If you’ve been following along in our Starting Your Website series, you will have now found the perfect domain name and are ready to buy your domain name and sign up for a hosting plan. Buying the domain name simply means you own the website name (www.yourwebsite.com) and no one else can use it. You get to keep this name for as long as you want, as long as you renew it each year.
Website hosting means you pay another company to “host” your domain name online where your website will live so people can actually visit it. Think of the domain name as the address and the host as the actual building. I recommend purchasing the domain name and hosting together so it’s all under one account, and most hosts will give you a discount for buying both at the same time. In this guide I’ll walk you through the easiest ways to buy your domain name as well as looking at some of the top hosting providers (and one not so top provider).
Choosing Your Website Hosting Service
After deciding on your domain name, your next important step is signing up for a hosting service. There are hundreds of different options out there, and I was completely overwhelmed when I first started. However, there are a few website hosts who regularly get good reviews for their price, speed, and reliability.
My Preferred Website Host: Siteground
I’ll cut right to the chase: I highly recommend Siteground and personally use them for all of my websites. They have amazing customer support, great speed and reliability, and are very reasonably priced. If you’ve read my SEO guide, you’ll know that website speed is one of the most important factors considered by Google, and Siteground regularly ranks at the top for their hosting speed. They can scale up your hosting plan as your traffic grows, so they are a great fit for any website size. Siteground’s customer support is second to none, and I love that they have an online chat feature so you can reach someone right away at all hours of the day.
If you are just starting out with website hosting, I recommend Siteground’s middle “GrowBig” package, which is $5.95/month for the first year. Yes, it’s really that cheap for top notch hosting! The GrowBig plan has everything you need to get started and will last you a long time, including plenty of website space, free backups, free SSL, and more. You can also buy your domain name through them while signing up for an additional $14.95/year.
WPEngine is another very well reviewed hosting provider. The ‘WP’ stands for WordPress, and they are a WordPress focused provider which is great for our purposes. They include a lot of key features that some lower tier hosts charge for, including SSL and backups. I especially like that WP Engine includes a Staging environment for free, which is a premium feature at most other hosts.
Staging means you can make a copy of your site and test out changes like new plugins or themes on the copy. If everything works, you can copy it to your live site with one click. If the changes break something on your copy site, then you can simply delete it without anything impacting your live site! When doing any serious website work I recommend hiring a developer, but it’s nice to know you can play with various updates and changes without worrying about breaking your live website.
The downside of WP Engine is they are noticeably more expensive than some other providers like Siteground. Their basic Startup package starts at $35/month, and their middle tier is $115/month. However, you can reduce this price a bit by pre-paying for the entire year up front which gives you 2 months free, and your can get 20% off by using my signup link. They also include access to the Genesis Framework 35+ compatible themes, so you can offset some of this cost by using one of their themes.
Bluehost and Hostgator
Two other well reviewed providers are Bluehost and Hostgator. Both are more towards the budget side, with Bluehost’s entry plan costing only $3.95 a month, though it’s definitely worth it to get the middle or upper plans, which are both currently $5.95/month for the first year. Hostgator is comparable, with their entry plan costing $2.75/month, and their middle and upper plans at $3.95/month and $5.95/month respectively.
If you are taking your website seriously, which I assume you are if you have made it this far into this post, then spend a little extra and get the middle or upper tier plans. Exact features vary from host to host, but the key things you are looking for are 1) Free SSL certificates, 2) Free Backups, 3) One Click WordPress Installs, and 4) Ability to host multiple websites on one account. Every host discussed above includes these in their middle plans and higher, so you really can’t go wrong with one of the 4 options above (though again, my personal favorite is Siteground).
Website Hosting Companies to Avoid
Listen, I don’t like to bad mouth anyone. We all have bad days and sometimes aren’t up to our best. However, this doesn’t apply to website hosting and I have absolutely no problem telling you to avoid GoDaddy like the plague.
You have probably heard of GoDaddy because they advertise more than most of the other hosting companies. However, I have personally had multiple terrible experiences with them when I first began my blog journey. Their support was difficult to get a hold of, often making me wait up to an hour to get someone on chat if I got someone at all. If I finally did reach someone, they simply tried to upsell me on a new, more expensive plan and did not help me fix my problems. They also charge for basics like SSL which most other companies give you for free. Let my pain be a lesson and I strongly recommend you sign up for Siteground or one of the other mentioned hosts on day 1 so you don’t have to go through the pain of migrating your site off GoDaddy. Seriously, friends don’t let friends use GoDaddy.
Buying Your Domain Name
To make life easy, I recommend buying your domain through whoever you get your hosting with. The price should be about the same (around $10-15 per year for a .com domain), so it is one less login you need to keep track of. If you want to buy your domain name separately from your hosting, I can recommend NameCheap.com. However, you will need to connect the domain name with your hosting after buying both of them. Most hosts have guides on connecting your website hosting with a domain bought through NameCheap. Also, you will need to remember to setup auto-renew so you don’t lose your name! To avoid this, make sure to have auto-renew enabled or you can buy multiple years of your domain name at once so it won’t expire.
Next Steps After Website Hosting
At this point you should now have your domain name connected to your website hosting, congratulations! Next is finding and installing a great WordPress theme and writing some awesome content for your new site. If you are looking to have all this information in one place, complete with checklists, eBooks, and all the best tips, then be sure to sign up for my Blogger Course!
Thanks for reading! I hope this article has helped you to understand more about where to start when you step into the world of creating a website and a blog! If you have any questions please leave them in the comments.
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