Well, now I’m going to deal with a name that most people on earth know: Google.
We all know Google because Google has expanded into a bajillion different aspects of internet life. In addition to its ultra-popular search engine, Google runs popular: map services, word processing suites, email services, translation services, and much, much more.
In all these cases, Google tends to bring in certain characteristics: simplicity and accessibility. So if you’re not already familiar with Google Domains, what would you expect out of it?
Well, yeah. Simplicity and accessibility, right? Well, while Google Domains isn’t my go-to registrar, testing it more formally has really improved my opinions of it.
There are a ton of registrars, and it can be difficult to narrow things down to the best one for you.
What are some of the good things you can expect from Google Domains? What does it do right?
Google Domains brings in Google’s trademark simplicity and ease of use, combined with reliability. Those three things capture a lot of Google’s tremendously popular products, and Google Domains as well.
Google Domains is very simple. It’s incredibly easy to use and you only need to manage a few different buttons, and even those only if you want to. With domain registration, most of the work is done once you register, and while this is definitely true for Google Domains, what little you have to do after that point is made very easy.
A related positive to Google Domains is transparency. You pretty much know what you’ll get, and there is minimal upselling to persuade you add to your price. Most importantly, Google Domains doesn’t have renewal fees significantly higher than the initial prices.
This means that Google Domains is a bit more expensive up front (more on this in the next section) but you will be paying that price consistently over the years without dramatic increases.
Another plus is that Google Domains includes WHOIS privacy for free and for the duration of your service. This is a huge bonus in Google Domain’s favor, as you won’t need to pay for domain privacy, even after your first year.
Lastly, Google Domains performs well and has a lot of top-level domain (TLD) options.
The customer support is pretty solid too, but it’s not so great that I consider it a major upside.
Anyway, Google Domains clearly has a few compelling points in its favor. What about the flip side?
If it wasn’t already clear, let me make it so: Google Domains is an entity whose positives and negatives are usually the same thing.
Simplicity, ease of use, and straightforwardness are some of Google Domains’ selling points. This inevitably means some things get cut out.
For example, Google Domains is only for domain names. There is no hosting-domain combo package you can get (not that you should want to, but if you do, you can’t).
The good news here is that Google makes it tremendously easy to connect to a third party host/website builder.
But it’ll be just that, a connection, not an all-in-one package.
The other main flaw as I see it is that Google Domain’s prices can be a bit high. They’re still on the upper end of average, so they’re not too expensive (though it does depend a bit on which TLD you’re looking at).
The absence of a higher renewal fee and the free inclusion of WHOIS brings down the cost, but you could still save if you’re looking to only hold on to domains for a shorter period of time.
If that’s you, you could find another registrar with lower prices, free WHOIS, and then get rid of the domains before the renewal prices get to you.
One final nitpick: the live chat hasn’t been too great in my experience.
If you’re still standing after hearing about these drawbacks, keep reading! Things will only get more complicated.
Pricing and Features
Pricing, and what you get for what you spend, will always be important. The sheer quantity of domain name registrars out there can make it difficult to choose from, and provides a range of price or feature points.
The run-down for Google Domains: it’s not the cheapest. Insofar as starting prices go—usually this means how much a .com is per year, as that’s what most people are interested in—Google Domains is on the higher side of average.
A ton of registrars have basically the same pricing as Google Domains, but there are also always a couple options that’ll let you save a few bucks. A small business won’t really need to pay so much attention to these price differences—features or performance are what will matter most.
For individuals, Google Domains initially doesn’t seem like one of the cheaper options.
Although for most individuals, I don’t think that level of price discrepancy (a few bucks a year) is too concerning. Besides, what makes a price worth it is what you get for it.
As I’ve discussed in the introduction, Google is known for its simplicity and accessibility. Accessibility in this case meaning not only price, but literal ease of accessing whatever tools.
Unsurprisingly, Google brings this right into its domain registrar project. Keep in mind, by the way, that technically Google Domains is still in its beta stage (as of the time of this writing, January 2019).
Even if it weren’t in its beta stage, I would expect Google Domains to be about as straightforward as it is now. Which is to say, extremely straightforward.
I’ll start with one of the most basic examples of this: Google Domains does not include hosting. Almost every domain name registrar you’ll look at provides hosting services as well.
Often times these registrars are willing to sell you a straightforward domain name package, but often they will try to pull you into buying their hosting as well. Typically, these companies offer a free domain name for a year with their hosting packages.
This can be a good or bad thing depending on what you’re after. Some people just want to set up a site that has its own domain name. Buying a hosting package that includes a domain name for a limited time can be a great option for those looking for an easier path to setting up a site.
The easiest way of setting up a site would of course be to use a website builder, but that can be a bit pricey—starting around $5-$10 a month. In contrast, a dual hosting-domain package can be a couple bucks cheaper a month, or more, which is important for individuals looking to save (businesses probably won’t care).
So anyone falling into that category might be a bit turned off by Google Domains. Because you only get the domain, you have to figure out hosting on your own. You could still use a website builder, but this might be more expensive or still too much of a nuisance compared to getting a package that does everything.
As you may expect, Google Domain’s focus on only selling domains means there aren’t SSL add-ons. This is quite unfortunate as SSL certification costs are often reduced by packages that bring everything together, so using Google Domains could prompt you to seek a third party for certification.
So the lack of a hosting feature/package is certainly a possible drawback. On the other hand, it also makes things much more transparent. You’ll buy the domain and not need to worry about crazy renewal fees after the first year, which you’d probably get with the aforementioned packages.
Plus, it means there’s much less upselling involved. I suppose of all companies Google doesn’t need to push you into a ton of extra stuff at the checkout page, because we’re all using some Google products anyway.
So depending how you look at it, Google Domains is missing a pretty handy component/add-on and this makes it less attractive, or Google Domains keeps things simple by only selling one basic product. To each their own.
To its credit, Google makes it incredibly easy to connect to both popular website builders and popular web hosts. In a way it’s more refreshing: whereas most other domain registrars try to sell you their own hosting and site builders along with the domains, Google just sells you on the fact that it’s easy to connect to a popular host/builder, even if it’s not Google-owned.
One feature that Google will try to sell as an add-on is G Suites.
G Suites is basically an upgraded version of the free Google stuff you probably already use. At its entry level price ($5 a month), G Suites gives you a business version of Gmail, more Google Drive storage, 24/7 support, and more.
Now, purchasing a domain with Google doesn’t automatically include G Suites, unfortunately. You still need to pay the normal G Suites prices, it will just integrate with your domain management well.
Don’t lose hope. There are some things you get included by default with a domain purchase. One of the biggest of these is WHOIS privacy. WHOIS is public catalogue of domain name registrants.
WHOIS privacy is a feature offered by domain registrars that replaces your personal information with the companies’. Most companies either charge for use of this add-on, or include it for free only for the first year.
Google Domains is one of the only registrars that includes this for free for the entire time you are using the registrar to host the domain, plus you can activate or deactivate WHOIS privacy at any point.
This is one of the biggest positives to Google Domains in my book. Some businesses may not prioritize this free inclusion—and fair enough—but anyone looking to save should automatically find Google Domains to be a good option for this reason alone.
There is one loophole in Google’s domain privacy feature: it’s limited to US domains. Top Level Domains (TLDs) for other countries (such as .co.uk or .com.mx), while recently being made available, typically do not have private registration options.
Aside from domain privacy, Google Domains gives you email forwarding (meaning you can get all the business mail forwarded to your existing/personal email accounts); domain forwarding (which automatically directs users from one location to another, like a .net to a .com); customizable subdomains (which lets you create more unique pages on your site); and 24/7 chat and email support.
Lastly, you get basic domain management tools—name server management, domain locking, resource record management, etc.
These are all common, and those are pretty much all the features you get with Google Domains. One last important item remains: Google’s selection of unique top-level domains (TLDs).
As far as Google’s TLDs go, you’d be right to expect Google to be up to date. If a new top-level domain has been released to the market, you can bet Google Domains will offer it. Aside from keeping with the times, Google Domains’ existing selection is very solid.
Ultimately, that’s about it as far as features go. It’s not a super intense feature set, but that is of course by design. In terms of cost, Google’s domain registrar isn’t too expensive but certainly isn’t the cheapest.
Having said that generally, it really depends on what you’re looking for in a registrar. If you’re looking to hold on to a single domain or two long-term, maybe for your blog, then Google Domains is a great option because it doesn’t deal much with high renewal fees and includes WHOIS privacy. This is in spite of the fact that other companies might be cheaper up front.
If you’re looking to hold on to a bunch of domains for a short period of time, NameCheap or GoDaddy might be better options because they offer significant discounts for the first year of service, plus NameCheap includes WHOIS privacy free for the first year.
Ease of Use
And now for the thing we know Google to be excellent at: ease of use. Few can argue that Google’s forays into different internet services have been characterized by a combination of simplicity and robustness.
As far as Google Domains goes, this is generally true.
The only difficulties are in doing anything more than domain management. As I’ve discussed at length, you can’t really do much else with your domain. Yes, it’s true that Google makes it very easy to connect your domain with other hosts or website builders.
However, this is not as easy or seamless as simply using the same company for hosting and domain management. I’m not saying you should want to keep those two together: but for those who do, Google Domains can involve an extra step or two (albeit easy ones).
Aside from that, however, things are extremely simple. I’ll grant here that domain management can be complicated in its technical aspects, but has a certain guaranteed simplicity because of the nature of the service itself (which is just one service, not many).
Even when one takes that into account, Google Domains brings in the trademark clean navigation. The domain management tools are pretty simple, which might be negative point for some people, but certainly is good insofar as ease of use matters.
Google’s G Suite integration is particularly easy, though this shouldn’t come as a surprise considering it’s Google integrating a Google product with more Google products.
Nonetheless, for those interested in it, it’s incredibly easy. Domain privacy is as easy to manage as the best of them—it’s easy to find and all you have to do is toggle an on/off button, essentially.
I think it’s plausible some users would want a little more dynamic domain management application, but frankly that’s just a personal aesthetics thing. What matters is that Google Domains is simple and easy to use, and will make domain name registration and management as hassle-free as possible.
Despite Google’s omnipresence in our lives, few of us have actually interacted with Google’s customer support staff. This isn’t too surprising; many of Google’s services do not even offer support, and the ones that do are usually pretty straightforward.
Google Domains definitely has customer support, as any registrar should, and it’s…interesting. Let’s start with the basics. You can either consult the help center or contact representatives directly through phone, email, or live chat.
Contacting representatives directly is reliable, but I would note that my experiences with the live chat haven’t been great. I’ve still gotten my questions answered, but it does take a few minutes longer than the best, and sometimes the representatives don’t seem to understand my questions (even when simple).
However, I have found phone and email support to be stellar. These are more serious options (particularly phone support) so that probably explains it. Nonetheless, you can still consult them if you need to and expect a solid response.
The help center is a bit unique.
On the face of it, it doesn’t look weird. Standard knowledge base thing, right?
Once you open an article, you’ll find it’s extremely simple. The whole help center is super un-dynamic and straightforward.
That’s not a complaint by the way! It’s just a bit odd, at least for me—imagine any other knowledge base you’ve encountered, and then put it Google’s barebones style and format.
Anyway, the help center isn’t bad. It’s not super expansive but frankly Google Domains is so simple I can’t imagine a serious need for a more expansive knowledge base/help center.
A few more articles would be nice, but it’s not lacking now. The existing articles are detailed enough, straight to the point, and cover most problems/questions you’ll have.
In all, Google Domains has good customer support. I wouldn’t call it the best in the world or say it’s “average.” Just good. Google Domains honestly doesn’t need stellar support, so what it has—a decent knowledge base and available representatives—is just fine.
Security and Reliability
Last, and certainly not least—how is Google Domains’ security and reliability?
Unfortunately, we have to do some inferring here. Understand that Google has little to say about its practices for domain security. Ordinarily this is a blow to transparency, and I suppose it still can be considered one for Google.
On the other hand, Google is one of the few companies that can afford to not tell you all the details about its security. It’s not just power of the Google name, by the way, though that certainly counts.
What I mean by this is that Google, being one of the world’s biggest companies, and being a company that offers a range of web services, simply depends on great security. The fact that Google is known to have good security protocols for Gmail, or Drive, or any of its other reliable services is a good reason to infer that Google Domains is secure. Google has high company protocols which they extend to their various projects.
Now aside from this bit of educated guesswork on our end, Google Domains does offer a couple things that you can directly use to make your domain management more secure.
One of them is DNSSEC settings, which let you protect the domain name server (DNS) from certain threats. It’s a very simple on/off toggle, but useful. The WHOIS privacy is the same in that it’s a simple on/off switch.
On the note of domain name servers, keep in mind your domain is being managed on the same servers Google uses, which is a good security factor and ensures pretty reliable connections to your site.
Google Domains does not include SSL certification, but you can usually get that with whatever host or site builder you connect to your domain.
All things considered, you don’t get a ton of security aspects in the controls. This isn’t too unusual and is part of Google Domain’s gimmick anyway. At least you can generally trust Google with server security.
As far as day to day performance goes, it works fine. This is to be expected of any top domain name registrar, but it’s good to see this get checked off. I judge this by both the lack of any problems and the general speed of domain connection to the host. This includes the initial ‘pointing’ of the domain to the site you build, which doesn’t take long at all and is consistently stable later on.
For whatever reasons (and we think we know them), Google Domains is certainly as secure and reliable as the best of them.
Conclusion: Do I Recommend Google Domains?
So, what’s the verdict?
Google Domains is good!
Hah, of course it’s not that easy. Here’s a clarification: I’d recommend Google Domains to anyone looking into holding onto their domains for a longer period of time.
These people won’t have to worry about higher renewal prices or WHOIS renewal prices. They can connect easily to a host or builder of their choice, and need to worry little about their domains from that point on. Should they ever need assistance, good customer support will be in place to help them.
For anyone who isn’t looking to hold onto a domain for a long period of time, other options might be better. Namecheap and GoDaddy in particular have low upfront costs (Namecheap usually includes WHOIS for the first year as well).
Remember that Google Domains is still in its beta stage. Who knows what will come of it later. If a “full” release ever comes, I can’t wait to see it—because Google Domains as it stands now is still a registrar to be reckoned with.