The best domain name registrar lets you pick a memorable name for your website, for a good price. Since there are nearly 300 million websites out there, picking the right name for your site and a name that no one else has can be tough.
The best domain name registrars make sure no two sites have the same name. After looking at things like price, options, and selection, I've found the best places to buy a domain online.
The domain registration process will manage the addition of your new name to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, otherwise known as ICANN. This ensures that you will not ever be sharing a name with someone else.
Best Domain Registrar: What to Consider
There's a lot of competition in the domain name registration field. To set themselves apart, many of the top domain registrars have interesting and humorous ads and TV commercials. But you can't just rely on an ad when picking your domain name registrar.
Before you go out and buy a domain name from the first company that makes you laugh with a funny TV commercial, take some time to think about what really makes one registrar better than the rest. Here are some important factors to consider:
1. Do you also need a web host?
If you are looking for a server to host your site as well as a domain name, there are some registrars that offer a free domain with hosting service.
2. Do you need a web builder?
Some companies offer a free domain name with the purchase of a web builder.
3. Pay attention to accreditation
Check the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to see what kind of accreditation the registrar has. If you choose an accredited company, you can be sure that your domain registration is legitimate.
4. Watch Out for Add-ons
Add-ons can boost your cost for things you don't need. When you are purchasing a domain name, be sure that you look at your final bill before you buy. Sometimes companies will automatically include add-on services that you have to manually exclude from your final purchase.
5. Premium Domains
Premium domains are dot coms that use common words, typically shorter ones, which cost a lot of money. Sites will often charge a lot for the first year you own a premium domain, especially if they are owned but not used.
6. Pay Attention to Renewal Prices
Registrar sites often charge very low prices for the first year and then raise them up to industry standards after that. Some people are surprised at the sudden price increase.
7. Look Out For Top Level Domain Options
You're no longer limited to .com, .net and the like. In 2014, ICANN approved more than 1,000 new top level domains. If you can choose a memorable top level domain, it might be a good idea to do so.
What is a Domain Name?
Before you choose the best place to buy a domain name, it helps to understand what a domain name is. A domain name is to a website what a phone number is to a telephone. When you dial someone's phone number, you get connected to his or her phone.
If you type in a domain name, a web server knows exactly which website to send you to. Every domain name is unique. Only one website can have a domain name, just like only one person or company can have a phone number. Just as the same phone line can have more than one number, the same website can have multiple domain names that redirect to one site.
Although many languages read left to right, domain names are actually organized from right to left.
On the right side, you have the top level domain. That's the familiar .com, .net, and org. It used to be that there were just a handful of these top level domains. But more recently, more than 1,000 new ones were introduced, such as .family and .theater.
To the left of the top-level domain is the mid-level domain. Depending on the site and the type of top level domain, there can be one or two names here. For example, in NYTimes.com, NYTimes is the mid-level domain. In amazon.co.uk, both amazon and .co are the mid-level domains.
Finally, the machine name, which is usually www., goes on the far left of the domain name. When you buy a domain name, you don't get to the pick the machine name.
Tips for Picking the Best Domain Names
Before you buy a domain name, it helps to have a good idea of what makes a good one and what makes a bad one, or at least, what makes a less good domain name.
The best domain name is easy for people to type, easy for people to remember and won't get your website penalized by search engines.
1. Make Your Domain Name Easy to Spell
I'm going to start with what makes a domain name easy to type, since it's something people often forget about. A domain name that people misspell frequently isn't going to do your website any favors. In fact, it can hurt your company if a competitor buys the domain name that people commonly mistype instead of your own.
To avoid misspellings and frustrations, don't get cute with your brand name. Don't spell a word that's commonly spelled with an "s" with a z, for example. Leave out hyphens, too, as people often forget them.
2. The Shorter Your Domain, the Better
It's harder to misspell short domain names. But since there are so many domains out there, getting a short one can cost you a pretty penny. It's often better to pay the premium price up front to secure the name, rather than to pick a longer, more forgettable name.
3. The Domain Name Should Be Memorable
Pick a name that fits with your brand. If you have a company, the name of your company is your best domain name option. If you're making a personal website, yourname.com is really the best way to go. Don't leave people scratching their heads, wondering what your domain name means. In that case, they are going to be more likely to forget it.
Here's another reason to go with a branded, memorable name. It makes your website more likely to rank within the top 10 results on search pages.
4. Choose Your Top Level Domain With Care
Although we now have thousands of top level domains to pick from, .com is still usually your best option. Why? It's what people think when they think of a domain name. People are going to be more likely to type yourdomainname.com than they are yourdomainname.biz or .net or .info.
For a number of reasons, certain top level domains have gotten a bad reputation. These top level domains are more likely to link to shady or spammy websites. In 2015, Ars Technica listed ".review," ".country" and ".kim" as among the top level domains most likely to be connected to malicious websites.
Save yourself the hassle of being associated with spambots and malware and pick a reputable, memorable top level domain instead.
The Best Domain Name Registrars
- Domain included with web hosting or building
- Extra features included with domain
- Competitive pricing
- Easy to use website
- One month free trial
- No live chat
1and1.com offers you a valuable combination of excellent pricing and helpful bonuses. Buying a domain with them comes with that added benefit of their website builder which allows you to build a site with 5 pages, private domain registration, masked URL forwarding and unlimited email forwarding.
1and1.com also offers some cost saving packages if you need some other services like web hosting or web building. For $0.99 a month you can get your domain and take advantage of their MyWebsite feature that allows you to simply create your website. You can also get the domain and web hosting service for the same price.
The search function is easy to use and yields quick results. If your name is available a list of prices for each domain extension will be generated. Then you can select your domain to view the possible packages that are available.
1and1.com is an excellent choice for its competitive prices and money saving packages. Plus, the extra features for buying a simple domain are attractive.
- Live chat available
- Fair pricing
- Extra features included with domain
- Domain free with web hosting
- 24/7 Support
- No free website builder
It all starts with the best domain name, according to Domain.com, which offers domains at fair industry prices. It also offers several features free with every domain, including URL forwarding, email forwarding and total DNS management.
Domain.com also offers web hosting and web building services. Each different hosting plan comes with a free domain, so if you need both you may be able to save by combining the services.
The site is easy to use and includes an intuitive search tool that can instantly show your preferred name's availability and pricing. It will also show alternative domain names and their different prices so you can make a comparison. Domain.com offers 24/7 support as well as a live chat function.
Domain.com's fairly competitive pricing and easy to use site make them worth your consideration. Plus, their free add-ons and bundled services can help you save money.
- The site has helpful marketing tools
- Intuitive search tool
- 24/7 customer support
- Informative "Training Hub"
- Offers free domain with web builder
- Search can be slow to report taken domains
GoDaddy is a big name in both domain registration and web hosting and one of the leading companies in the business. It is hard to miss their ads if you spend any time near a TV or the internet.
The company offers a great deal of features aside from domain registration, including web hosting, marketing tools and the "Get Found" tool that lets you see your company's web presence. However, with all of these features, be sure that you are only buying what you want. They may include some add-ons before your final purchase.
When you are searching for an available domain be sure to check multiple sources. A test search showed a domain as available that was actually already taken. Sometimes the search function is late or misses recently purchased domains.
If your domain is available, GoDaddy will show you prices and suggestions for other domain extensions (.us,.org etc.) that are also available. If your name is not available it will suggest available alternatives.
Prices for .coms with common words are considered premium domains and can be expensive for the first year and typically drop to a more affordable price after. GoDaddy charges a bit more than other top sites for a premium domain we test searched.
As a top name in domain registration, GoDaddy is definitely worth considering. It offers competitive prices for typical domains and prices vary for premium ones. The intuitive search function allows you to see a domain and possible alternatives. Just be sure to check with another source to be sure that the domain is available.
- Competitive first year prices
- Intuitive search tool
- Free domain with site builder
- No live chat
- Consumer reviewers complain about expensive renewals
Register.com is owned by Web.com which is an online marketing and web building company. It is a best place to buy a domain name because it offers fairly competitive first year prices. It's worth noting that some consumer reviews complain that renewal prices were a bit more than they expected.
Register.com offers three separate domain name registration packages. For $5 each year, you can purchase the domain along with online account management tools and forwarding from an existing site at no additional cost. For a monthly fee starting at $1.95 you can get the domain, access to the company's website builder and over 9,500 design layouts.
The third package bundles the domain with the website builder and an online marketing service. This comes with search engine submission and professional SEO consultations. Bundling services can save you money if you had planned on paying for those services separately.
Register.com has competitive first year prices but you won't find the cheapest domain name packages here. The high priced renewals were another turn-off.
- Competitive pricing
- Live chat
- Free mailing service
- Also offers hosting service
- No cheap first year price
Namecheap is another cheap domain registration site. The domains available through it are priced competitively, even though it doesn't offer first year prices for dot coms that compete with other top registrars like GoDaddy. But, the company's renewal and ongoing annual prices are very competitive.
If you plan on keeping the domain for a long time, Namecheap's prices can save you money in the long run. If you are looking to save a little money up front or when you first purchase a domain, you might want to look at other registrars.
Namecheap comes with some helpful extras, including free email service Many other services charge extra for that type of feature. It also offers web-hosting services for a monthly fee, when you purchase a domain name. Combining web hosting with your domain name service can be a more convenient option.
Namecheap offers good customer support, including a live chat option if you need help or have questions while browsing the site.
Namecheap is a good choice if you want to save money in the long run but it does not offer great first year prices like the best domain registrars.
Best Domain Registrars and Web Hosting Services
Some of the best domain registration companies also offer web hosting services. In fact, some of the nearly 1,000 ICANN-accredited domain registrars are actually web hosting companies first.
If you find a domain registrar you like that also offers web hosting, it's usually best to go that route. Here's why.
For one thing, you need web hosting to put your site online. Sure, you can use a free option while Blogger or Wordpress.com. But you don't actually own your content when you use those services and those companies have the right to pull the plug on you if your website's content isn't up to their standards or if they decide to close up shop.
When you work with a web hosting company, you own your website. You're paying the company for the privilege of storing your site's files on their servers. Your options for web hosting range from shared hosting, which means you split server space with other customers, to dedicated hosting, which means you get a server all to yourself.
Shared hosting is usually the cheapest option and is the most suitable for the average person or small business with a website. High traffic sites are going to need to shell out for dedicated hosting. The higher cost is worth it since it means your site is going to stay up even when thousands of people are visiting it.
Million Dollar vs Cheap Domain Names
You've probably read stories about certain domain names going for top dollar. While you can pick up a cheap domain name for something like $1 per year, depending on the company you choose, there's a reason why people pay a lot for certain names.
A certain Romeo once asked, "what's in a name?" In the case of domain names, a lot. It's the domains with the simplest names that fetch the highest price. For example, the most expensive domain name ever sold is sex.com, according to Business Insider. Someone paid $13 million for it in 2010.
The good news for you is that it's pretty easy to get a domain name for much less than $13 million. The more specific your domain name, the less it will cost.
How to Buy a Domain Name
Picking the best domain name is probably the hardest part of the process of buying one. It's actually a good idea to pick a few variations on the name you want, just in case the exact name you've chosen is already taken
Once you've picked your domain name, it's a matter of plugging it into the domain name registrar to see if it's available. If it is, you are good to go. The registrar will most likely show you the available domain name, plus any alternatives and the annual price for each.
After that, buying a domain name is similar to any other type of online shopping you do. You put the name in your shopping cart, decide if you want other services, like web hosting or a website builder, then check out. You'll make an account, pick your preferred payment option, and complete the sale.
Once that's over, the domain is yours and you can start putting together your website right away.
Best Domain Registrars Recap
If you are looking for domain registration with competitive pricing, I recommend checking out all of the best domain registrars before you buy. Your website will live and die by its domain name. If you can't find the one you want for a good price from one registration company, it's likely you'll find it for a good price somewhere else.
The best domain name isn't the only thing your company needs to succeed online. Check out my review of the best email marketing services to learn more about the companies that can help you get your name out there.
Of course, having a great domain name doesn't matter much if you can't get online! Find the best Internet service provider (ISP) by reading my review of the companies providing the best high speed Internet service to find the best ISP to meet your needs.