Whether you’re starting a business or want to put your blog onto a personalized website, there are dozens of reasons for securing your own Domain Name. No matter what your reasons, you probably want to pay as little as possible for your Domain Name, and there’s nothing cheaper than free.
There are a few ways to secure a domain name, and we’ll outline the three most common, with detailed Pros and Cons. At the end, be sure to check out our FAQs.
Option One: Domain Name from a Web Hosting Service
The first and probably most common way to get a free domain name is to go through a web hosting service. Typically speaking, these are companies that can not only provide you with a domain name, but will also host your website.
If you’re not sure what web hosting is, you’re not alone. It can be a confusing cyber world if you’re not familiar with the mechanics of it. Basically, a website needs to have physical servers that hold the information for the website. Then that server needs a secure connection to the rest of the internet.
Unless you’re prepared to house large, super-cooled computer banks in your living room, a web hosting service is the way to go. Web hosting sites will also provide you with security features, and can be upgraded to help you with advertising, processing payments, and even getting you your own email account through your website.
In these cases, the domain name is a freebie that the web hosting site gives you to draw you in the door. Almost all the credible web hosters will offer a free domain, and even after the free period is over, the annual prices are quite affordable (under $20 a year).
We actually found three great web hosting services, and along with offering free domain names, they even have a feature to help you find and select a good domain name for your website. After all, you probably don’t want to go with “Greg has great alpacas for sale and party rental,” all as one word.
Read on for a full breakdown of the three web hosting sites we liked, and after that we’ll get into some other ways to get a free domain.
Based out of North America, HostPapa is an affordable and easy-to-use option for getting your website up and running. Starting at only $3.95 you can get your ideas onto a real website of your very own in mere minutes.
In addition to offering free domain registration as part of the web hosting, HostPapa will also help you find the right domain name for you. They can also help you port your website over, if you already have one.
Another great feature of HostPapa is that they’re fully WordPress compatible, so if you have a friend or relative doing your website design on that platform, you can easily upload the files to HostPapa and get exactly what you want out of your pages.
As a web hosting service, HostPapa gets great marks for security and availability, with their up-time at an industry high of 99.9% guaranteed. Plus you get upgradable business features, so if your business really takes off, you don’t need to worry about your website lagging behind.
Sometimes we make business decisions for what’s cheap, and sometimes we make a purchase based on ethical reasoning. Sometimes we get to do both, and GreenGeeks web hosting is a great example of that.
Dedicated to deriving their power from green resources, GreenGeeks has partnered with the Environmental Protection Agency since 2009 to provide the most eco-friendly web hosting out there. After analyzing the web server landscape, they’ve come to the conclusion that servers could be contributing as much to greenhouse gas emissions as airline companies.
Doing something about that has become the business model at GreenGeeks, and if you choose to use them for your domain name and web hosting, you can be part of that model. And all of that for only $2.95 a month.
No matter what plan you get from GreenGeeks, you get a free domain name for the first year of service, free email services, and a 300% Green Energy Match, meaning it will match three times the energy your website consumes on their servers in green energy credits. Without you having to do anything different.
While not an option for free domain name selection, SiteGround is one of the leading web hosting services out there. In fact, they’re powered by the Google Cloud, one of the most extensive and powerful computing platforms there is.
SiteGround gives you the flexibility of SSD storage, one of the best ways to secure data, along with the speed of Google’s incredibly fast network. This means you get safety and speed in one package.
And because hosting with SiteGround means you’re an auxiliary partner of Google, you’ll be part of Google’s 100% energy match, meaning your website will be part of doing something good, just by existing.
SiteGround is also security-minded, with in-house solutions to cyber security features you don’t have to even think about. Having your site on SiteGround means you can focus on whatever passion brought you to needing a website in the first place, without you having to be a computer programmer on top of it all.
Pros and Cons of a Web Hosting Service
Web hosting services offer a fantastic way to get your domain name for free, while also getting a website up and running in minutes. In some cases you’ll need to pay for the Domain Name after the first year, but that is usually a relatively small price, and hopefully your business is generating income for you, by then.
No matter what web hosting service you go with, the bottom line is that you’re getting a website with a customized domain name, and you’ll be online in no time.
Option Two: Domain Name from a Site Builder
Beyond merely hosting your website, some services will also build your web pages for you. This means you give them the content you want, and they will design the site, build in the features you want, and yes, secure your Domain Name.
For a business that’s already established, for someone starting out with a bit of capital, this is a great option. Because let’s be honest—if you’re already doing good business in your brick-and-mortar, you probably don’t have the time or energy to go designing websites, also.
There are a number of website builders, like Wix, Squarespace, and Bluehost, and you should definitely shop around before you decide which is best for you. We didn’t do a deep dive on them here because our focus was on free domain names, and these sites can charge a premium.
It is worth taking a little bit of time to discuss what you do get out of a website builder, though, so you can make an informed decision about whether you need one or not. In most cases the domain name is free, or rather packaged into the final product you purchase. But the domain is still sometimes only free for the first year.
Website builders employ professional website designers who have their fingers on the pulse of not only website design, but also on website effectiveness. After all, there can be a difference between a website that looks good and one that people will actually engage with.
With a professional website builder, you can choose from layouts that are not only attractive, but that are proven to generate clicks and keep people on your site. You provide the pictures, the blogs, the products, what have you, and they do the rest.
While almost every web hosting service provides you with ecommerce tools, a website builder can take you to the next step. They can provide you with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tools to help you generate traffic, and they can also help you with business analytics.
Website builders can even help you with revamping your logo, help with scheduling appointments and employees, and even track which aspects of your website are performing the best, so you can optimize your pages for the best customer engagement.
An overlooked aspect of online businesses is how often some people use their mobile devices for their everyday activities, including web browsing and online shopping. This is an important note because some websites do not translate well to smaller screens or touch screen accessibility.
A professional website builder can offer you either websites optimized for mobile devices, or even whole separate content that will load on tablets on phones, specifically tailored to those users. This can be the difference between people being able to purchase from your website right when they find it, or having to trust they’ll remember you when they get home to their traditional computer.
Pros and Cons
If you already have some working capital, or if you have absolutely no interest or knack for website design, then a website builder may be the ticket for you. Website builders will help you with a free domain, but the rest of the product is more expensive.
Option Three: Free-to-Use Domains (.tk, .ga, .ml, etc.)
There is a third option for registering a free domain name, but it can be risky. We’ll be upfront that we kept this option for last because it isn’t the one we recommend. Oftentimes a website that offers free domains with no other service could be scamming you.
Right away it can seem suspicious that some of the websites offering free domains are websites you’ve never heard of. Another thing that should tip you off is that there aren’t a whole lot of reputable companies with URLs ending in .tk or .ml. And this could reflect on your own company should you go with one of those website names.
Another thing to be careful of is that there are no guarantees for security should you begin to load content onto those domains. For example, if you start trying to process payments for services through one of these domains, the company could be gathering data on your company and your customers’ payment without you knowing it.
One last warning is all in how these companies phrase their services: the domain is free to use. It’s not your domain, which means they can shut down your website at any time and demand payment from you to access it. This can be embarrassing if clients are trying to access your website to do business with you and the site isn’t online.
We couldn’t find any reputable source recommending a professional website hosted with any URL ending in the above extensions, or anything like them.
Our last note, many of the free-to-use domain sites don’t actually host your website, which means you’ll be stuck looking for servers to actually put your content on the internet. This can be a hassle, and you will end up paying for that service, anyway, which would have included a professional and free domain.
Pros and Cons
Sometimes free isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. With the truly free domain name registration we actually found a lot of risk. We can’t really feel confident sending you somewhere where you’ll end up with an unprofessional URL and security issues.
The best option for most businesses is probably a web hosting service, like through HostPapa, GreenGeeks, or SiteGround. These services will get you up and running for only a few dollars, and you can scale your services from them as your needs grow.
If you have a few extra dollars to spend, and you want a professional to take a swing at designing your website and layout, you can definitely go to a website builder for your domain name needs. Part of the purchase of their services will include your domain name.
No matter what you decide, remember that when you start building on the internet, security and data safety should be your priorities. Never go with a service that doesn’t stress their security credentials. And if someone offers you a free domain name without mentioning security, don’t go for it. You’re better off in the end paying for security, and your customers will thank you for it, too.
No, you don’t. In fact, many companies are now turning to .net or other professional URLs. If you’re going with a web hosting or website building company, their customer service can help you navigate what free domain is right for you and your business.
In general, yes. The three we listed (HostPapa, GreenGeeks, and SiteGround) are all very safe. Your data and the data of your customers will be guarded by professionals.
Not necessarily. Many web hosting sites, like the ones we mentioned, offer easy-to-use tools to help you build your own website. We should note, though, that a site builder employs professionals, and your website will reflect that.
In some cases, almost right away, yes. If you go with a reputable web hosting service, they can provide you with business and ecommerce tools right off the bat.
In some cases you can pay as little as $15 a year. We didn’t see any annual pricings over $40.