04

Feb '24

How to get a free domain name (4 easy methods) – CNN Underscored

By
Masooma Memon
CNN Underscored Money
Published 5:00 AM EDT, Tue January 30, 2024
gorodenkoff/iStock
Between creating a professional-looking website and paying for associated services, the costs of setting up your online business can quickly skyrocket.
Fortunately, one way you can save money and keep to your budget is by getting a free domain name. As you go domain shopping, though, remember that your domain needs to be both memorable (so customers can easily recall it) and credible (so people trust it).
When selecting your free domain name, also review subsequent renewal costs and whether it’s secure.
With that, here’s how to get a free domain name:
Stand-alone domain providers are an easy way to get a free domain name that doesn’t bind you to a specific hosting platform or website builder. These free domains, however, run the risk of looking unprofessional since the most trusted domain names (those ending with .com, .net, etc.) are generally not available for free. As such, we don’t recommend these free domain registrars for business use.
That said, free domain registrars like Freenom are out there. They offer non-standard extensions such as .tk, .ml, .ga, .cf and .gq. Other free registrars you’ll will see widely mentioned or in search results include GetFreeDomain.Name and Dot TK (both appear to be related, in some way, to Freenom). All three of these providers have websites that appear dated, amateurish and — in some cases — confusing. So, again, we caution against using these for your business’s website.
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If you’re looking for a domain name, chances are you’re also looking to make a business website. In that case, you can sometimes snag a free or initially free domain name when you invest in an annual website builder package.
Some of the best website builders like Wix and WordPress.com also offer a free tier to let you build a basic website with a free subdomain. These domains include the provider’s name in your address (example: sitename.wordpress.com) so they may not come across as professionally as you would like, although they are a better option than the non-standard domain extensions mentioned above.
Alternatively, investing in a paid website builder plan will often get you a free custom domain for a specific period (generally the first year), and you simply need to pay renewal fees to keep it.
Website builders that offer free custom domains with their paid plans include:
Wix is a popular website builder that offers free custom domains for a year starting with its first paid plan ($16 per month). After the first year, you’ll pay the regular renewal price for your domain name.
A highly customizable website builder, WordPress.com offers a free custom domain for the first year with all of its paid plans (starting at $9 per month — or $4 per month if paid annually). There’s a free tier available for test-driving the platform, although it doesn’t include the custom domain. After the first year, you’ll pay the regular renewal price for your domain.
Founded in 2003, website builder Squarespace also offers a free custom domain for one year with all of its paid plans — if you pay annually. Its plans start at $16 per month. After the first year, the domain renews at standard rates.
Web hosting provides the essential infrastructure you need to get a business site up and running.
Most website builders tend to be all-in-one platforms, so hosting and free domains are often included in paid packages. However, if you’re leaning toward using a standalone website builder, you’ll need to get separate hosting.
The following hosting service providers offer free domain names with their paid plans:
Hostinger is a leading web hosting provider that offers a free custom domain for a year with its premium plans starting at the introductory price of $2.46 per month (the plans renew at higher prices). The domain renews at standard rates after the first year.
Another popular web host, HostGator’s plans start at an introductory price of $4.95 per month for a year (but renew at higher prices). Any plan purchased for at least 12 months includes a free custom domain for the first year. If you cancel your plan within the first year, a $17.99 domain fee will be charged.
A domain registrar and web host, Domain.com offers free custom domain names for a year with its premium hosting plans starting at $3.75 per month (introductory rate; plans renew at higher rates). Domain names renew at standard rates.
If you’re not ready to make a business website yet, you can get a free domain name by purchasing a premium email hosting plan with IONOS.
IONOS is an email hosting provider that offers free custom domains with selected email hosting plans starting at $1 per month for one email account. The free domain is good for the life of the plan. IONOS also offers website building, web hosting plans and more.
Custom domain names that you get with a paid website building or hosting package are typically only free for a limited time. Eventually, you’ll have to pay renewal costs to keep the name.
So, you want to make sure you actually need the service you got the free domain name from, according to front-end developer and UI/UX designer Dave Smyth.
“Don’t get the service because of the [free domain] deal because you’ll only be saving $10 to $20 for one year. The costs to migrate later could be higher (not necessarily the domain cost but the time/hassle in switching to a different domain registrar),” Smyth advises.
If a website building, hosting or email service isn’t of use, consider investing in a paid domain upfront — particularly if you have an established offline business. This way, you can get a custom domain name that customers instantly recognize and trust without having to worry about losing it or changing to a different registrar in the future.
Select a short domain name that includes an industry keyword so customers can easily find you online. If you already have a brand name, use it as your domain name. Also, make sure you’re choosing a trustworthy extension such as .com, .net and .biz.
Head to the WHOIS database to check domain name availability. Simply type the domain name you’re looking for in the search bar on the page and it’ll tell you if a domain is taken. If so, it’ll show you the domain owner’s name and its expiration date.
A domain name typically costs between $10 to $20 per year. When getting a paid domain name, make sure you review its initial price as well as the subsequent renewal costs. Ideally, get a domain name from a provider that offers budget-friendly renewal costs so your overhead costs remain in check.
Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines, hotel chain, or other commercial entity and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of such entities.
This content is for educational purposes only and is not intended and should not be understood to constitute financial, investment, insurance or legal advice. All individuals are encouraged to seek advice from a qualified financial professional before making any financial, insurance or investment decisions.
Note: While the offers mentioned above are accurate at the time of publication, they’re subject to change at any time and may have changed or may no longer be available.

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Joker
Joker

Joker has been buying and selling domains since the late 90's. He has worked with many portfolios and investors over the past decade as well.

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