Pros and Cons of Using a Paid Domain versus a Free Domain or Subdomain

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!

Subdomain Diagram - JSnowCreations
Subdomain Diagram – JSnowCreations

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

Reliable

Pros of Free (Sub)Domain


Free of Charge

Easy to Acquire

Easy Setup

Cons of Paid Domain vs. Free (Sub)Domain

Cons of Paid Domain


Costs Money

Time Spent Choosing & Comparing

Confusing Setup for Newbies

Cons of Free (Sub)Domain


Limited DNS Features

Strict Guidelines

Amateur Appearance

Less Competitive SEO

Harder to Remember

Unreliable

Reasons To Use a Paid Domain:

  • Business/Company Website
  • Non-Profit/Organization Website
  • Large-Scale Marketing/E-Commerce Website
  • Professional Blog

Reason to Use a Free (Sub)Domain:

  • Personal Blog
  • Informational Website
  • Local/Community/Family Website
  • 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.