Yes, you can get a free domain name. There are a few ways to nab your domain for free, but they all come with their own advantages and disadvantages. Let’s check out three ways to grab that free domain name!
1 – Specific Top-Level Domains
A top-level domain (or TLD) is the suffix at the end of your domain name. For example, Web Hosting Sun’s TLD is .com. If your top-level domain is specific to a country, such as .co.za in South Africa, it’s called a country code top-level domain, or ccTLD.
There are certain places you can get free domain names if you use certain top-level domains. For example .tk. The suffix .tk is the top level domain allocated to the tiny island of Tokelau in the South Pacific Ocean.
You can register for a .tk domain and as long as your chosen name is available, it’s yours.
The main advantage of these is that they are free to register. However, it does have its disadvantages too. Compared to a .com top-level domain, or one that corresponds to your home country, such as .co.uk and .tk domains look pretty unprofessional.
Most people know these domains are free, so it makes you look a bit cheap. If you’re running a business on a .tk top-level domain, it won’t fill your prospective customers with confidence.
2 – Free Subdomain Names
A subdomain is a domain that is part of a larger, primary domain.
There are services that will offer you a free subdomain, on which you can run your website. You can choose your name if it’s available, and it becomes part of the primary domain.
The most popular example of this is wordpress.com. It allows you to choose a free subdomain name when you host the site on their platform, under their primary domain name.
For example, if you wanted “mynewsite” for a WordPress subdomain, it would look like this:
The advantages of this are, again, it’s free. Plus, it’s easy to set up, great if you’re just starting a blog or hobby site.
The most famous user of this scheme is the writer Seth Godin, who has always published his work at http://sethgodin.typepad.com.
On the other hand, you don’t actually own your domain, so you have little control over how it’s hosted.
Your domain name will be long, hard to tell people about, and difficult for them to remember. They are also not ideal for SEO purposes. You couldn’t run a business on a domain like this and expect to make a success of it.
Finally, you’re also limited to using that particular platform. You can’t move your site to a different provider, not without a lot of pain anyway. You would have to totally start from scratch, all over again.
3 – Free Domain Name With Hosting
Many web hosting services offer a free domain name when you take out a hosting plan with them. It’s a combo deal.
The main benefit of this is that you were probably going to buy web hosting anyway, so you may as well take advantage of this offer and get the domain name too.
The disadvantages may lie in the details. While some of these hosts may be completely transparent about the terms of their offer, others may not. You need to check that if things change and you want to move hosting providers, that you don’t lose your domain name. Also, check the terms and conditions for how long your domain is registered with the hosting provider.
You also need to bear in mind the reputation of the web hosting company in this case. You don’t want to lose your website if anything bad happens to the hosting company. We have an article here about how to choose the right web hosting company for your needs.
Is Free Right For You?
Whether or not you should use one of these methods to bag yourself a free domain comes down to one question. What do you want to do with your website?
If you’re running a business on it, you really need a domain that corresponds to your business name and the country where you’re primarily operating. As your business grows and you need to grow the scale of your site, you need complete control of ownership. Control is key.
If you’re looking to make money through buying and selling domains, you’ll need ones that are valuable, which rules out methods 1 and 2. You’ll need a plan where it’s easy to transfer ownership, which may rule out method 3 too.
On the other hand, if your site is a hobby, just a bit of fun, these methods could work well for you, and save you a bit of money in the process.
Ask yourself, is the few dollars a year that you’ll save by not paying for a domain worth the risk in the long run?
Is a free domain name worth it? Tell us in the comments below.