Every business needs a domain name: without one, it's impossible to develop a website where customers can find you and your products or services online. Unfortunately, domain names can be very expensive, especially when it comes to getting a customized one for your company. This leads many business owners to look into the vast, exciting world of free domain names. As it turns out, however, these have many benefits and detriments that are not always apparent--that's why we've developed this guide, to better enable you to make the right decision for your business when it comes to finding a domain on the cheap.
1. Free Domains from Web Hosting Services
Many web hosting services will offer you a free domain along with your service contract, especially if you are a new customer entering into a long-term contract. Some even offer them for customers looking to upgrade to a higher-quality hosting plan. If you already have a web hosting contract, try asking your web host about domain names: even if they don't offer you one for free, you can usually get a vastly discounted one.
Free domains from web hosting services come with the upside of essentially being identical to domains that you would pay for: they are customizable, professional, and easy for customers to find. The only downside is that you do have to have a web hosting contract, and the high end ones can be quite pricey.
2. Free Domains and Free Web Hosting
For those truly seeking a domain on a budget, there are a variety of services which offer free web hosting and a free domain to boot. The sites that offer these often provide free html site builders as well, which require little to no knowledge of programming to use. Usually, your website will show up as a subdomain: for example, www.freehostingservice.com/yourdomainname. They may also require you to put ads on your website, to generate revenue for the hosting service.
Free domain and hosting services are actually free, which is a huge upside, and can allow a decent degree of flexibility in website design. However, being a subdomain comes with two potential pitfalls: for one, customers will have more trouble navigating to your site from search engines, and some will see it as unprofessional. Similarly, one's lack of control over the content of the ads hosted on one's website can be a pretty major issue: always check beforehand to make sure that the ads will be appropriate for your business, and avoid hosts that often run adult-oriented or political advertising, as these topics can drive customers away.
3. Promotional Deals
Hands-down the rarest, but often best way to obtain a free domain name is through promotions sometimes run by hosting companies. Oftentimes, these take the form of referrals: "get a certain number of people to purchase domains from us, and we'll let you have one for free." Even more rarely, new extensions (.com, .org, etc.) will be created, and hosting companies will offer massively reduced prices to new websites using those extensions.
These promotional options come with the advantage of being extremely cheap, with none of the downsides common to free domains. Referral promotions in particular often offer great value, with numerous bells and whistles to improve your website. The downside is that they tend to be very rare, and may require you to refer massive numbers of customers before you get your free domain.
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