So, you’ve snapped up a couple of new domain names with a registrar like GoDaddy or 123-Reg but now you’re building your site with HostGator or iPage and now need to link that domain to its intended website. Or perhaps you originally bought both domain and hosting space together, but have since found a better deal elsewhere and want to move your website to a new home without changing the website address.

The good news, is that it’s not actually all that difficult to take a domain name registered with one company, and point it to a website hosted with another. There’s a number of different ways you can do this, with good and bad points to each one.

Below, we’ll discuss the three main ways to point a domain name to an externally-hosted website, the pros and cons of each method, and the level of complexity involved.

Domain forwarding

As the name suggests, domain forwarding means that when users type in your domain name into a browser, they’re forwarded to a different URL.

This is perhaps the easiest of all the three different methods we’ll look at today, as practically all web hosting companies and domain registrars offer domain forwarding services. Usually, this is no more difficult than choosing it as an option from your domain management dashboard, entering the web address you want to forward your domain to, and hitting save.

This is a particularly useful feature for those who may have built up a good following for the website at one address, but then moved to a new domain name, perhaps as part of a re-branding exercise or because the old website is no longer functional. By using forwarding, anyone who attempts to access your old site through the previous domain will be redirected to your new web address or perhaps to a special landing page advising visitors of the change, and requesting that they update their bookmarks.

Changing the Name Servers

This one is a little complicated to set up, but is worth doing if you have a valid reason for keeping your domain name and website registered with different service providers.

To do this, you’ll need to access the domain management panel of your account and make sure that the domain is unlocked, keeping in mind that this usually can’t be done if the domain name in question was registered less than 60 days ago.

Assuming it’s older than that,  the next step is to find the name servers for your hosting company (sometimes it’s easier just to jump into live chat with a tech support and ask for them if you can’t find them), head back to your domain registrar, and change the default name servers to the ones provided by your host.

Most web hosts advise waiting 48 hours for the domain name to start pointing to the website, though in my personal experience, I’ve found that it normally only takes -at most- three to four hours before typing in your website takes you directly to your website.

Transferring Your Domain Name Over to the New Hosting Company

In many ways, transferring the management of your domain name from the original registrar over to the same company which hosts your website can actually save you a lot of hassle in the long-run, making ongoing management and paying for renewals that much easier when you only have the one account to deal with.

The only drawback to this is that domain transfers – whilst not necessarily complicated- do involve completing more steps than any of the other two options. What’s more, it can take anywhere up to seven days for the whole process to complete, during which time you’re left in something of a domain limbo.

Much as with changing name servers, you’ll need to ensure your domain is unlocked, and go through several preparation steps with both companies before the process can begin. The good news however, is that once the transfer has finished, you can connect the domain to your hosted website with no more difficulty than if you’d registered it with your hosting company in the first place.