How to Get a Free Domain Name
The English language has some interesting, not to mention contradictory sayings. You may have heard “the best things in life are free,” although that really depends on what you consider to be the “best things.” But you may have also heard, “nothing in life comes for free,” which is a little more realistic.
While it is possible to get free domain names, you will invariably encounter fine print, and if you’re not aware of all the conditions and rules, you may find yourself with an unexpected bill down the road.
Free Domain Name With Hosting Plan
To build a self-hosted website, you must first secure a domain name. The first part of that process is finding one that’s not already taken, which gets more and more difficult to do as the years pass, and more and more websites crop up across the Internet. Once you find an available domain name that works for your purposes, you’ll want to snag it as soon as possible.
You can buy domain names from domain registrars, and the prices are usually pretty reasonable. You can also usually buy domain names from hosting providers when you’re in the process of setting up your hosting plan. But many hosting providers will offer a free domain name when you sign up for one of their hosting plans. It’s a small perk designed to entice you to use their hosting services, and it’s a good one.
But as you might have guessed, there’s a catch. The domain name is usually only free for the first year. After that, the usual purchase/renewal price will kick in, and be added to your annual hosting bill.
This is not an unreasonable deal, though. Getting a good self-hosted website off the ground can cost anywhere from less than $100 to several thousand, depending on how much you do yourself, whether you hire a professional Web designer, and a hundred other decisions you must make.
Before you sign up for hosting, check to see whether any hosting providers you’re interested in are offering free domain names. You’ll probably find a few, so check hosting reviews as well to help you select the one that’s best for you.
However much you end up spending to get your site up and running, being able to save a little money on the domain name is nice. It’s especially helpful, though, if your budget is extra tight, and you’re doing a lot of the setup yourself to save money. Just know that to keep your domain, you’ll have to start paying for it a year after you sign up.
Free Domain Name with Hosting Upgrade
In addition to sometimes offering free domain names when you sign up for a hosting plan, some hosting providers will sometimes also offer a free domain name when you upgrade your hosting. For example, if your site has outgrown the capacity offered by your shared hosting plan, and you want to upgrade to virtual private server or VPS hosting, that may qualify you for a free domain name.
You can usually take advantage of this in a couple of ways. Since you’re upgrading, you already own a site and domain, so you may be able to apply the free domain offer to your domain name renewal rather than buying a new domain. If your domain is registered with your hosting provider, this is pretty easy. If it’s not, you’ll have to transfer your domain name to your host, which isn’t quite as easy, but isn’t too burdensome, either. Your hosting provider may be able to help you do this if you’re not sure how.
Or, even if you already have a site for which you upgrade hosting, you can take the free domain name and buy a completely new one. This is ideal if you have plans to build a second website, either at the time of renewal, or at some point in the future.
Free Domain Name With Free Website
Yes, this really does exist. But once again, there’s a catch, but this is an even bigger catch than having to pay ten bucks down the road. The catch is, you will never own the website. It belongs to the entity providing the site and domain name to you.
Examples of this include WordPress.com, Blogger, Tumblr, and other sites that allow you to set up pages or entire websites for free. The thing is, you’re not really getting a free domain name. You’re being allowed to use a domain name that is attached to the service.
For example, if you want to build a site called Money-Saving Shopping Tips, an actual domain might be something like moneysavingshoppingtips.com. However, if you build that site on a free service such as WordPress.com, the domain would instead be something like moneysavingshoppingtips.wordpress.com.
This means you have little to no control over what happens to your site. If, for any reason, WordPress.com felt your site somehow violated their terms of service, they could immediately and without warning, shut your site down. This is unlikely, but if, for some reason, WordPress.com simply went away, so would your site, again without warning.
You can get a custom domain from sites like WordPress.com, but you must pay for that upgrade, so at that point, it’s no longer a free domain name or site.
Being able to build a site for free, and get a free domain name in this manner may work for you, depending on what your plans for your site are. But if you’re building a business site, or you plan to build your blog into a revenue-generating endeavor, this probably isn’t your best option.
A Combination of Free Services
While looking around for hosting and domain names, you’ll no doubt run across sites like gybo.com. This service is run by Google, and offers both a free domain name and a free website. Here it comes—the catch: It’s only free for the first year. After that, you’ll be charged on a monthly basis for both the site and the domain name, provided you registered the domain with gybo.com. If not, you’ll just pay for the hosting.
Again, this may be a good option if you’re only looking to build a small personal site, or you’re a beginner trying to learn the ins and outs of running a website before you invest in it as a long-term project. Be aware, though, that gybo.com (and other services like it) places limitations on the free site. For example, it will only contain three pages, 25 MB of disk space, and 5 GB of bandwidth. In addition, it does not include any domain-based email addresses, or any kind of e-commerce support.
Those features, as well as more disk space, pages, and bandwidth, are available for additional fees.
From time to time, you may see not just hosting providers, but other companies and sites associated with hosting that will make special offers available to customers and readers. For example, right here at WhoIsHostingThis.com, we have an ongoing free domain offer for anyone who contributes a review to our site.
It’s simple. Just review a qualifying host (there are several), make sure it’s a good quality and original review, and submit it. Your review will be moderated by our site’s editors. Once it’s published, and if it qualifies, you’ll receive a free domain.com voucher. Try it out!
You’ll see a lot of different opinions out there about what kind of hosting is best, and whether free websites are worth the trouble. It will come down to what’s best for your specific situation and preference. Just do your homework first, and know that when you’re ready to build that site, you have a lot of options available to you, many of which will include a free domain name, if that’s one of the features you’re seeking.
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