Securing a domain name is critical for every business. Securing one for free is critical for every person’s wallet. But domains can have a lot of complexity to them that you might not be aware of.
There are a few terms you will need to know in order to understand what you are doing when you are securing a free business domain name.
To begin with, you need to know what a domain name is in the first place. You will also need to get familiar with what a registrar is, and a web host.
We are going to go step by step to teach you these things. Only once we do that can you understand what we are talking about when we tell you how to create a free business domain name.
Table of Contents:
What is a Domain Name?
The best way to think of a domain name is to imagine it like the name of a building. You can be directed towards a building by its street address. But you remember what that building is and know what it does by its name. The same goes for a domain name and its IP address.
The domain name is the name of the website, while the IP address is the location of the website on the greater internet. When you connect to the internet, your computer sends a signal to a nearby “data centre”. These are the physical devices which contain the data of the internet. But, as you have probably heard, no individual data centre contains all of the internet. Tons of data centres are linked together.
When you are connecting to a website, you can’t just connect to the data centre hosting it directly. That data centre will almost always be too far away. Instead, you connect to a nearby data centre, which then “points” your computer in the direction of the data centre which hosts the website you’re looking for.
This process repeats until you get there. Data centres know where your destination is by the IP address of the website you’re going to. And the IP address is decided by the domain name of the website.
How Do You Get a Domain Name?
The most straightforward way of securing a domain name is by buying one from a domain name registrar. This is a company, usually in possession of one or more data centres, that can list your domain as extant on those data centres. This officially places it on the internet.
It also means that you are using that domain name, and that no one else can use that exact domain name. Naturally, you also won’t be able to buy a domain name from that registrar if it is already taken.
No matter what method you use to get a domain name, a domain name registrar will be involved somehow. This is important to note, as not every method of securing a free domain name for your business will mention this. And if they don’t, that’s a warning sign that something is amiss.
We will expand more on what that means later.
What are the Most Common Ways of Getting a Free Domain Name?
To be perfectly frank about the situation, the most common methods of getting a free domain name are not free at all. Rather, you get the domain name as a free bonus alongside another service.
Most of the time, this is a pretty good deal. But understanding why it is a good deal requires you to learn one more term: Web hosting. Whether you pay a million dollars or zero dollars for your domain name, you are not going to be able to actually turn it into a website without a web host.
What is a Web Host?
Think back to how we described the process of connecting to a website via a physical data centre. Someone has to own that data centre. It is extremely unlikely that you are going to buy your own data centre, connect it to the internet, get a domain name, and then host a website for that domain yourself.
A web host is a service that either owns a data centre or owns space on one. You pay into renting that space so that your website can be hosted on that data centre. In the process of doing this, most (though not all) of these services will give you a free domain name just for signing up with them.
The conditions behind getting the domain name will differ depending on the web hosting service. You should be careful to understand these differences before getting into a web hosting service and receiving the domain name. A common issue that small businesses face is signing up with a cheaper, less reliable web hosting service that does not actually give them permanent ownership of the domain.
You can basically boil down the deals you get from a web hosting service into three types:
- You pay for the web hosting service for a certain amount of time up front, and in exchange you are given permanent ownership of a domain name as a free bonus. You can consider this “free” because if you want a website around that domain, then you need a web hosting service anyways.
- You pay for a web hosting service month-to-month. Some services will give you the domain for free upfront, while others will only give it to you after a certain amount of time. Watch out for this, as it means that for a period of time, your web host owns your domain name, not you.
- You pay for a web hosting service month-to-month and get the domain name up front, but you are also only renting the domain name. This is the worst of the three, since it means that for the entirety of the time you use the web host, they own your domain name, not you.
Why Should You Own Your Own Domain Name?
If you went searching for the cheapest web hosts out there, then you probably found someone that is offering a ridiculously low monthly subscription for both web hosting and a domain name. They don’t entitle you to ownership of the domain name, but the price is so much lower than other web hosts that you might not care. So, why not do business with this web host? What’s the downside?
That is simple: If you are renting a domain name from a web host rather than owning the domain name yourself, then they are entitled to sell that domain name to anyone who wants it.
Remember when Facebook changed their name to Meta? Well, there was actually already a company named Meta. Facebook-turned-Meta sued them to try and secure “Meta” as their domain name.
They failed because they had no case. But imagine if you own something that Facebook, Apple, or Amazon wants. They will do anything they can to get it from you. And if you are not the sole owner of your domain name, then all they have to do is make an unbeatable offer to your web host for the domain.
On one hand, this is improbable. How often does a major tech company want to buy a domain name out from under you? On the other hand, this kind of situation is more common than you think, even if that specific example is uncommon. Domain names are much like real estate, and there are businesses who build themselves around the acquisition and trade of domain names that might see use.
Other Methods of Getting Free Domain Names for Businesses
While getting a free domain name from a web hosting service is overwhelmingly the most common method for businesses, there are two more ways to get a free domain name that work essentially the same: The first is by getting the domain name from a website builder.
Website building services are actually just web hosts with extra steps. They will cost slightly more as a result, but a small business that doesn’t want to hire someone to build a website can benefit from them.
The second is by getting the domain from an email hosting service. This is a niche of hosting that allows you to send and receive emails to and from the website you plan on making. These do not necessarily come with a website builder, so be ready to make one alongside the email hosting.
Web hosting, website building, and email hosting are your best bets for getting a domain name for free. Of course, none of those services are free themselves.
But they are all useful to some degree, and if you get the right plan for the right service, you will basically get the domain name free of charge with them.