother if these things don’t make sense to you now. As you continue blogging and doing internet marketing, everything will get crystal clear as the day to you.

How to Choose and Register Domain Names

Now that you’re a bit clearer about a domain name let’s dive into the process of choosing and registering a domain name. 

I have written an extensive article in this section, and you can learn more about choosing the best domain name for your website in that article. 

However, for this tutorial on domain names vs hosting, let’s summarize the steps you must follow. 

First, you must understand that there are no good or bad domain names; every website is unique in its own right. You’re good to go if the name fits your business needs and audience. 

How to Choose a Domain Name

However, there are some advice or tips to consider for choosing a name that helps build your business, is easy to remember, and says on the phone.  

  • Choose a name that represents your business – People should get a clear picture of your business when they read your domain name. Though this will only help your user, it has no significant impact or advantage over your competitors or search engine ranking positions. 
  • Keep your domain name short as possible – It helps people remember it more quickly and makes it easier to type into a web browser. Ideally, a maximum of two or three words is good; four, five, or six words might confuse users and be challenging to remember. If your business name requires more than three short words, consider registering the abbreviation and redirecting it to the main or preferred version. 
  • Think of your business future – Many business or website owners start with a few topics or business ideas but later dive into other closely related topics. So, choose a domain name that will be suitable in the future if you decide to dive into other topics you never thought of initially but relevant to your main blog theme. 
  • Consider your target audience – This is a piece of good advice if you’re serving a local business. Consider using words that resonate with the local audience your business appeals to. It helps potential customers quickly identify with a business better and makes them feel it is only for them. 
  • Use Blog name generator – Sometimes, it is not easy to develop blog name ideas. If you find yourself in this situation, use a blog name generator to get hundreds of ideas in seconds. From here, choose what looks good and run with it. 
  • Consider Exact Match Domain – This old SEO tactic once worked pretty well to game the system. But, even though the practice is no longer effective and has no significant impact on the search ranking, it helps your business and branding in many ways. People can easily recognize and understand what you do and how your business can help them. 

Note: The maximum number of characters (minus the domain extension) you can have for a domain name is 63, including hyphens, dashes, and numbers. But that’s too much for a domain name in an ideal world. 

You should aim at a maximum of 15 – 20 characters to help your user and business.

Registering Your Domain Names 

This is the easier part you need to understand, which mostly concerns you. 

How domain names work does not affect a business’s button line or revenue unless that’s your business. If that’s what you do for a living, you wouldn’t be here reading a beginner guide to domain names vs hosting, anyway. 

So, let’s proceed. 

To register a domain name and make it officially your website address, you must register it with an accredited ICANN domain name registrar, such as Namecheap, Hostinger, HostGator, etc. 

This is the only legal process to register a domain name for your website. 

So, visit NameCheap and type your proposed domain name into the search bar.

Namecheap domain name registration

After typing, click the search button for Namecheap to check for domain availability. Before registering a domain name, your registrar must check if another person or business has not registered it. 

Note: You can get cheap domain name registration for as low as $0.99 cent on Namecheap. You can get up to 57% off the .com domain name extension using the link here.

You can only register a domain name that is available at the time of registration. 

Suppose another user has registered a domain name and is still active. In that case, you can only legally register that name after the registration period has expired, is not renewed, and is out of the reconciliation period. 

So, don’t be surprised if your ideal name is not available. You need to keep searching for different blog name variations till you get a name that suits your business needs. 

Sometimes, if your domain name has been taking in a particular extension, you might consider other top-level extensions. Here is an ideal situation where this can be helpful.

Let’s say you want to register “wpblogger.com,” which has been taken since 2008. If you must use this name for your website, the best thing to do is to consider other extensions, as seen in the image below.

Namecheap - other extensions

Suppose these other extensions align with your business value, great. In most cases, other extensions besides .com are cheaper. 

Once you get your domain name, click the “Add to Cart” button to proceed to the checkout page and finalize your payment. 

Your new registered domain name details will be sent to your registered email address on file. 

What is Web Hosting?

Web hosting is a service or process of storing website content, such as files, photos, videos, images, text, etc., on the Internet to make it accessible to users with an Internet connection anywhere in the world.

This service ensures your website is visible to users when they type your website address into a web browser. Without web hosting, a website can not be found or accessible online. 

Remember our analogy about a website domain name using a house address? 

If a domain name is your house address, web hosting is the space or land you build the house on. What use is a house address if there is no space/land to build the house? 

That’s how crucial domain names and web hosting are to online marketing. You need both to establish an online presence. 

The web hosting services companies are called web hosts or web hosting providers. And thousands of them on the internet have different hosting packages but similar hosting types. 

Web hosts provide servers (space), hosting infrastructures, connectivity, and other hosting requirements, enabling the smooth ruining of these services. 

Typically, you don’t own a hosting space online; you rent it for a specific period. The web host pricing page lists the years/months you can rent a hosting space, plus the hosting features associated with your package or plan. 

The amount of hosting space you can rent is also listed on the price page, though some web host don’t disclose this information on their website. You should research or ask a potential web host before purchasing. 

Another thing about web hosting you must know is that there are different types of hosting:

  • Shared Hosting – Your website shares server resources and space with other websites. 
  • VPS Hosting – Semi-dedicated server with several virtual machines, each having its own dedicated server and resources like RAM and CPU.   
  • Dedicated Hosting – Your website is hosted on its own server, resources, and other features. You don’t share with any other website. 
  • Cloud Hosting Host your website on a combined visualize cloud servers, leading to more efficiency, scalability, flexibility, and load balancing. 

For more information on the different types of web hosting and which is perfect for your situation, check out this comprehensive guide. 

Purpose of Web Hosting

Web hosting is crucial to website management for several reasons or purposes. Though I have touched on a few above, it is worth diving deeper here. 

First, as mentioned above, the primary function of web hosting is to store website content, such as HTML, CSS, and Javascript files, images, videos, and text, and to ensure the website is accessible to internet users through relevant applications. 

These files and other website assets need dedicated storage space and management to be accessible to Internet users. Web hosting or web hosts ensure these services and requirements are met. 

But its function and purpose go beyond this. 

Bandwidth is part of the underlying technology required for website data transmission between users and the web server.

Web hosts provide the bandwidths of each hosting plan and determine the amount of transferable data between the user and the web servers. For users to view your sites, web hosts ensure data management and handle its transmission effectively. 

Email hosting is another reason why hosting is essential. 

Many web hosts offer email hosting services along with your website hosting. These features allow you to host business email accounts and send messages from your domain. 

Something like this: [email protected]

Without hosting, it could be impossible to send a business email that comes from your domain. 

Additionally, hosting requires ongoing server maintenance, security patches and updates, improving server technology, etc. Web hosts handle these tasks and keep the services running without any hiccups.

Technically speaking, you can set up your server infrastructure and host your website, but the cost of running the services is expensive and complex for an individual. This is why renting a hosting space from a web hosting provider is the best thing to do. 

And lastly, technical support is another reason web hosting is critical to your business. 

Web hosting providers offer technical support for server management, maintenance, website functionality, optimization, billing, knowledge-based articles, etc. You need these things to continue managing your website, ensuring it’s available 24/7, and improving its value.

Domain Names vs Web Hosting: The Key Differences.

Web hosting and domain names are crucial elements working together to make an online presence possible. Yet, they serve distinct purposes and are not the same.

Here are some of the characters or differences between domain names and hosting. 

Functions

The primary function of a domain name is to provide an easier-to-read, human-friendly web property address. 

Domain names are created to map or cloak IP addresses to give users a memorable, easy-to-read website address. 

Web Hosting functions as the technology holding or storing all the website properties and assets. Hosting also handles website data management, maintenance, and security and optimizes it for better performance.  

Also, it is responsible for delivering the website content to users upon legitimate request to its server. 

Ownership

When you purchase a domain name, you own the exclusive right to that name. Nobody can register the exact name with the TLD extension as long as you own it. 

A domain name is publicly available for registration after you’ve failed to renew it and the grace period has passed. 

Unless it concerns users’ security or trademark issues, such as the case with Jasper ai and Disney Ironman Jarvis, nobody can suspend or take down your domain name when it is still active. 

In contrast, you don’t own the exclusive right to a hosting account. 

You rent the hosting space, and if you go against the web host’s terms of service (TOS), such as abusing bandwidth usage limits, security threats to other users, or fraudulent activities, your hosting account may be suspended without notice.

Transferable

Domain names are transferable from registrar to registrar. You can also sell your domain name to another person or business. 

It is a common practice for businesses to sell a domain name for a hefty price. 

When transferring a domain name to another registrar, you may be charged for the transfer fee only. But you will get an extra free one-year domain name registration. However, this depends on the situation and the registrar. 

As for hosting, while you can “migrate” your website from one host to another, this is not the same as a transfer.  

When you migrate a website database to another hosting provider, you’re technically moving your website properties to another rented building, not the hosting account.

You must rent another server space from the new web host to move your website database. You can not move the hosting account you purchase from web host A to web host B and get a reminder of your account balance. 

So, hosting is not transferable, but your website contents can be moved to another server. 

Branding

Domain names can help with business branding. 

One of the first things customers see and remember about a business is the name. This is why choosing a good and memorable business name is essential. 

It helps with branding the business and building an online reputation.  

On the other hand, web hosting is not part of what the customer sees about your business. Hosting is not visible to the human eyes.

Customers can only feel the impact of hosting when using the site. How fast your site and images load, ease of use, security, content display, etc., are the things people will notice about how good your hosting is.

In a nutshell, hosting helps your site’s user experience, not the branding. 

If you still need to learn more about web hosting and domain name differences, here’s a detailed guide for further reading. 

How Domain Name and Hosting Works Together.

If you have been following through in our domain names vs hosting beginner guide by now, you know you need both to create a website.

Your domain name and web hosting work together. Without one, the other can’t function properly and is useless. 

You can buy a domain name from a registrar and purchase hosting from another company. In this case, you must synchronize your domain name to point to your hosting account. 

However, as a beginner, consider buying the domain name and hosting from the same company to avoid unnecessary technical stress or headaches. 

Connecting a domain name from another registrar to a hosting account isn’t difficult, but you might find the steps intimidating and confusing for beginners. 

So, I recommend purchasing a domain name and hosting from companies like Namecheap, Hostinger, and HostGator

Here is how domain name and web hosting work together. 

Domain Name Registration 

We’ve established this fact several times in this article. 

A domain name serves as a user-friendly readable address for your website. It lets people easily remember a website name without needing the more complex IP address numbers. 

Web Hosting Connection

Next, you need a space on the internet to make your website visible when people access it. This is where hosting comes into the picture, serving as the land where your website is built. 

You rent a part of a server space connected to the internet. This server stores all your website files, including its HTML, CSS, JS, text, videos, media, etc. 

Web hosts provide server space, maintenance, security, update core infrastructure, and improve performance. 

Domain Name System (DNS)

Domain name system is like the internet address book. 

When someone requests information from your website, it triggers a request to their computer for a DNS lookup.

Next, the DNS reads the request and then translates the user-friendly address into its corresponding machine-related IP address on the host server. This is the actual address where the information is stored on your host servers and to be retrieved. 

Website Content Delivery

Once the user’s web browser or application connects to the host server through the IP address obtained from the DNS lookup, the server sends the information/files to the user browser, and rendering begins. 

This is the stage where the user sees information about a website’s content displayed on their browser. Now, you can begin interacting with page elements. 

FAQ

What do I Need to Build My Website?

Among other things, you need a domain name and web hosting. These two components are required to build a website. 

Other resources depend on what type of website you want to build and what CMS you want to use. However, use the WordPress content management system to save your precious time. Here is a detailed guide on building a blog with WordPress. 

Can I Buy Hosting and Domain Name Together?

Yes, many web hosts provide both domain name registration and hosting services. This makes it easier to connect your domain name to your hosting account and makes managing your hosting and domain from one central place convenient. 

Can I Transfer my Domain Name to Another Registrar?

Yes, you can transfer your domain name from one registrar to another. However, it is advisable to wait 45 days before transferring a newly registered domain to another registrar. This protects against any potential risk and financial losses. Also, if a domain expires in less than 7 days, it is good to renew it with the current registrar and wait for at least 45 – 60 days before initiating the transfer.

Can I migrate my Hosting to Another web host?

Hosting migration is possible from one web host to another. If you’re using wordpress, the process is easier and more straightforward than you think. 

Several WordPress migration plugins, like BlogVault and All-in-one WP Migration, let you move an entire website to another hosting account in one click. 

Several web hosts also perform free website migration for new customers’ hosting accounts. 

Can I Change my Domain Name to Another One?

No, you can’t change your current website domain name. However, you can register and link a new domain name to your website. When users type in the old domain name, it will redirect to the new one. But you should follow this process with the utmost attention to detail and care.

If your website already drives organic traffic, you may negatively impact search ranking if you did something wrong during the domain name updates. Also, consider branding you might have built with your old name. 

What Are The Different Types of Domain Name Extensions?

Many domain name extensions exist, from .com to .biz, .ai, .club, .to country code top-level domain (ccTLD) extensions. .Com is the most popular, with a market share of about 57%. Other top-level extensions include .net, .org, and .gov. There are more specific extensions for businesses like .tech, .website, .online, .store, .best, .live, etc. 

The thing is to choose the one that best fits your website’s purpose and niche. Then stick with it. Check the list of current and available top-level domain name extensions at Namecheap domains.

Conclusion.

I believe this article has helped you understand the difference between domain names vs hosting. 

Like you, I was once confused about domain names and web hosting, but as I continue learning internet marketing and managing blogs, I am getting used to the terms and their purpose. 

These are part of beginners’ lessons and things you will encounter as you navigate internet marketing. 

So, don’t worry if certain things don’t make sense to you. As you build your marketing knowledge, you will learn and understand domain names and hosting. 

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