These are the best domain registrars (our recommendations)
What is one of the first steps (and often one of the more difficult ones) you have to take when building a website? Yes, the domain name. Sometimes it’s easy – if you already have a company name or if you use your first and last name. But more often it’s a lot harder and takes a lot of thinking. You have to take into account search engines, branding and it all has to fit in your budget. It can be difficult to come up with the best domain name, but we are here to help you choose the best registrar.
Domain registrars are everywhere – from the popular GoDaddy commercials to NameCheap’s online ads. These registrars often offer a search feature that lets you search for available domain names and extensions. You can then purchase these domains through them.
Some of these registrars even offer various add-ons, such as hosting, website building, and email services. However, the key question is: is there a difference between registrars and which ones are best? Time to find out!
What is a registrar?
A registrar, sometimes also called a domain registrar or domain registrar, is a company that manages and mediates the sale of unique domain names on the Internet. To sell domains, the company must be accredited by the Internet Corporation for Assign Names and Numbers ( ICANN) or by a national registry for top-level domain names. For the Netherlands, the top-level domain is .nl and is managed by the Foundation for Internet Domain Registration in the Netherlands (SIDN). Some of the most common generic extensions of top-level domain names (gTLD) are .com, .net, .org and .info. Examples of top-level domain names at country level (ccTLD) are .de, .uk, .fr and, of course, .nl.
The characteristics of a good domain registrar
Not all registrars offer the same quality of service. In fact, you’ll probably come across some that you wouldn’t want to spend a penny on. For example, some registrars are missing some important top-level domain names (TLDs). A TLD is a variation on a domain, such as .com, .net or .ca. It’s always good when a registrar is constantly adding new top-level domain names and doing his best to offer as much as possible.
That said, it’s also important to know that some domain registrars focus exclusively on niche domains, for example country-specific ones like .de or .in.
In short, it might seem as if all registrars are the same, but with a little research, you’ll soon find out that there are huge differences. Some are (much) lower priced, offer better security and so on.
Here are some things you should look for.
For most consumers, the search starts with price comparison. Although this is not always wise in our eyes, this is the reality. Support can be important, even for a registrar – even though good support is of course more important with, for example, a hosting package from Kinsta. For the most part you will probably only have to deal with your registrar once or twice a year. In some cases you probably never even need to call on support.
That’s why the price level at registrars is very important. After all, you already pay enough for things like hosting and other things like themes and plug-ins. And if you don’t have to, why pay too much for a domain?
The great thing is that domain names are terribly cheap to keep. In some cases you can register a domain with an offer for €1 or €2 per year. However, the average is somewhere between €10 and €12 per year. Not bad!
Cheap domain name
For this reason, it is wise to avoid registrars who offer their services (far) above this amount. Moreover, we also want to warn you not to go into business with domain name brokers or sellers with insanely high prices.
What we mean by this is that there are people who own valuable domain names and try to sell them for hundreds of thousands of euros. The temptation to own the ‘perfect’ domain name may be strong, but I can assure you that this will not affect the success of your online business.
That’s why it’s usually much better to go for a cheaper alternative. Unless your name is Glen and you happened to discover a gap in the market with the purchase of a $20.000 domain name.
Free WHOIS protection
All domains can be searched using a so-called WHOIS Lookup tool. ICANN requires that the contact information of all domain names is publicly available. For this purpose, the information you provided when registering the domain name will be used:
* Name of the domain name
* Telephone number
* E-mail address
Even though no sensitive information is shown, some organisations or individuals are not waiting for their contact details to be made public. Actually, the only advantage of publishing is that someone can try to reach you (but of course you can also use a contact form for that!).
The ICANN requires a minimum of contact information to be attached to your domain name. For this reason, some of our favorite registrars exchange your personal information with their company details. So in the case of NameCheap, you will find this company as a registrar when you run a WHOIS Lookup. However, the registrant’s contact information will be replaced by something like WhoisGuard Protected, instead of the real name.
However, since the GDPR and the AVGin came into effect, it’s still not quite clear how this affects the amount of information shown in WHOIS.
In any case, our favorite domain registrars offer this WHOIS privacy protection for free. If this is not the case, in most cases you pay an annual fee to use this service.
Different options for registration deadlines
You can’t register a domain name for one or two months. The legal minimum is one year. So expect to register a domain for the period of one year when searching for a domain registrar.
In some cases, the registrar requires you to register a domain for a period longer than one year. If you run into one of these registrars, consider looking elsewhere for help.
It’s best if you have a choice of different registration terms.
We like to see registrars who offer terms of one and two years – or even longer. This way, you can decide for yourself how long you want to register the domain and possibly even receive a discount for closing a multi-year registration.
Register domains at a discount
The maximum period that you can register a domain is ten years. After these ten years you have to renew.
In general, we recommend to secure a domain name for one year, unless you are offered a significant discount when closing for a longer period. In between: that the length of a domain name affects the SEO ranking is a myth!
Automatic renewals and reminders
Since you register a domain name for a certain period of time, this means that at some point you have to renew your domain name.
Fortunately, the better registrars offer the possibility to do this automatically when you add a credit card (or for example PayPal) to your account. We also appreciate it when registrars offer a grace period after the domain expires, which prevents you from losing a domain immediately after it expires.
Sometimes you may have replaced your credit card. In that case, make sure your registrar notifies you when your domain is about to expire.
Important: if you don’t renew your domain name, it will eventually be released to the public for sale (some registrars use an ‘interim’ period). This means that anyone can buy the domain name to keep it or sell it back to you for a large amount of money. This is not unusual, so make sure your credit card is up to date and activates your automatic renewal.
A wide range of top-level domain names (or the niche domains you’re looking for)
Without going into too much detail, you can say that a top-level domain name is at the top of the hierarchy of domain names.
These are for example .com, .org or .net.
When I look at the best domain registrars, they usually offer hundreds of options to register a top-level domain.
Take NameCheap, for example. A search results in dozens of top-level domain names within the same search, along with a few alternatives if you can’t find what you’re looking for.
Unique top-level domains
After one search I see .club, .design, .store, .info and much more.