How to Get a Free Domain Name for Your Small Business
Everyone who has created a website knows the pain of securing the right domain name, aka a website address, for your business. The biggest challenges are often getting the right domain for your business and the cost. How much a domain name costs depends on the domain’s popularity and who might be the seller (i.e. the domain registrar).
Domains can cost anywhere from $2 to $5,000—some even go for millions—depending on who you are buying the name from, how popular the name is, and if it has already been acquired by a third party buyer.
But if you’re looking for something original and you’re flexible on the name, a domain registrar won’t be the most expensive service you invest in. But acquiring a free domain name can feel like a nice win for small business owners looking to cut costs wherever they can. Read on for a quick how-to on getting a free domain name.
The bottom line: The best way to get a free domain is through a website builder or email host. You can also just pay outright for a domain. But the one thing you should never do? Use a free domain registrar. Your business could be in jeopardy if you do—and we wish we were being dramatic about this. A free domain registrar comes with serious security risks, and you don’t actually own the domain.
3 ways to get a free domain name for your business
This feels like a cheat, but the best way to get a quality, safe, and competitive domain for free is, well, to pay for it. The catch is that you buy another service—a website builder, email hosting or WordPress hosting—and the domain name gets thrown in for free.
Even if you take the freebie, you’re not locked into that service for life. After a certain amount of time, you can transfer the domain if you want to use a different website builder or email host.
If this workaround doesn’t work for you, we rounded up the cheapest domain name registrars. If you’re committed to a free domain name, here’s how bundling works.
1. Get a free domain through a website builder
Website builders, like Wix or Squarespace, offer a free domain when you buy a plan with them. Depending on the platform, your domain name might be free for only a year, and you’ll have to pay annually for hosting. If you pay monthly, you may not qualify for a free domain.
With Squarespace, you can have a free domain indefinitely if you remain a customer and pay annually for your site.
If you change web hosts, you can transfer your domain as long as you transfer your DNS to the new host. In every case, you will have explicit directions to transfer your domain name from your current host to your new host.
A DNS, or domain name server, is basically the specific phone book for domain names that turned your domain into a web address.
Granted, after one year, you’ll have to start paying for your domain either annually or monthly. This is when you need to decide whether you are paying for a basic site or a premium one. Still, a free domain name from a website builder can get your business up and running online with little fuss so you can worry about other things.
Don’t know which website builder to pick? These are the cheapest website builders we recommend.
2. You can get a free domain with email hosting
Even if you don’t need a website right now because you’re using social media to build your brand, you might still want to send emails to subscribers. This is where a domain can help your email address look professional. Many times, you can bundle email hosting and get a free domain.
One consideration: Many email host companies only offer .com domains instead of letting you choose something more specialized like .restaurant, .fun or .pizza.
Just like with website builders, you only get a free domain name for one year. After that, you will have to pay to keep that domain name.
For email hosting, we recommend GoDaddy because you get a free domain name, you can add services as needed and transfer your domain later. Plus, GoDaddy offers plenty of add-ons to make running your small business easier.
3. Free domain through WordPress hosting
WordPress is the king of website building and hosting, but it’s not for the faint of heart. WordPress requires a bit more work than an all-in-one builder like Squarespace.
To get a free domain name, you have to pay for the WordPress hosting plan annually. You cannot get a free domain name with the free or monthly plan. Per the usual, your domain name is only free for one year. You will have to start paying at the start of the second year.
The one thing you shouldn’t do to get a free domain name
There’s only one truly free option: a free domain registrar—but the risks are astronomical. We highly recommend that you steer clear for these reasons:
- Your site won’t be secure. Your information and data gathered from customers isn’t private and could be susceptible to phishing or hacking. The registrar might even sell your info.
- You don’t own the domain. You’re basically borrowing the name until the owner decides otherwise. Your website could just go poof one day.
- You can’t control your site. What your site looks like and what ads the registrar may place isn’t up to you. The result could be a very unprofessional site.
- You’ll get a weird extension. You won’t get a top-level domain extension (for example, .com, .net or .org). Instead, you’ll get something odd like .ml or .tk, which immediately makes your site look sketchy.
- You can forget about SEO. Search engines may see your site as spam if you have an unusual extension, like business.tk, and you won’t show up in search results.
Customize your website with an easy-to-use site builder that’ll make your brand look professional and polished in no time.
Safe, free-forever domain names for your small business don’t exist. It isn’t worth risking your business over a $10 to $15 annual expense. Just buy a domain name or get a free domain name through your website builder or email host and pay after the first year.
You might even save by bundling services or get customer support from your email or web host. You’ll get professional help later, too, if you decide to transfer your domain.
Want some help registering your domain name? Check out our favorite cheap domain registrars for small businesses.
At Business.org, our research is meant to offer general product and service recommendations. We don't guarantee that our suggestions will work best for each individual or business, so consider your unique needs when choosing products and services.