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Don’t buy your domain from your web host

But it’s convenient…

A domain (the unique URL that points visitors to your site, in our case churchwebguide.com) is something every website needs if it wants public visitors. Your domain registrar is also where you go to connect your mail server to your domain (so that your email is jane@church.com instead of jane1038@gmail.com). To make this process convenient, many website hosts and platforms offer a one-stop shop for all of your website needs. This can include everything from the website itself to domains, email hosting and even marketing tools. Squarespace, Weebly, Wix and budget WordPress hosts offer domain registration and some will even include it for free with your hosting plan.

To some extent, it makes sense to keep everything website related within one service. This allows you to have fewer logins, a single source for customer service if issues arise and even keeps all of your billing together (expense reports are of the devil, so I get it).

While this is nice, convenient (at first) and saves you a few dollars, it’s honestly not worth it.

Why it’s a bad idea

Let’s talk about why it’s sometimes a bad idea to register your domain with your host and why it’s often a better idea to use a 3rd party registrar.

It becomes a huge pain if you want to leave.

Some of the website providers lock it down and make it extremely difficult to do anything with your domain outside of connecting it with their website service. They use it as a deterrent to try and prevent you from switching to a different website provider. Not all, but some do this. From a strictly money perspective, it makes sense. From a customer service perspective, it’s a horrible strategy since you’re already leaving the platform and this will just be salt on the wound for why you left in the first place.

They’re Often Limited

Not only do they make it a pain for you to transfer the domain to a different registrar, but they’re also limited in what they can do in the first place when it comes to domains. Hosts offer registrar services so that you can point your domain to their servers and so they simplify that process for themselves, not for others.

Say you’ve been using Wix for your church website for the past two years and have decided to switch to The Church Co. When you setup the site on Wix, you purchased a domain with them.

The wrong kind of central

Your church might currently only have one website. But at some point you may end up creating a special site for an Easter or Christmas promo, for a new sister ministry, for the youth group or even possibly a building campaign. You might currently host your church website on Squarespace, but want the campaign site to do something complex that would be much easier to do on Squarespace.

So, if you chose WordPress for this new site, where do you go to purchase your domain? If you’re going with a great WordPress host then you’re choosing something like Flywheel or WPEngine. Neither of them offer domain registration. You could purchase it on Squarespace, but it could be a challenge setting it up to point to your WP site and if you ever decide to move away from Squarespace for the main site then you’ll likely be wanting to move to a new domain registrar in the first place.

Where you should buy from instead

We recommend purchasing all of your domains in the same place. If you have multiple domains, this makes life easier since you just have one service to go to for billing. This helps make sure nothing slips through the cracks and doesn’t renew because you saved $5 two years ago and bought the domain on Big Bob’s Domain Marketplace and forgot to set auto-renew. Some churches have an IT department that’s seperate from Communications. In those cases, a lot of times the domains are overseen by IT and the website itself is overseen by Communications. If you’re at a church like that, then this keeps billing and responsibilities tied to the appropriate parties.

As for which registrar to go with, we highly recommend Google Domains. Registrars like GoDaddy are all about the upsell, so they have an anoying checkout process offering you things you don’t need and charge for services, like Privacy Protection, that should be free. On top of that, they usually entice you by offering the first year for a lot cheaper than the competitors, but more often than not the subsequent years are actually more expensive. This is why we love Google Domains. They offer straightforward pricing, easy domain forwarding, no upsells, easy DNS management and free Privacy Protection (this helps prevent email and even physical mail spam).

Casey Fulgenzi

Founder of Church Web Guide and Churchlancer.com, a directory of creative freelancers and agencies that work with churches. Casey also works at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC, where he runs Gospel in Life and assists with Communications.

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