Did you know that all websites need a domain name?
If you’re building a website the old-school way, the cost of registering a domain name can take you by surprise on top of other expenses.
There’s no need to despair: there are plenty of website builders that offer a free domain and other extras when you sign up.
Not sure what a domain even is? Don’t worry, we’ll talk you through the basics, explain how you should choose a domain name, and let you in on a way to register your domain for free.
What is a domain name?
Think of your domain name as your website’s address on the internet – like zyro.com, for example.
Without one, your website would be virtually impossible to find or access online, defeating the purpose of having a website in the first place.
If you didn’t have a domain name, your website could only be found with a long string of numbers, something similar to 13.667.857.2 (called an IP address).
Since it’s unlikely that a customer would remember (or bother) memorizing an IP address, domain names were first registered back in the 80s for businesses like IBM, HP, and Intel.
Most commonly, domains consist of two parts: a label like Zyro or Google, and a domain extension like .com or .org (also called a top-level domain, or a TLD for short).
At the dawn of the internet, TLDs were used to differentiate between different types of websites. Originally, in 1984, 7 TLDs were introduced to the public:
- .com. Originally meant to act as shorthand for the word ‘commercial’, this domain name was meant to be used by mainly commercial organizations. Fast-forward to today, there are over 135 million registered .com domain names, proving just how popular this TLD is.
- .org. This domain extension was initially meant for exclusively non-profit or charitable organizations. .org is still widely used by charities and other entities that work for the greater good.
- .net. This TLD was created especially for networks. Since the domain name itself is a shortened version of the word ‘network’, networking companies and organizations specializing in infrastructure technology were among the first to use this domain name.
- .int. Short for ‘international’, this domain name was aimed at international organizations: think internationally trading businesses and other ventures that aimed to better the relationship between two or more countries.
- .edu. This domain extension was originally intended for educational institutions of all kinds, but later became more restricted and is currently used for accredited schools (most often in the US).
- .gov. Here’s a domain extension that hasn’t changed much over the years. Short for ‘government’, this TLD is still widely used by the US government agencies or other associated offices.
- .mil. You might have not come across .mil a lot – that’s because it’s a TLD especially made for the United States military.
Early bird gets the domain name
Speed is everything with domains.
This might come as a surprise, but when you register a domain name, you don’t actually buy it. You are actually renting a domain for a certain period of time rather than buying it once and owning it forever.
There are plenty of different domain registrars online who act as the domain middlemen, but the actual domain name database is managed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN for short).
This global non-profit organization maintains and manages all the domain and IP address records, including the ownership of any given domain.
Domain name registrars, on the other hand, coordinate the day-to-day. They keep track of who is currently using different domain names and ensure no new domain name is a duplicate of an already existing one.
But what about domains and privacy protection?
When you register a domain name, you need to provide the domain registrar with up-to-date contact information including your postal address, email address, and phone number.
And after the domain registration process, all these domain ownership-related ICANN records are visible for all to see.
Thankfully, if you’re concerned about domain privacy, you can ask your domain registrar to hide your public contact details from the database for a fee.
So, how much do domain names cost?
On average, domain pricing starts from a few bucks, but you can expect to pay top dollar for the most popular domain name extensions.
For a standard .com domain name, you’re probably going to pay around $15 – $20 a year.
More often than not, the TLD can sway the price of your domain both ways: a domain ending in .com is usually more expensive than one ending in .net or .io.
Don’t get discouraged if your first domain name choice is not available with a .com extension. If you’re on a budget, opting for a more exotic TLD will save you money and add a unique and memorable flair to your business website overall.
The good thing about domain names is that you can usually get a domain for free if you know where to look.
What to look for when choosing your domain name
When you run a business, you want to do everything in your power to make sure that your customers find you.
In the past, companies would invest in a good store location, memorable signposting, and billboard ads.
Fast forward to the world of eCommerce. While there’s no single prestigious business district, a good domain name coupled with a reliable and fast web hosting company can make or break your business website.
There are a few things to consider when choosing a domain name that you should be aware of.
The best and most memorable domain names share a few characteristics, namely:
- They are easy to remember. Usually, the best domains are closely related to a business name. This way, a customer won’t get confused when looking for a brand’s website.
- They are short and easy to spell. You don’t want a domain name that’s long and complicated to type – that’s the fast lane to losing traffic and potential customers. Think about the right kinds of keywords related to your business.
- They don’t use hyphens, symbols, and numbers. Stick with words only if you want a strong domain name.
- They are available as social media handles. Consistency is key online, and the best domain name is a keyword that’s available as a social media handle on the platforms you’re planning on advertising on.
Using a .com domain name extension is usually a safe choice, but sometimes opting for a more exotic TLD can get you noticed in a saturated market.
In recent years, many tech companies have started using .io or .tech domain TLDs, while eCommerce businesses are choosing to use .store, instead.
3 examples of bad domain names
Nobody wants to have a bad domain name unless you’re running a joke website.
You too can learn from others’ mistakes, and avoid becoming an unintentional laughing stock online.
Originally built as an online portfolio for an artist, Speed of Art clearly didn’t see the problem with his domain until it was too late.
Thankfully, you won’t see any shaven old men at this cabin resort.
We promise you, this online store specializes in children’s wear, not promoting childhood profanities.
How to register a domain name for free
Registering a domain name for free isn’t as complicated as you might think.
Most web hosting companies and website builders have packages that come with a free domain name, meaning less hassle and deal-hunting for you.
Usually, the best way to get your hands on a free domain name registration is to think long-term about your online presence.
Your website will be around for a while, so choose a website builder or web hosting company that you’ll be happy with even after a few years. The longer you’re comfortable committing, the better perks you’ll get – including getting a free domain name.
We’d recommend building your website with a website builder, especially if you’re new to the world of web development and design.
Compared to web hosting, website builders have some noticeable perks, including:
- No coding requirements. Building a website is an intuitive and visual undertaking with a drag-and-drop builder.
- All-in-one mentality. Web hosting companies rarely come with all the extras you need to run a website (like an SSL certificate, or cloud storage).
- Attentive customer support. Web hosting companies usually assume that you know your way around the world of web development, so you might not have access to as much support as you’d need if you’re only starting out.
Step 1. Go to Zyro.com
Using a website builder like Zyro is hands down the best way to get a hold of a free domain name for your website.
Not only does Zyro make it fast and simple to create your website from scratch, but you also get access to a lot of powerful integrations and marketing tools.
You simply choose the website template you like the most, customize it to suit your needs, and publish it.
What’s more, all Zyro users get a domain name for free when they sign up for at least a year.
Since Zyro’s one of the most affordable website building solutions on the market, and frequently runs marketing campaigns, you’re likely to get a free domain name on top of a discounted annual plan.
Step 2. Choose your Zyro plan
Next, you simply need to select the plan that suits your needs the best.
If you require a website for your business with all the tools to succeed, the Business plan is your go-to option.
You won’t have to worry about storage or website security, and you get to use all the additional features: think AI tools for graphics, content, and even legal texts, and a marketing dashboard for visitor tracking and remarketing.
If, on the other hand, you’re looking to run an online store, either of the eCommerce plans will work a treat for you.
The eCommerce plans charge you no commission and come with almost every possible store management tool you could think of. Since Zyro supports plenty of online and offline payment methods, it’s an ideal choice for budding eCommerce businesses.
Once you’ve chosen the plan that suits you best, it’s time to think about how long you need your plan for.
With Zyro, you can have an annual plan for 1, 2, or 4 years. Naturally, the longer you choose the more you save in the long run.
For example, choosing a 4-year plan means that you get a total of 50% off the total price when compared to a monthly plan – that’s 2 whole years for free.
Step 3. Come up with the best domain name for your website
Now that you’ve selected and bought your plan, it’s time to start brainstorming for free domains.
Start by listing down keywords that are related to your business or brand.
Let’s say you’re setting up an online store called PRINT Sports, specializing in athleisure and fitness shoes.
A good domain name should be related to your field of business and your store name, while being also easy to spell and remember.
Potential keywords could include:
Next, it’s time to check which of these keywords are available as domain names.
Simply input your keywords to Zyro’s domain name generator to check for a free domain name.
The tool will automatically check if the domain registrar has a .com domain extension available – but if you’re out of luck, no need to worry.
The domain name generator will suggest different TLDs to register your domain name with, alongside the price for one year.
This way, you can get a good idea of all the currently available domain extensions, and how much they are worth.
Don’t go ahead and buy a domain name yet, though – you’ll be able to claim it for free in the next step.
Step 4. Claim your free domain name
After you’ve successfully paid for your new website plan, and come up with the domain name of your dreams, it’s time to contact Zyro’s Customer Success team to claim your free domain.
Currently, you will be able to choose from the following top-level domain extensions:
- .tech – great for technology businesses
- .online – works with any online venture
- .site – ideal for just about any website
- .store – perfect for online shops
- .space – wonderful for consultancies and service providers
- .website – straightforward and simple
- .icu – short for ‘I see you’ and ideal for both digital marketers and opticians
- .shop – if you sell something online, .shop is your TLD of choice
- .club – perfect for organizations and societies
Zyro’s Customer Service agents are available around the clock, meaning that you’ll be able to claim and connect your new free domain name to your website in no time.
Remember that you need to have chosen a website template you want to connect your domain name – so while you’re waiting for your domain to get activated, get your new website ready for action.
Other ways to get free domains
There are other ways to get a free domain name that don’t involve parting with your cash.
You could use a subdomain, be an advertiser for your domain registrar, or use a free country code TLD.
But none of these methods look as professional and trustworthy as having your own custom domain name.
Make use of subdomains
Most website builders, including Zyro, allow you to publish websites with a subdomain if you don’t want to register a domain name yourself.
They offer a good alternative to custom domain name registration if you’re setting up a side project or on a very tight budget.
Run your domain registrar’s ads on your website
Many domain registrars have ad programs, allowing you to get a free domain name in exchange for running their ads on your website.
While it can seem like a great way to get a free domain, banner ads will not just slow down your website: they will also bother your visitors.
And the more often people leave your website quickly, the worse your bounce rate will be. Meaning that you’ll have a hard time getting your website visible in search results.
Grab a free country code-based TLD
Websites like Freenom offer free domain registration for country code-base domains.
Domains like .tk (for Tokelau), .ml (for Mali), .ga (for Gabon), and .cf (for Central African Republic) are available for grabs for $0, but we wouldn’t recommend getting a free domain this way.
Your website will instantly look sketchy, and that’s a look no serious business or professional wants.
If you look at the reviews for these domain registrars, you’ll have a hard time finding a positive customer experience.
Many users report that these kinds of domain names attract malicious ads and adult content, and the registrars themselves can sometimes remove or block your domain without any explanation.
So, do yourself a favor and stay far away from these kinds of ‘free’ custom domain schemes – they’re usually more trouble than they’re worth.
Get a free domain name today
While the world of domains can seem a little daunting at first, it’s a lot less complicated once you realize that domain names are merely the address book entries of the internet.
If you want to register a domain name for free, by far the easiest way to do so is by creating a website with a website builder.
You’ll get everything you need for your website, and end up saving money in the long run. Plus, you’ll get a free domain, too.