A domain name plays a big role in the success of an online business. It's the calling card visitors use to find your website; it's how users identify you and is the first thing they see at the top of the site page. It makes sense that it's short, snappy, and straight to the point. The key to include in your business's name or a keyword related to your industry. The easier it is to remember, the better.
Obtaining a domain isn't difficult, and they aren't typically expensive; they're usually around £10 to £20 per year. However, there are methods to getting a domain name for free. In this article, you'll learn all about domain names, web hosting, and we'll explore the four methods to get a free domain name.
What is a Domain Name? 🖥️
A domain name is an address used to access a website; each one is unique to the website it belongs to. So, you'd type a website's domain into the URL bar, and the website will appear. When you visit a website, the domain is the first thing that appears at the top of the page, so it's important domain names should be easy to remember and identifiable.
When you create a website, you'll usually have your website name in the URL; if you've not got a domain name, it will usually include the web host's name too. Buying (or using a free website domain) will make your URL more personal and professional.
There are two parts to a domain name:
- Second-level domains (SLDs): the body of your website URL, it's to the left of your domain extension, and it's what users will remember the most as it's usually the website name.
- Top-level domains (TLDs): the domain extension is the last part of your URL. There is a series of letters that come after your SLD. The most popular and trusted ones include .com, .net, .co, .co.uk etc.
How to Buy and Register a Domain 🛒️
Buying and registering a domain doesn't have to be complicated. This section will explain how to buy a domain name and link it to your website.
We have five simple steps to buy, obtain, and use your desired domain name:
- Choose a domain registrar: You can use many websites for domain registrations. Some of the most popular domain registrars include Google Domains, DOMAIN.com, and GoDaddy. Before registering a domain, ensure the provider is accredited with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
- Use a domain availability checker: you can see what domain names and extensions are available using a checker tool. You simply use a checker tool, type in your desired domain name, and see all the available options. Some examples of popular tools are Namecheap and IONOS.
- Pick the best domain name option: having a custom domain is ideal for making your URL stand out. If you can't find a domain name, try using a different extension if .com or .co.uk isn't available. If a domain name isn't available, you can contact the owner and offer to buy it from them.
- Purchase a domain name and complete the registration process: once you've found the perfect domain name, you use a domain registrar to purchase it. You can pay monthly or annually for your domain. During checkout, you must enter your contact information to register the domain.
- Verify domain ownership: when you've paid for and registered a domain, you'll need to verify ownership. You'll receive an email to verify the domain, and you may need to be asked for the last four digits of the card used to pay for the domain. Depending on the registrar, you may receive a verification code.
Connecting your domain name to your website process will vary depending on your chosen host and website builder. Depending on the method you used to obtain a domain name, some website hosts do it automatically, but if not, you can do it manually. Most domain registrars will have a personalised guide more specific to their process.
What is Web Hosting? 🤔️
We use the phrase web host or web hosting a lot throughout this article, so before you read any further, we wanted to briefly explain what web hosting is and how it comes into play with domain names.
A web host maintains website applications and files on a server to make your website accessible online. The most used web hosts are HostGator, Bluehost, and GoDaddy. A web host rents out website space as they have the resources and technology to run a website, ensuring it's in continuous operation smoothly and ensuring the website is secure for users.
You can host your own website. However, it usually requires extensive technical skills and capabilities. It's easier to pay for a hosting plan, and some providers offer other services that allow you to purchase domains making the whole process of building and running a website easier.
Four Ways to Get a Free Domain Name 🆓️
The following methods will aid you in finding free domains, some are simpler than others, but you must use the method that suits your needs the most.
1. Use a Free Domain Name Registrar
All you have to do is search for your desired name, and you'll be able to see what free domain names are available. Once you've chosen your domain name, you won't have to pay anything. It's important to know that sometimes free domains can be unreliable and sometimes more susceptible to hackers. Using this method, you can't get popular domain name extensions (.com, .co.uk, .net) for free. The free extensions are free.tk, .ml, .cf, and others.
- Your free domain is forever.
- Ideal if you've got a personal site.
- You can't get popular domain extensions such as .com, .org and others for free.
- Opting for lesser-known domain extensions like free.tk, .ml, or .cf looks unprofessional.
2. Get a Free Domain Name with a Web Hosting Plan
Most web hosting providers often include free domain names and professional email addresses in their web hosting plans. For example, if you use WordPress as your website builder, you can use Bluehost as your hosting provider, as WordPress endorses Bluehost. By choosing Bluehost as your hosting provider, you'll be entitled to a free new domain registration for your first year.
Other hosting service options include Hostinger, InMotion Hosting, and HostGator. These also offer first-year free domain registration, a secure sockets layer (SSL certificate), automatic backups, and security features. Some hosting plans include free hosting and a free business email address. Hosting prices vary between hosting providers.
- Free domain, SSL, and business email address.
- You'll get a free page builder if you choose WordPress and Bluehost.
- Domain automatically renews every year.
- Most web hosting providers allow automatically connecting your domain and website.
- Domains are only free for the first year.
- Usually, you must pay for web hosting annually to qualify for a free domain name.
3. Get a Free Domain Name from Website Builders
All-in-one website builders offer hosting services and a free domain for your first year. The most popular website builders are Weebly, Squarespace, and Wix; these are ideal for users without coding experience who want a professional-looking website. A website builder makes building a website easier with customisable templates.
Unlike hosting plans, professional email addresses may not be available. However, they're super user-friendly and simplify the overall process.
- Your free domain includes TLDs like .com, .co.uk, and more.
- Ideal for beginners who haven't built a website before, design or coding experience is needed.
- Secure domain name.
- Free SSL certificate included.
- Typically, a website builder subscription is more expensive than a web hosting provider.
- Free domain is only available with web builder.
- Requires separate email hosting.
4. Free Domain with Email Hosting Services
If your website is already built, or you want a separate domain for a business email, you can use a dedicated email hosting service with a free domain name. If you've used a website builder that doesn't provide email hosting, this option could be ideal alongside your business website.
Email hosting domains usually offer great hosting packages, including free SSL, free domain, email hosting, and more. IONOS, Bluehost, and InMotion Hosting have the most popular email hosting plans.
- You can get email hosting for as little as £1.
- You can get your domain name with a TLD like .co.uk, .com. or .org.
- Easy set-up with an intuitive dashboard.
- Using a separate domain for email can reduce spam.
- The free domain only lasts for the duration of the hosting plan.
- Lower-priced plans have limited storage. However, hosting packages can be upgraded.
What to Do If a Domain Name is Taken 🔎️
There are billions of websites online, so it's not uncommon to find your dream domain name is already taken. It can be frustrating, but it's not the end of the world. You can take other approaches to ensure you have a great domain.
We've compiled a list of ways to get your dream domain name:
- Choose a different TLD: if .co.uk or .com is taken, try an alternative domain extension like .org, .co, .biz, or .net.
- Add an extra word: adding an extra word is also a great way to ensure you can have your business title in the URL. As an online store, it's not uncommon to see URLs with a .store. in the middle. For example, if you sell t-shirts, you could use the domain Tshirt.Store.co.uk. So, you have your keyword, and users know what your website is about.
- Use a domain name generator: creating fresh ideas can sometimes be difficult. Using a domain name generator like Shopify's Free Doman Name Generator can give you extra help.
- Find out who owns a domain name: if a domain name is taken, you can find out who owns it by the WHOIS database. It will give you the domain owner's details so you can reach out and send them an offer to buy the domain from them.
Final Thoughts on Domain Names 💡️
Whether you use a free domain registrar or get a free domain in a web hosting plan, your domain must be on brand and give the best impression of your business website. Buying a domain is the right way to go; you can usually use a popular TDL that users recognise and trust, giving your URL a look of professionalism.
Before starting your domain name journey, we've got some useful tips for creating a domain name:
- Pick a memorable domain name; a domain name and extension must be professional and easy to remember.
- A free domain name is great for saving some cash. However, opting for the options that give you professional domain extensions (like .com) is worth paying for to ensure your customer's trust.
- Always include your business name in the domain name or, at the very least, a keyword relating to your industry.
- The shorter the domain name, the better. Having a short and easy name will make it more memorable for customers.
- Domain names can only include letters, numbers, the fada character, and hyphens. You can't use spaces or symbols, and names can't begin or end with a hyphen. Domain names are also not case-sensitive.
So, now you know all about free domains and how to find one, you're all set to make an impression with your URL.
Frequently Asked Questions 🗯️
How Can I Get a Free Domain Name?
You can get a free domain via one of four methods:
- Using a free domain registration website.
- A website builder plan that includes a one-year free domain.
- Get a free domain name included in a web hosting package.
- Most email hosting plans include free domain registration.
Is Domain Name Free on GoDaddy?
Yes. If you purchase an annual web hosting plan or WordPress plan from GoDaddy, you can get a free domain name with the following extensions: .com, .biz, .club, .co, .org, and more.
How Much Does a Domain Name Cost?
The price of a domain name will vary between domain registrars. The price of a domain name varies between £10 and £20 per year. Depending on your website builder or website hosting plan, you may be offered a free domain name.
How Do I Create My Own Domain?
You can create a custom domain in five simple steps:
- Choose a domain registrar: some of the most popular domain registrars include Google Domains, DOMAIN.com, and GoDaddy.
- Use a domain availability checker: some examples of popular tools are Namecheap and IONOS.
- Pick the best domain name option: having a custom domain is ideal for making your URL stand out.
- Purchase a domain name and complete the registration process.
- Verify domain ownership once registration and purchase are complete.
Can Someone Fake a Domain Name?
Yes. Faking a domain name is called domain spoofing. Domain spoofing is when cyber criminals fake a website or email domain to trick users. The goal is to trick users into interacting with a phishing website or a malicious email. Always look for an SSL certificate on a website to ensure legitimacy.
Where Do I Buy a Domain Name?
There are many domain registrars online that you can use to buy a domain name. The most popular registrars are Google Domains, DOMAIN.com, and GoDaddy. You can expect to pay between £10 and £20 annually for domain registration. You can also get a free domain as part of your plan from your website builder or web host if your business has a WordPress website.