Would a website by any other name drive as much traffic?
Apologies to Shakespeare, but websites and roses don’t have much in common, especially when it comes to the value of a name. Your website’s address, or its domain name, is how people find you and remember you. When it’s easy and relevant to your business, you’re in great shape for driving lots of traffic.
If the site name doesn’t have anything to do with your business or is hard to spell, it could harm your ability to sell and stay afloat.
So, you need to get the right name with the right focus for your shop. But, how do you know what’s available, and then how do you get it? That’s where domain name registrars come in, making it easy to search, find, and buy the right domain for you.
We’re going to look at exactly what they do, what you need to do, and provide a few options to get your comparisons and shortlist started. Plus, we’re sharing a great free service to use once you pick the right domain.
What is a Domain Name Registrar?
A company that serves as a domain name registrar is one that helps business owners and individuals buy and register domain names, the text address of your website. For us, that’s Zight. Domain registrars specialize in this process and they have to be accredited by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) non-profit. We’ll dive into 7 of the top, but you can get an entire list of accredited registrars directly from ICANN.
Your domain name is important because it’s how people find you on the Internet. While computers and services use the IP address to find and interact with your website, domain names make it easy for humans to find you by using words and numbers that they can remember. It also improves search functionality.
The reason you need to use a domain name registrar is because it ensures that only you have that specific address and it makes it easy for people to find you. A registrar can search the available domains and register them with centralized databases.
How Do I Register Domain Name?
To register a domain name, you need to choose a registrar and work with them. You’ll tell the service provider the domain name that you want, and they’ll check to see if it is available. If it is, you can get it with your registrar of choice. If not, they may suggest alternatives that could include different suffixes, such as “.com,” “.org,” and “.co”
You might also have seen a lot of “.io” domains recently. These have become popular with a variety of tech providers and services because it looks like the traditional “I/O” that is used to represent input/output.
The difference from the registrars themselves usually boils down to support and price. You’ll enter a contract with the registrar and get various support services, SSL options, features, and more. Some registrars are also faster than others, so you might only need to wait a few minutes or hours to use a domain instead of days.
When you buy a domain, you must have it registered for at least one year. Some registrars will require a two-year agreement. There’s a 10-year limit on registration, though these can be renewed. Thankfully, most allow auto-renewal options, making it easy to keep the domain.
One good thing for business owners is that you can transfer domain names between registration services after the first 60 days of ownership. So, if you don’t feel like your first partner is useful or if you discover a better deal, you can freely take advantage. Some registrars may charge for a transfer, so ask about that when making your selection.
Round out your comparison from vendors based on their customer service reputation, add-ons and related pricing, and the potential for hidden fees such as increases in cost after a renewal.
What are the Best Domain Name Registrars?
There’s no guarantee of a best registrar for your business, but there are some companies who continually make it to the top of “best of” lists because of their pricing, customer service, and extra features. We’ve pulled seven of those to give you a head start on creating a shortlist. Compare options, visit sites, and speak to the vendors directly because you never know when you might get a deal or find a new tool that’s perfect for you.
Domain.com is one of the more popular domain services because they have a broad offering of top-level domain names — like “.com” or “.co” — as well as country codes for those domains, such as “.us” or “.uk”
Reviews and users say that the service is fast in terms of domain name searches and registration. You can also find premium domains, which is one that’s owned by another company or directly by a registry. Premium domains cost more because they have potential built-in value because of how direct or recognizable they are, such as shoes.com.
It offers the standard tools you need to register and manage your website including DNS management, Who is registration and protection, easy transfers, and email address support. Domain.com also sells hosting, which is needed to build your site itself and have something people can visit when they go to your URL. Prices start at just a couple dollars per year.
GoDaddy is one of the best-known domain registrars because they’ve been around for a while and have had aggressive marketing campaigns over the years. GoDaddy says it manages more than 75 million domains for customers and it offers a wide range of pricing options, though it may be one of the more expensive providers on our list.
The service generally offers some reduced pricing for your first year of registration, but then these may rise. You’re also potentially going to pay more for some country codes and popular domains. GoDaddy does have an extensive list of add-ons and features you can pay for each month, even for common items such as email.
GoDaddy can be a compelling option if you’re new to the web development world because you can get registration, hosting, and other services all in one place. There’s no need to hunt around and things are designed to work well together, plus it offers dedicated support including a telephone number.
Bluehost is another major domain registrar when it comes to size. They offer a lot of options and tend to be straightforward in pricing, but perhaps their biggest draw to customers is that they are an official WordPress hosting partner.
If you’re building a WordPress or other site and have it hosted by Bluehost, they’ll include the domain name registration. They almost always run a steep discount and advertising around WordPress sites that include your domain name for the first year, free SSL certificate, 24/7 support, and a “1-click” WordPress installation for around $2.75 per month.
Bluehost has a lot to offer which can be great if you want it, but a little overwhelming if you don’t. The nice side is that they’re support earns high marks from customers and it has an extensive knowledge base for ideas not only to fix issues but to make your site run faster.
The best option with Bluehost is to get your domain registration and site hosting all in one place, because you may end up paying a little more than average for just registration.
4. Google Domains
Google is becoming a trusted partner for a wide range of business applications and it has launched Google Domains to get in on the registration game too. This domain registrar service is very lightweight and focuses on being as easy to use as possible.
A big plus is that you have some direct integration with Google services and their infrastructure which can make it easy to expand domains and subdomains. You get email for up to 100 email addresses with email forwarding and can even add their two-factor authentication to your account, which can make the process smoother especially for Android users.
It’s a wonderful experience if you just want to register a domain because you’re given clear pricing and no big sales push to “act now!” for a specific deal. Pricing is about average and includes Who is privacy as long as the domain is hosted by Google, though we did see a few options that were a good bit more expensive on Google than elsewhere.
The one downside, which is a little surprising, is that Google doesn’t offer as many domain extensions as others. It’s not clear why, but they do have all the standard options.
Hover is a relatively new service and is growing in popularity because it is easy to use and has good pricing. Searching for an available domain is straightforward and quick, and you get plenty of options available when you do. One thing customer reviews liked is the ability to sort and filter domain name options around broad categories related to business, shopping, video, and more.
When you register a domain with Hover you get Who is Privacy for free for however long you keep the domain managed by Hover. There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles, with the company mainly offering up different email services. That simplicity allows them to focus narrowly and most people who use it say they’re satisfied with Hover.
The downside to Hover is that its support services aren’t 24/7. You do get plenty of coverage, but you’ll want to know what you’re doing to avoid a late-night panic. This might be why it’s more commonly used by experienced developers.
Namecheap is a service that lives up to its name and prioritizes fast searches and domain registration. It manages more than five million domains and, when you search, you’ll get large batches to look from and pick. If your search turns up an owned domain name that you want, and if it is for sale, you can jump to directly making a bid or buying it.
The search results were nice because they make it clear when your results pull up special pricing and premium domains as well as clarifying what has been registered and when. It can also highlight popular international options in case you’ve got a service you want to aim at a global audience.
It offers a wide feature set for domains, hosting, apps, and security tools. For instance, the company offers its own virtual private network. So, there’s a lot going on and newbies might find it overwhelming. That said, their pricing is great for registration, hosting, and many of these add-ons.
If you choose Namecheap, the checkout process will give you a nice bit of information. They clearly state renewal pricing for your services and automatic renewal options so that you know what it’ll cost you this month/year as well as the next.
Shopify is an ecommerce giant that has expanded its capabilities to offering domain registration. It’s perhaps the last company on our list that you’d think of as a domain registrar, but the company has a nice offering.
You can search and buy a custom domain from Shopify and get subdomains as well as email forwarding and other features related to both your website and the Shopify ecommerce toolkit. The service makes it easy to manage everything and integrate what you need, which is immensely helpful in the ecommerce space.
If you know what you want to sell but aren’t sure what to name your business, the service has a domain name generator that works best on keywords and phrases. Our search for “cool shoes” with this option also generated things like “NerdyShoes.com,” “CoolShoeStore.com,” and “FascinatingShoes.com.” You can even take this to the extrema and browse businesses to buy, where you get the entire operation as well as its domain.
The big drawback is a lack of email addresses and support and the service is highly geared toward ecommerce sales, so you won’t be able to use most of its integration benefits if you provide services.
Special Note: SSL For Free Steps and Purpose
The last thing worth mentioning here about getting your domain and website is the need for high-grade protection for you and your visitors. The standard is the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), a protocol for establishing authenticated and encrypted links between computers and servers. This is the “S” in the HTTPS protocol that your browser always wants to ensure a website has.
In the past, companies have had to pay for getting that SSL certificate and user protection. However, a non-profit now gives you the SSL for free, and their website is aptly named SSL For Free.
The process is extremely easy. You enter your website address in the search-like bar. On the results page you get a few options for verification. The “Manual” choice is one most people feel comfortable with, so we’ll look at that now. When you choose it, you are given a pair of files to download as well as a few steps to follow.
Head over to your domain host and open the file manager for your site. Create the folders and upload the files, and then you just have a couple links to click. It’s that simple to get this layer of security and make your site more trusted.
Now, for the hard part. You’ve got to build an amazing site that people love and want to visit, plus showoff your products, services, knowledge, and other goodies. Visuals make that all a little easier, and that’s where Zight (formerly CloudApp) comes in to help. We’ll make it easy for you to create GIFs, images, custom videos, and more. Plus, you get to try it free. Good luck!