How to get a free domain name for your website
Building a website takes a lot of work and thought. It’s not enough to simply create a website or find a hosting provider to keep it running on the World Wide Web. You also need a domain name to attract visitors and customers. If you think of your website as a brick-and-mortar business, the domain name is the company’s address. Without an address, potential customers won’t find your store in the real world, and the same goes for domain names and websites.
Luckily, buying a domain name isn’t complicated, and there are several methods of buying one. In fact, we have a step-by-step domain registration guide that you should check for clues. That means you can pick up a domain name without spending a dime if you’re willing to deal with a few caveats. We’ll show you how.
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But first, some valuable information
There are a few things to consider when securing a domain name. Typically, domain names are not yours to keep indefinitely. They are usually free for a year or two, after which the registrar will charge you for renewal. You can also lose the domain if you use it for what the provider deems illegal activity (e.g. spamming). In addition, almost all registrars reserve the right to make changes to the registration agreement at any time and without notice to you. Be sure to review each potential registrar carefully before committing.
Domain names rarely come with privacy protections. This means that as a domain owner, your information is publicly available to anyone snooping around in the Whois database. If you’re a brick-and-mortar business and your information is already publicly available, privacy probably won’t be a big issue. However, if you’re a blogger who doesn’t want your personal address to be visible to the entire internet, privacy is an important security step. Depending on the registrar you use, this can be as little as $2 per year or $20 per year.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s explore the three methods to get a free domain name.
1. Check out free domain registrars
Dot TK and Freenom are domain registrars that allow you to get a domain for free. They let you search for a domain and choose from one of five free extensions: tk, .ml, .ga, .cf, and .gq. These aren’t the suffixes you typically see when browsing the web, so they can make your site — especially a business-oriented site — seem sketchy or even illegitimate. However, if you create a blog or personal website, this might not be a big problem.
Please note that you do not own these domains; They are registered and owned by either Dot TK or Freenom. All you get is the right to use them, so you can’t sell or transfer the domain names to anyone else.
2. Explore website builder services
Website builders, the services and tools that help you create a website quickly, also offer free domain names. However, the free domain registration is only available for a limited time. More specifically, the domain name is part of a larger package and will expire when the package is up for renewal. This is typically a one-year window, after which you must pay to keep the domain at whatever renewal fee the service provider dictates. This might be ideal if you need a year or less of temporary hosting, but be warned: there are usually penalties associated with terminating these plans early. You may be charged a prorated fee for the time remaining on your annual domain or even the annual renewal fee directly.
Wix is a popular and versatile website builder that offers a free domain for a year with their annual plans. After that first year, however, you’ll need to renew the domain for $14.95 per year if you want to keep it. Wix’s free domain offering does not include private registration; You have to pay an additional $9.90 per year.
Weebly is another strong option. The website builder lets you get a free domain with its Pro plan (or other high-tier subscriptions). After the one-year grace period, your domain name must be renewed at $19.99 per year, with privacy billed separately at $10 per year.
Squarespace is another option for building websites with a free one-year domain name. Domains registered through Squarespace also include Whois privacy as part of the package, which is a pretty sweet deal if you go that route. Renewing domains with Squarespace costs $20.
3. Visit web hosting services
The third free domain registration method uses website hosting services. Much like website builders, web hosting services often bundle free domain name registration with their plans to entice you to opt for an annual plan. Also, like web builders, web hosting services generally have penalties associated with early plan cancellation, so you may have to pay the full domain renewal fee if you decide to cancel the subscription. With that in mind, this method is good if you need a free domain name for a year or less.
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Priced at $35.40 for a yearly shared hosting plan ($2.95 monthly for the first 12 months), Bluehost is one of the cheapest web hosting services that offers a free domain name. This package does not include domain data protection, which is billed separately at $15 per domain per year. Domain renewal prices depend on the extension type, but a .com renewal costs $17.99.
Hostgator includes free domain hosting with their annual or longer Hatchling plan ($3.95 per month for an annual plan). After the free period ends, domain renewal for a .com extension costs an average of around $18.99 per year, with data protection billed at $14.95 per year.
Hostinger is another option to consider, with reasonable domain renewal rates. Its premium shared hosting plan costs $2.59 per month with an annual commitment that includes a free domain during that period. Domain renewal with Hostinger costs $11 annually, and whois protection costs an additional $5 annually.
Get a free domain name
Domain registration doesn’t have to be expensive. Registration services like Dot TK and Freenom offer free domain names and will get the job done, provided you don’t mind a weird-looking URL extension. Web hosts like Hostgator and Squarespace also allow you to get a free domain name, but with time restrictions. However, if you’re on a tight budget, these free domain options come in handy.
For more web hosting tips, see The 6 Best Free Web Hosting Services for Tight Budgets and Linux vs. Windows: How to Choose the Best Server OS for Your Website.
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