Digital Marketing 101 Part 3: Hosting and Domain Registration

An often-forgotten detail when planning a website, hosting and domain registration is one area that not too many people fully understand, and thus, will end up spending more than they should.  There is an almost never-ending list of options for both services, and the prices charged vary greatly while the services themselves remain largely similar. 

Understanding some of the more cost-effective options in this space is crucial, but you must also ensure that the provider and service level you choose (for hosting, specifically) gives you what you need to properly operate your site.

First, let’s use a quick analogy to define and understand exactly why hosting and domain registration are necessary for your website:

  • Domain: The address of your website.
    Just like the address on your mailbox, your domain is how people find you.  We see them as soandso.com, but in this analogy, think of is as the numbers on the “mailbox” of your digital property.
  • Hosting: The plot of land your house is built on.
    If you want to build a house, you need some land to do it on.  This is where hosting comes in as the foundation that your website will be built upon.  Generally, with hosting, you want to make sure you buy a plot of land for your website that is prone to problems and provides you solid support – so it’s important to shop around.
  • Website: The house
    Once you have your address and plot of land, it’s time to build your house, and in this analogy, the house is your website. 

As you can see, all three items are necessary for deploying a site on the Internet, but often, the three services are bundled together in service packages that come with bloated pricing.  To avoid this, there are some considerations to keep in mind for domains, hosting services, and of course, building your website.

Domain Registration Considerations:

When it comes to registering your website domain, remember that all domains are registered with the same organization called ICANN, so you will be buying the domain registration from an authorized reseller that will then register the domain with ICANN for you.  Therefore, there is no tiered service when it comes to domain registration.  Domain registration is domain registration, but the differences in registration services offered include:

  • Information Privacy for the registrar
    When you register a domain, you are required to provide information including your name (or business name), email address, phone number, and even address. This is normal, but it can put you at risk of spam if that information is left public.

    While more and more domain registrars are including registration privacy at no additional cost, there are still many that try to charge extra for it – and substantially so.  Beware of these domain resellers and, if you see this, mark it as a red flag because it’s likely they are also unnecessarily up charging you elsewhere, as well.
  • Cost
    As we discussed, domain registration is domain registration. There is no “VIP level registration” or any tiered offerings when it comes to registering.  It’s all the same…but the pricing on domain registration can be wildly different ranging from $12/year to well over $150/year.  It’s important that you understand that this range exists so you can avoid spending unnecessarily.

Recommendation:  For simplicity of management and renewals, plus the free inclusion of domain registration privacy, Google Domain Registrations really cannot be beat.  It is convenient as many people already have a Google account that they can use to manage the domains (and if not, setting one up is free and easy), and the cost is a flat $12/year.

Hosting Considerations:

Whereas domain registration is generally the same no matter who you use, hosting requires a bit more thought and planning to ensure you’re getting exactly what you need to effectively power your website.  Some things you should consider when seeking out a host include:

  • Cost
    While different hosting services provide different services and levels of performance as part of the packages they offer, there still are hosting providers that gouge users unnecessarily. In many cases, you can identify the hosting providers to avoid by looking at their marketing:  If it seems they are marketing to people who know nothing about setting up a website, they are probably charging prices that take advantage of that assumed ignorance.  To make sure you’re making an informed decision, be sure to search around for “Best Hosting Services” and evaluate a handful of lists ranking services each year.
  • Performance
    Your website’s host will affect a lot of how the website performs including the speed in which it loads and the tools available to control your website. If your website is going to be built with a Content Management System and requires a database to house your content, you will need a host that can facilitate this. We’ll cover the needs for various website platforms in the next lesson, but the most important takeaway when searching for a host is to match the host providers offerings to your needs and not the other way around because there are plenty of options.
  • Security
    There are many things that you need to do in order to secure your website and the data contained within it (especially if processing transactions or capturing client information in any way), but in terms of hosting, one thing to look out for is the inclusion of an SSL, or Secure Sockets Layer, Certificate. With an SSL, the data transferred via your site is encrypted which protects you and your visitors, but many hosts charge extra for SSLs while others include them at no additional cost. Further, you do have the ability to configure an SSL on your own but beware that certain hosting providers restrict it so you are forced to invest in their SSL product.  When searching for a host, look for those that are compatible with Let’s Encrypt! SSL Certificates as they are free (and somewhat easy) to install on your own.

Recommendation: If your website does not require a database (more on this in the next Digital Marketing 101 lesson: Selecting a Website Platform & Design), then you likely can find free hosting for your site through popular services like GitHub. 

If you have a site that requires more (including database, SSL, and high performance with a reliable customer support team), SiteGround has been atop of web developers lists in recent years. They offer plans that provide speed and performance, built-in SSL for no additional cost, and are comparably priced to competitors who offer less.

In our next Digital Marketing 101 lesson, we’ll take a look at the third pillar of website deployment:  The website itself.  This lesson will focus on the platforms that you can use to power your website, as well as considerations necessary to effectively plan the design of your site.  Keep an eye out for the next lesson next week.  

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