There is an endless debate going on the web between web developers and search ending optimizers as to how bad free second-level subdomains and free top-level domains really suck compared to premium paid domains.
Some will swear that “content is key”, no matter what your site’s URL, you will always be #1 in the search engine results pages (SERPs) as long as you have the most relevant, fresh, and abundant content. Others will put it on their mothers’ souls that if you don’t have a top-level domain (TLD) name, then anyone with relevant content that does will outrank you in the SERPs.
I’m Not Going to Fuel the Debate – I’m Just Showing You the Key Pros and Cons of Both Free and Paid Domains!
The Pros of a Paid Domain
With the purchase of a premium paid domain, you will enjoy the use of a full featured DNS manager to handle pretty much everything you will need of your domain. Paid domains generally have no guidelines or restrictions as to what uses the domain name can be put toward, unless you are severely breaking a law or code of ethics. Top-Level paid domains are usually easier to get ranked higher in the SERPs for high-traffic SEO keywords when the competition is mainly second-level subdomains. Your premium top-level domain will also look the most professional, be easier to remember, and be the most reliable as long as you remember to pay for it!
The Pros of a Free Domain or Subdomain
A free domain or subdomain is free, so that’s always a good pro point #1. Free domains only take a few moments to sign up for. Plus, it’s typically fairly simple to point your free domain to your web host or whatever IP address you need it redirected to using the tools provided by the domain registrar!
The Cons of a Paid Domain
A premium paid domain costs hard-earned cash, (unless you pay with Bitcoin – but that’s covered in another post,) so that’s definitely con #1. As white-collared as it may seem, the time spent to actually choose a paid domain, and then figure out the best/cheapest place to buy/register it, can be lengthy and tedious. Also, some premium domain registrars will have immensely over-complicated DNS managers, so configuring things can be a pain for some beginners.
The Cons of a Free Domain or Subdomain
Free domains and subdomains suffer from quite a few cons – the first and biggest probably the fact that you will have limited DNS features which could be problematic for an advanced user. Free domains usually have certain guidelines for the registry of domains regarding site content, use, and/or geographic regions. You might suffer in high-traffic competition for certain SEO keywords if using an irrelevant free domain or subdomain. Plus, your free domain or subdomain can give off a less-than-professional tone, be harder for users to remember, and perhaps even be unreliable if you ever forget to re-register it or the registrar/provider ever decides to stop offering free (sub)domains!
Pros of Paid Domain vs. Free (Sub)Domain
Pros of Paid Domain
Full Use of DNS Features
Limited or NO Guidelines
Appear Most Professional
Better Competitive SEO
Easier to Remember
Pros of Free (Sub)Domain
Free of Charge
Easy to Acquire
Cons of Paid Domain vs. Free (Sub)Domain
Cons of Paid Domain
Time Spent Choosing & Comparing
Confusing Setup for Newbies
Cons of Free (Sub)Domain
Limited DNS Features
Less Competitive SEO
Harder to Remember
Reasons To Use a Paid Domain:
Large-Scale Marketing/E-Commerce Website
Reason to Use a Free (Sub)Domain:
Game Guild/Clan/Alliance Website
Small-Scale (Niche) Marketing/E-Commerce Website
That about sums it up! If this article has swayed your stance one way or the other, feel free to check out the other posts on picking up a free top-level or second-level domain. Also, if you are ready to skip the free stuff and buy your premium domain, I recommend WebsiteSpot for the cheapest domains, GoDaddy for the most extras and features, and NameCheap for a mix of price and features.
So, you want a domain name but don’t want to pay for it or have a lengthy second-level subdomain?
Whether using it for a website, a private game server like Minecraft or Ultima Online, or just using it to set up some sort of remote-desktop or virtual-computing protocol to your home or work computer, there are always a few top-level domain registrars out there handing out free domains to those that take the time to register. There may be some special rules or guidelines to follow with the free domains, but it’s still better than trying to run a website, game server, or use remote-desktop with just an IP address, especially if it’s a dynamic IP!
A Totally Free Top-Level Website Domain?? Yep, they work and are totally free!
In case I’ve already lost you – a website on a “top-level domain” (TLD) would be something like yahoo.com, where as a “second-level domain” (SLD) would be something like answers.yahoo.com – hence the reason second-level domains are generally called “sub-domains” or just “subdomains” (because typing hyphens all the damn time sucks).
Sure, having a top-level Domain is much easier to remember and prettier on the eyes than a second-level subdomain like fred.hopto.org or fred.mysite.com for example. Although, when picking up one of the free top-level domains from around the web, you still have to make certain sacrifices or compromises. Some free top-level domain registrars don’t give you complete DNS control over your domain, which might not be a big deal to some people. However, all free top-level domains are usually Country Code Top-Level Domains (ccTLDs) which mean you won’t have one of the more recognized TLDs such as “.com” or “.net” but instead will have something like “.tk”, “.ml”, “.cf”, “.ga”, or “.gq” which are all the current free TLDs during the writing of this article.
These are the Best and ONLY FREE Top-Level Domain Registrar Directories on the Web:
GetFreeDomain.name – Get Free Domain for Your Website: They have all of the free top-level domains, as well as some decent free second-level domains to choose from too!
FreeNom.com – Register Your Free Domain Name: Only deals with Free top-level domains. Their site is a bit of a pain, but if you deal with the page refreshes it works. However, they add some domains before they are free, and keep some up after they are no longer free, so be observant!
It Only Takes Minutes to Get Your Free Top-Level Domain Registered and Ready to Use!
If you don’t want a random country-coded top-level domain or a second-level subdomain, but still want a top-level domain name for free, you will have to get creative! The best way I could recommend getting a non-country-coded top-level domain such as “.com” or “.net” would be signing up as an affiliate at domain registrar that does affiliation, then use your referral/affiliate link to get some other people to buy domains which will earn you revenue to use for getting your own domain name! Some domain registrars with an affiliate program I could suggest would be WebsiteSpot, GoDaddy, and NameCheap. WebsiteSpot is by far the cheapest domain name registrar on the web, Godaddy is by far the most reputable and widely known domain registrar, and NameCheap is a good blend of both affordable prices and a long history of satisfied customers!