Who offers domains for free?
There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but free domains exist. That’s why it’s important to understand what an offer entails and whether or not there are associated costs with a domain.
Free domains are most often offered by hosting companies and site builders, like Bluehost, GoDaddy, and Squarespace. Mailchimp also offers a free domain that is Mailchimp-branded, and it comes along with free site building and hosting.
What’s really free?
A domain name is just the web address associated with a site. So once you’ve purchased it, you still need to build the site itself—otherwise, it’s like buying a plot of land and not building a house. You have an address, but there’s nothing there.
Site builders and web hosting companies commonly offer free domain names as perks to earn your business, but they’ll charge to host your site. Mailchimp is the rare exception in offering free Mailchimp-branded domains, hosting, and site building.
What’s a domain extension?
The extension, also called a top-level domain, is the part of a web address that follows the dot. It can be .com, .org, .net, or one of many other options. Unsurprisingly, .com is the most popular—more than half of all domains in the world are .com domains, as this is what people typically associate with businesses.
There are hundreds of extensions, and you might see companies offering domains with more obscure extensions for free.
Mailchimp’s free domains are branded, meaning that your URL will appear as yourdomainname.mailchimpsites.com. It’s common practice for free domains to be branded by the company offering them. With Mailchimp, you can also buy a custom domain if that better suits your business.
Read the fine print
Always check what’s included in a free domain offer. Some companies restrict their free plans with limited bandwidth and storage, which can lead to problems later on. Limited bandwidth and storage can cause your user experience to suffer. A mere 1-second delay in load time can lead to 11% fewer page views and 16% lower customer satisfaction scores.
Page loading times can also impact your SEO ranking. Google may bump you down in search results if your page loads too slowly. If people bounce out because your site takes too long, that hurts your ranking as well.
The bottom line: It may be worth investing in a paid domain if that means better load times.
Watch out for situations in which “free” means “free temporarily.” Some companies will offer the domain for free for the first year only, but after that, you have to pay.
Mailchimp websites aren’t impacted by either of these concerns. There’s no time limit on a free Mailchimp-branded domain—once you claim your domain, it’s always free. There also aren’t any bandwidth limitations, which means that your website’s load time isn’t slowed.