How to Sell Online as a Beginner: Part 6 “What’s in a Domain?"

13 min read

I’m back with another installment of my series on selling online as a beginner. If you’re new here, and haven’t seen my last articles (here they are!) here’s a quick summary: I’m Nicole, a content marketer at Ecwid and small business owner.

My business partner, Kate, and I created a slow fashion brand called Bad Asta Vintage last summer. Since then, we’ve been using Ecwid’s interface to explore how to grow our business and hone our entrepreneur skills. And it hasn’t all been easy. We’ve covered everything from picking a niche to social media marketing. And today, I’m here to talk about domains.

Read the full series: How to Sell Online if You’re a Beginner

Domains: An Scaredy-Cat’s Introduction

If you, like me, are not a tech-savvy person, anything having to do with the inner workings of the internet, from IP addresses to hosting to domain registering, can feel really intimidating. So intimidating that even though buying a domain and looking into hosting has been on Bad Asta Vintage’s to-do list for months, I’ve put it off, worried that when it came time to actually get a domain set up, I wouldn’t be able to do it.

Even more than that, I was worried I would sink a lot of time, energy, and most importantly, money, into trying to figure out what I was supposed to be doing, only to have it lead nowhere and to let my business partner down in the process.

I felt so worried, in fact, that I sent her a series of messages to this effect, asking what type of domain/hosting platform I should work with, how much time I should put into it and what I would do when I inevitably failed. Her response?

“Haha, it’s okay. Just do whatever’s easiest. We can always fix it later. No worries at all.”

So, lessons one and two of working with domains:

  1. Chill (you can always fix it later)
  2. You might need a pep talk.

So, pepped up and ready to go, I decided to dive head first into our domain issues. As I explained in my last article, Bad Asta Vintage currently has two websites: a WordPress site hosted for free with a wordpress.com name—which has some blog/creative content. And an Instant Site run with Ecwid which allows us to sell through our website, but not post any multi-page content.

This is obviously a bit of a pickle, and our end goal is to merge the sites and remedy the issue. But ideally, we would do this under a single domain name, owned by us. So, that means, first I needed to look into buying a domain.

Buying a Domain

Buying a domain, for those not in the know, is basically buying the rights to use a specific URL address (for example, Badastavintage.com) for a specific amount of time. Usually, this is for at least a year. And according to some of my coworkers at Ecwid, it should be pretty cheap. Like, somewhere in the realm of $15 cheap. If your domain is not that cheap, and you aren’t paying for an extra feature like hosting, you’re getting ripped off. Point blank.

What is the difference between owning a domain and having a hosted domain? Well, it’s sort of the difference between owning a piece of land and living in a house on that land. But if you’re still confused, I found this article from WP Beginner helpful for learning more about this stuff.

Immediately when shopping for domains, I was hit with a choice: where do I register my domain? It turns out that the options are many and overwhelming! There was NameCheap, Google Domains, and places I had heard of before but knew very little about like GoDaddy.

Here’s where the non-tech person’s fear started to kick in again! How could I be assured that I would make the best decision for my little fledging store, and not waste money and time in the process? In a sea of choices, how could I make the most informed decision?

Honestly, I decided to go with Google Domains because I could at least trust that Google was a real company and not a front for a scam. Though, I think at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. All of the ones I mentioned are legitimate. The only thing to keep in mind is cost—anything that costs less than, say, $20 (ours was $12 a year) is fine. My advice: try not to stress about it!

Connecting Your Domain

Here’s an obvious but scary thing: once you buy a domain, you have to connect it to something so it’s not just hanging out there, all blank in cyberspace. Google Domains is pretty helpful when it comes to connecting—they did a good job of waking me through the options from their control panel. Basically, I could work with a number of different partners/site hosters to get my site up and running, from WordPress to Bluehost to Shopify. But little did they know, I already have a handy dandy Ecwid store, ready to connect.

Our Google domain’s control panel

As I mentioned, we also have a WordPress site. But since our Ecwid Instant site is the one on which we can actually, you know, sell stuff, we made it our priority to get that one attached first and figure out the process of merging them once we were secure in our new badastavintage.com address.

I was super worried about this process, but basically, I just followed this incredibly easy to follow article by the Ecwid Help Center and was good to go in about five minutes of maneuvering back and forth between my Ecwid control panel and my domains dashboard. In about twelve hours (there is a bit of a delay sometimes while they verify that you do, in fact, own your domain, totally normal!) I was up and running, and our Instant Site had a new home!

Next Steps: WordPress For Hosting?

So, back to our initial question: how are we supposed to go about merging our sites together? The more we looked into it, the more it became a budget question instead of a logistical question.

The process is pretty simple: we have to upgrade to a WordPress business account, and then we’d be able to add Ecwid as a plugin to our existing site, and now that we have a domain, merge them to live on badastavintage.com with what’s called “hosting” (basically, the nuts and bolts of having a built website without having to code everything ourselves) through WordPress.

The blog on our WordPress site is ready for Halloween. Our Instant Site? Not so much.

We looked into upgrading again and found that though the process was simple, the $300 price tag to upgrade through WordPress to a business account was anything but a simple decision for us. Putting up this type of money would essentially wipe out our entire monetary budget for sourcing inventory and advertising through the rest of the year, if not far into next year.

At this point, because our WordPress site is a creative hub and not a sales channel, that’s just not a trade-off we’re willing to make. We’re still in the early stages of our business, and a lot of what brings us joy and motivates us right now is sourcing new items, so we want to make sure that we get to continue to spend money there until we grow.

Because of this tight budget, at our latest meeting, we decided to double down on trying to increase our sales, potentially by finally looking into something that looms high on the list for many fledgling businesses: advertising. And now that we have our little domain up and running (and I realized that I have nothing to worry about and sometimes get way too in my own head about computer related things that aren’t that difficult), we feel new confidence in our ability to work hard and make things happen.

Finding a Workaround

So, after our last meeting, we really thought the plan was set in stone: that we were going to keep our site as is for now, and eventually, hopefully, increase our sales to the point where we could afford a WordPress hosted site.

But then, speaking to some of my coworkers at Ecwid about Instant Site, one of them mentioned that there’s a way to create a “mini-blog” through Ecwid’s Instant Site feature for paid plans. Essentially, because paid plans allow for an inventory of up to 10,000 products, you can take your site product catalog and create a featured inventory category for blog posts and other creative material that isn’t necessarily for sale.

A sample mini-blog in action

This seemed worth looking into as a stop gap way to feature our blog until we are ready to expand our site, so with a little help from this Help Center article (actually, a lot of help), I was able to copy our blog content over from our WordPress site onto a brand new “blog” category on Bad Asta Vintage.

As you can imagine, I was really excited about this solution, at least for the short term. While we are still planning on eventually merging our sites, making a way for organic content to live on badastavintage.com made everything feel just that little bit more cohesive, and dareisay…real. That’s always a good feeling when it comes to an ecommerce business, because I genuinely feel that sometimes the whole process can feel a little bit…well, invisible.

Our mini-blog is officially up and running!

Tips for Finding Your Domain

  • Don’t worry too much about who you are buying from: as long as they are a legitimate site and the price is right (under $20 a year!) it isn’t worth getting stressed out about.
  • Weigh your options for hosting: If you need an ecommerce website, Ecwid’s Instant Site is a solid option. But if you have a blog and an online store on the same site, it might be worth looking into using your domain on your hosted website (like WordPress) and adding Ecwid as a plugin.
  • Look into a mini-blog: If all else fails, don’t be afraid to get creative. The mini-blog solution ended up working for us. Maybe it will work for you too. Or maybe exploring another option that isn’t immediately apparent will end up being the golden ticket you need to move your business forward.
  • Don’t stress! Internet-based aspects of being an ecommerce merchant can be intimidating for folks who have brick and mortar shops, or people who are just technologically challenged. Stay calm. Have a drink of water and call a friend who can give you a pep talk. Or just take it from me: you can do this!

And stay tuned for the next chapter—as we try to take Bad Asta to a whole new place! And in the meantime, feel free to check out our Instant Site at badastavintage.com.

If you have questions about domains, web hosting, and other related topics, check out some Help Center information on domains and a list of how-tos (like the one that helped me!).

Read the full series: How to Sell Online if You’re a Beginner

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About the author

Nicole is a writer and Content Marketing Manager at Ecwid. As newcomer to e-commerce, it’s her goal to provide informative and user friendly articles that are accessible to all stripes of sellers. She is based in Southern California, the perfect place to chase the sun and watch old movies.

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