These three things all must work together in order to have a functioning website but most people don't know the difference and why you need all three.
We host dozens of websites for real estate agents and other businesses and usually charge annually for that service. March is the month we bill out and inevitably I get people calling saying, "what is this bill for? What am I paying for?" etc.. Literally it's the same people that called last year with the same question, regardless of how many times I've explained it.
But I explain it like this in hopes that it will make it clear.
If you want to have a website you need to first buy the domain. That's the www.whatever.com and most people buy this through godaddy.com or other similar domain registering sites. You have to purchase this through a domain register but make sure YOU are the owner. Don't go with a company that will do it all for you including buying and registering the domain. The domain is personal property and you should be the only one that owns that domain. Most of the time you can renew that domain each year, set it to auto-renew or buy it for an extended period of time, 5, 10 years, etc.. TIP: the longer you buy the domain, the more serious Google thinks your site is and will tend to trust it more.
I liken the domain to an ADDRESS, which it is; the address you would tell someone if you want them to find your website. But that's just the address. There has to be something there once someone types that in.
Related: Why URL Structure Matters
That's where your website comes in.
This is the actual meat of the information. The website files, the content, images, information, and so forth that you want people to know and read. This can be a multitude of different platforms. Think of this as the HOUSE. The address is how to find it, now once they get there, they see a house. You can make it a speck house, out of the box, manufactured house, mobile home, log house, or beautiful custom luxury home. Each has different options and capabilities.
If you build on another's platform you may not be able to move the house and all it's contents without somewhat starting over. This is why we love working with custom WordPress. It's all yours and when you move, it moves with you. Unlike going with Real Geeks, Point2, iHouse, Property Minder, etc.. and all the thousands of website platforms out there to use. Yes, they are all fine, but if you ever want to go away from them, you will need to painstakingly copy over every piece of information you want to keep into a new platform. Not the most ideal.
So we have the address, the house and now we need a piece of land on which to build or place our house. This is the HOST. Someone has to keep all these files, images, graphics, content on a computer (Server) somewhere so that when people type in the address, they can access all the files of the website. Most people don't host their own website. Servers used to host sites are larger, have more capacity and are dedicated for that purpose only. (and usually more protected) You wouldn't want anyone accessing your personal computer to get to your website. This is where hiring a host is essential. You need a place for your website (house) to sit. Many places like godaddy, bluehost, and others can do this in addition to where you bought your domain and similarly, places that provide websites can also host the site, since it's their platform you're using.
Most of the time, whatever monthly fee you pay for the website will usually include the hosting fee as well. When you own it all, domain and website, you'll need to find external hosting. Just like many of those companies, if we build your site and you have a regular monthly SEO service with us, hosting is included. Otherwise we charge $15 a month for hosting. We can host any site and this is a little more expensive than places like Godaddy etc... but we do a little extra. We call it "Concierge Hosting". This means that if you need us to update the site, add graphics, change this or that, add a plugin or update a theme, we do that all included in the price. You can call us anytime to ask about the site, changing things, moving things around or even get a customized video on how to manage your site yourself when needed. This is included in our hosting fee. It takes the stress off of knowing how to do everything yourself.
So to recap - the address (the domain) - how people find your site; the house (website) what people see when they get to the address; and the land (host) that the house actually sits on - All working together to present your website and information to the world.
Want more information about what we do? Give us a call or shoot us an email and we'd be happy to answer any questions you have, help you "fix" your website or talk about options for optimizing what you already have.