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What a Domain Name Registrar Is (And Why You Need One)

In practice, buying a domain name is a very simple process. At the same time, it’s one of the most important things you’ll do for your website. That means you need to thoroughly understand everything that’s involved.

This includes knowing where you can buy your domain name from. The companies that provide this service are called ‘domain name registrars’, and there are actually a few different types. Knowing what these are will help you make the right choice for your particular site.

In this article, we’ll explain what domain name registrars are, how they work, and what types are out there. Then, we’ll talk about how to settle on the best option. Let’s take a look!

An Introduction to Domain Name Registrars

A domain name registrar is – fittingly enough – a term used for any business that sells domain names. Just in case you need a refresher, your site’s domain name is the URL used to access it (such as mywebsite.com).

Of course, not just any company can sell domains. Anyone who wants to get into this particular business has to be accredited by a domain name registry. Despite this, there are actually a lot of sites out there that deal with domains.

A registrar will usually offer a prominent search field on their website, like this one:

The domain name search field on A2 Hosting.

You can type in the domain you want to perform a search. The registrar will then let you know if it’s available or taken:

An available domain name on A2 Hosting.

You will then be able to purchase the domain, or keep searching. Most registrars will also present lists of suggestions based on your search, so you can get an idea of what’s out there:

Domain name suggestions on A2 Hosting.

If you choose to purchase a domain name, you’ll pay an upfront fee to register it. This is usually low – in the $10 to $20 range – but can be more if the name is particularly desirable or competitive. After that, you’ll pay a similar fee every year in order to maintain ownership of the name.

The Different Types of Domain Name Registrars

Most registrars are similar, but they all have their own unique characteristics. Some may offer lower prices, different features, and so on. However, you can also divide these registrars into two broad categories.

First up, there are the companies that specialize in domain name registration, and don’t offer any other notable services. These registrars have a singular focus, and their key benefit is simplicity. You’ll buy your domain from them, and pay a yearly fee to keep it active. Other than that, you probably won’t interact with them much unless you need to change something about your domain.

On the other hand, many registrars are also hosting companies. They offer domain names along with a range of hosting plans for your website. Quite often, a domain will be included as part of your plan, or will at least be offered as an add-on service:

Add-on plan offer at A2 Hosting.

By going with this type of registrar, you do limit your options a little. However, you’ll benefit from the convenience of having your hosting and domain managed by the same company. You’ll use the same account or dashboard to manage both, and you won’t have to worry about paying two separate sets of fees.

How to Choose the Right Domain Name Registrar for Your Website

Based on the previous section, you may already have an idea about what type of registrar best suits your needs. However, let’s discuss that decision in a bit more detail.

It’s important to understand that you can register the domain you want anywhere, as long as it’s available. All registrars have access to the same information. There are a few exceptions – some registrars might filter out potentially offensive names, for example – but for the most part your options are wide open.

If your primary goal is to get the lowest price possible, you’ll want to shop around and consider both types of registrars. If you check out the costs for the same domain name (or set of names), it will be very easy to make comparisons.

However, we do recommend opting for a combination web host/registrar if you can. This is even more practical if you don’t yet have a hosting plan for your website, since there’s no reason to split up the two services. Even if you do have hosting, you may at some point decide to switch to the new company, especially if they offer better plans:

Shared hosting plans on A2 Hosting.

Fortunately, you can find web hosts that offer very low-cost domain names, or even bundle them for free with your hosting plan. In the long run, you’ll be grateful for the convenience this strategy offers. Just be sure to check out the potential registrar’s upfront and yearly fees, and carefully consider the quality of their web hosting. You can’t be too choosy when picking out a home for your website.

Conclusion

Before signing up for any service, it’s important to know what you’re getting into. That includes understanding what kind of company you’re working with. If you don’t know what a domain name registrar is, you’ll have a hard time picking out the right one.

However, as we’ve discussed in this article, domain name registrars are simple to use and understand. Some only sell domains, while others also provide hosting services. In general, you’re best off choosing one of the latter, since it’s far more convenient to manage your domain and hosting in the same place.

Do you have any questions about how to choose a domain name registrar for your website? Ask away in the comments section below!

Image credit: Max Pixel.

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