A key part of marketing a new online business is having a domain name that reflects your brand. Great domain names are easily memorable and quick to type. Once you have a new business idea and some thoughts around what the name will be, you’ll need to purchase a domain, register it, and host your website somewhere.
This process can feel complicated and cumbersome, so we put together a quick facts guide on how to choose the best domain registrar for your business.
What is a domain registrar?
A domain name is a unique internet address that allows people to easily find your website online. As you go through the process of choosing your domain name, you’ll also need to pick a place to register it. That’s where domain registrars come in. A domain registrar is the entity through which you purchase and set up your domain; it also assigns your URL to a unique IP address.
You’ll want to vet the different domain registrars before you make a final decision. Here’s what to look for:
Initial prices and renewal pricing
Most domain registrars require you to pay one year at a time, or you can choose to pay for multiple years to get a discount. The price for your first year of registration is often lower than the rate for subsequent years. So, while a low year one rate might catch your eye, you’ll want to make sure that the subsequent renewal prices are both affordable and in line with those of other registrars.
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When you register a domain, it’s associated with personal details like your names, address, and email. That information is recorded by WHOIS and managed by The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Essentially, this means that anyone can look up who owns a domain and how to contact them by mail, phone, or email. Many domain owners choose to protect this personal information. You’ll want to make sure that any domain registrar you choose offers the option to hide that personal information if you don’t want it to be shared on the web.
A domain transfer is when you move a domain from one registrar to another. This is a handy option if you find a lower renewal price elsewhere or decide down the line to go with another option. Check to see how much flexibility you’ll have if you choose to transfer your domain in the future.
Bundled and add-on services
Some domain registrars offer all-in-one packages that include website hosting, an email address, alternate top level domains (like .store, .biz, or .co), etc. These packages are often more affordable and make it easier to get your website up and running. Take a look at what bundles or add-ons a registrar offers so you can get a better deal or manage everything in one place.
The best domain name registrars
These are the best places to register a domain name. We’ll walk through the four criteria listed above for each one to help you make an informed decision about which domain registrar is right for you.
Shopify is the best domain registrar if you’re looking to set up an online store.
If you’ve never set up your own website before—or even if you have—convenience is huge. There are an overwhelming amount of tools and platforms you need if you set up each component of a website, and especially an online store, individually. You need a domain registrar, a server to host your domain, a website design, and most likely email and customer support functionality. It’s possible to do all of this individually, but speaking from experience, it gets complicated and it’s easy to fall down a rabbit hole pretty quickly.
Shopify allows you to get all of this in one place. When you register your domain with Shopify, it’s connected to your online store immediately, which means you won’t have to worry about third-party connections or complicated technical setup processes.
Prices are a little more expensive than other domain registrars, but renewal fees are reasonable. Shopify is best suited for those looking to set up an online store though, so if you don’t need that functionality it might not be the right choice for you.
- Initial prices and renewal pricing: Prices start at $11-14 USD/year. Renewal pricing is consistent with your first year purchase price—no surprise renewal fees, ever!
- Privacy options: Shopify includes WHOIS privacy protection on all domain registrations so you don’t have to add this additional layer of security for an additional yearly cost.
- Domain transfer: Transferring a domain to or from Shopify is an easy process. To transfer a domain to Shopify, you’ll just need to ensure its eligibility and need to have held the domain for at least 60 days. Transferring a domain out of Shopify just involves a few clicks on your Shopify admin page.
- Bundled and add-on services: Shopify offers everything you need to build an online store. That means you can bundle domain registration with web hosting, your website, website design, online shopping functionality, and email. You can see the entire list of features Shopify offers here.
Namecheap is an affordable option for domain registration and offers a nice web hosting bundle. Despite touting great customer support on its website, customer reviews say that the service isn’t the best, so keep that in mind.
This is a good option if you’re looking for a fair price and package that includes WHOIS protection and web hosting.
- Initial prices and renewal pricing: Pricing for .com domains on Namecheap starts at $8.88/year. Renewal pricing starts at $12.98 and averages about $4 more the second year than you paid during the first.
- Privacy options: WhoisGuard protects your personal information from the WHOIS directory, and it’s free for all domains registered with Namecheap. Namecheap also offers security features like SSL certificates, a VPN, and PremiumDNS as add ons to your yearly fee.
- Domain transfer: Transferring a domain out of Namecheap is as easy as it gets. It’s a pretty standard process—you can leave Namecheap so long as your domain is over 60 days old and it hasn’t been transferred within 60 days.Transferring a domain to Namecheap is fast (from 30 minutes to six days) and affordable. You just type the domain you want to transfer over in the search bar to see if it’s eligible and then transfer it in three steps.
- Bundled and add-on services: Namecheap offers a package deal with domain registration and web hosting. Add-ons include email, security features (SSL, VPN, DNS), and WordPress hosting.
Hover has been around since 2008, and what’s great about it is its simplicity. If all you need is to register a domain without all the bells and whistles, this is a great option for you. Hover Connect allows you to connect essential services like Etsy, Facebook, or Shopify.
- Initial prices and renewal pricing: Pricing starts at $12.99/year for .com domains, renewals at $14.99/year.
- Privacy options: WHOIS protection is included with all top-level eligible domains.
- Domain transfer: Domain transfers start at $12.99 for .com domains. It’s easy to transfer a domain to Hover—your domain must be newer than 60 days and can’t have been transferred within the last 60 days. The domain also can’t have any disputes associated with it.
- Bundled and add-on services: Hover offers a discount for buying bulk domains. You can also purchase email functionality.
Google Domains is no frills—it’s even simpler than Hover. The pricing is affordable, and it costs less than both Shopify and Hover for .com domains. The best part about using Google Domains as your registrar is the ease of putting out paid ads. If you’re planning to use the Google Ad platform to market your products, Google Domains makes it very easy to set up. Google also offers built-in email forwarding and 24/7 customer support.
- Initial prices and renewal pricing: New domains start at $9/year. All plans include privacy protection, 24/7 customer support, email forwarding, Google two-step verification, Google Cloud DNS, and domain and subdomain forwarding.
- Privacy options: WHOIS protection included.
- Domain transfer: It’s easy to transfer a domain to Google, but the cost depends on the domain you’re looking to transfer.
- Bundled and add-on services: You can add on Google Ads, email, and website design to your purchase.
Domain.com is known for speed and reliability as a web hoster. It also offers a live chat function, which can be deeply helpful as you start to set up your new website. But, privacy protection costs extra and pricing is better elsewhere. Domain.com is a good choice for reliable web hosting, so it's good for those looking to host their site the same place they register it.
- Initial prices and renewal pricing: Pricing for .com domains start at $9.99/year with a one year minimum. Domain renewals for .com domains start at $13.99/year.
- Privacy options: Domain privacy is considered an add-on, and you can bundle it with your domain registration for $8.99/year.
- Domain transfer: Domain transfers are easy at Domain.com, but the caveat here is that the company doesn’t list pricing on its website. You’ll have to input the domain you want to transfer before seeing how much it’ll cost. If you do decide to go with Domain.com, be sure to take a look at the other services listed here to make sure you’re getting the transfer at a fair price.
- Bundled and add-on services: You can also purchase web hosting (starting at $3.75/month), WHOIS privacy protection, web design and marketing services, a website builder, email, and website security like SSL.
With its transparent and reasonable pricing and simple website design, Dynadot is an all around good option for web hosting. But what sets it apart is the amount of top level domains (TLDs) it offers. TLDs are the tail end of your domain, like .com, .co, .shop, etc. Dynadot offers hundreds of TLDs, so there’s a good chance they’ll have exactly what you need.
- Initial prices and renewal pricing: Dynadot has extremely transparent pricing—its website lists prices for both registration and renewal for every single TLD it offers. Prices are affordable too: .com websites start at $7.99 for registration and $8.99 for renewals.
- Privacy options: WHOIS protection is included with your domain.Two-factor authentication is included with all accounts.
- Domain transfer: Domain transfers are simple and start at $8.99 for .com URLs.
- Bundled and add-on services: Dynadot offers a free website builder, a grace period for deletion (if you change your mind about your domain), web hosting, SSL security, and email hosting.
GoDaddy is the most well-known domain registrar in the world, but that doesn’t make it the best option. GoDaddy is the most expensive of all of the domain registrars, with high renewal fees and privacy as an add-on. If you want to go with a big, well-known domain registrar, GoDaddy is the best choice, but based on the pricing structure alone, it’s not our first choice.
- Initial prices and renewal pricing: Pricing for .com domains starts at $11.99 for the first year. Renewal cost is not listed on the website and can only be found in your account once you have a domain registered with GoDaddy. From personal experience, GoDaddy renewals are the most expensive out of all of these registrars.
- Privacy options: WHOIS protection is not included with your domain. GoDaddy offers three levels of domain protection, all of which include WHOIS privacy. Pricing depends on your domain.
- Domain transfer: Transferring is easy and starts at $7.99 for .com domains.
- Bundled and add-on services: Website security, privacy protection, website builder, website hosting, email, and an online store builder.