When you hired your web designer you probably didn’t realize you would also be hiring two to four other companies to manage and maintain your site. If you aren’t particularly web-savvy you likely agreed with whatever the designer said and signed the checks. But now years later you may be wondering what do all those web companies do? Do you even need them?

The best way to get your head around all these companies’ roles is to compare it to moving in to a new apartment.

Your Domain Name

Your domain name is the URL or web address people use to find your website (like http://legallinguist.com). Some people use their business name as their domain name. Others use key words like their practice area or niche. Think of this like the street address of your new apartment. You can give it to customers to help them find you online.

Domain Registrar

Once you pick a domain name you have to register it with a domain registrar (like Name.com). The registrar claims the domain on your behalf so no one else can set up a website that uses that URL. Think of this like going to the post office or secretary of state and setting up your address. The registry makes the URL officially and exclusively yours.

Hosting Service

The biggest advertisers among web companies may be hosting services (like GoDaddy.com). These are the landlords of the Internet. They own the physical machines where the data for your website (including pictures, written content, layout, and downloadable documents) is stored. You pay them rent to maintain that space and keep it secure.

Email Service

If you have a “vanity email” (like lisa@legallinguist.com) you may have a company that manages your email and forwards it on to your inbox in Microsoft Outlook or to your mobile device. This company is like your mail carrier that delivers email addressed to you at your domain.

Content Management Service

For some people, all of these services get wrapped up together into a bundle along with a content management service program. Blog hosting websites like WordPress.com create all-in-one packages and do a lot of the work for you. But what you gain in convenience you lose in customizability. That’s why most web designers will use software from WordPress to allow you to easily access and update your website, its “content management service,” but not all of its other services. Think of this as the online layout tool some apartment owners provide to help you plan out where your furniture will go, along with the movers to help you put it where you want it.

Web designers are great at making a very complicated process look easy and beautiful. But as an aspiring blogger and business owner, you need to make sure you know where all the pieces fit. Ask your web designer today to go through all of your web companies with you so you know what each of them actually do.

Lisa Schmidt is a blogging coach with Legal Linguist. She can help you create and maintain a blog to bring potential clients to your door. If you need help starting a blog or updating your website, contact Legal Linguist for a meeting today.