It’s my personal belief (and practice for the most part) that you should always register your domain name independently of your web hosting company. Here, I’ll discuss what I think is one of the one of the best (and cheapest) domain registration companies around.
Note: This post contains affiliate links. Read my affiliate disclosure policy for full details.
Cheap Domain Name Registration: A Tutorial for Online Newbies
I’ve been registering domain names with Namecheap.com since 2007. They have some of the most affordable rates around, and I’m in love with their easy-to-maneuver control panel.
Domain: Definition Of
In case you don’t know, a domain is simply the name of a web presence – that you may or may not start someday. And this is why a domain is not exactly a website, although the terms are used interchangeably.
The Difference between a Domain and a Website
As stated above, you can register a domain (name), but not turn it into a website (ie, by not getting web hosting, for example). For example, I have several domain names that I’ve registered, eg, SeoCopywritingClass.com. But, I don’t have a dedicated website for it (at the moment, it points to – ie, is directed to – my SEO copywriting class on SeoWritingJobs.com.
So just know, a domain name is different from a website. You need a domain name to have a website; in fact, it’s the first step in getting one.
Why Bother to Register a Domain Name if You’re Not Getting a Website Yet?
There are a few reasons you might want to do this, eg:
You think of a great name: If you have a great idea for a business and you think of a name that would be perfect, you might want to register it before someone else does. You can check to see if a domain name is available by just logging onto Namecheap.com (see instructions in the next section).
Short names: Shorter domain names tend to go quickly, so again, if you think of a good one and it’s not taken, you might want to register it.
Control over your own name: If you have a common name (or even a not so common one), and you want to register it, if it’s available, I’d advise getting it. Even though my name (Yuwanda Black) is not common, I registered it. Nowadays, I use it for my personal article directory, but I’ve been thinking about turning it into my personal “lifestyle” site.
I live a somehwat unconvential life (mobile career/living in a foreign country as an American), so the possibilities for this are endless. As this highlights, the web is such an integral part of our lives these days that literally having control over your own name virtually just may come in handy one day.
You’re just not ready: If you know you’re going to start a business and are going to get a website, but for whatever reason are just not ready to start yet, you can still register a domain name. Let’s say one just comes to you out of the blue one day and you log onto Namecheap and see that it’s not taken yet. Register it – and it’ll be there for you for when you are ready to start.
These are just a few of the reasons you might want to register a domain name even if you’re not ready to turn it into a website yet.
How to Actually Register a Domain Name
Go to Namecheap.com and enter a domain name in the search box on the home page, ie:
I went and typed in GetMyDomainNameNow (just a test name) and hit the red button to the right. It will search the web and tell you if the domain name you typed in is available, for how much, and offer alternative extensions if the one you want is taken.
Click to “View Cart” button, and you’ll be taken to the next page, which looks like this (again, click image for larger view). See your total is there, but before you check out, see the “WhoisGuard” highlighted section? What is this, you may be wondering.
When Registering a Domain Name, Do You Need WhoisGuard Protection?
First, WhoisGuard is a privacy protection service that prevents people from seeing your name, address, phone number and email when they do a Whois search on your domain. It puts its address information to the public Whois instead of yours to protect you from potential spam and even identity theft.
How Much Does WhoisGuard Protection Cost?
FYI, the cost is usually less than $2 per year. Namecheap usually gives you the first year free when you register a domain name, as the graphic above shows.
Did You Know That Anyone Can Find Out Personal Info About You From Your Domain Name?
You can go to WhoIs.com and see who owns any domain name. In addition to seeing personal info (name, address, telephone number), you can also see when a domain name was registered, when it expires and who it’s hosted by.
ICANN requires updated information on all domain names registered, and if you work from home and enter your home address and DON’T sign up for WhoisGuard Protection, this information will be visible to anyone who researches your domain name.
So unless you have, for example, a PO Box or other business address that’s not associated with your home, I advise signing up for WhoisGuard Protection. If you do sign up for it, the domain name registrar puts its address information in the personal info sections; keeping yours private.
See, here’s what you see when you do a search on WhoIs.com for this site, which has WhoisGuard Protection.
Once you select whether or not to go with WhoisGuard Protection, then you just complete the checkout process. If you don’t have an account with Namecheap, it’ll take you to a screen where you create one. If you already haven an account, you’ll have to log in to complete your purchase.
Then, you’re done. You are now the proud owner of a domain name, which is the start of your “being mobile” online empire! 🙂
Ok, now that you know how to register a domain name and all the important information surrounding the process, let’s discuss why you register it separately from your host company.
Why Register a Domain Name Separate from Your Web Hosting Company?
“Why not just bundle them together?” you might be thinking, especially as most web hosting companies offer both services (web hosting and domain name registration).
To put it succinctly, if for any reason you ever need to switch web hosting companies, it will make life ever so much easier. And not for nothing, it’s usually cheaper too. Most web hosting companies charge anywhere between $10 and $15 to register a domain name. With Namecheap, you can register one for less than $1, depending on the extension you choose (eg, .website, .online, .site).
You should know that the longer you register a name for, the cheaper it will be (the same with web hosting). But if you’re cash strapped, just start with one year, which is the least amount of time you can register a domain name for by the way.
What Is a Domain Name Extension?
Domain names end in different ways. The most common are .com, .net, .org, .biz, .info, .us, .cc, .bz .tv, .edu.. These are known as domain name extensions, and there are many more of them. Extensions are used to identify organizations by type, e.g., .edu for education (schools, colleges); .org for nonprofit organizations; .us for firms located in the U.S., et cetera.
Top-level extensions (eg, .com) are always going to be the most expensive while you can pick up lower-level ones for literally pennies at Namecheap. See?
You can try to get a top-level domain name extension, but it’s not the be all and end all it used to be. I have several sites that end in other extensions, eg, NewMediaWords.biz (my online writing company site), and FreeAdsSell.info (a site I set up for a popular ebook I sell).
The web has grown to the point where people don’t care whether the site ends in a .biz or .info or .net; all they care about is the info on the site. FYI, some companies will register all extensions of their name. However, you only need one.
Now here’s what happened that really brought home to me why you shouldn’t register your domain name with the same company you use to host your site.
My Domain Name Nightmare Story
In 2010, a company I was doing business with falsely accused me of copyright infringement. You can read that whole sordid tale here. I get the ticks just looking back over that post.
However, I’ll always find the silver lining in any situation and that nightmare underscored for me the need for diversification as a web-based entrepreneur. And really, this is true no matter what kind of business you operate – online or off.
Why I Switched from Bluehost to HostGator
I fell out with Bluehost when the whole debacle described in the link above happened. I had intended to move away from them altogether, but I never got around to moving all of my sites – and now that I’m no longer madder than a one-legged cat in a room full of mice, I’m glad I never got around to it.
I discuss why in the section entitled “Web Hosting Companies: A Monopoly?” below.
FYI, most hosting companies will move one site for you for free. That’s what happened when I moved this site from Bluehost to HostGator. And thank goodness, because it has hundreds of pages and is way beyond my technical skill.
I’ve been with HostGator since 2010, when I moved my main site (this one) away from Bluehost. Bluehost is owned by Endurance International Group. They also bought HostGator in 2012. Who are they and why is this important? Read on.
Web Hosting Companies: A Monopoly?
According to Wikipedia, Endurance International Group (EIG), formerly BizLand, is a web hosting company. The company was founded in 1997, and is headquartered in Burlington, Massachusetts. It achieved its size by acquiring a large number of smaller companies, which it continues to operate under the original brand names.
Many report service going down by companies that were independent and then bought by EIG. And as a webpreneur, it just makes me nervous to think of one company being in charge of so many what used to be smaller, independent web hosting companies. It’s almost like a monopoly, which has never boded well for the “little guy” (ie, you and me).
Online Entrepreneurs: Why Diversification Is So Important
You don’t want all of your income coming from one source, or to have all of your resources housed under one roof. It’s why I:
(i) Have more than one stream of income: I write and publish my own lines of fiction and non-fiction ebooks; I develop and market e-courses; I am an affiliate marketer; and I still write content for clients as a freelance writer; and
How I Came to Know about A2 Hosting
With all of that being said, I’m still happy with the customer service I get from HostGator and haven’t had any problems with them, but I have several domain names parked. When I go to make the next one live, I wanted to go with a web hosting company that’s not under the EIG umbrella. That’s how I found A2 Hosting.
FYI, at any given time, I have about a dozen sites up and running; most are for affiliate products, but this is my main site and I moved it away from Bluehost immediately when that whole debacle with that backpage software guy happened back in 2010.
It’s Incredibly Easy to Have Your Site Yanked Offline, If …
It’s amazing how easy it is for some one to have your site taken offline – if you’re with the wrong web hosting company. That’s because, all some of them require is a simple email.
FYI, here’s A2 Hosting’s take-down policy; it’s very similar to HostGator’s. Note that a proper procedure has to be followed. You have to file an official DMCA notice;* fill in your real information and send it to a dedicated department. Someone can’t just willy nilly fire of an email and have your site taken offline.
*A DMCA take-down notice is a notification written by someone to a web hosting company letting them know that someone is infringing on their copyright in some way. It asks the web hosting company to ask the website/blog owner to remove the copyrighted work(s).
How to Switch Web Hosting Companies
Switching hosting companies is akin to moving from one house/apartment place to the next. You’re giving your domain name a new “home address.” You do this by telling it which new address (ie, “NameServer”) you’re moving to.
Following is how easy it is to switch from one hosting company to the other when your domain is name registered separately from your web hosting company (via Namecheap.com). Note: Click graphics below for larger view.
Entering Your Domain NameServer Info
Log into your Namecheap account and click on “Domains,” and the “Manage” button of the domain you want to move to a new web hosting company. That’ll get you to the following page, where you’ll just type in your NameServer information, which you get from your new web hosting company.
FYI, here’s how to find HostGator (my preferred hosting company) NameServer info.
How to Find HostGator NameServer Information
When you purchase hosting from HostGator, you’re going to get two emails from them. One is a “Welcome” email and the other will contain important account info. Access the email that has your account info in it. You will find a link to your HostGator Control Panel, as well as your NameServer info. This is what you’ll enter into the spaces highlighted in yellow in the above graphic at NameCheap.
OR, you can …
Log into your HostGator Control Panel and click on “Server Stats” from the left-hand bar. The following screen will pop up. The yellow highlighted portion is your HostGator nameserver info.
Once you transfer your pages over – which you should have backed up on your computer or through a backup cloud service like Carbonite – your site will be live with your new hosting company usually within 24 hours; although some can take 48 hours (this is rare).
Now see that wasn’t so hard, was it? 🙂
Keep Your Blog Up & Going (and Earning)!
If your domain name was registered with your web hosting company and it went down for some reason, you’d have no choice but to wait until it was back up again to get back online.
But when your domain name is registered independently of your web hosting company, and you have backup of your site’s files (which you should at all times), then you could be back up as soon as you signed up with a new host company. And that’s the beauty of keeping them separate.
About Domain Name Ownership
As stated above, a year is the least amount of time for which you can register a domain name. But as long as you pay the renewal fee each year, it’s yours forever. Namecheap will start sending you reminders two to three months out from when your domain name is about to expire.
They’ll continue to do so every few days to a week until it expires.
About Domain Name Expiration
You usually get a grace period to renew your domain name when it does expire. According to ICANN* rules, once your domain expires you’ll have an Auto-Renew grace period of anywhere from 0-45 days. This is followed by what’s known as a 30-day Redemption Grace Period.
At the end of this time, you will not be able to renew your domain name, and it will be released b the registrar and someone else can buy it.
I always renew mine during the week they expire. For a site you know you’re going to have or a long time, register for 5 or 10 years, this way, you not only get the cheapest rate, you don’t have to worry about annual renewal.
FYI, ICANN is “a nonprofit organization that is responsible for coordinating the maintenance and procedures of several databases related to the namespaces of the Internet, ensuring the network’s stable and secure operation.” Think of it as a governing body for the web.
One final thing before we wrap this up …
Can You Register a Domain Name for Free?
Many web hosting companies, eg, Bluehost, will sometimes run specials where they’ll allow you to register a domain name for free — IF you sign up for hosting with them. And, it’s usually only for the first year. After that, you’re charged somewhere the neighborhood of $15/year to renew it. Not a lot, for sure, but it’s not free.
There is no way to register a domain name for free. Usually, it’s bundled with web hosting, for example, so you still have to pay something.
P.S.: What do you want to know about registering a domain name?
Leave your question(s) in the comments section below, and I’ll get back to you.