March 5, 2021

Best Domain Name Registrars – A Buyer’s Guide

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In reviewing the best options for domain registrars, you need to think about the top things to look for which are affordability, ease of use, and now more than ever - security.


As this sector had matured, and the reseller channels have exploded, you now have thousands of options to choose from and to get a firm handle on the market is like looking straight up a cliff. 


From privacy and security to configuration and DNS management, it’s understandable to feel confused or unsure. 


The good news is that I’ve used countless domain registrars over the course of my digital business career and I’ve narrowed things down to a very digestible buyers guide of top recommendations.


As long as you choose one of these registrars, you’ll be in good hands.


Some of the key factors we cover are how to choose the best domain registrar, and the different places to get a domain. These are the companies that I highly recommend to anyone interested in creating a new website for their business.


Let’s take a look…


The Top 5 Options for Domain Registration:


  • Bluehost – Best for bundling with web hosting
  • Domain.com – Best for long-term registrations
  • Namecheap – Cheapest domain registrar
  • NameSilo – Best for buying domains in bulk
  • Google Domains – Best for Google integration


Bluehost — Best for Bundling with Web Hosting

bluehost domain screen

Bluehost is my #1 web hosting recommendation. And you also get a free domain name for the first year when you bundle the two together.


So, if you’re starting a brand new website, Bluehost is an excellent choice.


However, if you want to buy more than one domain name, I highly recommend using a domain registrar, like NameSilo, instead. Bluehost domains are more expensive than other options on this list so it only makes sense if you need one domain with web hosting, as well.


All domain registrations come with standard features, including:


  • Intuitive domain management dashboard
  • Free SSL certificate
  • Auto renewals
  • Domain locking
  • Complete DNS control
  • 24/7 expert support
  • Self-service knowledge base

After the first year, your .com domain name renews at $12.99 per year. And you have to pay an additional $11.99 per year ($0.99 per month) to mask your private information.


Bluehost also offers a Microsoft 365 upsell, but you can skip this and purchase it separately if you end up needing it later on.


Domain.com — Best for Long-term Registrations

domain dot com screen

Domain.com powers more than 1.2 million websites around the world. With a beginner-friendly interface, and the ability to buy as many domain names as you want, it’s my #1 recommendation.


It’s also great for long-term registrations because you can register your domain for up to five years at a time.


This means you don’t have to worry about renewing it every year and you can pay for everything in advance (no annual payments).


Every domain comes with:


  • Transfer Lock Security – TLS
  • A free SSL certificate
  • Email and URL forwarding
  • Complete DNS control
  • 24/7/365 customer support
  • An extensive knowledge base

Furthermore, Domain.com is extremely affordable. You can expect to pay $9.99 per year for .com domains for your initial contract period. And they renew at $13.99 per year after that.


They also offer hundreds of different domain extensions including .blog, .co, .net, and .org plus some you’ve probably never heard of.


However, keep in mind you have to pay an extra $8.99/year for privacy and protection.
Domain.com also offers several upsells throughout the process including G Suite and web hosting. But you can skip these and buy them separately if you end up needing them.


Namecheap — Cheapest Domain Registrar

namecheap screen

Although price is a small factor, if you’re looking for the most affordable domain registrar for a single domain, you should choose Namecheap.


They’re a reputable domain registrar currently managing more than 10 million domain names.


Plus, their straightforward and intuitive interface makes buying a domain name a breeze. It takes less than a few minutes and you don’t have to worry about countless upsells or distractions.


With that said, there are a few upsells you can skip, including web hosting, private email, G Suite, and EasyWP. You don’t need any of these from your domain registrar.


You can (and should) buy these separately if you end up needing them down the road.
However, every domain registration includes:


  • Free privacy protection
  • Domain name security
  • 24/7 live chat support
  • Extensive knowledge base
  • Full DNS access

Prices start at $8.88 per year for .com domains. Namecheap is constantly having sales, so you may be able to get it for even less.


You can register for up to ten years in advance, which is an excellent way to save a few dollars and avoid the hassle of renewing every year.


Keep in mind that your domain name renews at $12.98 per year after your initial contract.


NameSilo — Best for Buying Domains in Bulk

namesilo-screen

If you’re interested in buying numerous domain names to cover similar names, common misspellings, or alternative extensions, NameSilo is the best choice.


They offer bulk order discounts if you buy more than 50 domains in a single order.


However, if you need a single domain name (or fewer than ten), I recommend going with Domain.com instead. It’s a bit more expensive but it’s easier to use.


Every domain you purchase automatically comes with:


  • Free privacy protection for life
  • DNS management tools
  • Email and domain forwarding
  • Domain defender protection
  • Locking/unlocking capability
  • Monetized parking page
  • 24/7 customer support

For 1 – 49 domain names, each .com is $8.99 per year ($0.10 more than Namecheap). However, that price stays the same when it’s time for renewal, rather than jumping up a few dollars more per year.


For 50 – 100 names, each one is $8.89 per year. With steeper discounts at higher volumes. So, the more you buy, the more money you can save.


And these discounted rates apply at renewal time as long as you have the same number of active domains in your account.


Lastly, don’t forget to say “yes” to WHOIS privacy protection at checkout. It’s free but you have to opt in to use it.


NameSilo is definitely my pick for people who need buy a large number of domains because they make it easy and affordable in the long run.


Google Domains — The Best for Google Integration

google domains screen

If you’re used to the Google interface, Google Domains is comfortable and familiar.


Plus, they also make it a breeze to integrate your domain with other Google tools, like G Suite, Google Analytics, and Google Search Console.


Furthermore, Google Domains is a smart choice if you only need 1 – 10 domain names and appreciate the simplicity of the Google platform. However, if you need more than that, there are cheaper alternatives for buying domain names in bulk (like NameSilo).


With absolutely no upsells, it’s hard to beat the streamlined checkout process.


And every domain name includes:


  • Free privacy protection (unlike Domain.com and Bluehost)
  • Email forwarding services
  • Easy access to add-on services
  • Domain sharing
  • 2-step verification
  • Cloud DNS
  • DNS exporting
  • 24/7 customer support


At $12.99 per year, Google Domains is affordable and inline with the other domain registrars on this list. However, you get privacy protection for free as an added value.


Shortlist Google Domains if you are already using their other tools like G Suite and Google Workspace. The price is similar to others, but the integration with other Google products is unbeatable.


What I Look At To Find the Best Domain Name Registrar


Finding a good domain registrar is a task I’m very familiar with.


I don’t always pick the same one, because certain domain registrars are better to use in different situations.


Let’s go through your options. There are basically three ways to get a domain name:


  • Use a domain registrar
  • Get a domain name bundled with hosting
  • Buy a domain name through a reseller

Domain registrars handle the tech side of assigning IP addresses to domain names and reserving domain names as well.


Popular domain registrars include Domain.com and Namecheap. Both of these sites make it incredibly easy to find and purchase an available domain name.


In order to get your site online, however, you need to get web hosting in addition to a domain name.


Some great web hosting providers, like Bluehost, offer domain names bundled with hosting. In fact, Bluehost includes a free domain name for the first year when you sign up for hosting.


If you already have a web host you like, I recommend using a domain registrar.


But if you don’t currently have web hosting for your site, or you are not thrilled by the quality of your current hosting situation, I’d go with Bluehost.


The third option, domain resellers, are exactly what they sound like. They resell domain names in partnership with domain registrars, but resellers typically charge extra so they can make money, too. Also, they usually don’t have dedicated support.


For these reasons, I don’t recommend buying through a reseller.


All of the recommendations on my list are domain registrars, with the exception of Bluehost.


How do you decide which of these good options will be the best for you?


Let’s walk through the criteria I use when evaluating my domain registration options.


Note: Once you buy a domain name, you won’t be able to transfer for 60 days. Picking a good option the first time is really important.


Registration Period and Renewal Rates


Most domain registrars offer promotional pricing for your initial contract term. Some limit your initial contract term to one or two years, while others may give you five to 10 years.


So if you’re looking to save money, your best bet is opting for the longest registration period available. Max out the discount for as long as possible.


This is also a great way to ensure no one else can buy it, since you don’t have to remember to renew it every year.


Of the domain registrars that I’ve reviewed in this post, Namecheap, NameSilo, and Google Domains will each allow you to purchase a domain for the full 10-year term at checkout.


Domain.com maxes out at five years. There aren’t any tricky rebate policies with any of them, though, which is why I like these registrars the best.


With Bluehost, you get a free domain for the first year when you sign up for hosting and the renewal rate is usually only a few dollars more.


For Bluehost and the domain registrars, both the promotional and renewal prices will vary according to the top level domain (TLD) you choose.


The price can vary depending on the TLD (.com, .org, .net, etc.). Another name for TLD is domain extension, so you might see that term, too. They are the same thing.


Let’s talk a little bit more about these TLDs, and how to choose a registrar that will make your hunt for the perfect domain as easy (and as affordable) as possible.


Domain Extensions and Search Tools


I really like it when a domain registrar makes it easy for you to take advantage of all the different domain extensions available.


Basically, you are looking at two things:


  • How many different TLDs do they offer?
  • How easy is it to search for domain names?

Every domain registrar on my list offers the familiar TLDs like .com, but some offer a larger selection of alternative TLDs. There are hundreds of new TLDs, like .online, .blog, and even .ninja.


This is great for people starting new sites because, as you can imagine, most of the desirable domain names are already taken for the .com extension.


A great place to check for a bargain deal on one of the newer TLDs is Namecheap. They run promotional pricing for domains as low as $0.99/year, which is a real steal.


With new TLDs, you want to pick something that’s going to age well and makes sense with your business. Just keep searching until you find one that works.


Be aware that not all domain registrars offer the same selection of TLDs. As a random example, Bluehost doesn’t offer .theater, but Google Domains does. NameSilo offers both .theater and .theatre, whereas Google doesn’t have the British spelling.


Speaking of searching for an available domain name, some companies make it really easy. You can use the search tool on the Bluehost website to check if the domain you want is available.


If the name you want isn’t available, Bluehost and others will offer suggestions for slightly different names or alternative TLDs that are available. This can help you find something much quicker than having to search each name individually.


Namecheap and NameSilo let you search up to 5,000 keywords at once. This is incredibly helpful when you are trying to brainstorm an effective domain name.


Here are some strategies you can use if your domain name is unavailable. If you are having trouble, I recommend Namecheap and NameSilo, as they offer the best search tools and largest variety of TLDs.


Domain Transfers


If you want to change domain registrars in the future, you have to do a domain transfer. Some registrars make this free and easy, while others charge for it.


Make sure you read through your registrar’s transfer policy before making any final decisions. It’s important to choose a company you can count on, even when you’re transferring to a different service.


Otherwise, the transfer can cause unwanted downtime or accessibility issues for your website.


All of the domain registrars I’ve picked have guided transfer processes designed to make the transition as smooth as possible.


Namecheap, for example, has a process that you can follow that results in zero downtime. On top of that, you get to carry over any remaining time from your previous registration to Namecheap.


That’s not typical. Usually you just lose whatever time you had remaining from your old registrar.


NameSilo is another good option for domain transfers, as they will add a full year to your expiration date when you transfer.


WHOIS Privacy


Domain name registration involves providing your personal details to the domain registrar. However, doing so means your information is now part of the public record.
But the good news is it doesn’t have to be, thanks to WHOIS privacy.


This is a privacy service that masks private information, like your email, address, phone number from the public record. This way, it’s not accessible to scammers, hackers, or anyone looking for your information online.


Some registrars charge for this service, while others offer it for free. Bluehost, for example, charges $15/year for domain privacy and protection. Domain.com charges for it, as well.


With Google Domains, NameSilo, and Namecheap, WHOIS privacy is free forever. I always recommend you use it, unless you’re registering your domain with your company’s address, phone number, etc.


This information is already public so it won’t hurt to have it attached to your domain.


Number of Domains


It’s common for large and small companies alike to buy multiple domain names, including:


  • Common misspellings of their original name
  • Various domain extensions
  • Semantically similar domain names

Why? To make sure no one else can buy a similar name or intentional misspelling to steal their traffic. It also ensures your website is easy to find, even if someone doesn’t know how to spell it or what extension you’re using.


And while a multiple domain strategy is great for growing your business, it’s rarely necessary if you’re just starting out.


If you’re interested in buying 50+ domains, NameSilo is your best option. You get competitive pricing on domains and free WHOIS privacy forever (which saves money on every site).


You can also wield NameSilo’s powerful bulk domain search, which lets you find and buy as many domains as you need.

Another nice aspect of NameSilo is that you earn 100% of the profits from parked domains. These are sites you own that are directed to your main site and, usually, they have advertising that brings in a little revenue.


Normally, hosts or registrars take some of the advertising earnings from parked domains. NameSilo doesn’t.


Namecheap also offers a bulk domain search and good prices, so it might be another good option for people who need a lot of domain names.


If you just need one site, Bluehost offers one domain name free for the first year. So, this is an excellent option if you need a single domain name and web hosting for a new website


Domain Management


Domain names may feel like a “set it and forget it” type of thing. But in reality, they require ongoing management including renewals, security, and accessibility.


The good news is that there is not a ton of work that goes into domain management, especially if you only have one site. If you have a bunch of domains under your control, the management features become a lot more important.


Different domain registrars may handle domain management differently, so it’s crucial to understand how things work with the company you choose.


For example, most registrars offer auto renew services, meaning you don’t have to manually renew your domain registration every year. It’s important to get the auto renewal set up properly, because if your domain expires, it might cost you a lot to get it back.


With Domain.com, your website will be replaced by a parked domain and the email will stop working if you do not renew on time. From there, you’ll have 30 days to renew your domain for the normal price.


If you don’t renew during that time, someone else can snatch up your domain. And even if no one purchases it, you will still have to purchase the domain out of redemption, which costs around $100 on Domain.com.


I know that sounds bad, but it’s about half as much as buying your name out of redemption on Namecheap.


So you want to stay on top of domain management. In addition to autorenewals, some of the key management features to look out for include:


  • Email: Having email accounts @yourdomainname.com looks professional and serves as the place where you receive information about your domain. Some registrars a few free email accounts, whereas others only provide email forwarding.
  • Two-Factor Authentication (2FA): This is an extra layer of protection that makes sure someone can’t hack your account with a stolen username/password. The second factor of authentication could be a text message sent to a trusted device that only you own.
  • Domain lock: Sometimes called “Transfer lock,” this feature prevents anyone from transferring your domain.
  • DNS management tools: Domain name system (DNS) records are stored in databases called nameservers, and tell web browsers where to find websites. You may have to update DNS records from time to time. It’s not difficult, so long as your domain registrar provides easy DNS tools.

Namecheap provides a free email account for the first two months and a DNS management tool that’s free forever. You can use Namecheap’s free DNS even if you use a different domain registrar.


Domain.com, NameSilo, and Google Domains offer free email forwarding, so you can keep using your current accounts to manage your new domain. All three of these registrars also offer free DNS management tools.


If you sign up for hosting and get a free domain name through Bluehost, you can add email services for a low rate and manage your DNS free forever.


Time to choose…


At the end of the day, the registrar you choose doesn’t really matter (as long as you go with one of these recommendations). What’s important iis getting the domain name and extension you want at a reasonable price with the protection and security you need.


With that said, Domain.com is great for most users and Bluehost offers a free domain for the first year if you need web hosting services as well. However, both charge extra for privacy protection.


On the other hand, NameSilo, Google Domains, and Namecheap offer this protection for free.


NameSilo is excellent if you need hundreds of domains. Google Domains makes sense if you’re comfortable with the Google interface (and sharing more info with Google). And Namecheap is the most affordable registrar for .com domains.

So, regardless of what you need, your new domain name is just a few clicks away.