What is WordPress and How Does It Work?
A Beginner's Guide To Learning WordPress

what is wordpress how it works

Dale McManus

Co-Founder & Web Developer

Jun. 22, 2018


Hey, my name is Dale! My partner Alex and I have helped tens of thousands of people build beautiful websites around the world. In this simple, step-by-step guide, you’ll learn about the world’s most popular content management system (CMS), WordPress. Let’s dive in!

  • Level of Expertise:
  • Time To Complete:
    20 Minutes
  • What You Get:
    Working Knowledge

For the record: It’s super important for us to keep this site 100% free for you and 100% high quality. To help us do that, we’ve partnered with some of the products we recommend and earn a commission if you buy through our links. Read our full disclosure and partners list here.

If you’ve looked into website platforms at all, you’ll know that there are several you can start a website with and WordPress is at the top of most lists. Today, we’re going to cover what is WordPress and how it works.

As always, we have a video guide for this available on our YouTube Channel and below:

If you liked the video and want more tutorials on creating a professional website you can also subscribe to our YouTube channel!

Pressing onward…

What is WordPress?

wordpress org homepage

At its core, WordPress is open source software you can use to build your website or blog and publish it on the internet.

It’s a particular kind of software called a Content Management System (CMS), which is basically a tool that makes it easy to manage important parts of your website – like content, colors, and contact forms – without needing to know any programming.

Created all the way back in 2003 as a collaboration between Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little, over the years it’s gained a huge following and now has an amazing community behind it.

That community of software engineers and designers from around the world contributes not only to the core WordPress code, but they also help the platform by making plugins that let you extend the functionality of your website and themes that let you quickly and easily change its look and feel.

With the help and support of all those people, WordPress has become one of the most popular website publishing programs in the world – 30% of the internet is powered by WordPress; that’s a lot of freakin’ websites!

Best of all, it’s completely FREE to use!

For all these reasons and more (see below), WordPress is a fantastic platform for beginners looking to build their first – or 100th – website.

How does WordPress work?

Since the earliest days of the internet, websites have been built using programming languages like HTML, PHP, and CSS to format text, lay out pages, display images, collect contact information and so on.

Your web browser then reads this code and translates it into the web pages and apps that you use every day.

But there are tons of people like you (and us) who don’t know a thing about programming and really don’t want to (it’s so hard to do!).

That’s where CMS software like WordPress comes in.

In just a few minutes, you can install WordPress on your web server and start adding all the pages, pictures, text, and buttons you want – with just a few clicks, without writing a single line of code.

Don’t believe us?

Checkout our WordPress Tutorial for the step by step and see for yourself just how easy and awesome WP is!

Who uses WordPress?

katy perry wordpress website

Years ago, when WordPress was just getting started, it was mostly just a tool for creating simple blogs, which were mostly just personal journals back then (not the super helpful resources and engines for generating income that they are today).

Thanks to the help of all those software engineers constantly making improvements and expanding functionality over the years, you can create just about any kind of website you can imagine with WordPress.

Kinds of Websites Built with WordPress

  • Blogs
  • Portfolios
  • Online Resumes
  • Forums
  • Business Websites
  • eCommerce Stores
  • Membership Sites
  • Social Networks

Basically, if you can dream it, WordPress can help you build it!

And WordPress isn’t just for beginner website builders like you, a ton of famous blogs, Fortune 500 companies, news outlets, and celebrities use WordPress every day.

Popular Websites that Use WordPress

If you’re looking for even more inspiration, check out the WordPress Showcase to see even more top sites using the platform.

Why use WordPress?

It’s one thing for big corporate websites, blogs and celebrities to use WordPress – that’s strong proof it’s worth using.

So is the fact that 30% of the internet is powered by WordPress

But what about you, the beginner just getting started?

Why should you use WordPress?

Here’s why:

WordPress is Free and Open Source

Like we mentioned above, WordPress is open source and it’s free.

That means three things to you:

  • There are tons of people constantly working to make WordPress better
  • You can get started on the cheap (you’ll just need to pay a little bit for hosting).
  • It’s easy to customize WordPress to make it exactly the way you want it.

WordPress Is Extensible

Even if you aren’t a software developer, you can quickly and easily customize your website with WordPress’ huge list of themes and plugins to change the entire look of your website or make it work with other tools like MailChimp and Google Analytics.

Themes let you change the look and feel of your website; you can choose from over 11,000 free and paid ones to make your website look exactly the way you want it!

Plugins change how your website functions. With over 55,000 to choose from, you can easily add contact forms, shopping carts, photo galleries and more to your site.

WordPress is SEO Friendly

Right out of the box, WordPress includes most of what you’ll need to make sure your website is Search Engine Optimized so it can be found in search engines, which is crucial to your website’s long-term success (and income potential).

Plus, there are tons of theme and plugin options to help make optimizing your website easy!

WordPress Is Easy To Install

As WordPress has become more popular, website hosting companies have lent a hand by making it super simple to install WordPress.

Nowadays, most web hosts will either offer to preinstall WordPress for you or give you tools that let you do it yourself with just a few clicks – so you can have your website up and running fast!

WordPress Is Flexible

Like we mentioned above, WordPress can be used to build just about any type of website – it’s a solid, constantly evolving platform by itself and the themes and plugins can make it do just about anything you want.

But another big plus for WordPress is that you build your website all online (it didn’t use to be that way!).

Wherever you are in the world, as long as you have an internet connection, you can work on your site.

WordPress is Easy to Use and Learn

With WordPress, you don’t need to hire a web designer every time you want to make a small change to your site.

You don’t need to hire a web developer every time you want to add some new functionality.

If you know how to use basic tools like Google Docs or email and can click buttons, you can build and run a WordPress site.

WordPress Help is Always a Few Clicks Away

But as you grow, you might run into a few snags or want custom features you can’t quite find the right plugin for.

If that’s the case, you’ve got options!

Because WordPress is so popular, it’s easy to find help with any issue you have from tons of WordPress specific:

  • Blogs
  • Forums
  • Youtube Tutorials
  • Facebook Groups
  • Web Developers
  • Website Designers

WordPress Lets You Control Your Content

Lastly, WordPress lets you control your own content.

Other platforms like Squarespace or Wix limit what you can do with your website and lock you into using their services on their terms.

With WordPress, you can not only tweak all the text, images, buttons, etc., you won’t ever have to worry about your website getting shut down because a company closes or claims you’ve violated their terms of service.

Speaking of which, we should probably clear something up you may be wondering about…

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org

As you’ve been learning about creating your own website and the WordPress platform, you’ve probably come across “WordPress.com” and “WordPress.org.”

Kind of confusing, we know. Here’s the difference:

  • WordPress.com is a for-profit, paid service that uses the WordPress.org software to let you create simple websites using their platform; it’s completely free (no hosting fees) and easy to use but you lose most of your flexibility and control.
  • WordPress.org, aka “self-hosted WordPress,” is the free and open-source CMS software that you can install on your own hosting to create a website that’s completely yours.

Most of the time, when we say “WordPress” we mean the self-hosted WordPress.org software.

And even for beginners, we highly recommend going that route.

While WordPress.com lets you create a free website with their web hosting, several catches:

  • Your website can be deleted at any time if WordPress.com feels you’ve violated their TOS
  • You can’t monetize with ads
  • You can’t use plugins
  • You can’t use your own theme
  • You don’t own your domain name (instead of “your-name.com” you’ll get “your-name.WordPress.com” which looks unprofessional)

With WordPress.org, you download the software to host it yourself, which lets you:

  • Use plugins and themes
  • Use your own unique domain name
  • Monetize anyway you want
  • Completely customize your website

All it takes is a little bit of money for hosting and some extra work to build the way you want, but trust us, that’s well worth it!

How to Create a WordPress Website

If you’re looking for an easy-to-use tool to help you build your website or blog (without learning to code), WordPress is for you.

With tons of plugins, themes, and worldwide support, it’s the go-to for just about anyone looking to create a website!

We hope you found this intro to WordPress helpful – if you’re itching to get started building your own site check out our WordPress tutorial to get started ASAP!

What is Web Hosting and How Does It Work?
A Beginner's Guide To Understanding Web Hosting

what is web hosting featured image

Dale McManus

Co-Founder & Web Developer

Jun. 20, 2018

Hey, my name is Dale! My partner Alex and I have helped tens of thousands of people build beautiful websites around the world. In this simple, step-by-step guide, I’ll explain what web hosting is, why it’s important, and how to set it up. Let’s dive in!

  • Level of Expertise:
  • Time To Complete:
    20 Minutes
  • What You Get:
    Working Knowledge

For the record: It’s super important for us to keep this site 100% free for you and 100% high quality. To help us do that, we’ve partnered with some of the products we recommend and earn a commission if you buy through our links. Read our full disclosure and partners list here.

What’s up, Internet!? Today we’re going to be answering the question of what is web hosting and going over a little bit about how it works.

As always, we have a video guide for this available on our YouTube Channel and below:

If you liked the video and want more tutorials on creating a professional website you can also subscribe to our YouTube channel!

We’ll let you know about some great places to sign up for web hosting in case you’re looking to start a website for your blog, portfolio, business, or whatever else you’re dreaming up.

Let’s hop into the article…

What is Web Hosting?

To help you understand what web hosting is, let’s walk through an example.

Imagine you just came up with a new business idea, say to sell blue widgets, and you want to open up a store somewhere in your town.

You can register store’s name, get a logo, even make a few widgets.

But none of that will matter unless you rent a physical space to set up your shop, and that’s what web hosting is all about.

Web hosting is just a service where you’re able to rent space on the internet, fill it with all your files and media (your digital “goods”), then open your doors by publishing your website live to the world.

When you start a website, all your text, videos, photos, buttons, etc. have to be stored physically somewhere on a web server – basically a commercial grade computer that’s connected to the internet 99.9% of the time (unlike your laptop, for example).

Web hosting companies have buildings filled with these servers and people to keep them running,

They’ll even provide you with design platforms, customer support, security, and all sorts of useful tools to make creating and sharing your website easy.

When learning about what it takes to start a website, be careful not to confuse buying web hosting with buying a domain name.

Basically, a domain name is just an address where your shop/website will be set up.

Web hosting is like the land and infrastructure that lets you set up that shop and make it accessible to anyone in the world.

And your website is like your actual shop, with all the goods you sell inside.

So if you get a domain name without hosting, you’ll just see a page that says “parked” – all you have is an address, but it doesn’t lead anywhere.

And if you buy hosting without a domain name, then you’ll have a place for people to go, but they won’t be able to find it.

We wrote a whole post that goes in-depth on domain names, how they work, and how to pick a good one for your website – if you’re interested check that out here.

Types of Web Hosting

When it comes to building websites, there are a few different types of web hosting you’ll see, based on the kinds of web servers used and what your skills/needs/budget are.

  • Shared Hosting
  • VPS Hosting
  • Cloud Hosting
  • WordPress Hosting
  • Dedicated Hosting

While all these types of servers will act as a storage center for your website – holding all your website code and data while letting the world access it – each offers a different amount of storage capacity, control, speed, and reliability.

When you’re starting out, you want to stick with shared hosting as it’s the lowest cost option and has everything a small starter site needs.

But as you grow, you’ll want to look into other types of hosting to be able to support increases in traffic, so let’s take a look at the different types of web hosting so you’ll know a bit about the benefits of each.

Shared Hosting

With shared hosting, your website is placed on one server with a bunch of other sites – from a few hundred to thousands of other sites.

All of these websites share the server’s resources, including memory and processing power, which leads to cost savings that the hosting company then passes on to you.

The disadvantage of this is that the server will struggle to keep websites that run a lot of code or get a lot of traffic online.

But as we said, when you’re starting out this won’t be an issue and the ease of setup and low cost are more than worth the tradeoffs.

Shared Hosting Pros

  • Lowest cost (best place to start)
  • Fairly simple to use (need to learn a few things but no super-advanced tech knowledge needed)
  • No messing with server options (you can tweak a few things you might need but most of the server-side of things is set up for you)
  • Built-in control panel (so you can make technical changes with buttons/form fills not command lines and code)
  • Server maintenance is taken care of for you

Shared Hosting Cons

  • Very little control over server configuration (you have complete control of your website, just not some very technical parts of how your website’s server operates)
  • Not able to handle large volumes of traffic

Virtual Private Server (VPS) Hosting

Virtual private server hosting (VPS) uses technology to digitally divide one server into multiple “virtual” servers.

In this setup, your website code runs as if it’s on a separate physical server from any other website, though in reality, it’s actually sharing the physical resources (memory, processing power) with a few other websites (much fewer than shared hosting).

The benefit of this is that you can customize your website backend a lot more to better handle complex code and higher traffic.

But, taking advantage of this requires technical expertise and you’ll pay more for this.

As your website grows and you can afford to pay someone to help you with the coding stuff, this can be a helpful upgrade to maintain a great experience for your visitors (fast loading times, smooth functioning).

VPS Hosting Pros

  • Root access to your server (do whatever you want with it)
  • Dedicated server space – no one else to share with
  • Traffic surges on other people’s sites won’t affect yours
  • Very scaleable to meet more traffic to your site

VPS Hosting Cons

  • More expensive than shared hosting
  • You have to know how to do technical server management tasks

Cloud Hosting

Cloud hosting is sort of a variation on VPS and Shared hosting.

Instead of having your site on one physical server along with a bunch of other sites, your site is run form a “cluster” of servers that make up a “cloud,” along with a bunch of other websites that also share some resources on that server cluster.

The benefit is that if one of the physical servers that your website is on has a problem or gets overloaded, your website traffic is automatically sent to another server in the cluster.

This gives you some of the benefits of VPS hosting in that you’re not as limited by what other people’s websites are doing or just one servers’ resources.


  • Server failures don’t affect your website
  • Little downtime
  • Resources are allocated to your site where and as needed to keep it running smoothly
  • Can more easily scale to handle more traffic than other hosting


  • More expensive than shared hosting
  • You don’t have full control over the server setup

WordPress Hosting

WordPress hosting is a kind of shared hosting built specifically for WordPress websites (imagine that!).

These servers are specifically configured for making WordPress sites perform like a dream and you often get technical support that can also help you with WordPress problems (whereas with other hosting, they can help you with server/other hosting problems but if something is broken in your WordPress site they’ll often leave you at “good luck”).


  • Low cost
  • Good performance for WordPress sites
  • WordPress customer support


  • Only good for WordPress sites
  • Usually more expensive than simple Shared hosting

Dedicated Server Hosting

Dedicated server hosting offers maximum control over the server your website is stored on and run from – you’re exclusively renting an entire server, no other websites will be hosted on it.

This provides you maximum ability to optimize your website’s performance and handle a lot of traffic, but you’ll pay for it.


  • Complete control over your server
  • Highly reliable and secure


  • This is the most expensive type of hosting (usually it’s only used by large businesses)
  • You have to have advanced technical knowledge of server setup/maintenance

Website Hosting Costs

Web hosting is one of the many costs of starting a website.

Typically you’ll pay a monthly fee, with discounts for paying months in advance (sometimes up to 3 years).

Prices vary from host to host but here’s what you can typically expect to spend:

  • Shared Hosting: As little as $3.95/month to $10/month
  • Virtual Private Server: $20-60/month plus customization costs (assuming you pay someone to do that for you)
  • Dedicated Server: $80+/month including hosting and customization/maintenance costs.

As we mentioned above, shared hosting is more than enough to get started; as your website gets more traffic and holds more files, photos, etc. you’ll want to consider upgrading (but should be making more than enough money from the site to cover the additional costs).

Bonus Tip: You can actually host a simple website for free on Dropbox or Google Drive (this is mostly for fun, definitely not the way to create a pro website).

Web Hosting features to look for

We’ve got a really in-depth look at what to look for in web hosting in our best web hosting services post.

Definitely go check that out if you want the full low down!

Here are a few bullet points for a brief overview:

  • Speed/Uptime – how fast will your hosting be able to load your website and how often will it be unavailable (if at all)?
  • Traffic/Bandwidth – are there any limitations on how much data your host will share/how much traffic your site can receive?
  • Support – how good and available is their technical support?
  • Features – email accounts, FTP access, hosting for multiple sites, an easy to use control panel – do these things come included?
  • Cost – obviously; does the amount hosting costs makes sense for what you can spend?

Best Web Hosting Companies

So now that you know the basics of web hosting and how much it costs, how do you choose the right hosting company for your website?

There are dozens of factors to consider when choosing the perfect web hosting company.

When you’re just starting out most of that will be confusing to figure out and the reality is most hosts will be fine for what you need.

If you really want to get into the details, check out our Definitive Guide to the Best Web Hosting Services!

If you don’t want to spend too much time on this (so you can get to building your website faster), here are a few of our favorite web hosts.


hostgator website hosting page

While 1&1 and Bluehost are great, HostGator is definitely our favorite hosting service.

HostGator hosts over 8 million other domains and is a solid company for beginner websites with everything you need to get set up fast, including a one-click WordPress installer.

And with a 99.9% uptime guarantee and an industry-leading 45-day money back guarantee, you can trust you’ll be happy with their hosting service.

You can use our free tutorial to get started with HostGator!


bluehost website hosting page

With over 2 million websites built on Bluehost, they’re a great company to work with for your first website. Bluehost sets itself apart in a few ways, including a free domain name when you sign up and daily backups of your site (even on their lowest-priced plans).

With great support and a solid track record, you’ll be just fine by choosing Bluehost as your first hosting provider. They also provide you with a free domain name and SSL certificate.


hostwinds what is website hosting service

Hostwinds is a newer company to the web hosting game, and we appreciate that.

Especially because they’re looking to find their edge by providing better customer support than the bigger companies you’ll find (many are fine, some of their support is notoriously bad though).

They nail all the web hosting fundamentals you’ll need in a reliable service – solid uptime, good speeds, all the basic features.

Their user interface could be better but if you’re the type who likes to support the little guy (which we do in a lot of cases), you’ll want to give them a look!

What is web hosting FAQs

How are domain names and hosting related to each other?

Domain names and web hosting are technically separate, but they work together and most web hosts also offer domain name purchasing/hosting.

Basically, the “domain name system” is a gigantic address book that translates domain names humans use (“createaprowebsite.com”) into IP addresses that web servers/browsers use (

Without a domain name, people basically can’t find your site; without hosting, your site won’t be available for people to reach over the internet.

Do I need a domain name and hosting to build my website?

For sure!

Buying a domain name gives you the right to use it for as long as you keep paying the renewal fees – but it doesn’t give you any way to create/store/change website files and make them available over the internet.

Hosting does all that.

BUT with just hosting, people would have a complicated time reaching your site (they’d have to remember the IP address, access the right domain name servers… it’s basically not possible except for a few technical wizards and even for them that’s a waste of time).

You can get your domain name on its own from one of the best domain name registrars, then get hosting from one of the best web hosts.

Or you can just get your domain name from your web host when you sign up with a host like HostGator (sometimes they offer a free domain name for one year, then it’s usually more expensive to renew your domain with them compared to the domain name registrars).

Can I move my website to another web hosting service without changing my domain?

If you don’t like your first choice for web hosting for whatever reason, you can definitely change hosts with a bit of time, knowledge, and elbow grease.

Without getting into the full details of how to migrate a website (that’s a post in and of itself), basically you can copy your website files from your old web host to your new web host to take care of that end of things.

Then, you can either transfer your domain name to your new web host, or (if you got your domain name from a domain name registrar separate from your hosting), you can just “point” your domain name from your old hosting servers to your new ones.

There’s More to Creating a Pro Website than Hosting…

Hosting is an essential part of building a website and after reading this post you’ve got the basics under your belt.

But there’s still a lot more to learn!

So if you found this post valuable, go check out our best web hosting companies post to learn more!

What is a Domain Name? | Complete Guide [2020]
A Beginners Guide to How Domain Names Work

what is a domain name featured image

Dale McManus

Co-Founder & Web Developer

Jun. 11, 2018

Hey, my name is Dale! My partner Alex and I have helped tens of thousands of people build beautiful websites around the world. In this simple, step-by-step guide, you’ll learn what a domain name is, why it’s important, and how to register one. Let’s dive in!

  • Level of Expertise:
  • Time To Complete:
    20 Minutes
  • What You Get:
    Working Knowledge

For the record: It’s super important for us to keep this site 100% free for you and 100% high quality. To help us do that, we’ve partnered with some of the products we recommend and earn a commission if you buy through our links. Read our full disclosure and partners list here.

What’s up, Internet!? Thinking about creating your own website? If so, you’ve probably wondered “what is a domain name?” at some point during this journey.

As always, we have a video guide for this available on our YouTube Channel and below:

If you liked the video and want more tutorials on creating a professional website you can also subscribe to our YouTube channel!

Pressing onward…

Many beginner users confuse domain names with URLs, websites, hosting, and other services.

So today, we’ve got a beginner’s guide to help you figure out what a domain name is, how domain names work, how to choose the right domain name for your website, and how to buy a domain name once you’ve found one.

Let’s get into the content…

What is a Domain Name?

Domain names are (ideally) easy to remember words that are used to find and go to websites. In simple terms, a domain name is like an address for your website.

You can think of the internet as a series of intersecting streets that go all around the world. On this world map, your website is your house. In order for anyone to find their way to your house, they’ll need an address. That address is your domain name – the thing people type in their web browser’s URL bar to find you on the streets of the internet.

How Do Domain Names Work?

To get a little more technical (not too much we promise), the computers on the internet, from that laptop your reader is using to the servers that host your website has an IP address, which is a series of 4-12 numbers separated by dots (.) that let’s computers identify and find each other.

For example, here’s the IP address for Create a Pro Website:

And if you’re looking for a few seconds of amusement, you can find your computer’s IP address by going to Google here.

While these numbers are great for machines, it’d be hard to remember 12 digits for every website you want to go to. That’s where domain names come in.

With a domain name, you can visit a website by typing in an easy to remember word or phrase, like createaprowebsite.com.

What happens when you enter a domain name into your browser?

how domain names work infographic

When you enter a domain name into your browser to find a website, your computer sends a “lookup request” to a global network of servers called the Domain Name System (DNS).

The DNS is a massive database of millions of registered domain names, each associated with a particular website’s nameserver and IP address.

When the DNS gets your lookup request, it finds the nameserver associated with the domain name you’re using; this is usually managed by your hosting company.

For example, if you use HostGator to host your website (like we do), your nameservers will look like this:



When the nameservers get your lookup request, they look up the IP address for the website you’re looking for then forward you/your computer to it.

It seems complicated, sure, but thanks to the hard work of a lot of really smart people, all of this takes place in less than a millisecond after you hit enter.

Go technology!

Parts and Types of Domain Names

Domain names are read from right to left, just like normal text (if you speak English).

To the right, you’ll find a general description of the domain name, this is the “Top Level Domain.” And to the left, you’ll find a specific description of the domain name, the “Second Level Domain.

Think of it like a person’s name – their family name to the right/at the end, their personal name to the left/first.

TLD: Top Level Domains

There are over a thousand TLDs available, but the most common you’ll see are .com (which make up over 50% of the internet), .org, .net, .edu, and more recently .io and .co.

The official list of TLDs is maintained by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) – which includes gTLDs and ccTLDs.

gTLD: Generic Top Level Domains

gTLDs are the one’s you’re used to seeing – .com, .co, .net, .org, etc.

They can be used by anyone, anywhere in the world (technically so can ccTLDs but it doesn’t make much sense to use a country-specific TLD if you’re not in that country).

In most cases, there aren’t any restrictions on using gTLDs for any kind of site, but generally there’s some intent behind each; .com is meant for “commercial” sites, .org for non-profits, .edu for educational institutions.

A couple gTLDs are restricted – don’t try to create a .mil (“military”) or .gov (“government”) site yourself – if you can even find a way you’ll probably have a couple of men in black knocking on your door ASAP.

And some gTLDs will cost more than others; for example, depending on your domain registrar, a .com domain will cost you anywhere from $8-15 bucks a year, while a .co is usually $20-25.

ccTLD: Country Code Top Level Domains

ccTLDs use two letters based on international country codes to identify sites in specific countries, like .uk for the United Kingdom and .jp for Japan.

They’re generally used for companies looking to do business in those specific countries to let people know where they are, since everyone can use gTLDs like .com and .org anywhere in the world.

Other types of domain names

Second Level Domain

A second level domain (SLD or 2LD) is the part to the left of the dot that usually refers to the specific business or organization who owns the website you’re going to.

In our case, our SLD is “createaprowebsite.”


Subdomains let you have some separation between different parts of your site without having to buy a whole new domain name; eg in “example.createaprowebsite.com” “example” is a subdomain of our website (not real, you won’t find anything there lol).

For the most part, you won’t need to mess with these.

Sometimes it makes a bit of logical sense to have that separation, eg “developers.facebook.com” will take you to their knowledge base for people who develop apps using Facebook’s API.

But Google treats subdomains as entirely separate websites – meaning you have to work to get your main domain ranking AND your subdomain ranking if you want both to show up in search engines.

So it’s usually better to just use pages and internal linking to keep different parts of your site separate.

Free domains

You can get free domain names from website builders like WordPress.com, Squarespace, Wix, etc.

They’re similar to subdomains since they use a special prefix (“example.”) in front of a standard second level/TLD that the builder uses for all their sites (eg “wixsite.com” in Wix’s case).

These can be handy if you want to do some of your website setup before paying for a premium website builder plan, but it’s definitely not a pro look.

Domain Name Examples

  • createaprowebsite.com
  • harvard.edu
  • wikipedia.org
  • dublin.ie
  • spain.info
  • jal.co.jp
  • reddit.com
  • redcross.org
  • alverno.edu
  • leadpages.net

Domain Name vs URL

When talking about domain names you might also hear about “URLs”

What is a URL?

What’s the difference between a URL and a domain name?

A domain name is usually part of a larger internet address called a URL.

The URL goes into much more detail than a domain name – adding information about the specific location on a website and how you interact with it.

What is a URL?

A Uniform Resource Locator (URL) is the full address of a website or other online resource (things like photos or downloadable PDFs).

Using the URL of this post as an example, the three basic parts of a URL are the protocol identifier, the domain name, and the path: https://createaprowebsite.com/what-is-a-domain-name/

what is a url structure

Protocol Identifiers

To continue our house/roads metaphor, the protocol identifier describes the way you’ll get to the house/website – a car or bus for a house, “http” or “ftp” for a website.

The most common protocol identifier you’ll see is “http://” or “https://” (which is a secured version of http). Those are how web browsers usually reach the various parts of a website.

As you get deeper into your pro website experience, you’ll also learn about other protocols like “ftp://” – which is used for securely uploading and downloading files for your website.

And you probably use SMTP every day – that’s how emails are sent!


The path is the specific folder or page on the website you’re going to.

If your domain name is your house’s address, the path is the specific room in the house you want to go to.

URL Examples (Domain Name Bold)

  • https://www.harvard.edu/about-harvard/harvard-glance
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Wide_Web
  • https://www.jal.co.jp/en/information/
  • https://dublin.ie/whats-on/
  • https://www.leadpages.net/templates

Domain vs Website

A website is a collection of web pages grouped together under one name: the domain name.

So a website is like your house and (again) the domain name is its address. Domain names get associated with a website through a registration process; you’ll need to register a domain name before anyone can use it to get to your site.

Anyone can register a website with a company called a domain name registrar.

Our recommended hosting company, HostGator, is also a domain name registrar because you can purchase your domain name through them at the same time that you purchase a hosting package.

While you can buy and register a domain name without a website, you can’t have a website without a domain name.

As you dig into your website building journey, you might find yourself doing this; we’ve thought of tons of great domain names over the years and bought them just to have in case we want to use them in the future.

Domain vs Hosting

If your domain is the address, and your website is your house, then web hosting is the plot of land on which your house is built.

Websites are hosted on computers called web servers, which run special software (Apache and Nginx are two popular examples) that lets them find the website’s data and send it to your web browser when you try to visit the site.

These web servers and all the power chords, ethernet cables, and other stuff that makes them run are usually owned and managed by a web hosting company that takes care of the technical stuff for you.

Basically, all of THIS:

what is a domain web servers cables image

You can buy web hosting and register domain names separately (from different companies), but most hosting companies offer domain registration to make things easier for you.

If you buy your domain name from one company and your hosting from another, you’ll have to take some extra steps to set up your nameservers to get things working correctly; this isn’t too difficult but it’s another thing to do which is why we recommend getting your hosting and registering your domain name at the same time from the same place!

How to Choose a Domain Name

So now that you know a bit more about what a domain name is and how domain names work, you’re probably wondering how you can come up with a good one for your website idea?

This could be a whole post in itself, but here are a few tips for choosing a great domain name:

Use Keywords

Keywords are how people search for things online and how search engines like Google figure out whether your site has the information people are looking for.

Using keywords that describe your website in your domain name is not only good for letting people know what your site is about, but it will also help you get to the top of the search results (which means more visitor traffic and potential revenue for you).

For example, our website is all about creating amazing, professional level websites (even if you’re a beginner) – so we chose the domain name “createaprowebsite.com” because it lets people know what we do and has some nice keywords that help us bring in traffic.

Make It Easy to Remember

Making it easy to remember how to get to a website is what GOOD domain names are all about.

If you make your domain name easy to remember, you’ll get more people coming back to your website again and again. And it’s easier for those people to tell their friends about you!

To help make your domain name easy to remember, try to come up with a catchy name that describes what you do.


Keep It Short

Domain names should ideally be less than 10 characters (we know, we broke the rule) or about 2-4 words long.

The shorter, the better as it’s easier to remember and say a short domain name, but these days it’s really hard to get a great short name (don’t even think about any one-word domains… unless you want to spend 10s if not 100s of thousands of dollars to get one).

The main point is you don’t want to end up with something like “thisisaterribleexampleofadomainnamedontdothis.com

It’s confusing, hard to say, and it will get typed incorrectly into the browser.

Make it Easy to Type

To that last point, make sure people know how to quickly type your domain name.

This is good for when they want to go to your website directly or they’re trying to remember you and type it into Google.

The biggest point on this, besides keeping things short, is to not use words that can easily be misspelled, misread, or mispronounced (in case they hear the name from someone else).

More bad domain name examples (all real):

  • oldmanshaven.com
  • speedofart.com
  • gotahoenorth.com
  • therapistinabox.com
  • analemma.org

Sometimes the perfect domain name is already taken.

If so, try a hyphenated version (but make sure it’s not too long if you do).

For example, if “perfectdomainname.com” is taken (which it is), you could try “perfect-domain-name.com” (also taken).

Hyphens aren’t ideal but they can work.

Get the .Com

Ideally, you’ll want to snag a .com as this is the most widely used top level domain in the US; people will automatically assume that’s what you use if they only sort of remember you.

But a lot of these are taken, so in a pinch .net, .org or some of the newer TLDs like .co and .io can work.

Avoid Legal Hassles

Depending on what you want to do with your website, this might not be a huge issue, but it’s worth spending a bit of time searching around to see if anyone else is using a similar name for their domain or website before you buy a domain name and set up your site.

A quick side note on this, sometimes a website name and your domain name aren’t quite the same.

For example, CloudApp is a great tool for capturing and sharing screenshots and recordings.

But when they went to start their site, that domain name was taken, so while their app and website name is “CloudApp,” their domain name is “getcloudapp.com.”

How to Find a Domain Name

As you’re thinking about potential domain names for your website, you’ll want to check to see if they’re available.

There are a couple of tools we recommend for this.

Our Free Domain Name Generator

As part of our mission to do everything we possibly can to help make starting your pro website easy, we’ve put some elbow grease into creating our own FREE tool for you to find the perfect name for your new site.

Check out our free domain name generator here!

Shopify’s Domain Name Generator

If you hate us that much, Shopify also has a cool domain name generator you can use to see if a domain name is available and get ideas.

Just plug in a keyword or two and they’ll show you what’s available using those keywords, as well as a few variations.

Check out the generator here!


Namechk has been around for years as a web and iOS app.

It’s a handy tool to check the availability of not only a domain name (across a few dozen top level domains), but also on a ton of popular social media sites as well.

In a few seconds, you’ll be able to tell if your name is ready and open for you to use anywhere you might need it to build and promote your blog or business.

How to Buy a Domain Name

Did you come up with the perfect domain name for your website?

Great! Have you found out it’s available on a good TLD and all the major social networks?

Awesome! Now you’re ready to buy and register your domain name!

How much will that domain name cost you?

It varies from company to company, but you can generally expect to pay about $14.99 a year for most top level domains, with some specialty ones (like .co and .io) going for as much as $50 a year.

There are a ton of companies out there that offer domain name registration services.

However, as we mentioned above, you’ll also need to get a hosting service to set up your website – a domain name isn’t enough.

For that, we recommend HostGator, because you can get your domain name and web hosting all at once!

We’ve used them for years to create dozens of websites for ourselves and our friends and their service has always been reliable, they’ve helped answer any questions we have, and they make it super easy to set up websites using WordPress (a popular Content Management System or CMS used to make setting up websites and adding content to them simple).

And when you use our special link (right here), you can get started for as low as $2.75/month, depending on which plan you choose!

You can also check out our FREE website getting started guide/WordPress tutorial! It’s a step-by-step tutorial that will walk you through the entire process in 30 minutes or less!

What is a domain name FAQ

1. How much does domain name registration cost?

It depends specifically on the domain name registrar, host, or website builder you buy from AND what TLD you go with, but generally a .com will cost you $8-15 per year.

Some hosts/builders will offer a free domain name for a year when you sign up for a year or more of hosting – definitely take advantage of that.

BUT many of them charge more for renewal than domain registrars, so be sure to figure out how much renewal will cost and consider transferring your domain name out before you have to pay a hefty fee (the worst example we found charges $50/year for domain name renewal – absolutely insane!).

You’ll also find that sometimes domain names can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars.

This is because someone has bought the domain name because they think it’s popular and would be worth a lot more than the usual amount.

If you’re hoping to launch your fitness blog on something like “fitness.com” (assuming it wasn’t already taken), be prepared to shell out hella cheddar (so much it’s worth just finding something else unless you’re already ballin lol).

2. Can I buy more than one domain name?

Yup yup, no restrictions other than your wallet here!

3. Can I cancel my domain name registration?

Some domain name registrars will let you cancel your domain registration at any time, which lets someone else buy and register it.

Some will say tough luck and make you just let it expire.

In pretty much every case, though, you actually won’t be able to get a refund either way.

That’s why we recommend just getting 1 year domain name registrations to start; when you get deeper in the game and have been running your site for years and know you’ll be around a while, go for something longer.

When you’re just getting started, you might find it’s your 4th website idea that really takes off, no need to hold onto those first 3 domain names.

That being said, most of us in the web building world make buying and holding onto domain names we like a little bit of a hobby.

Kinda like 21st century coin or stamp collecting and definitely just as nerdy.

4. Can I move my website to a different domain name after setting it up?

You sure can!

The details of how to do this are beyond the scope of what we’re covering here, but if you use a website builder or WordPress you can change your website’s URL in the back end.

5. Can I sell my domain names?

Yes indeed!

Some people make a whole income and business out of this – finding domain names they think someone else will want and pay more than the usual $8-15 for because the name is particularly brandable.

Millions are made every year doing this through marketplaces like GoDaddy and Sedo.

6. Can I transfer my domain name to a different website builder/host/domain registrar?


Domain name registrars usually enable a “transfer lock” on domains you buy so someone else can snag them from you without your permission (eg you want to sell them the domain name).

But, as long as you’re the paid-in-full registered owner of the name, you can unlock any name for transfer, get a security code to confirm it’s being transferred to the right person (or to yourself if you’re just moving hosts/registrars), and move ‘er on over.

It usually takes somewhere between a day and a week for the transfer to complete and the DNS system to finish propagating the change.

Why would you want to transfer?

If you switch website builders or from a builder like Wix to WordPress (or the other way around), it can be handier to just have your domain name registered and managed from the same place your website hosting/files are.

Also, a lot of hosts (like Hostgator) offer free domain names for a year when you sign up for a year of hosting.

BUT some of them charge more than the usual $8-15 renewal fee (sometimes a lot more – we found one that charges an insane $50/year for domain renewal), so you might just want to get that free domain when you can then transfer it to a registrar that doesn’t charge as much as your builder/host.

7. Should I purchase my domain name through a domain registrar or a web host/website builder?

Pros and cons.

Pros of buying your domain through your host/builder

  • You can usually get a free domain for a year when you sign up for a year of hosting.
  • It’s usually easier to connect your domain name to your website when you do this (a bit more automated than if they’re in separate places).

Cons of buying your domain through your host/builder

  • Hosts/builders often charge more than the $8-15 you’ll pay at dedicated domain name registrars after that first free year.
  • If you switch hosts/builders, you’ll need to transfer your domain to that new host/builder (not super complicated, but it’s extra work and you’ll have to wait 1-7 days for the transfer to finish).

Pros of buying your domain through a dedicated domain name registrar

  • If you change hosts/builders, you can keep your domain name right where it is and just change 2 lines of text (updating your “nameservers”) to have the domain point to your new host/builder.
  • Renewal fees tend to be a few bucks cheaper at dedicated registrars.

Cons of buying your domain through a dedicated domain name registrar

  • You’ll have to do a bit more technical setup to get your domain properly connected to your web hosting/builder and website files.

8. What is domain privacy and do I need it?

ICANN requires anyone registering a domain name to provide an email, physical address, and phone number (kind of like your credit card – they want to tie that info to the domain for ownership verification purposes).

And if you DON’T have domain name privacy, anyone in the world can do a “whois lookup” and get that info (try it yourself, Google “whois [any domain name]” and you’ll see this info).

Domain name privacy is an add-on that some registrars like Namecheap) offer this for free, others will charge you $10-20 for.

When you grab it, they’ll keep track of your info for ICANN, but the public record will show their generic info so randos can’t see it.

Do you need it? Not technically. Do you want it? Absolutely.

We’ve made the mistake of not getting it before and immediately started getting spam calls about how our website was under attack and for just 5 easy payments of $99.99 we could fix the issue.

9. Are domain names with .com always the best?

.com is the most common TLD on the planet (about 50% of websites use it) and unless you’re building a non-profit site or one that’s for a business that just operates in a country (like Canada), it’s generally the preferred choice.

That being said, sometimes you come up with a really awesome website name and the .com is taken, but the .co, .org, or .net is not.

In this case, if there’s not a website on the .com; you don’t want to compete with another website that has it as they’ll get people who want to go to your site but forget it’s not a .com, don’t worry too much about it – .co is definitely becoming more common and it’s fine.

Probably best to stay away from some of the more obscure TLDs like .biz and .tv for two reasons, though:

  1. Some of them cost more for annual registration (like $25-100 a year at any registrar).
  2. Some seem kind of spammy to your visitors (we’re going for “pro” websites here).