When you think domain names, GoDaddy is probably the first thing that pops into your head. They have gone to great lengths to associate their brand with this product, spending millions per the calendar year on marketing campaigns to do just that. There are of course other competitors on the market, and you may recognize one that recently decided to throw their hat in the ring… Google.
Launched in 2014, Domains became the latest service on the Google platform. Listed as beta for the last four years, it seems to be an experimental feature more than a full-scale service. Nonetheless, Google has a long-standing history of crushing their competition and rumours continue to circulate that GoDaddy could be their next victim. With a 30% share of the domain industry and dozens of other related products, it is unlikely that they would collapse under the pressure from the search engine giant. Still, there is a very real chance that the war for domains could impact their standing as the de facto market leader.
Regardless of the competition, GoDaddy and Google take a vastly different approach to the sale and management of customer domains. Each has their own set of pros and cons, and we will look at what is offered on each side, compare and contrast them to one another, and ultimately decide which is the better option to use.
Domains, unlike most other products and services, require almost no additional considerations. Once the registration is complete, we just point it to our website and we are done. For this reason, the cost is often the deciding factor as to which registrar we will use.
Of course, no two companies are the same, it’s important to look past the promotion advertisements and read between the lines. This is no exception with domains, the best deal at face value can sometimes end up costing a lot more before we know it.
Enter GoDaddy… the absolute cheapest option available for new domain registrations. New customers can grab a .com domain for just $0.99 during the first year, an exciting prospect for those looking to establish their presence on the web. In addition, hundreds of promotional codes are floating around the internet year round, offering substantial discounts to further incentivize their shoppers. Of course, these jump to the full price upon renewal, but the lower cost of entry helps bring new clients to their platform. Of course, this low introductory price is not without obvious caveats, such as the recurring fees and cost of added services.
One such example is Privacy Protection, the option to hide your personal information from a public records database, starts out at an additional $7.99/year through GoDaddy. Want custom e-mail addresses under the new domain name? That is another $1.99/month for a single e-mail with just 5GB of space. We even have the option to register more TLDs at a discount, because who wouldn’t want the .info domain name as well?
Sure, you can opt out of these add-ons prior to purchase, but they do an excellent job of converting a cheap domain into a full-scale cash grab. They even default the registration period to a 5-year term, taking every opportunity to capitalize on what started out as just a domain.
On the flip side, Google offers a transparent flat-rate with little variance. Domains start out at $12/year for .com and other common TLDs (NET, ORG, etc) and increase from there. This may seem expensive compared to the promotional rates at GoDaddy, but Google’s prices are actually the same, if not cheaper than GoDaddy’s recurring rates.
Even more exciting is the fact Google includes Privacy Protection with all domains for free, that WHOIS Guard service GoDaddy sells for an additional $7.99. Better yet, their domains integrate seamlessly with Gmail, saving you the cost of buying e-mail addresses on top of the domain name.
Winner: Google Domains
Since price is often the only concern for domains, GoDaddy’s promotions offer decent savings for new customers. Unfortunately, this is just smoke and mirrors, most promotional codes are one-time use only and reserved exclusively for first-time shoppers.
Google Domains maintain transparent pricing, with affordable flat rates for common TLDs that won’t increase after the first year. The inclusion of the WHOIS Guard (privacy protection) and Gmail support are just added bonuses, especially when the cost of these at other registrars can nearly double the price of the domain name.
While most customers will spend no more than a few minutes in the control panel, a simple, straight forward experience can make that time much more enjoyable. In the majority of cases, pointing the name servers to your website host is all that will be required. So just how easy is it to complete this task at GoDaddy and Google?
Sticking with a minimalist approach to design (also known as Ethos), Google offers one of the most simplistic interfaces available for domain management. With a total of just 3 menu options, the page is nearly blank aside from several event specific choices. There is no visual clutter to distract your attention, just a what you see is what you get (WYSIWYG) approach to domains.
Located on the My Domains page, we find a list of names that we own and several management buttons for each. The DNS button is the most important, linking us to a separate configuration page with basic several fields for name servers and additional records. Once these are set, that is all it takes on Google to point your new domain name.
While not exactly complicated, the GoDaddy interface is much more cluttered by comparison. We can accomplish what we need to do but may stumble through several pages before landing on the right page. Whereas Google has a clearly defined DNS button next to each domain, GoDaddy merely shows a “…” that opens up to more settings when clicked. The paid upgrades take priority on their Domains overview page, attempting to sell additional services for each domain that you own.
Once you do manage to reach the settings area for your domain, the options become much more relevant to our needs. Of course, this is buried at the bottom of the page, but Manage DNS offers a straight forward configuration for name servers and records. Several other options are listed here as well, most notably the Transfer Domain and Get Authorization Code for those looking to migrate in the future.
Winner: Google Domains
GoDaddy attempts to upsell their customers at every possible turn, and the management panel is no exception. Their Domains overview page encourages several paid upgrades per domain, including TrustedSite for $4.99/mo and Privacy Protection for $7.99/year. Worse yet, advertisement banners plague the screen space, suggesting we register absurd names that are encouraged as “a great fit for you”.
Thankfully Google Domains takes no interest in marketing to their existing clients. They provide a simple, yet powerful interface to accomplish everything with ease. After using the advertisement-laden GoDaddy platform, it’s a refreshing look at what a company can achieve when they prioritize custom satisfaction.
Integrated features may not be the top of your priorities when choosing a domain registrar, but it is always nice to know what else is included with your purchase.
GoDaddy domains have no shortage of possible integrations, they are the king of cross-promotions and product upsells after all. We can add nearly any service or feature at a cost, but what actually comes with just the purchase of a domain name?
The short answer is… not much.
Outside of the basic domain tools, there are relatively few options in terms of integration. One exception is GoDaddy’s Auction system, where you can buy and sell domain names on an internal market service. The Domains overview page gives you an estimated value and a button to list it for sale, but short of purchasing other services, you won’t find any extras for the cost.
For those looking to spend some extra cash though, the paid privacy upgrades and irrelevant TrustedSite feature are made abundantly visible. The “Use my Domain” button will also provide a very basic wizard, prompting you to create a new site, set up an email account or connect to an existing site. Two of the three options are of course more upsells, but the third offers to automatically connect your domain to a range of popular services, including e-commerce platforms (Amazon, eBay, Shopify), media solutions (Youtube, Instagram) and website builders (Wix, WordPress, etc).
While Google Domains doesn’t have many extra features either per se, they do integrate well with their existing line of free services, referred to as Google Apps. This includes e-mail (Gmail), storage (Google Drive) and quite a bit more. It’s also worth noting that Google offers some of the best DNS servers on the planet, often the first choice of many webmasters. Needless to say, these integrate seamlessly with Google Domains as well.
Of course, the singular focus on domains means that your website hosting will reside elsewhere, likely on a separate platform entirely. To promote ease of use, Google Domains has partnered with some of the largest players in the industry. Much like the 3rd party integration tools at GoDaddy, you can connect your domain to an existing website from their control panel. As an added bonus, however, they also have the option to browse available website themes, view plans and pricing, and launch a free trial to try out the service.
Winner: Google Domains
Although both registrars lack any type of advanced integrations, they do provide several extras on top of the basic domain services. Google pulls ahead of GoDaddy by a slight margin in this category due to the built-in Google Apps compatibility, most notably the Gmail service.
The traditional .com is still a coveted extension for many websites, it is the default TLD and often associated with professionalism. Given the scarcity of these domains however, we are well past the days when this is the only option available.
With hundreds of possible extensions now in existence, many webmasters find themselves looking towards less utilized TLDs to present their brand and express themselves with a memorable name. This can range from country-specific domains such as .co.uk (United Kingdom) to the simple .tv often used for media-related outlets. Still, not every domain registrar offers every TLD, which may be the deciding factor in which one you choose to use.
For the most part, both GoDaddy and Google Domains have the same assortment of TLDs available. There are only a few choices that are not found in Google’s list of some 200 extensions that GoDaddy is able to provide. Surprisingly, these are country-specific domains that include Russia (.ru), Germany (.de) and Italy (.it). Outside of those 3, we have yet to find any others that are missing from one of the registrars in question.
Pricing, of course, comes into play for the TLDs as well, where some domains can reach 3 digits in the price for registration (ex: .tires @ $120/year or more). Between these two companies, we tend to find Google to have the lower cost of registration for custom extensions, although this varies considerably depending on the type. The difference in cost is often minimal, although in some cases it can be in excess of $10 or more. As such, it’s always a good idea to check the pricing for your domain at both registrars prior to making your decision.
GoDaddy and Google Domains have the same variety of TLDs with the exception of several country-specific extensions. GoDaddy has a somewhat more complete list of custom domains, yet Google tends to price theirs lower than the competition.
Winner: Google Domains
If this is your first domain name registration, the promotional discounts from GoDaddy may be something to consider. With .COM prices at just $0.99, it makes the cost of entry almost inconsequential. When it comes to domains however, customers tend to stay with the same company for an extended period of time. Since the cost at GoDaddy can jump with additional domains or recurring renewals, we recommend users transfer out after the introductory pricing has ended.
That brings us to our pick for the best domain registrar… Google Domains. They won’t be the cheapest option upfront, but Google’s transparent pricing, simplistic interface and privacy protection are a much better value in the long run. They compartmentalize their various services well and in this case, the intense focus on domains is a refreshing change from the competition.