10 Reasons Why Your Domains and WordPress Should Be Kept Separate

There are several popular providers that offer both domains and hosting for WordPress. For over a decade, the standard advice has suggested you should forgo convenience and keep your domains and hosting separate.

It makes sense to house your site in the same place where you got your domain, especially since many providers offer seamless user interfaces for managing them both and some also offer free domains when you purchase hosting.

On the other hand, there are many caveats that could make this seemingly natural pairing turn sour including security risks and lack of stability. That’s why it has been a standard practice to purchase hosting and domains from different companies.

But is this practice still relevant?

Below, I’ll go through 10 reasons why you should consider keeping your hosting and domains separate, and also give you a definitive answer on whether it’s still considered good practice for WordPress.

Reason #1: Organization

Many WordPress developers host test sites across multiples servers and providers in order to test their plugins, themes and scripts for compatibility.

It can make sense to get a domain for your site and all from the same provider, but having your domains and hosting spread out across multiple providers can quickly get unwieldy.

Keeping all or most of your domains with one registrar makes the development process more organized. That way, you don’t need to navigate through hosting providers, each with a unique setup, to switch back and forth from viewing domains to hosting.

You can keep a browser tab open for all your domains and another for hosting. You can switch between them in one click for maximum efficiency.

Reason #2: Cost

Typically, lower costs are associated with coupling your domains and hosting since many dual providers offer great deals if you buy them both at one time. For example, many offer a free domain for your first year of registration.

While it may seem like a deal that’s too good to pass up, there’s often a catch. Often times, you need to purchase hosting for at least one full year in advance before you get your free domain.

If you wish to switch hosts within that prepaid year, it can be extremely difficult to do because you likely won’t be able to receive a refund for the unused time left on your contract.

Some hosts also offer the first year free because they raise the price for your domain to an unreasonably high rate for every year after that or they generally have prices that are way above the rest of the industry to make up for their initial loss.

Instead of the standard $10-$15 cost for a .com domain, you could be looking at paying $20+ for that same domain if you register with your host.

Reason #3: Trust

It’s important to do your research when choosing hosting providers and domain registrars. You should look well beyond reviews and consider their overall reputation and how established the company may be in the industry.

If they’re brand new or have a less than favorable standing within the industry or WordPress community, it’s worth it to be cautious. After all, it wouldn’t be worth it if they’re not around within the next year or two and you lose your site along with your domain.

Keep in mind that there are exceptions to the rule. Some new hosting companies are exceptional, while older ones may be pitter-pattering out.

That’s why it’s important to consider all angles to come to a solid decision, though, keeping your site separate helps if your host goes out of business. Your domains wouldn’t get lost with them.

Reason #4: Reliable Support

Another factor to consider is that domains are regulated by an organization called ICANN whereas hosting isn’t supervised.

If something goes wrong with your site and you also got your domain from the same company, the only place you can turn to is your host. If the issue escalates and you want to switch providers, your only chance is to hope your host doesn’t hold your domain for ransom.

On the other hand, if you purchase your domains from an ICANN accredited registrar and keep your hosting separate, you have ICANN to back you up and don’t need to worry about losing your domains during a hosting dispute.

Reason #5: Control

It’s important to be clear on who controls your domain and hosting since issues can arise that places your internet property in jeopardy, especially if you get your domain and hosting from the same provider.

It’s possible to do your research and choose a hosting company you think is reputable, only to be downright disappointed later on with their policies, hosting or customer service.

If you insist you’re seeing a problem with your hosting and the customer service department disagrees, you may end up in a heated dispute where they choose to suspend your domain or hosting until the issue is resolved.

Suddenly, the convenience of keeping your domains and site together becomes a burden.

Sometimes, the issue cannot be resolved due to many reasons including poor customer service and you may not be able to negotiate the release of your domain.

If your domains and hosting are separate, it gives you a lot more control, especially in these kinds of situations or if you outgrow your host.

You won’t be bound by your hosting provider and you can change your domain’s nameservers and DNS settings at any time to point to a different server where you can migrate your site post haste.

Reason #6: More Options

Domain registrars often offer a ton more options than hosting providers who only offer a few top-level domains (TLDs). In this domain-competitive world, it’s important to have as many options as possible when choosing your URL.

Reason #7: Security

According to a report by Sucuri, there were 50 million sites in 2016 that were reported as phishing scams or distributing malware, which are both hallmarks of a hacked site.

Unfortunately, spam and hacking are a real problem and a reality. In fact, the Akismet plugin stops 7.5 million pieces of spam per hour.

Keeping your domain hosted with your site means a hacker needs to go through fewer steps to gain control of your WordPress site, your hosting account and your domain.

Instead of having to hack multiple accounts, they would only need to hack one. While spreading out your resources won’t guarantee you won’t get hacked, the more difficult you can make it for hackers, the less likely it will be that you lose everything.

It may be important to note this is true if you use different, strong passwords for each of your accounts. Otherwise, a hacker would only need to figure out one password in order to gain access to all your accounts.

Reason #8: Avoiding Human Error

While it may seem more convenient to combine hosting and domains under one roof, it has its pitfalls because, well, “pobody’s nerfect.”

For example, if your credit card expires and you’re not alerted or your domain has been bundled with your hosting and you forget to renew it, you could lose both.

Your domain would expire and in many cases, it’s sent to be auctioned off. Many people purchase auctioned domains with the intention of reselling them later at a profit.

Unless you own a trademark attached to the domain, you could lose it and have to pay a lot more if you want it back.

Also, you could end up in an unfortunate mix up just as web designer Amy Masson experienced. Her host upgraded her account and they made a mistake when typing in her domain credentials.

They were only one letter off and set up her account with a totally different domain that was also registered. This means her site was replaced by that of the mistyped domain. As if that’s not bad enough, the other domain was attached to a spam site and took several days to correct.

While this example isn’t a typical occurrence, human error does happen and it suffices to say that it would be an undesirable experience that can be avoided altogether if you register your domain separately.

Reason #9: Stability

It’s possible that your site or host could experience outages. If your domain is registered separately, you could temporarily redirect your domain to a backup site or maintenance mode page hosted elsewhere to minimize the downtime your visitors’ experience.

While you could redirect your domain even if it’s registered with your hosting company, it doesn’t help if your entire hosting company experiences an outage and you can’t access your account at all.

Reason #10: Ownership

As mentioned earlier, many hosting companies offer free domains when you purchase hosting.

Depending on their terms of service, this free domain may rest under their control since the company is registered as the owner of the domain, while you’re registered as an administrator who can only manage the domain.

This means you could end up in a long battle for ownership over your domain if you decide you want to switch and it’s a possibility that you could lose your domain in the end. This isn’t also isolated for free domain packages.

Many domain or hosting providers offer domain privacy so your identifiable information isn’t publicly published in the WHOIS database.

This can be a good solution to keep your name, address and phone number private. However, similar to the aforementioned, your registrar’s terms of service could outline their control over your domain since they would be listed as the owner of it.

For an example of such a case, check out 27 Reasons Why WordPress Crushes Squarespace Every Time.

Some hosting providers may even automatically keep your domain if you cancel your hosting plan, making it difficult to switch hosts.

If you register your domains separately from your hosting, you can choose a registrar that doesn’t retain ownership of your domain so there’s less risk of losing it.

The Definitive Answer…

For all the reasons listed above, it’s still considered best practice to keep your domains and hosting separate, though, this isn’t really a be all, end all answer since situations vary between users.

If you’re starting up or you’re on a shoestring budget and need that free domain or a similar deal with your hosting, then it may not be possible or ideal to purchase them separately.

Whether you purchase your domain separately or bundled with your hosting account, you should be treated with equal importance by your host. Just be sure to do some research and choose a reputable company.

At the end of the day, it depends on your needs and personal preference so you should choose the option the works best for you.

Jenni McKinnon
Do you register your domains and host your site separately? What are your reasons for your decision? What would you recommend? Share your experience in the comments below.

25 Responses

  • Learned this one the hard way. I had a hosting provider who was very inexpensive, but I found out that he was literally a mental case. Having to transfer the domains and the sites took time, and I had to deal with a provider who was less than helpful.

    Now, all my domains are in one place. I have a problem, I backup the site, find another provider, and change the DNS. The Domain provider I use is highly efficient and automated, and often has specials. I feel I am in a better negotiating position when renewal time comes up.

  • Most of my domains are in one place, but I do have domains at another provider where I used to have hosting. This particular hosting provider is one of the most well-known, but their support was not all that good. After being with them for over 8 years, I decided to go with another hosting provider. The new hosting provider is top-notch – support answers live chat or phone in less than a minute! I have several domains registered with them as well – for me, it just makes it easier to have the domain with the hosting account. The domains that are left in my other account where I cancelled the hosting are still there, and I can still change the DNS to assign them if need be. I personally think it’s easier to have the domain with the hosting provider – unless it’s a web-based hosting / builder platform.

  • Great article, Jenni! Yes, I couldn’t agree more. Luckily, I use an excellent service provider for my hosting. I’ve been with them over 8 years with a superior service and support record. My domains are registered by them (they are an ICANN provider) with total ownership by me, and I host my own DNS server (both at the provider and additionally on a local server). Previously, I used a provider who I discovered had a number of “hold you hostage” clauses that were unwritten. When I moved my domain names over, all of a sudden all of the registration fields got changed to them. That “relationship” lasted less than a day. I mentioned “lawyer” and they released the domains – lesson learned.

    The most important advice that I can give: demand everything in writing and READ AND UNDERSTAND IT (yes, in all caps for a reason) before you agree to anything, make sure you have daily backups of everything offsite, and make sure you have a “plan B” just in case.

  • Good article. Another reason is the simplicity of changing hosts. I’ve moved several of my WordPress sites around – testing out some higher end hosts or being disappointed when a host jacks up the price of hosting from reasonable to insane. In two instances I needed to move from a host where the domain was registered to a different host and it was so much more difficult than moving domains that where with my registrar. Now all the domains are with one registrar and in a glance I can see who is expiring and when. So much easier and should I move hosts a simple DNS change and I’m all set.

    Also there was the website that I couldn’t remember which host I registered and hosted it with…. took a bit of sleuthing but I found it.

  • Now this was really a well thought-off article! Interestingly enough, back in 2004 or so, when I got a real reason to purchase some hosting space and a domain associated with it, I never thought of all the pitfalls you have mentioned! Instead, I went for the ‘package deal’. Fortunately for me, I never had any problems with that particular provider (I’m not going to do free advertising for them :) ) because they do, indeed, charge the domains separately from the (many) hosting solutions. In fact, this is sometimes confusing, because the domain payments and the hosting payments are most likely not ‘in sync’ but are charged at different occasions — and can be paid in different ways as well. So… I had no problems until something like a decade later, when it was clear that going for shared hosting was not a choice, and that particular provider didn’t have any choice back then which I considered ‘interesting’ for my purposes… and then I had to move some of my sites (indeed, all that have a little bit of traffic!) to my own server, rented from a different company (in fact, a continent and an ocean away from where the domains are!).
    Now I basically live in a very messy world :-) Almost all my domains are with that original provider — they never changed their prices (even though that also means they didn’t reduce them, either!) and they are competitive enough to keep paying for them. But all are managed from CloudFlare, not the original provider. And the ‘newer’ domains come from other providers as well — from the popular ones, to some obscure companies which have a hold on weird TLDs from countries you didn’t know they existed. I attempted some ‘unification’ a few years back, but to be honest, I gave up! I know I’m making a serious mistake and I will thoroughly regret it one day…
    In short: although it was not a conscious act, I did, in fact, follow (more or the less) your suggestion. My main domains are on one provider; but the hosting is done on a completely different one. Because I’m an oldtimer, I still prefer to run my own bare metal server, which I trust, and which nobody manages but me :-) On the other hand, if it goes down (or gets hacked), there are only three persons to blame: me, myself and I :) I have experimented with pretty much all options available out there in the market, from totally shared hosting, partially shared, virtual servers, cloud-based servers, managed hardware, unmanaged low-end hardware, unmanaged high-end hardware… I found out that there is clearly not a ‘best’ solution and it depends quite a lot on what kind of project you’re doing. My sites tend to have low-to-zero traffic, so I’m good :) Those with zero traffic get into shared hosting; those with a little bit of traffic go into my own ‘master’ server, where nobody else uses the hardware but me — while keeping a ‘slave’ server, sync’ed to the master, on much more low-end hardware on a different provider. So… because I own the domains… and they are configured at CloudFlare… if the ‘master’ goes down (or if there is a billing problem!) I can immediately send all traffic to the ‘slave’ while I fix what went wrong. Even if I get into disagreement with the provider which has my ‘master’ server, well, I will need to shop around for a different solution, and then change the domain configuration to the new one — but in the mean time, nothing is lost. In fact, I did this already a few times, as I was exploring low-end solutions for some sites which required more than WordPress, or WordPress with different requirements than what I had on the shared server. After perhaps a decade of keeping everything in the same place, now my websites tend to fly around the world, as I figure out better choices (or cheaper ones!), and move things around easily — because I’m not ‘stuck’ with the domain to a specific provider.
    What I consider to be vitally important is to make sure that your ‘main’ email account is on a domain that you own — not something @gmail.com or @mac.com or @hotmail.com or whatever your favourite mail provider is. Email is still vital for many reasons, and I cannot trust any provider to keep my mail intact — Google, for instance, may suspend my account because ‘a friend’ might have dumped a few Gigabytes of porn onto my mailbox while I was sleeping… just to find out that I couldn’t log in to my account! In my personal experience, dealing with those ‘free’ services is a major nightmare, so, no, I don’t trust them with my email account. Instead, what I do is to redirect mail to my address — on my own domain — to whatever provider I fancy at the moment. If something goes wrong with that provider, or they suspend my account, whatever… I can switch to a different one. And in an emergency I can use my own mail server, too — it’s a ‘last resort’ because I prefer to keep web hosting separate from mail hosting, but it’s a choice I’ve always got. As an example, one of the mailboxes I have uses two different providers: email gets into the first one, gets filtered for spam, and then a copy is sent to the second one, where it gets filtered again, and it’s from the second one that I read my emails. But I have copies of all emails on both services. If one of them decides to suspend my account, well, I continue to have all my emails on the other one. Paranoia? Sure, i got ‘burned’ by Facebook once — someone did not like an opinion I gave on Linux on a public forum, reported me, and Facebook suspended my account without even giving an option to contact them — and I had all my contacts connected to that account, as well as several services which use Facebook for authentication. So I stopped trusting those third parties with what I consider important; and that means that the property of the domain names is mine, and I can point them wherever I want, no matter what happens with the providers I use…

  • Web design isn’t my main business but more of a extra service I offer with tech support, so I don’t own a huge number of domains, approximately 50 or so. I keep all mine with GoDaddy, purely because they’re the first registrar I ever used and I’ve never had a reason to leave, their pricing is also reasonable. I know many people aren’t keen on them but I’ve never had any issues and none of the domains I own host anything questionable so there’s little risk of them being suspended for any reason.

    For hosting, I previously used a reseller account with Heart Internet, but due to their strange security limitations, poor performance, and lack of non-blacklisted mail servers I have sadly left. Their customer support is top notch, the best I’ve ever experienced but sadly their infrastructure and some of their restrictions caused more problems than I was happy to deal with.

    I have since moved my sites to a reseller account with Rochen, I’ve been with them now for about 11 months and everything has been flawless. My sites are now blazing fast, the speed difference compared to Heart Internet is astronomical. All sites and scripts “just work” now without any compatibility issues or unnecessary server restrictions getting in the way. Their included mail service also does not appear to be on any blacklists which is essential with some of my clients who contact recipients with overly strict spam filters.

    TLDR:
    Domains – GoDaddy
    Hosting – Rochen

  • Well, I do not agree. For every hosting package I ever bought, the domain and hosting part are separate and don’t share the same password.
    ( in a separate environment )There is no reason at all to keep it separate. (For a user) if the hoster gets hacked then that’s not something you can do about. It all depends on choosing a good hoster and read the terms.
    If you buy a good service there is no need to make it complicated for yourself.

  • Hi everyone yes I enjoyed this post and have been keeping my domains and hosting separate as that is the way I was taught and advised by many marketers over the years. I had a bad experience with a hosting company called BRAINHOST they were supposed to be lifetime hosting paid ounce. It lasted about 3 years and then they cancelled my account after having lots of trouble and errors happening. Will never get any hosting that claims to be for life ever again and I have seen some around. Don’t get them!

    • Hey Claude,

      If I hear that hosting is for life, I would run the other way. But many newbies don’t know that this can’t work like this. We pay hosting fees for a reason. Things like web traffic and server space are what affects the price the most. So if I see a deal like this I would think twice before buying into what they are selling. Thank you for sharing this with us. I am sure that the members will be able to stay clear of hosting providers offering deals that sound too good to be true.

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