A domain name registrar is an ICANN certified business that allows you to lease (or register) a domain name through them. If you want to create a website, blog or online store you first have to get a domain name as it will be your web address. You have a few options to choose from when it comes to getting a domain name.
First you can use a traditional domain name registrar who’s primary business is managing domains. Second you could instead register a domain name through a web host or a website builder. Typically these alternatives will be more expensive in terms of renewal costs and WHOIS protection than a domain registrar.
What does ICANN certified mean?
ICANN is a non-profit organization that manages the DNS service that allows for a uniqueness among IP addresses to exist so computers know where to find what when making a request to a web hosting server.
This cordination allows for a global internet. The actual management of domain names however is not done by ICANN. They contract this service out to private “ICANN certified” companies that allow you to register a domain name through them.
Domain registration price
You can’t own a domain name outright, you can only register a domain name for a year at a time. So with this in mind you want to find a domain name registrar with the lowest prices for domains, low renewal rates, free WHOIS protection, low domain transfer fees and good support.
In addition, there are now block chain based domains however which are outside the DNS system. As such, they function as NFT’s and exist on the blockchain. They have no renewal fees but you’re not able to use them in the same way like a DNS domain name for creating a website.
Domain registrar customer service
It’s also helpful to take a look at the service a domain name registrar provides. Do you get a domain name at a discount for the first year? What about WHOIS guard? What is their refund policy like? How easy is it to use their website?
What happens when your domain name expires? What is their grace period like? How many years have they been in business? Is auto renewal on by default? These small details are important to know when deciding to manage your domain portfolio with a company.
The best domain name registrars overall
So here are our top domain registrars we suggest bloggers, online merchants or anyone wanting to create a website check out. They all provide varying price points and unique selling points.
- Google Domains
- Shopify domains
- Pork Bun
- Unstoppable Domains
Namecheap – The best overall domain registrar
Namecheap tops the list because they are the best domain name registrar in terms of price and service. If you want the lowest price possible for domain name registration, 24/7 support and domain name transfers at a company that’s been in business for years, then simply go with Namecheap.
While they provide various services like hosting, a website builder and professional email for small businesses, their core business has always been domain name registration. With your domain you also get WHOIS guard for free for life, while other domain name registrars like to charge a hefty fee for WHOIS guard protection.
- Low prices and good support for domain name registration.
- Free WHOIS guard to keep your personal information private.
- Affordable shared hosting.
- They don’t provide discounts and up-sells for services.
- They give store credit for refunds.
My domain name registrar of choice. Low prices for top level domain names, low renewal rates, good support and free WHOIS protection.
Dynadot – Free 1 page website with your domain
Dynadot is very competitive on price when compared to Namecheap. They both charge the same amount but somtimes Dynadot runs special discounts where you can get a .com for less than Namecheap.
On top of this they also provide a one page website builder with your purchase. That means you can register a domain and create a one page splash website with your purchase. In order to add additional pages you’ll need to upgrade to a paid plan, but using the free plan you can create a modern 1-page website.
This is ideal in particular for domainers who are looking to sell their domains to prospective buyers. Last, they allow bulk buying and have a dedicated marketplace to buy and sell domains names. You also get free WHOIS protection with your purchase as well.
- Low cost.
- Free WHOIS.
- 1 page website builder for your domain.
- Good auction and marketplace to buy and sell domain names.
- You’re given “Dynadollars” for refunds on any service.
Low prices on top level domain names, low renewal rates, the ability to bulk buy and a one page website with any domain.
Google Domains – Domain service by Google
Google Domains is a domain registration service offered by Google (obviously). A brand name you know and trust. Google Domains has good prices on a wide variety of domain extensions but not as low as Namecheap or Dynadot in general.
Where Google Domains really shine is their ease of use with integrating with other Google services like the blogger platform, Google Sites or Google Workspace. While you can use other domain registrars with these services, they are much easier to launch and implement if your domain is at Google Domains.
Last, they offer a very easy to navigate interface. Google Domains is only focused on domain names instead of also offering hosting, email or a website builder. As such they are quite beginner friendly to use.
- Domain name registration from a well known brand.
- One low price for domain registration and WHOIS guard (though not as low as Namecheap)
- Good integration with other services like Google Sites and GSuite.
- Price is not as competitive as Namecheap.
GoDaddy – The name brand domain name registrar
GoDaddy is to domain names what Blue Host is to web hosting. Not good, not bad. Just a name brand you can trust. GoDaddy grew in popularity due to their super bowl commercials and have since re-branded themselves in the past few years to a more professional domain name registrar.
GoDaddy provides a suite of useful tools for websites from hosting, web design to domain name registration. As a domain name registrar they provide full 5 day refund on any purchase but are not that competitive on price.
To this day GoDaddy is still synonymous with domain name registration and has name brand recognition that servers them well. However, their price points for domains compared to the competition make them a less than ideal choice. They also do not offer free WHOIS protection and instead use that service others provide for free as an upsell.
Last for online business owners is their affiliate marketing and white label programs. GoDaddy’s white label service is simply outstanding, you can sell all of GoDaddy’s services at a markup and you keep the customer. In short you can build your own domain name and hosting business. Their affiliate program however pays much lower rates that competitors.
- A suite of tools to help you create a website.
- GoDaddy is a name brand in the domain industry.
- Integrated, high traffic marketplace to buy and sell domain names.
- An outstanding white label program.
- Their domain registration prices are too expensive.
- Their affiliate program pays lower than competitors.
Domain.com – Good but not great
Domain.com is a good registrar with an excellent domain name. They have a fairly low registration prices and renewal rates and offer a suite of services like web hosting, email hosting as well as a website builder. However, there is not much of a compelling reason go register your domain names through them if you strictly need domain name registration.
While the actual domain name registration price is slightly more expensive than Namecheap, they charge for WHOIS protection which puts their price much higher than both Google Domains and Namecheap.
- Affordable domain name registration price. Higher than Namecheap but lower than Google Domains.
- They provide a nice selection of additional software services.
- They charge a lot for WHOIS guard, making their final cost quite expensive.
1&1 – Great introductory price
1&1 is an old domain name registrar that has been around for quite some time. In fact a lot of web hosts use 1&1 as the domain name registrar when you purchase a domain name through a web host like Blue Host.
What I like about 1&1 is that they offer a compelling introductory price for your domain name registration but after this intro period, their price goes up and is higher than what you will be paying at Namecheap.
In addition, they offer a whole host of other services to help you get started online. From dedicated WordPress hosting, email hosting or your basic shared hosting, you can find it a 1&1 by IONOS. One are where they do stand out is their focus on ecommerce hosting for both Magento powered stores as well as WordPress and WooCommerce.
However, unlike Namecheap they give you a refund instead of crediting your account. Overall, 1&1 is a unique domain name registrar that does not stand out in any particular way.
- Great introductory price.
- Excellent refund policy.
- Annoying up-sells.
- Final cost is much higher than Namecheap.
Hover – The domain registrar from Tucows
Tucows is a conglomerate of various web services. In 2008 they had a few different domain name registrars but they decided to combine everything into one brand, that new brand being Hover.com.
Hover is a good domain name registrar. Their website is easy to use, they don’t have any confusing or annoying up-sells and they offer good prices. Not as cheap as Namecheap for .com, .net or .org domain extensions, but much cheaper than GoDaddy or Domains.com.
They also offer good discounts on less popular domain extensions like .tech or .online. What I like about Hover is their narrow focus on domains and email. They actually have one of the most compelling email hosting packages around for small business owners who work with freelancers.
- Good price and discounts on less popular extensions.
- No up-sells and easy to use.
- Great, affordable email hosting packages.
- Free WHOIS protection
- They don’t provide web hosting or a website builder.
- Their prices are not competitive for domain name registration.
Shopify Domains – The easy solution for Shopify stores
Shopfy is a the industry leader in the ecommerce space as they provide one of the most robust, easy to use online store website builders. With a wide variety of templates and addons, you can make a simple online store for drop shipping or an enterprise level online store.
When creating a store with Shopify for the first time your initial domain will be a sub-domain of Shopify like example.shopify.com. This is fine to get started, but long term you’ll want a custom domain which is why Shopify Domains exist. To allow online entrepreneurs to link a domain name to their store with ease.
I answered a common question, “should I buy my domain through Shopify” because Shopify Domains are cheap, but you can get a better deal at Namecheap. However the integration is incredibly simple if you’re using Shopify and Shopify Domains.
- The easy solution for Shopify store owners.
- Free WHOIS protection.
- Integration with the Shopify platform.
- Designed for use with Shopify only.
- If you decide to not use Shopify you’ll have to pay to transfer your domain name to a domain registrar.
- Prices for domains are not competitive.
Pork Bun – The hipster domain name registrar
Pork Bun is an American based domain name registration and web hosting company that offers the lowest prices on domain name registration. As a newer company, they are not well known. Their prices however for domain name registration are some of the most affordable around.
With Porkbun like a lot of other registrars you can also purchase email hosting and web hosting. Overall I’m quite impressed with Porkbun. They have very low prices for domain name registration and low renewal rates. If you’re looking for a Namecheap alternative and are fine with going with a newer registrar, then checkout Porkbun.
- Affordable domain name registration prices and low renewal rates.
- WHOIS protection for free.
- A nice selection of additional services like hosting and email.
- They are a newer business and don’t have the track record of Namecheap or GoDaddy.
Unstoppable Domains – The Blockchain NFT option
An emerging registrar, here you can get blockchain based domains with a .crypto, .wallet, .coin .bitcoin etc extensions for a one time fee with no renewal rates. The catch? This registrar is more ideal for creators looking to setup payment and donations using digital assets rather than building out a website.
With Unstoppable Domains you simple register your address and then claim and connect it to your wallet address for various crypto currencies. That way, people can send you any type of crypto without you needing to give multiple wallet addresses. Checkout my Unstoppable Domains review for more.
- One time fee, no renewal rates like registering a .com extension.
- Incredibly useful for setting up crypto payment and donations.
- May prove useful in the future.
- A bit techy to setup for a beginner.
- Supports most major wallets but not all.
- Not ideal if you want to create a website, blog or online store.
Get your blockchain based, NFT domain name today. Can be used as a payment gateway for digital assets.
Instead of giving some long wallet address, now people can send Bitcoin to you at a more logical extension like example.bitcoin.
How to Get a Free Domain Name
A lot of web hosts and website builders will entice you to sign up by offering a domain name for free. In truth, nothing is free and the domain name is only free for the first year if you purchase a long term plan.
After the first year you’ll typically be paying a higher renewal rate than you would be paying at a domain name registrar like Namecheap, Dynadot or Porkbun. So the free domain name is a good offer if you’re not sure creating a website, blog or online store is going to be something you’ll stick to for a long time.
However, for most online business owners you’re better off registering your domain name at a domain name registrar. It’s more cost effective, provides you more flexibility and you’ll typically get free WHOIS protection.
Best Domain Name Registrar Conclusion
The best domain name registrar for bloggers, content creators and online store owners is Namecheap.com. They offer the right combination of low domain prices, low renewal rates and free WHOIS protection in addition to better support than other registrars.