How to register a domain name and get web hosting

Everything you need to know if you want to register a domain or get a hosting service

Index

Creating a website has turned into a fun, DIY process that anyone regardless of their skill level can handle from the comfort of their home. All you need is a computer, internet connection, a few minutes of your time and you can become a website owner. There is just one technical aspect of website building that still remains confusing for many website creators – domain names and website hosting.

Let’s find out more about them, how to get domains and hosting for free and if that’s actually a good idea.

What is a domain name

What does a domain actually mean? A domain name, such as webnode.com, is an internet address or a unique name chosen specifically for your website to help users find it online. Just like you’d give friends your home address to have them stop by, you can give them your domain name to visit your website.

What exactly happens when someone types the domain name into their browser?

The browser starts the process of opening your website by sending a request to the DNS (Domain Name System) database where the domain names are translated into IP addresses.

The IP addresses that computers use to communicate together consist of strings of numbers such as 193.86.73.180. Numbers are ideal for computers, but much more difficult for people to work with. Therefore, people came up with simpler substitutes made up of words – domain names.

Thanks to the IP address, your request gets forwarded to a specific server where your website is stored. This server then sends all the files that make up your site back to the browser and your website pops up.

Learn how IP addresses and domains work

How the Domain name system works in practice.

It may sound complicated, but all of this takes only a moment and most of the time it happens so quickly and smoothly that you’d have no idea there were so many steps happening behind the curtain.

Domain name structure

Let’s take a look at the URL bar in the browser and break down the basic structure of the URL (uniform resource locator). First of all, a URL is not the same as a domain name. The domain is just a part of the URL and, combined with other detailed information, forms the web address which directs the browser to a specific web page.

A real-life example of a simple web address shown in browsers could be:

Structure of the domain name

The URL from our example consists of:

HTTP/HTTPS (HyperText Transfer Protocol / Secure)

It’s a language used for communication or transfer of data over the web. The extra “s” at the end means that your connection with the visited website is “securely encrypted” with SSL certificate (Secure Sockets Layer) – a protocol that allows web browsers and servers to encrypt, decrypt and authenticate data sent over the Internet. So you can trust that the data you share with a website like this won’t get into any unwanted hands.

Most modern browsers don’t show the protocol in the URL bar but they will show a warning if a website can’t be considered secure and it will scare off the majority of visitors.

HTTPS secured website

At the top is the way Google refers to an HTTPS secured website and below that is the way it alerts you about a not secure one.

HTTPS is a must, especially for online stores working with private customer information. If you create your website with Webnode, it will automatically be set up with HTTPS.

WWW (World Wide Web)

The acronym www identifies this web address as a website. This part of the URL also indicates a subdomain and in other cases it can even look like this:
https://www.webnode.com/blog/

Subdomain (Third Level Domain)

A domain within a domain separated from the main domain with a dot. Let’s say you have a website promoting your florist business on a personalized domain prettyflowers.com and decide to add an online store. You’d like the store to be a part of your brand, so it shouldn’t have a completely different domain name. At the same time, you’d like to keep it separated from the business presentation because the content will be different. You can easily solve this dilemma by creating a subdomain such as eshop.prettyflowers.comand base your store there. If you registered your domain with Webnode, you can get subdomains for free.

SLD (Second Level Domain)

This is the actual domain name you’ll be registering. In google.com or facebook.com, the words google and facebook are the SLDs. They are the most prominent parts of domains and usually correspond with brands or website names. SLDs are unique for every domain and can consist of letters, numbers and dashes.

TLD (Top Level Domain)

Domain extension or a combination of letters at the end of the domain structure. There are 3 types of Top Level Domains:

  1. ccTLD – Country Code Top-Level Domains
    • ccTLDs usually consist of two letters and represent a specific country: for example .es for spain, .de for germany. There are a total of 312 ccTLDs. Some of them can only be purchased if you provide proof of residence, but most are publicly available and can be purchased by people from all over the world. They can be used if the website is targeting an audience of a certain country.
  1. gTLD – Generic Top-Level Domains
    • gTLDs include many well-known domains such as .com, .info, or .net. They focus on topics rather than locations. For example, the best-known .com means “commercial,” and .org is intended to represent primarily non-profit “organizations”. Unlike ccTLDs, gTLDs always consist of at least three letters. They’re especially good for global targeting.
  1. sTLD – Sponsored Top-Level Domains
    • sTLDs can be considered a sub-category of gTLDs. Not everyone can use them as they are reserved for a certain type of institution. For example, .gov is intended for authorities, .edu for educational institutions, or .museum is reserved for museums. This restriction limits their use, but on the other hand, sTLDs have high credibility.

A generic .com remains the most popular TLD, but country specific extensions as well as an ever growing number of special TLDs such as .bar, .photo, .wedding are getting a fair share of the spotlight. You can find a complete list of TLDs offered by Webnode here, including the ones you can get for free for the first year.

Root domain

Another important term you can come across, for example when setting up an AdSense account, is a root domain. A root domain is the combination of SLD and TLD, such as Amazon.com, Apple.com. All the pages on your website have the same root domain, usually your homepage.

Path

Shows what exactly you accessed on any website. You might open a page, a file or an image and the path will show which one exactly. In our example, the word “template” at the very end of the web address means you’re on the page listing our website templates.

For the rest of this article, we are going to focus primarily on the SLDs and TLDs since these are the parts of domain people struggle with the most when registering their own domain.

8 reasons why you need a domain name

Anyone can get their own domain name. It’s simple, inexpensive and takes only a moment. But what is a domain name used for and what are the advantages of owning a domain?

Living in a predominantly digital age, we’re used to having all the information at our fingertips. This means that whether you are a freelancer, company owner or just a random person, people will expect to find everything about you online in a few simple clicks. You could just keep a simple profile on social media for this purpose, but having a website with your own custom domain brings many more benefits:

  1. Forms part of your online identity
    • It doesn’t matter what type of a website you’re managing, if you’re serious about it, you’re also serious about the way you present yourself and your brand online. Think ahead and be prepared for when potential visitors and customers look you up. A domain name will be their first point of contact.
  2. Makes your website easier to remember
    • Imagine meeting a potential client by chance and discussing your business. Is the client going to remember the name of your website to look it up later and even share it with others? A good domain makes sure he will.
  3. Appears professional and boosts your brand
    • As a business owner, you want to look trustworthy and a custom domain gives you an immediate and effortless credibility boost.
  4. Allows you to create personalized email accounts
    • Domain based email addresses also have a more professional vibe than a free or generic email services such as Gmail or Outlook.
  5. Can help you with search engine optimization
    • Does a domain name matter for SEO? Given two websites with comparable content and backlinks, search engines will certainly prefer the one with a custom domain because it’s one of the indications that the website is legitimate. So yes, choosing a domain name for SEO makes sense. Although a domain is still just one of the many factors.
  6. With your own domain, you can easily create subdomains
    • You can create any number of subdomains under your domain.
  7. Having your own domain enables the mobility of your presence on the Internet
    • If you decide to change hosting, move to another country or even start using your own server, your domain name will stay with you. This allows you to continue building your brand without having to start over.
  8. Domain is permanent
    • When you register your domain with Webnode, you become the domain’s sole owner. No one else can use your domain. It will remain yours for as long as you pay for its registration.

8 tips for how to pick a domain name

When you register a domain, you are choosing both the SLD and TLD. It’s not an easy process, so here are some handy tips for how to choose a website name:

  1. Keep it short and simple
    • to make sure the domain is truly memorable, keep its length within 14 characters and keep the numbers, dashes or hyphens to minimum.
  2. Make sure it’s easy to spell and pronounce
    • This goes hand in hand with simplicity. Avoid confusing users or forcing them to remember whether to use any special characters or if it’s necessary to write the number in your domain as a numeral or to spell it out.
  3. Try to be unique
    • With over 360 million domain names registered all over the world, it’s understandably hard to find an original one. Short, catchy and meaningful domains that perfectly describe your business are hard to come by and most of the good ones are unfortunately already taken. Still, try to differentiate yourself from your competition. You might want to use your own name, brainstorm a completely original word, an acronym, a combination of words – the way the names Google and Bing were created. Or even use domain name generators.
  4. Use your brand
    • E.g. twitter.com, google.com, dribbble.com. If you already have an established business with a recognizable brand, it makes perfect sense to use the same name for your domain. Brand domains tend to rank better in search results but you’ll have to work on the promotion to make sure that people can easily associate the brand and your products or services together.
  5. Try to think long-term
    • If you decide to change your domain in the future, it will cost you money and SEO rankings. For example, if you sell pizza, it seems like a good idea to register a “toppizzaonly.com” domain. However, if you expand your menu in the future and want to offer Italian cuisine, the chosen domain name could limit you. Don’t let the domain name constrain you and don’t forget your long-term vision.
  6. Consider using a keyword
    • The advantage of a keyword-based domain is that just a quick glance will let people and search engines know what exactly they’ll find on your website. However, keyword heavy domains are used by spammers; so if you decide to go with a keyword in the domain name, it’s best to use just one. Otherwise, you might get picked up by Google’s algorithm that fights keyword-dense domains.
  7. Add a location
    • Including a location might be helpful if you focus on a specific, regional market. Making it clear where you operate will save your customers’ time and push search engines to promote you within your chosen location.
  8. Use a common TLD
    • If you can, go for a TLD that people are familiar with in your country. In the US, people will most likely assume that your domain ends with .com, Italians would naturally go with .it, Germans with .de and so on. If you operate globally, it is best to choose .com as most people are accustomed to it. If you decide to register a domain that’s not too common, you might lose some visitors who won’t remember the correct ending of your domain and instead will search for the most common TLD. This can also be easily prevented by registering several domains with different extensions, pointing all of them to the same website and picking one of them as the primary.

How to register a domain

Domain names can be registered directly through domain registrars or via providers. Domain registrars are companies authorized to directly manage registration of domain names. Providers are intermediaries offering domains for sale but usually cooperating with registrars to perform the actual registrations.

Registering a domain means you and only you will have a right to use it for a specific period, ranging usually from one year to up to 10 years. The longer the registration period you choose, the better the price you will usually get. If you want to keep your domain, don’t forget to renew it in time before its expiration. Otherwise, if your subscription expires, someone else can register your domain. If you decide that you no longer wish to keep the domain for yourself, simply don’t renew it.

The registration process itself is extremely simple and can be done in just a few clicks. Webnode walks you through the entire domain registration process in 6 simple steps without having to leave the website builder.

How much does a domain name cost per year?

Generally speaking, the exact cost of the domain registration depends on the provider and on the TLD.

Domains are usually not available for free. While the price of generic domains such as .com can start relatively low at 2 – 15$ for the first year, special or trendy domains such as .car, .makeup can cost more than 500$ from the very beginning.

Domain prices can also rise with their renewal. You can save a bit of money if you choose a longer time period of registration, but expect a price increase in the future. Make sure to also watch out for hidden fees as apart from asking for a higher renewal price, some registrars can also include special maintenance fees or fees connected to a transfer of the domain to a different provider. Webnode isn’t one of them and you can see the domain prices before the registration.

3 ways to get a domain name for free

If you’d like to cut down on the expenses or even get a completely free domain for your website, there are 3 possible solutions. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each of them.

1) Create your website on a free subdomain

Many first-time website owners want to ease into website ownership without too much commitment. If you need time to test the features and see if people will be even interested in buying your products, a website on a free subdomain is a good solution.

Many online website builders let you create a website on a free-for-life subdomain, but the exact conditions differ from one builder to another. Although some might allow you to build your website for free, when the time comes to publish the site online, they can ask you to purchase a custom domain or at least their premium plans. Others will let you keep the free subdomain indefinitely.

In Webnode, you can launch your website at no cost at all. You don’t need to upgrade to a paid Premium plan or purchase a domain from the start. Your website can go public on a free Webnode-branded subdomain, such as yourwebsitename.webnode.com and can be replaced with your own domain when or if you will be ready for it.

There is, however, some downsides to publishing your website on a free subdomain:

  1. You are not the owner of the subdomain
    • The subdomain is still the property of the website provider. All subdomains are dependent on the main domain. For example, if your provider’s domain expires or gets penalized in a search engine, it could negatively affect your subdomain.
  2. The length
    • The dots and the name of the website provider make the subdomain much harder to remember. Considering that the goal of having a website is to attract visitors and keep them coming back, it’s best to make the whole process as effortless for them as possible.
  3. Trustworthiness
    • Compared to the custom domains, subdomains are deemed less trustworthy. A website on a free subdomain might indicate that it’s brand new or even temporary and therefore much harder to get taken seriously. On the other hand, a personalized domain shows you’re in for the long run.
  4. Search engine optimization
    • A website on a subdomain might be a disadvantage for you in the eyes of search engines. Even in this case, Google might prefer the website with the custom domain.
  5. Brand protection
    • If you successfully build a brand, but still use only a subdomain, it is possible that someone will abuse the situation and register a domain with your brand. Then it will be very difficult or expensive to get a domain with your brand.

Considering both the pros and cons, we recommend building a website on a free subdomain as a part of your short-term strategy. You’ll get away with it at the beginning of your website-owning career, but you should plan to invest in a custom domain name sooner rather than later.

2) Register a free domain extension

When you’re trying to save money it might seem tempting to take advantage of some of the existing country code top-level domains, which are completely free:

  • .tk (Tokelau)
  • .ml (Mali)
  • .ga (Gabon)
  • .cf (Central African Republic)

However, we strongly advise against it. All the warnings mentioned above concerning the subdomains apply here as well. On top of that, free domains are often used by spammers and shady websites and therefore have a very poor reputation. That’s the last thing you’d want to be associated with.

3) Get a free domain name for 1 year

There is one more solution if you’d like to get a free domain and, considering the pros and cons of previous suggestions, this might be your best choice. Many providers, including Webnode, offer a free domain for one year if you sign up for one of the Premium plans. It’s a cost-effective solution where you’ll get access to premium features while lowering the initial expenses connected to website creation.

How to get your own domain name with Webnode

The whole process of registering a domain with Webnode consists of just a few simple steps. Most importantly, you don’t have to take care of any technical settings, those will be done automatically. Just go through the steps outlined below and your website will be displayed under your brand new domain name in 24 hours:

1. Create an account and pick a template

Go to webnode.com and register using your email address, Facebook or Google account. Then pick a template that you like the most and that fits your overall requirements.

Choose your template

2. Edit the website

Make the template your own. Upload your pictures, rewrite texts, set up titles and descriptions or fill the online store with products. Once you’re happy with your website, it’s time to register your own domain.

How to register domain

In the project detail, click on the “Register new domain” button.

Domain checkout is accessible through the Settings section of the website builder as well as through the project administration.

In the Webnode website builder, click on Settings.

In the Webnode website builder, click on Settings.

3. Search for available domains

If you haven’t decided on a domain yet, you’ll see two suggestions based on the name you gave your site. If you want to customize your own domain name, first check its availability to see if it isn’t already registered by someone else.

How to see if a domain name is available? You can easily check if it’s taken by typing the domain name into the search bar. If the name and the extension are available, you can register them right away. If they are in fact taken, the system will automatically offer you other available website domain names.

Choose your domain name

How to check domain name availability? Type the domain name into our free domain search, then press Enter or click on the search icon. If you find a desirable domain name, click on Register.

4. Choose your plan

To get a free domain for the first year, choose one of these Premium plans – Mini, Standard or Profi. Each plan offers several advanced features and also differing amounts of available storage and bandwidth, which are part of your hosting.

Select the package that suits you best and click

Select the package that suits you best and click Purchase to continue.

5. Fill in your contact details

This contact information identifies you as the owner of the domain for both technical and legal reasons, so make sure you enter it correctly and use an active email address.

Fill out the form and provide accurate personal information to identify you as the domain owner.

Fill out the form and provide accurate personal information to identify you as the domain owner. Click on Proceed to checkout.

6. Select a payment method

In the last step, pick from the selection of payment methods and once the payment is sent, you can sit back and relax. Webnode’s customer support team will contact you by email if they need more information from you to finalize the registration process.

Select the payment method and click on the Purchase button

Select the payment method and click on the Purchase button to complete your order.

During the last step, you can consider adding privacy protection. The required contact details you’ve just filled in are collected by ICANN and stored in a public database. To protect your privacy and avoid receiving spam, you can opt for the private registration feature which hides your publicly available contact details and replaces them with Webnode ones while you remain the owner of the domain name.

To activate the private registration, click the Protect my privacy box.

To activate the private registration, click the Protect my privacy box.

How to get an email with your domain

Once your newly registered domain is up and running, create a domain-based email address and enhance your professional appearance. You can do it from the administration of your website project and it’s even simpler than the domain registration as you just need to fill in a simple form.

A form for setting up an email account with a domain name.

A form for setting up an email account with a domain name.

What is web hosting?

What is the difference between hosting and a domain? While a domain is basically the name of your website, hosting is like an actual home where your website lives. Hosting a website means that you have a space where you store all the code, files, images, texts and everything else that makes up your website.

Do you need web hosting?

Having a domain name alone is not enough to run a website, you also need web hosting. You can manage the hosting and all its technical aspects yourself or you can leave all that to the web hosting service and the hosting provider.

What is a hosting provider? It’s a company that offers the hosting services. A provider guarantees that your website will be always accessible when someone types your domain into the browser.

In most cases, it’s better to use one of the professional hosting services. So the question is more about which web hosting service to choose and how much to pay for it.

How does web hosting work?

Websites are stored and hosted on specialized computers called servers. There are many different types of hosting. The most common and also the most affordable option chosen by many personal or small-sized business websites is called shared hosting. It’s used by websites with modest requirements allowing them to share the server space with other similar websites. The technical details of shared hosting are usually taken care of by the host.

What is shared web hosting and how to get it for free

How web hosting works

On the other end of the spectrum is dedicated hosting, suitable for large websites with huge traffic volume. These websites have special technical requirements and need their own server space. Dedicated hosting allows for more hands-on control and flexibility but requires technical knowledge and tends to be more expensive.

How can you find out who is hosting a website?

Do you already have a website and would like to find out where it is hosted? Or are you researching the competition and need to find out who their hosting provider is? There are free online tools that allow you to do it in just a few clicks:

  1. Type “hosting checker” into the search engine.
  2. Click on one of the offered results at the top.
  3. Type the domain name into the search box of the selected tool and confirm by clicking the button.
  4. You will see all the available information about its hosting.
Search box to find out who is hosting any domain.

Search box to find out who is hosting any domain.

How to get free website hosting

Free stuff is great when you need to save money, but beware that it always comes hand in hand with limitations. Free hosting might suffice for recently created websites with no special requirements. What should you be mindful of? Compared to the paid plans, crucial features such as storage and bandwidth are restricted and with some hosts your website might end up sporting a flashy advertisement compensating for the free nature of the hosting.

But first, let’s take a closer look at the most important terms:

What is website storage and how important is it?

Simply put, this is how much space your website takes on the server where it’s saved. The more storage space you have available, the more content such as pictures and files you can add to your website and the more emails you can store in your mailbox.

What is bandwidth in web hosting?

The amount of data transferred between your website and the visitor at the time of their browsing. It includes all the pictures, texts and files on your website. The number of visitors as well as the number of pages they visit both impact the bandwidth. Higher bandwidth allowance guarantees that your website will efficiently display all its content even when accessed by many visitors.

Before choosing free hosting, consider how much space and traffic you’ll need to make sure the website runs smoothly. If your provider allows it, you can always start small with the free hosting and upgrade to a paid and less limited plan as your site grows.

Host a website for free with Webnode

Webnode provides free, safe and reliable hosting for all websites created with Webnode website builder. More importantly, Webnode hosting can grow along with your website. When you find out that you want to add more content or when you’ll need to accomodate more traffic, you can upgrade to one of the Premium plans.

Features and benefits of Webnode premium plans

Features and benefits of Webnode premium plans

Security is non-negotiable and Webnode employs HTTPS and SSL protection to make sure that communication between browsers and servers is safe and all the data exchanged is protected according to international standards. Concerning your website performance, Webnode’s reliable hosting makes sure that your site is up-and-running 24/7 on a stable network connection. With Webnode, you won’t have to worry about the hosting or domain maintenance at all.

So, how to get the free hosting from Webnode? Simply register, pick a template to create your website and your hosting will be automatically set up.

FAQs about domains and hosting

When do I renew my domain name? How can I buy a domain name permanently?

A domain can’t be purchased permanently. Its registration has to be renewed every year. However, you can subscribe to an automatic domain renewal for several years in advance. This guarantees that your domain name will be renewed on a yearly basis and you won’t have to worry about its expiration.

When does a domain expire? What happens when the registration of my domain name expires?

If you do not renew your domain registration before the end of the subscription, it will automatically expire. A domain can fall into a protected quarantine after its expiration and remain there for a limited period of time while only you, as its former owner, can renew it. The length of this quarantine depends on the type of the TLD and is not available for all domains. Renewing a domain from a quarantine requires an extra fee. Once the quarantine is over, anyone can register the expired domain.

How can I reserve a domain name without buying it?

You can’t reserve a domain name without actually purchasing it. However, this is a small investment that will bring you numerous benefits. Consider purchasing domain names with different TLDs to protect or expand your brand in the future.

Do I need a website to register a domain name?

In general, no, you do not need a website to register a domain. You can register the domain first and create the site later on or not at all. You can also keep the domain name solely for the purpose of protecting your brand or if you want to sell a desirable domain for profit. However, this depends on the provider. In Webnode, you’ll need to create a website first to register a domain but you can then choose to move the domain to another website anytime.

How can I buy an existing domain name?

You can try to reach out to the domain owner. Some people make a living from just buying and selling domains, not using them for any websites. In that case, you can often find a page that offers your domains for sale. There are also services mediating the purchase of already registered domains.

However, there is no guarantee that an owner will want to sell their domain. Or that they will demand a reasonable price for it. When buying a domain that has already been registered, always check its past and make sure that it is not penalized. Just type in “Check domain history” into your search engine and you’ll find several helpful tools for this.

Can I buy a domain separately without hosting? Or do I have to buy a domain along with hosting?

You do not need web hosting to register a domain. If your preferred domain name is available, you can purchase it with a domain registrar. The domain is then yours and no one can create a site under the same domain. The hosting can be purchased later, once you decide that it’s time to create your website.

Still, buying a domain and web hosting from the same company is easier, as is managing and restoring both services within the same interface. Webnode therefore offers domains and hosting together.

You can also buy a domain and web hosting from two different companies, but you will need to direct your domain name to the web hosting company by adjusting its DNS settings. This might be technically challenging.

Can I move my domain name to a different domain provider?

Yes, it is your right as the domain owner to use any service you want and to transfer your domain name anytime you want.

If you’d like to transfer your domain to Webnode, there are detailed step by step instructions that you can follow.

Can I change my web hosting provider without changing the domain?

Yes, even in this case, you own the domain name and can change its settings to point to any hosting provider.

And that’s it, we hope that this article helped clear some of the confusion and answered your questions on how to create a free website with domain and hosting.