The latest offering from Google's impressive collection of technology solutions, Google Domains is more than it appears at first glance. Will it realize it's possible potential and be a service that delivers in the near future? Will it change the way we handle domain name registration and web projects at the end of the day?
In this article, we'll talk about the service known as Google Domains. We'll go over what the service is and what it has to offer. We'll review the process of registering a new domain name there and what features are available to you once you have. We'll talk about its pros and cons.
What is Google Domains Exactly?
Still in beta, meaning that some feature or part of the services is still being tested, the new domain name registration service offered by Google initially launched in 2015 and has been quietly growing since that time.
At first glance, Google Domains appears to be like most other domain name registrars that have been established for years. You can register an available domain name there, launch a new website or blog, create email accounts, and more.
Take a closer look, however, at the fine print. Below are six specific differences that make Google a bit different from its peers.
1. Free WHOIS Privacy
Whenever a new domain name is registered, contact and other identifying pieces information are collected for the WHOIS database that is managed by registrars and registries that have attained Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) accreditation. Prior to the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which went into effect in May 2018, a lot of that information was publically available and used by various law enforcement agencies and others to fight crime, fraud, and protect consumers. With the legislation in place, much of that information is now unavailable to the public.
Before GDPR, most registrars offered privacy services to prevent domain name owner contact information from being publically displayed on WHOIS lookup search tools. Such services often cost up to $12 annually per domain name.
With Google Domains, WHOIS privacy is available at no additional fee.
2. Easy Integration With Top Website Builders
When most register a new domain name, usually they are ready or nearly ready to construct a new website. To make Google Domains more appealing in a sea of serious competition, it integrates with many of the more popular website hosting and building services on the market today.
You can easily use it to establish sites and blogs on Google's own properties like Blogger, Google App Engine, and Google Sites. You can also use it to set up sites on a slew of third-party platforms like Shopify, Squarespace, Weebly, Wix, and more. They are even more helpful in offering a well-crafted tutorial to take you step by step through the process of setting up your website with any of the approved integrated solutions.
For traditional HTML websites, you register your domain name with Google Domains before heading for your chose web hosting to finish the setup with a number of customary obstacles taken care of to simplify the process for you.
If you're experienced in setting up websites, keep in mind that the helpful integration features are not limiting to you. You can actually use any third-party web host you wish once you've registered a domain name with Google Domains. Simply configure the domain name to point to the hosting service and proceed as you customarily would.
3. G Suite Option
For $5 per user per month, G Suite is an optional package that allows you to integrate Google Calendar, Docs, Drive, and Gmail services too. You can even use it to establish a series of custom email addresses for your entire team under your chosen domain name. It should be noted that G Suite is available for any domain, whether you registered it at Google Domains or elsewhere.
4. Google DNS Servers
DNS servers are the beating heart of the domain names system. They translate domain names into addresses so that other computers can comprehend them. Without them, domain names really wouldn't be able to function. Everything would be bald IP addresses that people would struggle to remember.
Domain names registered with Google Domains use the same DNS servers used by Google's search engine. They are very efficient and speed is vital to any website's success and search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.
5. Up to 100 Subdomains
In most cases, you won't need a website with anywhere near 100 subdomains. It's good to know, however, that when you use Google Domains, you can use as many subdomains as you wish for your project.
6. Numerous Email Aliases
Email aliases are handy to have. As opposed to creating numerous physical email addresses, you can create an email alias. Want to handle customer support without having a separate email to do so? Create an alias for it and it will capture each email sent to the alias, for example, firstname.lastname@example.org, and forward them to the physical email of your choosing.
Prices and Available TLDs
While most people know what a TLD is, they don't know what it's officially called. Most are very familiar with domain name extensions like .com and .net, which are top-level domain extensions (TLDs). Google Domains also offer a wide range of other popular and useful TLDs and options for custom TLDs like .actor, .investments, .shoes, and so many others to encompass any number of niche sites. There's a strong chance you can get the TLD you're looking for at Google Domains.
Pricing at Google Domains is comparable to its competitors in many cases. On the plus side, domain renewal fees are the same as the initial registration price which isn't common on the market. Many registrars charge up to double the amount of the initial registration for renewing the domain for subsequent years.
One appealing aspect of Google Domains is that they are transparent in their pricing.
How Do Google Domains Compare to Other Registrars?
Are Google Domains worth a try? Do they offer everything their competitors do? Do they offer any enticements their peers don't?
At heart, at Google Domains, you can register a domain name and keep it live. In that regard, it offers everything all the other services offer. There's essentially no difference.
Google Domains does offer additional benefits that make it a more appealing option. The free WHOIS privacy can save businesses money and the website builder integration could be very helpful for those crafting DIY sites to begin with. While the wealth of subdomain names and email aliases could be of great benefit to many, for many others there's nothing ground-breaking here.
For most users, the cost will be the determining factor in which domain name registrar they will ultimately utilize. If the TLD you want is less expensive at Google Domains, you're most likely to give them a try. You'll want to do your homework and compare the prices at Google Domains with those of any other registrars you're considering.
Are there risks? Yes. Google Domains is fairly new with no guarantee that it will stick around as a service. While most Google services do just fine, not all do and as with any company, if a service isn't making the impact they'd hoped for, they are free to pull it at any time.
Registering a Domain Name with Google Domains
Unlike the easy to use, intuitive services Google has mostly presented us with, Google Domains is still in beta and has some limitations. It's not globally available at the moment. If you want to use it, you have to have a billing address in the US, UK, France, India, and Mexico along with a small number of other countries.
If Google domains are available in your country, you'll proceed by heading to domains.google and there you can do a search for your desired domain name. You'll be shown what's available with the option of additional TLDs to help find one that might work for you.
Some of the domain names are grayed out. Keep in mind these can still be transferred in if you own them currently or are in the process of acquiring it from its current owner.
To view all available TLDs, click on “All Ending” in the domain listing. They are in alphabetical order and scrolling through them can take some time but to find the domain you truly want would make the search well worth the effort. Make your selections and add them to your cart. From there, proceed to checkout.
At this point in the domain name registration process, Google Domains will request some personal information from you that would be requested from any other registrar for the WHOIS database maintained by ICANN which is the organization that oversees the domain names market.
You'll be asked if you'd like to auto-renew your domain name. That means you agree that when the domain name needs to be renewed next, it will automatically do so using your preferred form of payment. If you plan to register and renew each year, you're probably okay. Some folks who renew for many years, like five, should check in at least once a year on their domain names regardless of the registrar.
Many things can happen in an extended period of time. If the domain name you used to register the domain is one you no longer use, the registrar can't reach you regarding issues. If your payment didn't go through, and you never updated your email with the registrar, you have a certain grace period to renew your domain name at the basic renewal rate the registrar offers. The grace period is set by the individual registrar and can be as short as two weeks.
If you go past the grace period at your registrar and the domain name is not renewed for whatever reason, you may still be able to try and renew your domain name at a significantly increased price. If you've held the domain for a number of years, and didn't renew your domain name within the registrar's stated grace period, you might see that to register the domain name again, you might have to pay thousands of dollars.
It's incredibly important to keep track of your domain names and their renewal dates as well as keep your contact and payment information at their registrars current.
The second time you'll enter your billing information is for tax purposes and then you'll be able to enter your payment information. You'll confirm your email address with ICANN, a required step, and Google will lead you through that process.
At last, you'll be able to see your newly registered domain name in the user panel of your Google Domains account. At this point, you can start using the integrated tools or begin the process of pointing your new domain at a hosting account at the host of your choice.
Google Domains Account Features
Google Domains includes all the tools you need to work with your registered domains. They make managing your domains and getting websites up and running very simple.
Resource Record Management:
In your Google Domains account, you'll be able to add and manage the resource records for your domain including A, AAAA, CNAME, MX, NS, PTR, SPF, SRV, and TXT. These configuration settings in your Google Domains account will only work if you're using the Google name servers. If you elect to go with custom nameservers, you'll get a message at the top of your DNS section advising you to set your resource records and wildcard records using information provided by your web hosting provider.
Google Synthetic Records
Google Synthetic Records are available for you to use to integrate with Google App Engine, subdomain forwarding, G Suite setup, and more. It's a unique feature to Google Domains that lets you perform tasks that need numerous resource records like email forwarding aliases, G Suite, and more
Name Server Management
This feature allows you to change nameservers. If you elect to use a third-party web host, you'll want to use the name servers they provide you to ensure your domain name points to the hosting account properly.
Time to live (TTL) features allow you to specify how long a resolver is supposed to remember (cache) the DNS query before it expires and a new one is requested.
Domain locking is a security feature that locks domains and preventing them from being transferred to another account or registrar. Many registrars require you to unlock and re-lock the domain to make any changes to their settings. Google Domains handle this for you except in cases where you wish to transfer the domain name. In that instance, you'll need to handle locking manually yourself.
Google Domains as a domain registrar at the moment is adequate but in the future, it may be great. At the moment, it's not posing a threat to its competition and it doesn't immediately appear to be a threat in the near future. It's going to need to be more widely available before it can become a major player in the market.
The interface is easy to use and understand and makes the domain name registration process easy enough. Some may find other registrars like GoDaddy more friendly to users and there may be more guidance there on how to manage the domain and how the domain name can be put to work for you.
If you wish to use your new domain name with a WordPress website, hosted with BlueHost or Hostgator for example then you simply need to configure your domain name to point to your new web hosting account.
Google Domains is a good option now and promises to be a better option in the future if the services perform well enough for Google to keep it around. If the particular custom domain name or TLD is cheaper at another domain name registrar, you'll likely choose it. But remember to check the renewal rate charged by the prospective domain name registrar first to determine if it's really less expensive in the long run than Google Domains.