Google Domains is a domain name registrar owned and operated by Google. Google rolled out the product in 2014, and it’s still in “beta” as of 2016.
Here’s my my experience so far and my full Google Domains review with pros & cons…
Disclosure – I receive referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All data and opinion is based on my experience as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.
Before we look at the pros & cons, there are a couple items to mention.
First, Google Domains is strictly a domain registrar. They allow you to claim, register & manage domain names. They do not offer complementary services such as hosting**. Google separately offers email and business services through Google Apps. Google Apps does require a custom domain name to get started.
**except for Google Sites, which is a website builder that provides storage (but not hosting) via Google Drive.
We’ll explore this point more in the pros & cons, but it’s important to understand Google’s goal with Google Domains. They want “getting online” simpler & less daunting for very small and/or less tech-savvy businesses – that means getting these businesses a domain name.
And even further, it means making the process of getting a domain as simple & transparent as possible.
Second, it’s important to remember that a domain is not a website. It’s not email – or any other service. It’s analogous to your address in the offline world – it helps people locate where your property is. A domain simply tells browsers/email/etc where to go to get whatever it wants (website files, emails, images, data, etc).
All that said – let’s look at the pros & cons of using Google Domains as your domain registrar.
Pros of Google Domains
Interface / Backend
Google Domains promises to be simple and transparent. And you’ll notice it right off with their homepage and backend design.
It’s so minimalist that it’s nearly blank.
It has Google’s trademark design ethos (aka – the nearly blank Google Search page). Google Domains focuses on doing one thing and one thing only – domains.
The design has no upsells, no cross-sells and no visual clutter. It’s honestly refreshing contrasted to the typical direct response offers from most domain & hosting companies.
Once you leave the site, you won’t even see striking retargeting ads. On Facebook, you’ll see just classy reminder ads. No offers – just a promise of simplicity and transparency.
When you need to point your domain to a host or website builder, it’s all there in a single place. There’s literally just 3 options on the backend sidebar.
Google Domains’ interface is a refreshing pro in an industry where most small business owners have to put up with pop-ups, upsells and confusing backends.
Although Google Domains does not offer built-in complementary products, it does integrate very well with the most common web apps.
It syncs simply with Google Apps (for email, storage, records, etc). And Google runs one of the best DNS servers (the system that tells a browser to go to a specific server to get files) on the Internet.
In fact, many webmasters will use Google’s DNS in place of their domain registrar’s or hosting companies, which is a plus because it’s integrated well with Google Domains.
All this leads to the next pro of overall simplicity.
If you are setting up your own website with a hosting provider, pointing your nameservers is directly in the domain menu. It’s one click.
But it’s more than just one click on a clean interface – even advanced functions are simple to find and operate.
If you want to leave Google Domains – unlocking your domain is simple (something that other domain name registrars make quite difficult). Updating addresses are simple.
Discovering your billing history is simple. Since Google Domains uses your Google Account, it’s easy to pay and maintain (it pulls from your email and Google Wallet information).
Simplicity is the one thing Google Domains promises and they live up to it.
Transparent Value Pricing
Google Domains maintains a single price for each top level domain (TLD). .Coms are $12/year.
Their pricing across the board is not the cheapest long or short term. They are a couple dollars more expensive per year than NameCheap. And they don’t do short-term discounting like GoDaddy.
So although Google Domains isn’t the cheapest, they do offer a solid total value pricing – and they are very transparent for what you’re getting.
Selection of New TLDs
In 2014, ICANN, the internet’s governing body, allowed for a lot more top level domains (TLDs). This introduced wide new selection into the domain name market, which use to be limited to .com, .net, a few other generics plus country designated TLDs.
Now more businesses are looking for unique TLDs like .kitchen or .academy among hundreds of others. The issue now is making sure your domain registrar has all the ones you want to register.
There is one catch – Google Domains does not have country designated TLDs. It’s a US-only service and has only “generic” TLDs (plus the .us country TLD). If you want a .co.uk or .ie domain – you’ll be out of luck.
But as long as you’re US-only looking for a generic TLD, you’ll find solid selection with Google Domains. Google Domains has almost all of them that I’ve seen.
Cons of Google Domains
Like I mentioned in the pros section, Google Domain’s pricing focuses on simplicity and transparency. They include privacy in their pricing – and are cheaper than most all hosting companies that offer domain registration.
However, when Google Domain’s pricing goes up against NameCheap or GoDaddy, they lose out. NameCheap’s pricing is transparent and consistently cheaper.
Google Domain’s interface & product is focused on eliminating any possible need for customer support. That said – stuff happens. And when stuff happens, you need support.
I’ve never had to use Google Domain’s support, however, their support options are not best in the industry. Their contact forms are buried and their phone support options are limited to US business hours. They do offer off-hours chat/email.
Support isn’t necessarily a con – but it’s not really a reason to choose Google Domains.
Google Domain’s focus on only domains is a pro – but it’s also a con.
You can buy it separately from a third party, but from my experience, managing it with your domain is simpler.
I like to separate my domains and hosting, but many owners prefer that their hosting and domains get bundled into one (even if it’s not ideal from a performance perspective).
NameCheap has competitive hosting; GoDaddy offers alright basic hosting with domains. And most hosting companies offer domain registration (or even free domains) with hosting purchase (such as InMotion or Bluehost).
Those kind of products simply aren’t available with Google Domains. So if you want that kind of convenience, then you’re out of luck.
Selection of Country TLDs
Although Google Domains has a wide selection of generic domains, they do not support country-level domains.
At first, I didn’t think this would be too much of an issue since it’s only available to US customer anyway.
Google Promise / Beta Status
The last con of using Google Domains as your domain provider is Google itself. Right now at the beginning of 2017, the product is in “beta” – or testing. And it’s been in Beta for ~4 years now.
And while Google says that it’s a long-term project and a natural fit with their other business products like Google Apps and Google App Engine – Google also has a long history of shutting down well-known projects.
They killed Google Reader, iGoogle, Google Apps for Teams and Google Glass. Google has gone through countless changes with their local business product (aka Google Places, Google+ Local, Google MyBusiness, etc) and even Google+ – their highest profile side project ever.
In other words, even though Google Domains has a lot of benefits with Google, domain names is not and never will be Google’s priority. Google Domains will always be under threat of shutting down – even if it’s doing well. If they did shut down – you wouldn’t lose your domain name, but would have to transition companies on Google’s timeline.
NameCheap, GoDaddy, or other domain name registration companies only do domain name registration. They might go out of business, but as long as they are making money, they will never be unceremoniously shuttered.
The Google SEO Advantage / Disadvantage
Before looking at next steps, I have to touch on one bit of SEO (search engine optimization) mythology. In the SEO world, there are 3 camps on Google products.
The first camp says that Google is inherently untrustworthy. They say you should never use their products because they just spy on you and are out to punish you. It’s all about tricking and outsmarting Google.
The second camp says that Google is SEO. They say you should use all their products and do everything they say. Google will always prefer their own products and will reward everyone that uses them. It’s all about cooperating and sucking up to Google.
The third camp says that neither of the first two camps rely on evidence or testing. The answer to all things SEO is “it depends.” Use Google products that suit your business; don’t use Google products that don’t work for you. Either way, focus on testing and doing the right things for your customers.
I’m in the third camp. I have never seen any evidence that Google Domains will “cleanse” or “un-blacklist” a domain. I’ve never seen any evidence that domains registered with Google get an advantage in the search results. I also have no idea why Google would even make that a factor.
Don’t buy into SEO snake oil when you are looking for a domain name registrar. The only tested SEO truth is that the internet is made up of domain names. And you do need a custom domain (not a .weebly.com or .wordpress.com or .blogspot.com subdomain) to build a long-term project around.
The registrar you choose should be based on pricing, convenience, usability and support.
If you –
- are just looking to register a few generic domains for your business
- value simplicity and transparency
- don’t need a wide product selection
- don’t need a super-competitive price point
- trust Google as a company
If you want lots of options and better pricing from a reputable company without the upsells, I’d recommend checking out NameCheap here…
If you just want a super-cheap domain right now and plan to delete it or transfer it out once you put it to use, then go check out a GoDaddy domain special here…
Lastly, if you are more confused than ever, explore my BuzzFeed-esque quiz on choosing a domain registrar here.