Here’s how to register a domain, choose a web host, and make a website that people actually want to visit.
Step 1) Registering a domain
What is a domain?
You can’t build a website without a domain. A domain is the first part of the URL you see at the top of this page.
Domains can end with hundreds of different extensions. However, the most popular extensions, or Top Level Domains (TLDs) tend to be .com, .net, and .org.
Depending on which country you’re from, you might see a lot of domains that end in .ca (Canada), .co.uk (United Kingdom), .com.au (Australia), or .co.nz (New Zealand). Every country in the world has been assigned its own TLD.
Where do I buy domains?
No matter which type of TLD you want to use, you will need to buy that domain from a domain registrar. Domain registrars are affiliated with ICANN – the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers – which is a nonprofit organization that oversees domain names and other internet maintenance tasks.
You don’t have to buy a domain in order to build a website online. You could sign up for a free web hosting service and use their servers, which typically gives you a domain like YourSite.TheirSite.com. or TheirSite.com/YourSite. However, if you’re trying to build a professional business online, then this is not an ideal solution.
You don’t contact ICANN directly in order to purchase a domain. Instead, you contact a domain registrar that is affiliated with ICANN. You pay the registrar a small fee and the domain will be registered in your name for anywhere from one year to three years.
How much does it cost to register a domain?
Most domains only cost $10 to $15 per year to register. Some web hosts will give away domain registrations for free with every web hosting order. If you order web hosting for a year, for example, then your web host may award you one or two free domains as an incentive.
GoDaddy offers one free domain on each of its entry level plans, which start as low as $1.99 per month.
Most popular TLDs cost approximately $10 per year to register. If you’re buying a lot of domains at a single time (like hundreds of domains), then you might be able to find a registrar which will give you a bulk discount. That bulk discount could – in rare cases – lower the costs of domains to approximately $8 per year per domain, but most average web developers will need to pay the standard rate.
There are new TLDs which cost way more than $10 per year to register. Some of the adult themed TLDs, for example, cost $99.99 per year or more.
Thanks to a recent loosening of domain restrictions, dozens of new TLDs were recently released onto the market. Corporations from across the world were able to bid on these new TLDs – which included names like .travel, .tips, and .xxx – and then sell domains under that TLD to individual people for a profit.
For that reason, there are a near-infinite number of domains available for you to purchase. Whether you choose a country-based domain or a .com, .org, or .net domain, you have plenty of options available.
You can view a full list of internet Top Level Domains (TLDs) here:
Step 2) Choosing a web host
Now that you’ve purchased a domain, it’s time to choose a web host. So far, you’ve only purchased a domain. That domain gives you access to a specific web property, but it doesn’t let you upload data to that web property.
To do that, you’re going to need to choose a web host (or build your own web server at home).
Most of you will choose to pay a web host (running your own web server from home requires some technical expertise and a high-volume subscription plan with your Internet Service Provider). Web hosts range from cheap to expensive and you don’t have to look hard to find good-quality web hosts which charge less than $10 per month for their services.
What does a web host do?
A web host basically provides online storage space for your website. You can upload files to storage space provided by your web host and those files will appear on your domain.
Should I buy a domain from my web host? Should I buy web hosting from my domain registrar?
Most domain registrars offer web hosting services, and most web hosting services offer domain registrations.
But should you actually use these services? Or should you keep your domain registration and web hosting companies separate?
There’s no single answer to that question, but here are some things to consider:
- Most of the world’s best web hosting companies also act as domain registrars
- When you purchase a domain through your web host, you don’t have to worry about configuring DNS settings and other information.
- Purchasing a domain through a web host (and vice versa) simplifies the billing process.
- Many web hosts offer free domain deals as an incentive for new customers. If you sign up for a new annual account, you might receive one, two, or more free domains. With most companies, the more you spend, the more free domains you receive.
- Many good domain registrars are affiliated with good web hosting companies and vice versa. While the services may appear to be bundled together, you’re actually receiving specialized services from a specialized provider – which is a good thing.
How to compare web hosts
There are plenty of companies offering domain registration services and web hosting services out there. Do your research and check reviews online before you buy.
When comparing web hosts, there are several important things to consider, including:
- Uptime percentage (most web hosts claim 99.9% uptime)
- Cost per month (check if that cost go up after a certain number of months)
- Free domain registration
- Customer support and customer service
- Other bundled services, add-ons, and features
When doing research, don’t forget that web hosts constantly change. Some web hosts have continuously maintained a high level of quality over their entire history as a company, while others have wavered between being excellent and extremely bad.
If you see a lot of stunning reviews of a web hosting company on a forum thread in 2010, for example, then you shouldn’t automatically assume that the company still offers 99.99% uptime, 24/7 tech support, and the world’s best web hosting packages.
Over the past few years, a lot of previously good web hosting companies have been bought out by larger hosting companies and switched their servers. This has resulted in atrocious service, speeds, and downtime from web hosts which previously used to be known as the best in the industry.
How much should you pay for a web host?
Web hosting costs vary considerably depending on your needs. If you’re like most web developers who are just starting out, then you probably only need a web host for between 1 and 5 websites.
If that’s all you need, then you can expect to pay between $5 and $15 per month for a low-range web host. If you want faster speeds and better service, then you should expect to pay more per month – between $20 and $30.
Most people who are building a website for the first time choose to sign up for a shared web hosting plan. On a shared plan, you’re sharing server space with a number of other web host subscribers.
The difference between a good and bad web host is the number of people they allow on each server. Bad, slow web hosts will cram as many people as possible onto a lower-end server, which means lots of downtime, slow speeds, and potential problems with your site during peak usage hours.
Good web hosts, on the other hand, restrict the number of accounts added to each web server and allocate a generous amount of bandwidth and processing power to each client. That means your speeds may not be too different from the speeds provided by a dedicated server or Virtual Private Server (VPS).
Should I use a virtual private server or dedicated server?
Virtual private servers (VPS) and dedicated servers are popular with web developers because they offer faster speeds, unique IP addresses, and greater customization options.
A VPS is where a web host virtually gives you your own private server. That means the web host has separated a single server into multiple partitioned servers and sold those servers to you and other clients as a VPS.
With a dedicated server, you pay for the entire server and all its available processing power and bandwidth.
To clarify, hosting plans should be ranked like this in terms of quality and speed:
- Low: Shared hosting
- Medium: VPS
- High: Dedicated servers
Understandably, VPS and dedicated servers cost considerably more than an average shared web hosting plan. A basic VPS typically starts at around $50 per month, while medium-range dedicated servers can cost hundreds of dollars per month or more. Read through the advantages below and decide if a VPS or dedicated server is worth the higher price:
- The ability to handle higher levels of traffic and peak usage periods (say, if an article or video on your site goes viral)
- The ability to choose between different levels of self-managed and fully-managed hosting plans
- Complete control over the server and its customization options (add software and applications to your site that you wouldn’t be able to add on a shared plan)
- Install your own antivirus software and malware prevention software on your server
- Secure storage options
- The ability to add online games, complex ecommerce operations, secure payment options, and more
Most shared web hosting providers also offer VPS and dedicated server options, so upgrading your account is easy. Most people will start with a shared web hosting plan before moving up to higher level plans once their sites start making more money.
If you just plan on creating a few Made-For-AdSense (MFA) style websites, then shared hosting should be good enough for your needs. As long as you choose a good web host, you won’t notice a major speed difference on websites with general images and content.
If, however, you plan on creating a large online business, like an online store or multiplayer game, then you should consider investing in a dedicated server. And if you’re somewhere in between the needs of these two types of sites, then a VPS may be the right option for you.
How expensive is web hosting?
Web hosts vary widely in terms of pricing and package options. Some of the world’s cheapest web hosts are barely functional, while more expensive options can be overpriced.
GoDaddy is one of today’s most popular web hosts and domain registrars. The company is generally quite user-friendly and promises fast speeds, convenient service, and reliable uptimes. Their pricing packages provide a good idea of how much you can expect to pay for web hosting:
- GoDaddy Shared web hosting: $3.49 per month to $7.49 per month (one free domain with each new signup)
- GoDaddy Virtual Private Server (VPS): $29.99 per month to $149.99 per month
- GoDaddy dedicated servers: $99.99 per month to $299 per month
Since GoDaddy is such a large company, they’re able to charge slightly less than their competitors for web hosting while still offering good service. That’s why GoDaddy’s plans tend to be a bit cheaper than other comparable web hosts.
GoDaddy also likes to upsell you all sorts of added features, including privacy protection options which you may or may not need.
Step 3) Installing a content management system
Once you’ve bought your domain and chosen a web host, you can start to build your website. Your first priority is to install a Content Management System (CMS). WordPress is the most popular free CMS available today.
Note: you don’t have to install a CMS. You can manually upload all your files over CPanel and build your website that way. However, most web developers make their lives way easier by installing a CMS.
Popular web hosts like GoDaddy and many others offer one click WordPress installs through CPanel. CPanel is the back-end of your domain. You will need to use CPanel to edit domain settings, upload files, and perform major changes to your site.
You should find CPanel login instructions in the email your web host sent you after signing up for the service. If you can’t find your CPanel login information, then you can visit [YourSite].com/CPanel to access the platform. You will need your username and password for this step, however.
Every CPanel system is different. Today, many hosts include a one-click install WordPress tool directly on the CPanel dashboard. If you can’t pick out that icon from the dozens of icons in front of you, try typing Ctrl+F to search the page and then type in WordPress to find any potential software installation tools.
If you don’t see a one-click install WordPress tool, then that’s okay. You’ll have to install WordPress using the “famous 5-minute install” method.
How to install WordPress manually
In order to follow the steps listed below, you’re going to need access to your web server (you have access privileges if you have already signed in via CPanel).
- Download the latest version of WordPress
from hereStep 2)
- Unzip the WordPress folder
- Create a database for WordPress on your website. Most CPanels have an application called MySQL Database Wizard that lets you easily create this database. It doesn’t matter what you name the database, but you should name it in a way that identifies your WordPress site. While you’re using the wizard, create a database user with all of the privileges (check off all the boxes when prompted for privilege information).
- Open your unzipped WordPress folder and find wp-config-sample.php. Rename that file to wp-config.php and edit it using a text editor (Notepad works well). You need to change three pieces of information inside that file:
- DB_NAME (Put the name of your created database under the ‘database_name_here’ section)
- DB_USER (Put the username for the created database user under the ‘username_here’ section)
- DB_PASSWORD (Put the password for your database user under the ‘password_here’ section)
Save the file and exit the text editor.
- Upload all WordPress files to your web server. You will likely have to zip up the WordPress folder in order to upload it as a single unit onto your site. Upload the folder into the section of the site where you want your blog – sometimes, that’s the website’s homepage, while in other cases, it’s a section of your site like Website.com/Blog
- : If you uploaded your WordPress folder as a zipped folder, be sure to extract the files to the desired location of your WordPress blog on the site
- Go to your WordPress blog’s URL in your web browser. This is the URL where you uploaded the files from step 5. If you did everything correctly, you’ll see a WordPress installation wizard waiting for you to enter information. Type in the name of your blog, a description, an admin username and password, and the admin email. Once you’ve done that, your WordPress blog will instantly be created.
If you have trouble with any of the steps listed above, then you can find more detailed instructions at the following official WordPress URL: https://codex.wordpress.org/Installing_WordPress
Which web host is the best?
Every web developer has different needs. I can’t say “Web Host X is always better than Web Host Y for everyone” because that’s simply not true for any web host out there today.
However, what I can say is that there are certain web hosts which are perfect for beginners. GoDaddy is one of those web hosts.
Here are a few reasons why I recommend GoDaddy for beginner to intermediate internet marketers and web developers:
- Web hosting plans don’t get much cheaper than GoDaddy (sales can drop monthly web hosting plans to as little as $1.99 per month)
- Fast speeds and minimal downtime
- GoDaddy is both a domain registrar and a web hosting company, which means you can control all of your web properties from a single interface and billing system
- Unlimited bandwidth and unlimited domains on many accounts
- WordPress auto installations means you can avoid the complicated WordPress install instructions listed above
- Strong security and superior protection from spammers and hackers
- State-of-the-art hosting technologies including 4GH Linux hosting
- Multiple packages for VPS, dedicated servers, and shared hosting plans
No web host or domain registrar is perfect. Here are a few GoDaddy disadvantages to be aware of before you create an account:
- GoDaddy doesn’t use CPanel; they use their own custom hosting control panel which offers similar functionality
- GoDaddy supported SOPA/PIPA; in 2011, GoDaddy came under heavy criticism for its support of controversial internet anti-privacy laws. Thousands switched away from GoDaddy before GoDaddy officially switched its stance, which is why many internet users have a negative perception towards GoDaddy today.
- GoDaddy is a massive corporation and they have strange marketing campaigns and TV commercials
Today, GoDaddy web hosting has significantly improved from its early days in the industry. As you might know, GoDaddy started as purely a domain registration service before branching out into web hosting and other areas. The early days of GoDaddy’s web hosting venture weren’t very smooth, which is why some people still have a negative opinion about GoDaddy.
One of the main advantages of working with GoDaddy is that they have a large volume of clients. That gives you two unique benefits: first, it means GoDaddy can charge each client slightly less. And second, it means that GoDaddy can’t afford to have even a second of downtime.
For all of these reasons and more, I strongly recommend using GoDaddy as your web host and domain registrar.