Domain names are the string of characters that are used to identify websites on the internet, for example, “bestagencysites.com” or “google.co.uk”. Yes, it is pretty much the same thing as a web address, but it’s important, so it gets a fancy title ok. Domains help define a brand, aid in search engine optimization (SEO) and create the first impression for many potential customers — and as we all know, first impressions count.
A domain name correlates to the IP address of a specific website, giving consumers an easy way to find the content they’re looking for without memorising a string of random numbers and letters.
They can be as important as the website and brand they’re associated with, and they’re one of the key things that will help make your company stand out from the crowd.
While a URL is far from the only thing to define a business, it certainly makes it easier for the people you want to find your website… to actually find it.
The most expensive domain name ever purchased was “Lasvegas.com” which was bought for $90 Million in 2005 by the owners of Vegas.com who wanted full control of the name and brand associated with the famous destination. A domain name can be a highly valuable asset, and just as expensive to buy if you have your heart set on one someone else already owns. But don’t start making plans to sell your firstborn just yet, as you can purchase one for as little as 99p.
There are 1.93 billion websites currently active online, so having a memorable domain name is key to engaging — and keeping — your audience. The right one can be a key component of a business’s success and owning yours is a crucial factor in ensuring your company and website looks professional and credible.
Regardless of the type of website you own and what service you’re offering, you’re going to need to purchase a domain name before you can launch.
Domain names can be purchased through something called a domain registrar, who will simply secure the domain name on your behalf for a fee.
A domain registrar (or provider) is an online retailer from whom you can purchase your chosen domain. They register domain names with an organization called ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned of Names and Numbers), which manages domain names globally. They act as a proxy and make sure that you're the officially recognized owner of that name.
When you buy a domain you’re essentially ‘renting’ it from a registrar, normally for a year at a time. To secure a domain forever you must keep renewing through a registrar each time the renewal period comes to an end.
Choosing a name and registrar isn't difficult, but you’ve first got to wade through a sea of companies competing for your business, and there are several factors for you to consider before committing.
The best domain provider choice for you will depend on a multitude of factors, but no matter your needs there are some key points and features you should be looking out for when choosing where to buy your domain.
To find the best deals and learn more about web hosting, read our articles The Best Website Hosting Companies UK, and take a look at Top Tips – Website Hosting to find the right service for you and your business.
Before we dive into the best places to buy, you need to decide on the name itself.
The domain name is the first thing potential customers look for when they’re seeking you out online, and if you have a confusing name or something that’s filled with symbols and is difficult to type, they’re going to get lost en route.
Here are some key things to consider before making your decision:
Visit Top Tips – Buying Your Domain Name to find out how to create and buy the best domain name for you.
If you’re still struggling, use a domain name generator like nameboy or Domain Wheel. These handy free tools automatically search for your defined keywords and provide you with an extensive list of possible domains. You’ll also find most registrars have a search function that offers alternative suggestions if your chosen name has already been taken.
There is every possibility that the name you decide on could be owned by someone else, and there's no guarantee you’ll secure it. In these instances, you have three options; you can attempt to buy it from them, keep your business name and use an alternate domain name, or change your business name. Whatever you decide, it isn’t recommended to have a different domain and business name, as this vastly increases the chances of you losing potential customers in their search for your website.
The only surefire way to avoid this predicament is to secure a matching domain as soon as you choose the name for your business and make any final decisions regarding your website’s design and branding.
If you want to learn more about web design ahead of launching your site, visit our articles What is a Web Design Agency? and The Process Behind Building a Website to get a better understanding.
As well as thinking about your actual name, you’ll need to choose which extension — also known as top-level domain — you want to use; this is the part that you see at the end of a website address such as .co.uk, .com, .net, .biz and .org. There are hundreds of options, but .com and .co.uk are the most common (and trusted) so worth choosing.
If you’re a UK-based business with primarily UK customers, it’s worth considering a domain name ending in .co.uk. If your services are available globally, then a .com address is preferable. It can be tricky to change from a .com to .co.uk address (and vice-versa) down the line so think realistically about the projected growth of your business.
Once you’ve chosen your domain, you’ll be presented with a list of registrars (the online companies with whom you can purchase your domain name).
There are thousands of registrars to choose from, each offering a range of services, prices, and packages to suit all needs. To avoid being overwhelmed by the sheer number of options, it’s important to spend some time researching what each registrar offers and who will work best for your requirements.
Luckily for you, we’ve put together a list of the best UK providers to help you make the right pick.
In the world of domain name registration, few names are bigger than Namecheap. They’ve been in the industry for 19 years, manage over 10 million domains and offer domain name registration, transfers, web hosting and SSL certificates —all at a low price and alongside fast and reliable service.
Outside of affordability, their main draw is how easy the site is to use, making them an attractive option for customers new to the world of domain names and web hosting. Both hosting and registering a domain with them is a seamless process, with an intuitive and simple user interface largely lacking upsells.
As an added plus, their domain search tool is helpful and easy to use, and they include one free year of their WhoisGuard privacy protection service and a discounted SSL certificate with all of their domain names.
Another cool feature is the Namecheap marketplace where users can purchase popular pre-made domain names, only available for a limited time, at a set price.
Price: from £0.99 a year
GoDaddy is the world's biggest and longest-standing domain registrar, currently managing more than 80 million domains for 20 million customers around the world.
Competitive pricing is one of their main draws. If you’re looking longer term and are happy to keep your domain name for at least two years (and pay upfront), GoDaddy sells .co.uk TLDs for just £0.01p per year, and no that’s not a typo.
Their domain management tools also deserve a shout-out. Whether you’re looking to transfer your domain or amend the settings, their tools are easy to use, making them fantastic for web beginners. Their customer service team is also particularly good should you encounter any problems or just need advice and tips.
In terms of added extras, they offer reputable and reliable web hosting services, a website builder, free basic domain privacy and a domain search tool.
Price: from £0.01 a year
HostGator offers domain registration that comes with a choice of a wide range of TLDs and beginner-friendly domain management tools.
Their web hosting services are particularly good, and you get a free domain name with their hatchling plan so it’s worth looking into if you need the full web hosting and domain name package.
They offer domain name registration for as little as £0.99 for a .website address, and prices start at £12 a year for.com TLDs. One of their main drawbacks for UK customers is that they don’t register .co.uk names, so if you know your audience is mainly UK based, look elsewhere.
Domains registered by them are locked as standard – preventing unauthorised domain name transfers, and they have a handy auto-renew service so you don’t need to worry about losing your chosen domain at the end of the year.
Price: from £0.99 a year
One of our top choices if you’re in the market for web hosting, Hostinger also offer a great domain name registration service and you can relax knowing you’re in capable hands. Their customer support team are second-to-none, they’re an ICANN accredited registrar with a trusted brand name, and if you’re not happy for any reason, they offer a 100% money-back guarantee.
A .co.uk TLD package starts from just £4.49 a year, but you can get a .xyz address for just £0.99 if you’re really doing things on a budget.
If you’re looking for web hosting then Hostinger are an excellent choice, and their shared hosting plans start from just £0.99 a month, and when you sign up for their premium plan (for only £2.89 a month) you get a domain name and SSL certificate included.
Price: from £0.99 a year
As one of the biggest web hosting providers, BlueHost also offers a reasonably priced and easy-to-use domain name registration service. If you haven’t decided on a name, their easy-to-use search system clearly presents your options (and alternatives if your first choice isn’t available).
A .website address starts at just £1.58 a year and .com TLDs are available for £10.32 for the first year (both are subject to renewal fees).
Their hosting bundles are particularly impressive. The cheapest starts from just £2.25 a month and includes a free domain name, SSL certificate, and unlimited bandwidth and storage.
As a WordPress official hosting partner, BlueHost is one of the best options for anyone with a WordPress blog or website.
Price: from £1.58 a year
Google Domains is a domain registrar powered by, you guessed it… Google. It’s currently in beta testing but still offers over 300 new and popular top-level domain extensions (TLDs). Users must have an existing Google account to access the service but it’s free and easy to create one.
Unlike many other domain registrars, at this stage Google is focusing on providing only domain hosting services – it doesn’t sell web hosting plans.
If you’re looking for an intuitive and straightforward user experience, then this lightweight registration service should be at the top of your list. It lacks a lot of the fancy extras found on its competitor's sites, but like with all of Google’s services, speed and simplicity are a top priority.
Prices are all advertised simply (in whole numbers) and there are no deals or special sales to attempt to lure you in. The cheapest option is a .de address at £6 a year, and both .com and .co.uk addresses are £10 a year. Free Whois privacy is included with all domains, a valuable extra that is often only offered as an add-on elsewhere.
Price: from £6 a year
IONOS (formerly 1&1) are one of the oldest domain registrars in the world, and if you’re looking for exceptional customer service then they should easily make your shortlist. Instantaneous support is available via live chat, telephone, social media and email.
They offer unbelievably affordable domain names starting at just £1 for .com and.co.uk TLDs, and £0.50 for .online. Their prices hike after the first year but at these numbers, it’s still cost economical.
Each domain comes with a professional email address with 2 GB of mailbox space, free website protection, a domain lock, and up to 10,000 subdomains.
Extras include domain transfer, web hosting, WordPress hosting, eCommerce site builder, a website builder and more.
Price: from £0.50 a year
In a market where flashing sale prices, pop-ups for add-ons and relentless upselling are the norm, a visit to Hover’s website is a breath of fresh air. Hover’s primary service is domain registration, and it shows.
The site is easy to use, with excellent service, transparent pricing and a simple checkout process. There are no hidden fees or unexpected renewal hikes and privacy comes as standard.
A unique feature lacking on other sites is the ability to filter by TLD, in relation to the industry your business is in e.g., travel, food and drink etc. This can save a lot of time if you’re looking for something particular and don’t have the patience to scroll through hundreds of options. It's a nice touch which could help you spot an appealing domain that you may not have considered.
You can expect to pay around £12 for a .co.uk. or .com and the lowest price we found was £4 for a .art TLD.
Price: from £0.50 a year
Since its launch in 2003 Name.com has steadily gained in popularity, and outside of its domain registrar service also provides web hosting packages, a website builder, email hosting services and more.
They have an easy-to-use domain search function that has a wide range of TLDs on offer, and a handy bundle feature where you can save up to 50% when purchasing your chosen name attached to four or more TLDs.
For just £1.60 you can purchase a .live address, and .co.uk and .coms range between £6-8. Although they don’t offer a range of ‘rock bottom’ prices like some of their competitors, their renewal prices tend to be only slightly higher than the introductory deal, a rare occurrence in the domain name industry.
If you need website hosting too, all of Name.com’s shared hosting plans include a free domain name as standard, so it’s worth putting all of your eggs in one basket. Prices start from £4 a month and include a free SSL certificate.
They also offer a reasonably priced advanced security and protection page for just £3.80.
Price: from £1.60 a year
If you’re looking for an easy-to-use, affordably priced registrar with a range of integrated services then Domain.com are a good pick, and they’re especially good for small-medium sized businesses.
They’re industry stalwarts and are known for reliable web hosting as well as extensive domain name choices. Their easy-to-use search tool offers a range of helpful suggestions if your top pick isn’t available. They also act as a broker for exclusive domain names if you’re looking for something special.
Prices are higher than average, with .com and. co.uk TLDs averaging between £12-£14, but you can secure a .site address for as little as £2. Bear in mind in line with the rest of the industry, they rise significantly after the second year. In terms of added features, for a fee, you can purchase domain privacy, bulk registration, malware protection and domain transfers.
If you need to build a website, their basic website builder that comes free in all of their hosting packages is particularly good. It includes plenty of mobile-friendly templates, SEO tools, PayPal integration and access to a stock image library.
Price: from £2 a year
Finding the domain name of your dreams is crucial to the reputation, growth and ultimate success of your business. Finding the right provider who can acquire and manage the name for you is an important task.
When researching the multitudes of options out there, it’s important to consider your business’s needs, intended trajectory, any added services you may need (either now or further down the line), and of course your budget.
It may seem overwhelming, but there are plenty of reliable providers out there who can help you get your business to where you want it to be.
Visit our article Top Tips: Buying Your Domain Name to learn more about creating and acquiring the perfect domain name for you.