What Is A Domain? What Difference Does It Make To My Blog?
Should I Pay For My Domain?
Simply put, the domain name or URL of your website is what people type into their browser to get to your website, and where you host your website is the place where all your information (web pages, photos, videos, etc.) will be stored and displayed for the entire world to see. Where you upload your web pages, photos, videos, etc. is referred to as your web host. Your web host will store all the files that make up your web site.
Your domain name serves as the address of your website. Your readers will find your blog by entering your domain name into their website browser, taking them to your website, all the pages, images, etc.
When it comes to getting your domain name and hosting account there are several options, the main difference being whether you are going with a free or paid domain and hosting plan.
Which option is most appropriate for you depends on the goals for your blog/website, which we'll discuss in more depth below.
You don't necessarily have to get your domain name and web hosting from the same company. As an example, you might purchase your domain name from a domain name registrar like GoDaddy.com but then choose to host your website with a hosting company, like SiteGround.
Learn how to choose great, cheap domain names.
You don't have to host your website at the same place your purchase your domain name.
Domain Providers: Should I Pay For My Domain?
Here is the rule of thumb: sub-domains are usually free and top-level domains are not. An example of a sub-domain is myblog.wordpress.com. An example of a top-level domain (TLD) is myblog.com. Blogging platforms (companies that offer free blogging tools) provide free sub-domains to all of their users. Some of the free blogging platforms are:
These domain providers offer very easy start-up options. They are free (at first) and many offer basic themes that allow you to personalize your blog/site with your own graphics.
In addition to giving you a free domain, they also allow you to set up and host your website on their platform at no cost. While the idea of a free domain name and free website hosting may sound attractive, there are many pitfalls to be aware of.
3 Drawbacks of a Free Domain and Hosting
Lack of Branding
One thing to keep in mind with these types of domain providers is that they will forever be a part of your URL (your address on the net). For example, if you choose to go with a domain provided by the free version of WordPress and you want to name your blog "Tips By Mom" it will have the WordPress domain as well, so your blog address would look like tipsbymom.wordpress.com. This is referred to as a sub-domain.
Having a domain like this takes away from the branding and identity of your website because you are including the name of the free hosting platform in your domain name. For many, this can look bad for the company, after all, what kind of legitimate business can't afford the minimal expense of purchasing its own domain name and hosting?
Lack of Control
Another drawback to having a free domain name on a free hosting platform is that you don't have total control over the website. In many cases, these platforms will put advertisements on your website which you have no control over (and don't receive compensation for).
Also, you are more limited in what options you have as far as the look and feel of your website goes. There isn't much flexibility and freedom when it comes to customizing your website or being able to use third-party tools and services to enhance the functionality of your website.
Lack of Monetization
Finally, another key disadvantage is that many free blogging platforms don't allow you to have a website for commercial purposes, so if your intent is to make money with your blog, then you'll want to avoid them. Also, as mentioned above, even if they did allow you to have a website for commercial purposes, how would it look to your prospective prospects and customers if you couldn't even afford your own domain and hosting account. Imagine if Amazon.com hosted their website with blogger and their web address was Amazon.blogger.com.
If you intend to make money with your blog or website then you must avoid free domain and hosting options.
As you can see, having a sub-domain and hosting your website on another platform comes across as extremely unprofessional and severely limits what you can do with your online presence. When it comes to domain names and web hosting the old adage "you get what you pay for" truly rings true.
Having a sub-domain may not seem very important, and may not be if you just want to blog as a hobby. But if you want to blog professionally and make money, you will be better equipped if you own your own domain, which we'll talk more about below.
Owning Your Domain
If you decide to buy your own domain you can purchase one from a Domain Registrar (like GoDaddy, NameCheap, or dozens of other domain name registrars) that will register your domain name and host it on their server. WordPress and Blogger also offer hosting services for your own domain at a monthly fee. After that, you can choose and install a content management system. A content management system (CMS) is kind of like an engine for your blog - it is the software that actually makes it all work. WordPress is the most popular content management system in the world.
Again, if your goal is to make money online with a web presence, then you'll want to go with a self-hosted version of WordPress and use your own branded domain name.
By choosing to go with your own domain and installing a blogging platform you will end up with a clean URL like this tipsbymom.com. Having a clean URL means that you will get better search rankings with Google and more people will find your blog. You also have the freedom to host your site where you want - you won't be stuck with just one hosting option. This factor can be important as your site grows and you need to scale your business.
Another important thing to note is that you don't have to host your website at the same place your purchase your domain name. For example, you could choose to purchase your domain name at a domain name registrar like GoDaddy and choose to host your website with a web hosting provider like Bluehost. Linking the two together is a simple and straight forward process.
In many cases, you can save a little bit of money by doing this rather than registering your domain name with your hosting provider.
Even though you don't have to have your domain name and hosting with the same company, many hosting companies will include a domain name for free.
Summing It Up
What this all means is if you want a quick and easy start-up and don’t want (need) full control of your blog, you can choose a free domain hosting service. This is ideal if you just want to have a personal online journal or hobby site where you have no intention of making any money online.
If you want to blog professionally, have full control of your site, and most importantly plan on making money with your blog then you absolutely must purchase your own domain name and go with a paid hosting account.
Although purchasing your own domain and managing your own blog is more complicated (but not much more) it is worth the time and investment if you are serious about online business and making money with a blog.
Edited by Online Business/Hosting Expert Brian T. Edmondson