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To get your website online, you need a domain name. If you don’t want to pay for a domain name, keep reading this post.
Your domain name is where your site lives on the internet. I use neilpatel.com, as you can see in your browser. Obviously, you want something different.
In this post, I’ll walk you through how to get a free domain name that aligns with your business and establishes your brand.
There are a few different ways to go about this. Below, I outline your best options for snagging a quality domain for free and walk you through the process step by step.
I’ve made this as simple as possible. Don’t worry if you aren’t familiar with this stuff. Just follow the steps and you will have a free domain name very quickly.
Your 2-Minute Cheat Sheet
Want a quick answer on how to get a free domain name? I’ll cut to the chase.
If you’re planning to start a blog or launch a website, you’ll need a web hosting company. When it comes to making a choice from the many available options, I suggest Hostinger.
Not only does the company provide excellent speed and uptime reliability, but it also offers a free domain name for the first year.
Get your domain and hosting set up in one fell swoop with Hostinger. You still have to pay for hosting (which you can lock in for under $2 per month), but you get the domain name for free.
You can create a Hostinger account and sign up by clicking here. With their easy guided setup, the whole process just takes a couple minutes.
After that, you’ll have hosting, a domain, and a basic website ready to go.
If your budget is really tight at the moment, you can also consider using a free subdomain.
This is where website builders like WordPress and Wix come into play. The only catch is that, instead of having a simple .com site like mine (NeilPatel.com), you‘ll have something like yourusername.wixsite.com/yoursiteaddress or yourdomainname.wordpress.com.
This isn’t an ideal situation. But it can be a viable option for when you want to experiment with free features of the website builder.
But if not having a clean .com is a non-starter, don’t worry. The process for getting set up with Hostinger and snagging your free domain is as simple as it can be.
Read on to follow the three easy steps to get a free domain name for your website.
You’ll be able to do all of this in one place with Hostinger. I will walk through some of your other options, but you may need to interface with multiple vendors to accomplish all of these steps.
Step 1: Go to Hostinger’s Website
The very first thing you need to do is head over to Hostinger by clicking here.
Click Start Now and you’ll be taken straight to the checkout page.
Conveniently, that checkout page is all set up with my recommendation. You’ll get premium shared hosting, which is the lowest-cost plan that also includes a free domain name.
My tip is select the longest term for the best rate. If you commit to four years of hosting upfront, you can lock in a really attractive rate of $1.99 per month.
Just click on the right-most box at the top to make sure you get the best deal.
Take a look at the add-ons below there to see if any are useful to you. None of them are absolutely necessary, but daily backups and priority support are helpful features and they’re reasonably priced.
After that, click Checkout Now, enter your payment information, and then you’ll be onto setup.
Step 2: Select Your Hosting Type
With my offer for Hostinger’s shared hosting, you actually don’t have to select hosting type yourself. Premium shared hosting is all ready to go for you.
However, you may know enough about your website’s needs to also know that you might need more a powerful hosting type than shared hosting, like VPS or dedicated.
If you have no idea, read on to learn a little bit about the differences between those three types of hosting and who each one is best for.
I would recommend shared hosting if you’re starting a new website.
Not only are the plans under this category cheap, but they can also accommodate the needs of low-traffic sites quite efficiently. Your website is hosted on a server along with a bunch of other websites. You save money by sharing server resources with the other tenants.
It’s like living in an apartment versus having your own house. It costs less and you don’t have to worry about maintenance. If one of the sites on the shared server starts taking too many resources, it can cause problems for your site’s performance. This is why shared hosting isn’t appropriate for really big complex websites.
The flip side is that shared hosting is perfect for someone who doesn’t expect high traffic volumes and lacks technical knowledge.
VPS hosting stands for virtual private service hosting. This category includes plans for websites that want better performance and can accommodate a higher price point.
The good thing about this hosting type is it guarantees useful resources to you exclusively. Technically, you still share a server with other websites, but you have a “virtual“ server that includes dedicated resources.
You can consider this hosting type if you expect sudden spikes in traffic volumes.
Dedicated hosting gives you exclusive access to an entire server reserved for your website alone. You don’t have to share it with anyone.
Understandably, you get premium performance with this subscription plan–but you have to be ready to pay its premium price, too.
This could be a good option if you’re a large enterprise that regularly handles high traffic. It’s also great for those who want complete control over the hosting environment.
For this guide, I’ll suggest you choose the premium shared hosting plan that’s preselected. However, if you prefer other plans, you can go ahead with them as well.
Step 3: Claim Your Free Domain
After you’ve completed checkout and payment, you’ll be taken to your Hostinger control panel, hPanel.
There, you’ll see front-and-center an option for claiming your free domain.
Click Claim Domain to search for your preferred domain name. Once you see it, click the purple box next to it.
I’d encourage you to select a .com extension as it looks more professional and helps you appear more reliable to your visitors.
The only time that I’d consider an alternative domain extension is if the .com extension is already taken and you are absolutely set on the name.
Having a .com domain is particularly important for businesses—small blogs, personal sites, and side hustles may be able to save a few bucks by going for an alternative extension.
After that, you’ll just have to enter some basic information to register it. Fill out the form and submit it. Hostinger will take a few minutes to verify your registration information, then send you an email which will have a link to complete the verification.
With that, you’re all set on securing your free domain name!
There’s just one more thing I recommend.
Make sure to enable WHOIS protection. After you’ve completed verification, you’ll be taken to the section of your dashboard for your new domain name. Then, just look for the slider button under WHOIS Privacy and click it so it becomes purple and enabled.
Doing this will conceal your name, email, phone number, and address from appearing on a public database.
And you’re done!
You now have an excellent hosting plan as well as a free domain. If you have not already started, then start now at Hostinger.
For the sake of comprehensiveness, I’ll also discuss two other ways of getting a free domain. Although I don’t recommend them, it’s always good to know all of the options.
Option 1: Using a Free Subdomain
Several website builders offer subdomains, which is a personal domain that exists within an existing domain name.
Remember that movie Inception where Leonardo DiCaprio dreams that he is in a dream? Something similar happens here.
You end up getting a domain name within a domain name.
Site builders like Wix, Squarespace, and Weebly offer subdomains to their users. They have a free trial as well, so if you like their services, you can purchase their premium plans that include everything you require to build, launch, and manage a professional business website.
Out of the several perks on offer like drag-and-drop site builder, web hosting, templates, and search engine optimization (SEO) tools, you also get a free domain name.
But why do I still say this method is not ideal?
Let’s discuss this with an example.
Imagine you use a free website builder like Wix. You won’t have to pay for a domain, yes, but your side will have the Wix subdomain. It’ll look something like this:
Suppose your Wix username is “My Stunning Website 123,” and the domain name you want is myblogsite. Here’s what you’ll get:
Think about it: Does that look professional? Have you seen any credible website have a domain like this?
That is why I’d only suggest this method if you want to experiment with your website builder’s free features or new updates.
WordPress is your other option, and luckily, is not as invasive as Wix. The format for a free WordPress subdomain is: yourdomainname.wordpress.com
This is a good option for situations when one cannot spend money, but it is not a viable long-term strategy. You want your domain name to be memorable and short–both of which aren’t possible when you use a subdomain.
The fact that your visitors won’t remember your domain or find it hard to remember is another disadvantage.
Option 2: Using a Free Domain Name Registrar (Not Recommended)
I’m only discussing this option for the sake of comprehensiveness of this article and wouldn’t recommend it.
You can get a domain name from a free domain registrar, but it’s still unsuitable.
You see, the truly free domains use untrustworthy-looking extensions. For instance, you get .tk instead of .com. Your prospective customers would much prefer working with a domain name that reads yourbusiness.com instead of your yourbusiness.tk.
While it is entirely free, it looks unprofessional and untrustworthy and is even susceptible to hackers. Plus, you don’t own the domain name, which also defeats the purpose of launching a blog or a website.
Several domain registrars will give you a free domain in exchange for running ads on your website. There is nothing wrong with running ads, but this just isn’t the best way to do it.
You don’t have any control over the ads (the kind of ads played, the length, etc.) or their placement. As a result, your visitors may not have the best experience on your website. This may even damage your SEO ranking as well.
In fact, even if you view the situation with a more optimistic viewpoint, it still isn’t viable.
Suppose you’re successful in driving high traffic to your website, and the ads get one million views. You won’t receive a single penny from those ads–all you get is a free domain.
Not a fair trade, right?
If you’re seriously toying with the idea of running ads on your website, I’d advise you to do so through a legitimate advertising network as it can be a great source of income. Don’t exchange ads for a free domain.
Important: Don’t Forget to Renew Your Domain!
Domains expire. This can take one year, two years, or three years based on the package you buy.
Setting up a website or blog is hard work. You put in a lot of effort to find the perfect URL, design a website, and publish relevant content on it, among several other things that help it rank high and attract customers.
Just imagine the horror when you get up and realize some random stranger has bought it. The reason? You forgot to renew your domain.
This is why you must understand the importance of renewing your domain. Many people have made this mistake in the past, and it cost them dearly.
For instance, during one presidential election cycle, Jeb Bush and his team forgot to renew their domain JebBush.com, which Donald Trump successfully purchased and redirected Bush’s visitors to his own presidential election website. It was a stellar business move on Trump’s part, but a disaster that Bush’s team could’ve easily averted.
Make sure domain renewal is marked on your calendar a month in advance. You can also put your domain on auto-renewal just to be safe.
Hostinger is the best way to get a free domain name–one that you won’t have to surrender even if you switch web hosts.
Within seconds you’ll have a reliable web hosting service as well as a new domain for free. Trust me, saving a few dollars isn’t worth the hassle of looking unprofessional, running a spammy website, or getting hacked.
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