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How To Buy The Best Web Hosting And Domain For Your First Business Website

“How To Buy The Best Web Hosting And Domain For Your First Business Website” is part of my ongoing Business 101 series for women (and others) looking to start their first business or a new business. See the other existing articles here

An apple display screen with SiteGround Web Hosting pulled up on the screen.

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Okay, so you’ve researched your business nameregistered it with the state (if applicable) and set up your business bank accounts. All the foundational pieces are in order, so it’s time to start building your website. The first thing you need to do is sign up for a domain, web hosting and a website builder. 

If this is the first time you’re building a website, you’re in the right place. I’m going to walk through the process of setting up, designing and publishing your website (over multiple articles), explaining it step-by-step. You won’t need to have any background in website building to understand what to do next.

Just remember that the first time you do anything is generally the hardest. And anything you’re not sure about, you can Google. But to get you rolling, let’s walk through the process. 

A FEW DEFINITIONS

You’re all smart cookies, but for the sake of overcommunication, let’s get some definitions out of the way. Your domain is your URL – where your website will live. My domain is lrg-creative.com, and I bought it separately through GoDaddy, but you can often buy your URL through your chosen web host.

 

Web hosting is where the behind-the-scenes information of your website is kept. This includes the servers that hold all the info for your website – all the files, backups, configurations, settings, code, etc. I use SiteGround as a web host, but Bluehost and Dreamhost are also examples of web hosts. 

 

And finally, your website builder is the platform that helps you organize, design and arrange your website. Some website builders and web hosts are the same company, like Squarespace, for example. But they don’t have to be the same. My website builder is WordPress, which came as a package with my web hosting. Weebly and Wix are two more common website builders I see people using a lot.

 

To use an analogy, if your website is like a written document, your domain is the document’s file name (how people identify and find it), web hosting is where you store the file (on your desktop, in cloud storage, on a thumb drive or exterior hard drive, etc.), and the website builder is what program you used to create it (Microsoft Word, Google Docs, Adobe Acrobat, etc.).

how to purchase A DOMAIN AND WEB HOSTING

Since I’m familiar and happy with SiteGround, I’m going to walk you through the process of purchasing your domain and hosting plan through them. 

First, take a look at their plans. They offer three packages – StartUp, GrowBig and GoGeek. Each plan lists features like how many monthly visits it can support, the amount of storage you’ll get on their servers, how many websites you can build and what tools you’ll have access to. 

When you’re just starting out, I would recommend going with the cheapest package or the next one up if you already know there are specific tools you’ll need. You can always upgrade your package at a later date. (And SiteGround specifically is known for their incredible 24/7 customer service.) I personally went with the GrowBig web hosting plan.

Choosing your web hosting term length

Once you select a plan, it will take you to the next page, where you confirm your plan and select how long you want to pay for hosting up-front. SiteGround offers $3.99/month hosting for its basic StartUp plan and $6.69 for its intermediate GrowBig plan for the first year, with the caveat that you’ll have to pay for the whole year upfront. That makes StartUp $47.88 for the first twelve months, and GrowBig would be $80.28 for the first twelve months. Here’s a table of what each contract term will cost you for StartUp and GrowBig, as of May 2022. 

SiteGround Web Hosting Prices

TermStartUp PlanGrowBig Plan
1 month19.99/mo ($239.88/yr)$29.99/mo ($359.88)
12 months$3.99/mo ($47.88/yr for the first year)$6.69/mo ($80.28/yr for the first year)
24 months*$9.99/mo ($239.76 for the first two years, $119.88 for each year)$14.99/mo ($359.76 for the first two years, $179.88 for each year)
36 months*$10.49/mo ($377.64 for the first three years, $125.88 for each year)$17.49/mo ($629.64 for the first three years, $209.88 for each year)

Note that these prices are promotional, which means that if you sign up for a 36 month (3-year) plan, you’ll be locking in a lower rate for all three years, whereas the 12 month promotional rate expires at the end of the 12-month term. So even though it costs more to pay for a longer term upfront, if you’re serious about your business and you can afford it, you save money in the long run. 

No matter which way you go, you’ll always have the option to renew your domain when the term is coming to an end. You’ll only lose ownership of your domain name if you stop making payments or cancel your plan before the end of the term. I recommend putting your web hosting and domain payments on auto payments.

choosing a domain

After you select your plan, you’ll move onto a step where you can buy a domain. You don’t have to buy your domain through your web host, and there are a couple of considerations for why you might or might not. 

Domains can vary in price depending on where you buy them, and some domains may be available for purchase only through specific services. For example, when I signed up for lrg-creative.com, it wasn’t available through SiteGround, but I could buy it through GoDaddy. I paid $26.99 for the first two years. 

The drawback, however, is that I couldn’t transfer my URL to SiteGround for 90 days. Why would you transfer your domain to your web host? Well, it’s great for managing your site in one place, instead of multiple places. Sometimes certain web add-ons or services will require you to get into your domain settings and tool around a bit, so having your URL and hosting in one place just streamlines things. If you like to keep things simple, aren’t confident in your technological skills or struggle with organizing log-ins and data, it makes sense to buy your domain through your web host.

Security and privacy add-ons

A SiteGround screenshot showing security and privacy options to add to the web hosting plan.

Protecting Your Privacy

There are two more options you’ll want to add to your order. The first is Domain Privacy (available wherever you buy your domain), which keeps your personal domain information private. When you register your site, your name, address and phone number are publicly available on the WHOIS listing for your domain. This is similar to the way a house you buy is listed with your local land office under your name as a matter of public record. Domain Privacy uses a third-party name and address to hide your information from your WHOIS listing so the public can’t see it, the same way you might use a P.O. Box to obscure your street address. 

Why would you want to hide that information? Well, 64% of all people under the age of 30 (as of 2021) have been harassed online, as have about 50% of 30-49 year olds, according to Pew Research. And 71% of adults in the LGBTQ+ community say they’ve been harassed online. For $24 a year ($2/mo), you can choose how much information about your site people in general have access to, and that seems like a (smart, savvy) good deal to me. Plus, through SiteGround, your first year of Domain Privacy is only $12, or 50% off ($1/mo).

Protecting Your Site

The second option you should consider if you purchase through SiteGround is SG Site Scanner. This is a monitoring service that checks your site daily for irregularities and protects against data theft, hacking and malicious software. It can prevent data loss and your site going down due to third-party interference, and the service alerts you the moment it finds any problems. 

You don’t have to buy SG Site Scanner – there are other third-party services available to help keep your site secure. But for me, I have other things I need to focus my time on other than researching a bunch of third-party programs to figure out which one works best in comparison to SG Site Scanner – so I opted to pay for the service through SiteGround. The added bonus is that because of SiteGround’s reputation for good customer service, if I encounter an issue with SG Site Scanner or if my site gets hacked, I can call one number and get assistance with both. 

HOW MUCH DOES BUYING A DOMAIN AND WEB HOSTING COST?

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Doing everything as I’ve written above – buying a new domain, going with basic hosting through SiteGround and adding on security packages: 

GETTING STARTED BUILDING YOUR SITE

Once you’ve purchased your domain and web hosting plan, you’re ready to start building your site. If you went with an all-in-one web host and website builder like Squarespace, you won’t need to worry about choosing which website builder to use – it’s already built in. But if you go with SiteGround, GoDaddy or another web host, you’ll usually have a few options. 

SiteGround offers seamless WordPress and Weebly installation. They also offer WooCommerce for sites that will sell products. (WooCommerce works within WordPress, so you’ll need a WordPress site to use it). 

A SiteGround screenshot showing the web builders available with their web hosting plans.

Benefits and Drawbacks

The benefit of something like Weebly is that it’s super simple to use. With drag-and-drop functionality, you can design your website while you build it, using intuitive controls and a library of buckets and features to choose from. That means you can build a site quick, painlessly and have your business up and running in a fraction of the time it would take to build a WordPress site. 

But there’s a catch. WordPress is better in the long-term if you need more than just a few pretty landing pages for your site. It takes longer to learn, but WordPress gives you way more control over your site as it grows.

WordPress: A Pain to Learn, but Worth It

WordPress powers up to 43% of all the websites on the Internet, including 38% of the top 10,000 highest-ranking sites. And the reason it’s so popular, despite having a learning curve, is due to that possibility and capability. 

Plug-ins are what make WordPress run – they’re a-la-carte functionalities you can add to your site as you go. You can add plug-ins to help with SEO, website building, security, site optimization, ecommerce needs, organization and more. Which means that WordPress grows with you as your business does. There’s always a way to improve your site with a new plug-in, or add functionality you didn’t have before. 

So the headache of learning how to navigate and work with WordPress is all upfront. Once you know how it functions, you’ll always be able to find solutions to future problems. And this is where sites like Squarespace, Wix and Weebly fall a little short. 

Pros and Cons of Super-Simple Site Builders

To make it really easy for beginners to build websites on these platforms, they had to take away the ability to customize, upgrade and go as deep under the hood as WordPress allows. So while a website hosted on Squarespace can look effortlessly elegant, you may find that as your business grows, you just don’t have the capability to customize it how you need – especially if your business is online-based, compared to a local business that just needs a website to drive people to a physical location.

A screenshot of an elegant Squarespace sample website.
Squarespace excels at creating beautiful sites if your needs are simple.

For example, I built a website for my friend Kelsey, who’s a hairstylist. A site like Squarespace or Weebly is perfect for her needs, because all she needed was a site where people can see gorgeous examples of her work, browse rates for specific services, and have a way to contact her. She doesn’t need any ecommerce ability because she’s not selling anything online. She doesn’t need a website capable of handling dozens of blog posts by sorting them into categories, linking them up with dropdown menus, or willing to give her SEO tips as she writes, because she’s not interested in blogging. 

The more your site needs to do, the better off you are with WordPress.

The more content your site will have, and the more functions you need your site to handle – from blogging to eCommerce to multi-level navigation – the better off you are with WordPress. Just make sure you set aside some time for several days to watch tutorial videos on getting started, and look into a plug-in like Elementor that can convert the WordPress builder into a drag-and-drop design style comparable with Squarespace or Weebly. 

We’ll talk more about plug-ins and designing a website in the next article. 

A woman on a laptop sitting next to a sleeping yellow labrador.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What name should I use for my domain?

It should be as close to your business name as you can get. If you were lucky enough to plan ahead when you formed and named your business, you may have already checked to see if your ideal URL was available. (If you haven’t yet named your business or formed an LLC, start here for naming advice.) If your business is already formed and your ideal URL is taken, don’t worry about it. For one thing, URLs are easy to change, so if that domain becomes available down the road, you can grab it.  For two, you can get pretty close to your name and people are used to seeing URLs that don’t match businesses exactly.  Try these variations to find a URL that suits you: 
  • Use initials if it makes sense. For example, if your business is Rachel Chicago Hair and Makeup, try RachelCHMUA.com (hmua = hair and makeup artist) or RachelHandM.com (Rachel H&M).
  • Abbreviate something. For example, if you’re a wedding photographer and your company is called Solstice Wedding Photography, try SolsticeWeddings.com or SolsticePhotos.com.
  • Try humor. If your business is something that allows for humor, you could always go in another direction with a funny URL. For example, if you’re a divorce attorney, you could try ShotgunDivorces.com or SpringDivorces.com. If you’re a tutor specializing in SAT prep, try PSATgenius.com or UniversityUnicorn.com.
  • If you can keep it short, add a dash. This is what I did. It works because there are two words: lrg-creative. It takes me all of five seconds to spell it out for someone verbally. So if your perfect URL is taken or way too expensive – KatieR.com – but adding a dash lets you get close – Katie-R.com – go for it. Just don’t do this if your URL is long or difficult to understand. Call up your best friend and read it to her over the phone to be sure.
  • The shorter, the better. A long URL just isn’t as memorable as a short one. Best practice is to keep it under 15 characters before the “dot.” For reference of what 15 characters looks like: This-Is-Fifteen. That’s it. Do your best to get as close to that as you can. So if you have a choice between a longer URL that’s all spelled out and a shorter version – PrincessPartyPackages.com or PrincessBash.com – go with the shorter one.
  • If your business will rely heavily on search traffic, try to get a keyword in. If you’re a local coffee shop, get coffee in the URL so out of towners can find you easily. Or if you’re a niche blog, try to get your topic in the URL so Google will know what your site is about. Not every business needs to stress about this – there are tons of ways to drive traffic to your website besides search.

Does my domain need to end in .com?

A .com in your URL is definitely the top choice. But personally, I think it’s fine if you use something else, assuming you can’t get your URL with a .com ending. However, I would stick with these four:

  • .com
  • .co
  • .org
  • .net

All the other endings are just too unfamiliar to be memorable. Even the bottom three will take some getting used to if people type them in by hand. Having .com in your URL is still regarded as the most authoritative and trustworthy top-level domain. But if you have to settle for .co or .net, nobody’s going to think your business is super shady just because of that.

Can’t I just start a free WordPress site for my business?

I wouldn’t. Here’s why: 
  • A free WordPress site (or any site you can build for free) will be super slow, hurting your page-load times and your search rankings.
  • The web address looks unprofessional and amateur – not like a business you want to give your money to.
  • You won’t have access to plug-ins or the site customizations you may need.
  • If something goes wrong, you also won’t have access to a dedicated customer service team.
  • You can’t monetize free blogs/sites with ads, and if you’re planning on making money using affiliate marketing, you’re at a disadvantage due to the search rankings mentioned above.
  • Free sites often snag you with the fine print. You may realize too late that you’ve given away permission for the service to use your content for their own purposes.
  • Finally, a free site provider can shut down your site at any time, for any reason. And you’ll have nothing to show for it. 

You definitely get what you pay for here, so set yourself up to succeed. On the plus side of things, however, web hosting for your business is tax deductible.

And for less than $8.20 a month to get your business started, I’d say it’s well worth the expense.

If you’ve made it all the way to the bottom of this article and you’re about to buy a domain, comment here what your URL will be so everyone who stops by can see it and support you. And if you have other questions, let me know

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Hi, I'm Lana.

I’ve spent 16 years in advertising, and now I’m using that knowledge to help creatives grow their own small businesses. Will that include you this year? 


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