Every great website needs a snappy, memorable domain name. Coming up with something new is a serious challenge, but once inspiration strikes, you'll need to register that name with a domain name registrar before you can use it online.
Registration isn't difficult, but first you must choose from the hundreds of companies competing for your business, and there are several things for you to consider before signing the virtual dotted line.
- We’ve also rounded up the best web hosting services
How to choose the perfect domain registrar
- Pricing structures can be complicated. A low headline figure could become expensive on renewal, for instance. Prices vary between domain extensions, too, so a registrar that offers great value for a .com domain might give you a poor deal on when it comes to .org.
- There may be extra costs for tasks like transferring your domain to another registrar, too. Read the small print before you sign up.
- Look for any bundled or optional extras. A Whois privacy service prevents your address, phone number and email address appearing as public contact details for the domain, something which could otherwise get you a significant amount of spam email and phone calls. We've seen this cost as much as $11.20 a year, but several registrars provide it for free.
- Many domain registrars offer hosting as an extra, but keep in mind that web hosting companies can also register domains. If you have an idea of which web host you'd like to use, check the details of its plans: you may be able to register a domain for free when you buy hosting, and that's often the cheapest option.
- Finally, take a look at the support a registrar offers. You may never need any help at all, but if anything critical crops up – maybe an issue which might cause a problem with renewal – it's important that your provider is on hand to ably assist.
- Balancing all these priorities can be tricky, so that's why we've created this list of top domain registrars to help point you in the right direction.
Get a free domain with this web hosting provider
Finding a domain registrar for your website can be difficult but if you sign up for Bluehost, you’ll get a free domain and site builder included with your plan. The company has also cut the price of its Shared Plan (usually $7.99 p/m) down to just $2.75 per month for the first term, for TechRadar visitors.
With a name like Domain.com, the EIG-owned brand, means business, focusing primarily on small and medium businesses. It offers most popular top level domains and over 25 country code top level domains and also sells premium domains as a broker.
With nearly two decades of online presence, the company - which is one of the world’s biggest domain name registrars - expanded in web hosting and now ranges a number of products including a website builder, a full design service and web hosting.
Domain.com prices tend to be average but we have managed to blag a 25% discount off almost everything in your cart*. Non-premium TLD (.Life, .Men, .Live etc) start from $2.99 for the first year ($2.24 with our code). In line with the rest of the industry, they rise significantly after the second year).
You need to pay for privacy protection, a reasonable $6.99, plus you can add email, web hosting, SSL certificates and malware protection, none of which is compulsory. You can stick with its basic website builder which is free with every domain: you get a drag and drop website builder, tons of mobile-friendly templates, up to six pages, SEO tools, Paypal integration and even access to stock image library.
Support is more than adequate with 24/7 chat, email and phone support. Domain.com may not have the cheapest prices but it provides with a very balanced offering.
*All renewals after the initial discounted period will be charged at the then current standard list price for the selected period. Coupon is not valid with sunrise registrations, landrush registrations, EAP registrations, pre-registrations, premium registrations, renewals, transfers, custom website design, other coupons, or special pricing.
Get a domain name plus a free website builder with PayPal integration from only $2.24
Want to buy a domain name? Kickstart an online empire? Become a self-made millionaire with a web-based business? Then fill your cart at Domain.com and get 25% off your order using the discount code TECHRADAR. T&C apply, see further down the page.View Deal
Bluehost is one of the best choices out there if you’re looking for a reputable domain registrar which boasts very reasonable pricing. Bluehost sells .com domain at $12.99 per year and .org form $9.99, for example, but those looking for a hosting plan as well can really benefit from an excellent Bluehost offer.
Those buying a shared hosting plan from Bluehost get a free domain thrown in (plus website builder), and that shared plan is usually $7.99 per month, but TechRadar readers can get it for $2.75 monthly (for the initial term) with our exclusive offer. Obviously that’s a strong value proposition indeed (and we’re seriously impressed with Bluehost’s chops as a web host with fast performance and quality live chat support on offer).
When grabbing your preferred domain, Bluehost offers an easy-to-use search system which clearly presents your options (and alternatives if your first choice isn’t available). Furthermore, you can add domain privacy and protection with your purchase, meaning your personal details and profile are kept private, and aren’t publicly visible (via Whois).
Bluehost also gives you the option of auto-renewal, which saves you the trouble of manually renewing your website domain(s) and ensures that there are no accidental lapses which could lead to the name(s) being poached.
Those who are looking for web hosting as well as a domain purchase certainly get plenty of punch in the value for money department with the aforementioned offer, and note there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee if you find yourself unsatisfied with the service.
Web giant GoDaddy is the world's biggest domain registrar, currently managing more than 75 million domains for 17 million customers around the globe.
The company is well-known for its low headline prices, and it's the same story here, for instance, .co domain is available for $11.99 in year one. On the other hand .com and .org are less impressive (though still apparently cheap) starting at $12.17 and $10.17 respectively. Beware, though: these aren't the bargains they initially seem.
The first catch is that GoDaddy's starting prices only apply if you pay for two years upfront, and the second year is significantly more expensive (.com rises to $18.17, .co, .org and .mobi are ridiculously high, $34.99 for .co, $21.17 for .org and $32.17 for .mobi.
Godaddy now offers free basic Whois privacy, a previously optional service. In its simplest form, it redacts your name, address, phone number and email in Godaddy's WHOIS directory and prevents domain-related spam.
There's possibly better value to be had elsewhere, but GoDaddy may still appeal to web beginners looking for a bundled hosting and domain registration deal. The company has an array of products covering every possible requirement, with telephone support if you need it, and buying your domain and hosting from the same provider will make life a little easier.
Just keep in mind that other providers can also combine hosting and domain registration, and GoDaddy may not provide the best package for you. Check out our various hosting guides for possible alternatives.
Hover is a popular domain name registrar owned by Tucows, which also operates eNom and the domain reselling platform OpenSRS.
Hover's website is clear and straightforward. A domain pricing page allows for checking registration costs before you start, or you can use the search box to immediately locate your preferred TLD (top-level domain).
By default the results page displays every domain you can register and their prices, giving you a lot to scroll through and read. But a handy sidebar allows filtering domains by categories including Personal, Businesses, Audio and Video, Food and Drink, and more. It's a neat touch which could help you spot an appealing domain that you otherwise might have missed.
Prices are very reasonable, with .com domains costing $12.99 for year one, .co.uk priced at $10.99, .org costing $13.99 and .mobi reaching $19.99. Shop around and you'll find slightly lower prices elsewhere, but Hover generally provides good value.
There's a welcome bonus in Whois Privacy, which comes free for as long as the domain is managed by Hover.
The company keeps upselling to a minimum, even in the final shopping cart stage. You're simply offered three email-related extras: email forwarding at $5 a year, a 10GB email account for $20, or you can opt for a 1TB inbox, file sharing, a calendar and more, for an annual $29.
If you have any questions, support is available via email and chat, although it's not 24/7. Working hours are 8am to 8pm (Eastern Time) Monday to Friday, and 12pm to 5pm at the weekend.
Most domain name registrars offer a simple identikit service with little to separate them from the competition, but Dynadot is an interesting exception which has some unusual advantages.
This starts right at the beginning, with your initial search. You can use the website much like any other – type your preferred domain, press Enter, read the results – but you also get Bulk and IDN (Internationalized Domain Name) search tools, and advanced options allow defining which domain extensions to include in your searches, as well as setting those as defaults for all future searches.
These searches can optionally return results from domain auctions, Dynadot's Marketplace (where other customers sell domains they no longer need) and other sources. There's also a Backorder option to try and grab a domain that isn't currently available, if it's not renewed.
Prices are on the low side, with Dynadot offering both special deals on some extensions and good value at renewal. For instance, .com sites is priced at $7.99 for the first year, $8.99 for renewal. If you’re after a .co.uk domain, that’ll set you back $6.95, .org is $8.99 initially, $10.99 on renewal, and .mobi domains are $5.99 initially, $17.99 on renewal.
That's just the start: Dynadot also piles on the free extras. A Website Builder allows you to build and host a simple one-page responsive website. There's free domain forwarding if you'd like to redirect visitors somewhere else. DNS support allows creating 50 subdomain records, 10 email addresses, and 5 each of MX and TXT records. There's even a Grace Deletion list which allows returning a domain if you change your mind.
This requires a small fee and won't always be allowed (the details on how it works are here), but it's still a welcome extra you'll rarely find with other registrars.
Dynadot's support wasn't always as impressive, with live chat being offline when we checked. But the website does have a publicly available forum, allowing anyone to browse common questions and see how happy (or otherwise) Dynadot's customers might be.
Founded in 2000, Namecheap is a popular domain name registrar and web host which now manages more than five million domains.
Namecheap's excellent website allows searching for individual domains, or in batches of up to 50.
If the domain is taken, you can view the Whois record or offer to buy the domain (via DomainAgents) from the current user.
If the domain is available, results are displayed across four tabs: Popular, New, Discounted, and International. This is a neat approach that makes it easier to browse the list and find what you need.
Prices are generally very good at $8.88 (£6.5) for .com domains - $12.98 on renewal, $6.98(£5.1) for .co.uk - $9.58 on renewal, $9.18 (£6.7) for .org - $14.98 on renewal, and $4.98 (£3.75) for .mobi ($19.98 on renewal). There are some special deals available, and Namecheap has an Agent 88 set of domains which are almost always available at $0.48 (£0.35) for the first year (these usually include the following: .site .website .space .pw .press .host .tech .online and .fun – but there may be others as well).
That would be good value all on its own, but Namecheap doesn’t stop there: you get WhoisGuard domain privacy thrown in for free.
Namecheap's billing is straightforward and honest, with current and renewal prices clearly described in your Namecheap shopping cart, and Auto-Renew turned off. But if there's something you don't understand, helpful FAQ pages and live chat are just a click or two away.
Shopping around for a domain registrar can involve a lot of hassle as you research companies you've never heard of, try to separate genuine bargains from marketing tricks, and browse the small print looking for hidden catches. With potential savings only amounting to a few pounds or dollars a year, at best, you might prefer to simply sign up with a big-name provider that you know will give you a reasonable service, even if it does cost a fraction more.
Enter Google Domains, Google's lightweight domain registration arm, a straightforward provider that puts speed and simplicity at the top of its priority list.
Google Domains doesn't confuse you with endless sales, or 'special' deals that turn out to be not so special after all. Upselling is kept to a minimum. Instead, it's all about making the purchase process as easy as any other online shopping site: search, click, and check out.
The difference is obvious from the moment you reach the site. There are no animated ads at the top of the page, no 'Sale!' banners, no low headline prices: just a search box where you enter a single domain.
The results page is equally straightforward, with prices listed for nine common top-level domains, and an All Endings tab listing every option in alphabetical order (domain.academy, domain.bargains, domain.camera).
One potential problem is that Google Domains doesn't support all the domain extensions you'll get elsewhere, and this includes some quite common examples (.mobi, .tv). If you think you might ever want to buy something beyond the most popular extensions, it’s a good idea to check that your likely choices are available before you buy.
Prices are standardized to whole numbers, so for example .com, .co.uk and .org domains are all priced at $12. That's a little above average overall, but better than some, especially as Google Domains throws in free Whois privacy for as long as you're registered. That's a valuable extra which could cost $2.80 to $11.20 a year elsewhere.
If you do have any questions, a Help link displays articles on common problems. If that's not enough, the Contact Us page enables talking to a support agent by email, live chat or telephone (Google calls you), the highest level of domain registrar support we've seen anywhere.
What Is a Domain Name?
A domain name is an essential cog in the World Wide Web. We linked up with Mila Uzunovska, marketing manager at domain name registry NameSilo, to give us a more thorough introduction to domain names
A domain name is the address of a website that is typed by internet users in the URL bar when they want to find a website online. To put it simply, if a website was a house, the domain name would be its physical address.
The internet can be seen as a huge network of computers connected to each other through a global network of cables where every computer can communicate with the others on the network.
In order to identify other computers, each one gets a unique IP address, which is a series of numbers that identify that computer on the internet. Since IP addresses are long sets of digits, domain names were invented to make it easier for people to remember them and to visit the websites.
With a domain, you don’t have to enter a long set of numbers in the address bar. Instead, you only need to type an easy-to-remember domain name and it will get you to your desired location.
To better understand how this works, take a look at this brief explanation of the entire process:
- When a user enters a domain name in their web browser, it first sends a request to a global network of servers that form the Domain Name System (DNS).
- The servers then search for the name servers (computers managed by hosting companies) that are related to the domain and forward the request to them.
- Next, a hosting company forwards the request to the computer where the website is stored, which is called a web server and it has special software installed that helps it act as a server.
- The server then fetches the web page and information related to it and sends the data back to the browser (the user sending the request).
Domain names and information are registered and maintained by domain registries. They work with domain registrars in order to provide registration services to users. The end-users select the registrars that provide the registration service and that way registrars become designated for the domain chosen by the user.
Finally, only the designated registrar is able to modify or delete information about domain names in a central registry database, and that is the reason why users sometimes switch registrars. This is called a domain transfer process between registrars and it is governed by specific domain name transfer policies.
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