15 Best Domain Name Registrars
Domain names are an integral part of your online business, no matter if you’re a tech startup or a freelance graphic artist, your domain name can make or break your business. Sure, that sounds like an over exaggeration, but just think about it, without domain names, the internet would not be a very efficient place.
A top-level domain (TLD) name adds credibility, mobility, helps build your brand, and can even attract local customers. Aside from what you plan on doing with your domain after your purchase, the first step to purchasing a new domain begins with finding a domain registrar who is right for you.
WHAT’S A DOMAIN REGISTRAR?
When you go to register a domain, the entire process consists of three separate participants: The domain registry, registrar, and the registrant.
A domain registry is basically an organization who manages all the domain names that they are responsible for. Each registry maintains a database, or domain name system (DNS), of their own top-level domain names along with the relevant registrant information.
Registries are the ones responsible for creating new domain extensions, setting the rules for those extensions, and working with registrars to sell those domain names to the public. VeriSign, for example, manages all information related to .com and .net domain names.
The only organizations higher on the totem pole during the domain registration process are the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
A domain registrant is simply the organization or individual purchasing a domain name through a domain registrar. The registrant’s information is sent to the proper registry, information that can then be managed and modified through the registrar.
Now, on to the reason we’re here: Domain registrars. As you can probably gather, a domain registrar is the company who allows us as registrants to buy domains. Every registrar has their own list of top level domains they sell. While in the beginning stages of the internet there was only one company who registered domains on behalf of clients, today there are hundreds of different registrars.
But even so, domain registrars are not the only way to buy domain names. This leads us to our next point: The difference between certified domain registrars and domain resellers.
CERTIFIED REGISTRARS VS. RESELLERS
To become a legitimate domain registrar, the organization must be certified and accredited by ICANN – the private non-profit company responsible for allocating IP addresses and managing the worldwide Domain Name System (DNS). But not all registrars are accredited by ICANN.
As mentioned above, domain registrars are not the only companies you are able to buy domains through. A vast majority of web hosting providers also sell domain names as a part of their web hosting service. Most registrants purchase their domains through their hosting provider rather than using an outside registrar, as it can be much more convenient and economical since transferring a domain comes usually comes with a fee.
Web hosting providers who sell domains, or services who are not certified registrars but sell domain names, are both considered domain “resellers.” They’re given this nickname because they are reselling domains from the registry’s they work with, often at a higher price.
But are all hosting providers who sell domain names resellers? No. There are several web hosting providers out there who are accredited registrars. GoDaddy is one popular example of a certified domain registrar who was first known for their cost-effective web hosting.
THE PROBLEM WITH DOMAIN RESELLERS
While buying domain names through resellers can be convenient, it can also come with a variety of problems you may not have considered. Becoming a domain reseller as opposed to a registrar is fairly easy.
You simply need to create an account with a certified registrar, build a website, and attract clients. Though most resellers are honest and take their responsibilities as a domain provider seriously, others do not.
– Spam – If you combine a domain reseller with a spam-friendly web host, you have the perfect recipe for a spam-filled inbox. When scrapers, spammers, and hackers know the email address you used to buy a domain, it can not only be a nuance, but can lead to more detrimental issues.
– Prices – Resellers must purchase domains through packages offered by registrars, either through individual extensions or by sets of domains. Every registrar has their own reseller program with its own pricing structure, but in the end, a domain reseller program is designed to do one thing: Make the resellers profit. With this said, you’re likely to find higher domain prices by using resellers. Sometimes it’s best to just cut out the middle man and go straight to the registrar.
– Unresponsive – What happens in the event the reseller you purchased your domain through goes out of business? If this happens, you would need to go through a series of steps that involves using a WhoIs lookup to find out who the actual registrar is. Then you would need to verify with the registrar that you are the actual domain owner before you’re able to access your own domain. While registrars typically have no problems with helping its registrants, it’s a good idea to avoid the hassle and headache that comes with choosing a reseller who may not be in business two, five, or even ten years from now.
5 THINGS TO LOOK FOR IN A DOMAIN REGISTRAR
There is no one-size-fits-all domain registrar. It pays to shop around. While browsing different registrars, you will inevitably find some surprising differences between providers in what they offer – or don’t offer.
Whether you come across SMTP issues, experience DNS errors, or stumble upon complex IP address troubles, every technology professional needs to be well-prepared. And this requires knowing exactly what features to look for in a reliable domain registrar.
An often-overlooked problem that occurs quite frequently is domain theft. People with malicious means may try to hack into your personal registrar account or associated email address. If successful, the hacker can then steal your domain by transferring it to a different registrar. If this happens, then it’s already probably too late to get ownership of your domain back.
For this reason, strong security protocols should be at the forefront of your mind when shopping around for a domain name registrar. While some registrars have excellent reputations when it comes to security, others are a savvy thief’s best friend. The simplest way to instantly improve your domain’s security is to choose a registrar who includes two-factor authorization with accounts.
2. TECHNICAL SUPPORT
In the event a problem ever does crop up, whether it’s through delegating administrative rights, renewing services, or just simply from transferring a domain, you need to know your registrar’s technical support team is responsive and capable.
Review a registrar’s technical support policies before signing up. Aside from providing a toll-free support number, it can help you save time and worry by choosing a domain registrar who offers live technical support.
If you’re a person who tends to hoard and hold domain names, whether for the potential financial benefits or for the many different websites you manage, pricing is always an important factor. Make sure to understand the cost of not just registering a new domain, but of renewing it, which can often cost more than the registration.
You also want to check their pricing policy before going all-in. Look for any hidden fees the registrar isn’t being up-front about, such as domain forwarding, email services, and WhoIsGuard protection. While many include these for free as part of a new domain registration, some may charge a ludicrous amount.
Look for inexpensive domain renewals and freebies. NameCheap is a good example of a registrar who provides free WhoIs protection for new and transferred domains, alongside cost-effective renewals.
4. USER FRIENDLINESS
Ever found an online service you thought you loved until you encountered their confusing account management section? Sure, you could contact customer support or read through a boring knowledgebase, but you can also save a ton of time from seeking extra help by choosing a registrar who did a stellar job at designing their user interface. A domain registrar should give you an idea of what their account management panel looks like, and if not, you can always sign up for free without making a purchase.
Ask yourself, is the domain management system easy to understand? Is it intuitive or clunky? What steps would you need to take to perform simple tasks, such as redirecting nameservers? Will the account dashboard do well in your browser?
A domain registrar with a user-friendly interface will have a centralized control panel with relevant tools grouped together by topic. You should be able to perform simple to complex tasks with relative ease, and without switching between multiple pages.
Most people prefer their domain registrar to have a diverse offering of domain extensions just in case they spot a valuable opportunity. While primary domain extensions like .com, .org, and .net carry the most value, the use of exotic extensions like .news, .life, .store, .solutions and many more are on the rise.
Some people may not care about having access to a wide selection of domain extensions, while other users need a registrar who offers exotic domains, especially people who need their own country’s national extension, or ccTLD, such as .de, .ua, .bd, .es, .mx, .co, etc.
TOP 20 DOMAIN REGISTRARS
So, there you have it, everything you need to know about domain registrars, how they differ, and what to look for in a reliable domain service provider.
Since we’re all about helping you save time, take a look at our comprehensive list of the best domain registrars out there. And just know that the reason domain research is so important is because as you’ll see, the biggest name isn’t always the best option.