What Is A Domain? What Difference Does It Make To My Blog?
Should I Pay For My Domain?
When starting your blog you will need to decide what the name (domain name) will be and where your site will be live (where you will host it).
Your blog needs a place where all your information (photos, videos and text) 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.
You 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.
Note: 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 Bluehost.
Learn how to choose great, cheap domain names.
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 (company's 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.
The 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 WordPress and you want to name your blog "Tips By Mom" it will have the WordPress domain as well. Your blog address would look something like this tipsbymom.wordpress.com. This is referred to as a sub-domain.
Although these blogging platforms (see above) offer free sub-domains they also put ads on your site that you don’t control. They also start to charge monthly fees when your blog starts to get popular. The more popular you are, the more you pay.
Another disadvantage is that many free blogging platforms don't allow you to have a website for commercially purposes, so if your intent is to make money with your blog, then you'll want to avoid them.
As you can see, having a sub-domain on another platform's website comes across is 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 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.
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 intent 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