8 Tips to Help You Choose a Domain Registrar

When one of my friends asked on Twitter for recommendations for a new domain registrar, it reminded me I had a domain registrar draft post I never finished.

Their tweet prompted me to finally finish this post.

Choosing a domain registrar takes time and planning.

You don’t want to move a new registrar only to discover their online interface is confusing to use.

Or that the domain registrar has limited customer support hours.

And in my opinion, you want to keep your domain registration and web hosting at different companies.

I asked my friend more questions about their current domain, registrar, and told them I would share my recommendations in a blog post.

Why Change Your Domain Registrar?

Lots of reasons can prompt you to look for a new domain registrar.

  1. You’ve had the same domain registrar for years, but they’ve recently changed their business practices
  2. Perhaps they’re charging your credit card two months before the bill is due (a more common practice I’ve seen in the past few years)
  3. Your last experience with customer support left you frustrated
  4. Maybe you’re being billed for a feature that’s included by default from other domain registrars

Whatever the reason, you’re tired of your current registrar and decided it’s time to learn what others offer.

Which can be a daunting task, since there are hundreds of domain registrars.

Where do you start?

What to Consider When You Decide to Change Your Domain Registrar

Whether you have one domain name or you have a dozen, my recommendations will help you avoid headaches and make the transition to a new domain registrar a smoother process.

  1. Identify your requirements. You can spend weeks searching online for a new domain registrar.

    Make it easy on yourself. Take notes on the features your current domain registrar offers and which features/functionality you want from the new registrar.

    As well as what features you don’t like.

    For example, does your current registrar offer phone support?  Or only provide chat support? What features are missing from your current domain registrar?

    Add those items to your list. Yes, write out your requirements.

    Don’t say “I need a new domain registrar,” only to discover the registrars you’ve spent hours looking for don’t provide options to renew for more than one year.

  2. Ask friends and colleagues.While you’re likely to get dozens of recommendations, ask your friends and colleagues what specific features they like about their current domain registrar.

    And what they don’t like.

  3. Support for several top-level domains (TLD).If your current site (or soon to be launched site) uses the common .org or .com domain extension, you’ll find a wide range of domain registrars to choose from.

    But if you’re using a less common TLD, like .business or .biz, you’ll want to make sure your domain registrar supports those TLDs.

  4. Pricing.If cost is a factor for choosing a domain registrar, you’ll want to check the pricing for the first year vs. renewal.

    Some registrars offer discounted pricing for the first year, which goes up when you renew for subsequent years.

    When you check pricing, be sure to confirm any additional fees associated with the domain name.

    For example, many domain registrars include privacy by default while others charge an extra fee.

  5. Support.Does the company offer 24/7 support? Do you require phone support as an option? Or is support only available via chat?

    Do they have online help or knowledge base?

    Is there a support ticketing system?

    While support for domain registrars may not seem as important as web hosting, it’s critical when something goes wrong.

    Make sure your domain registrar offers the kind of support you expect.

  6. Renewal and reminder policy.When does the domain registrar charge your credit card for renewal?

    And when does the registrar send reminders about renewals?

    I’ve recently heard from clients whose registrars charged their credit cards 60 days or 30 days before the expiration date. My clients weren’t happy.

    While some registrars require you to have a credit card on file, others allow you to turn off auto renewal.

    Which can be helpful if you prefer to have renewals taken care of automatically. But can be an issue if you prefer more control, or prefer to not have a domain registrar save your credit card info online.

    Reminder email notices sent 60, 30, or 15 days before domain registration are helpful.

  7. User interface.Is the domain registration user interface easy to use? Can you add and update nameservers quickly?

    Is their shopping cart easy to use and modify? Or do they add extra add-ons to your shopping cart without your knowledge?

    It’s happened to several of my clients who purchased their domain names, only to discover they paid over $100 more for a longer term and additional services they didn’t purchase or want.

    It took several support requests and follow up messages to get those fees removed (some domain registrars only allow you to change your purchase within 24 hours).

  8. Security.Does the domain registrar offer two-factor authentication (2FA) to protect your domain? If yes, do they offer multiple 2FA options?

    I’ve noticed some registrars only offer one method for two-factor authentication, a specific mobile app.

    Which can be an issue when your phone isn’t working or you change your phone number.

    Find out if one of the 2FA methods allows you to use a method that can also be run from desktop.

Wrapping Up

When choosing a domain registrar, you can quickly be overwhelmed by all the different providers. Thinking about and writing down your requirements will help you quickly narrow your choices.

Knowing which domain registrars have an easy-to-use interface, different customer support options, and good pricing will make your decision easier.

Do you have any other tips to add? Share your thoughts and recommendations in the comments.

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About the Author

Deborah Edwards-Onoro helps small businesses, consultants, nonprofits, and higher ed with creative and distinctive websites. Deborah shares her expertise with web design, user experience, and accessibility on her blog, social media, and at meetup events. As organizer of Refresh Detroit, West Metro Detroit WordPress, and Metro Detroit WordPress, she encourages members to share their knowledge and experiences. In her free time, you'll find her birding, shooting photos, reading, or watching tennis.

2 thoughts on “8 Tips to Help You Choose a Domain Registrar”

  1. Maybe it’s an extension of your first point, but double check you’re getting what you expect. I have had clients who registered domain names and then had to pay “extra” to set up email accounts, or get webmail, or get access to DNS settings. And it’s not always the budget registrars that do this.

  2. Hi Ricky,

    Good points. Personally, I don’t recommend getting email accounts from domain registrars. I prefer to keep email separate from domain registrars and hosting, so if one goes down, it doesn’t affect the others.

    Disappointed and frustrated to learn some registrars are charging extra to get access to DNS servers.

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