Think of your domain name as the name of your website. This will be the calling card that visitors will use to find and explore your website, so it’s important to create the best domain name possible. A good rule of thumb is to keep the domain name short and simple so people can remember it easily. The domain name should contain a keyword related to your industry or simply be your business name.
Once you have chosen a domain name, you need to do a search to see if the website name is available. The easiest way to do this is to search for the Who is database of all registered domains. The Whois database provides a domain’s current owner, availability, and expiration date. If your domain name is not available, you may be able to contact the owner to purchase it or come up with a new domain name.
1. Use a free domain name registrar
Freenom claims to be the world’s leading free domain provider. Free domains work just like any other domain name with URL forwarding, free Freenom DNS service, or your own domain name service (DNS) or nameservers. The domain extensions currently available for free registration are .TK/.ML/.GA/.CF/.GQ. Unlike paid sites, Freenom free domain owners do not have transfer rights.
GetFreeDomain.Name and Dot TK also provide free domains with DNS support, so you can host them anywhere you like. Free domain registrars are not recommended for anything other than personal use. The lack of security and email addresses along with the unprofessional look of the website do not make free domains a suitable option for commercial sites.
2. Get a free domain name with a web hosting plan
Free domain names and professional email addresses are often included in web hosting packages. If you plan to use WordPress to build your website, you can consider using Bluehost as your hosting service. Not only does WordPress endorse Bluehost, but the hosting service includes a new free domain registration for customers’ first year.
Other services, such as Hostinger, HostGator, and InMotion Hosting, all offer similar free domain registration for the first year as part of their hosting plans. Other features typically included in hosting packages are secure sockets layer (SSL), unlimited bandwidth, marketing tools, automatic backups, and security features. Hosting prices vary but can start as low as $2.99 per month for the first year.
Learn more about the best web hosting servicesincluding information on which a free domain name appears.
3. Get a free domain name with an all-in-one website builder
In addition to hosting services, all-in-one website builders, such as Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace, often include a free domain for the user’s first year. These website builders are popular because they allow users without any coding experience to create professional-looking websites using customizable templates with drag-and-drop functionality.
Although they are generally more expensive than creating a WordPress website through a hosting provider, they are much easier to navigate for the average user. The paid plans of the most popular website builders include a free domain for 12 months. Unlike hosting plans, work email addresses may not be available on all plans. For more information, see our article on best website builders.
What to expect after registering your new domain
Once you register your domain name with a free plan, hosting service, or website builder, it usually takes 24-72 hours to become active. This is the time it takes for DNS to replicate the name around the world. After 48 hours, your domain will be included in the Whois database, which is a public record of all domain registrations. The database allows anyone to search the IP owner information of every website registered on the internet. It also gives new website owners the ability to find out if their idea for a domain name is available for registration, and if not, when the current registration for that name expires.
Generally, you cannot transfer a domain name for the first 60 days after registration. This is the length of time the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) requires domain providers to lock most domains after registration. Freenom is the only free domain provider in the world.
Your best bet for a free, professional-looking website is with a hosting service or website builder. Along with the domain, both offer great features, such as website templates, free security, e-commerce features, and more. Remember that free domain registration is usually only free for the first year or two before an annual fee kicks in. Learn more about how to register a domain name.