When you set up an online store with Shopify, you’ll have to make several important decisions — which payment gateway to use, how to price your products, how to approach your shipping strategy and so on.
But before you can launch your store at all, you’ll have to choose a domain name for it — a web address that reflects the character, brand and offering of your business.
Now, the process of domain name selection can be difficult — as with choosing a business name, you may find yourself going round in circles for ages, worrying about trademarks and generally tearing your hair out.
And once you’ve finally settled on a domain name, you’ll face another question: should you register it with Shopify, or somewhere else?
Well, there are two schools of thought on that, and in this post I’m going to spell them out.
Let’s start with the reasons you might want to register your domain with Shopify.
The case for registering a domain name with Shopify
One word sums up the case for registering a domain name with Shopify: simplicity. It’s easy to do, it means that your domain name and store can be managed in one account, and connecting your store to your domain won’t involve any technical configuration at all.
Of the three benefits outlined above, the third is probably the most significant to new merchants. When you register a domain with a third-party provider, to connect your domain to Shopify, you’ll need to:
- log into a domain name service account
- locate your domain name settings (DNS)
- enter a variety of IP addresses and other data into these settings.
Now, none of this is rocket science, but using DNS can involve a bit of a learning curve (and matters aren’t helped by the fact that different registrars take different approaches to DNS configuration).
By contrast, the process of mapping a domain name that you’ve bought from Shopify to your store is extremely easy: it can be done in just a couple of clicks and with no technical configuration involved whatsoever.
So if you’re a total web design newbie, you’ll probably like the ‘all-in-one’ option for domain management that Shopify gives you.
But why shouldn’t you register a domain with Shopify?
So if registering a domain with Shopify is so straightforward, why on earth wouldn’t you want to do it?
Well, there are two reasons.
The first is that the range of domain names available from Shopify is smaller than that which you’ll find from a dedicated domain registrar. Not all country extensions or ‘TLDs’ are catered for, meaning that you may find yourself in a position where you are limiting your options by using a Shopify-bought domain.
(In some cases, you may find that Shopify simply doesn’t offer you the type of domain you need at all — so depending on your needs, you may have no choice but to use a dedicated domain name registrar.)
The second reason not to register a domain with Shopify is more significant: it involves risk management and whether it is wise to delegate stewardship of your domain name and store hosting to the same provider.
As an online business owner, your domain name is arguably your most important business asset — your entire brand is tied up in it.
But so is your SEO: because of the way Google considers the number of inbound links to domains as an important ranking factor, if your domain goes AWOL, so can your search rankings.
Accordingly, you may feel that it is better to work with a reputable company that specializes exclusively in domain registration — one that can offer more bespoke support in the event of something going wrong with a domain renewal or, in the worst case scenario, a hack.
There is lots to like about Shopify, but at the end of the day it’s a huge company that offers a wide range of ecommerce services — it’s not a specialized domain name provider, and getting through to the right person in a domain-related emergency may prove difficult.
Additionally, there are advantages to keeping your domain and CMS separate. If somebody hacks your Shopify account, and you’ve got your domain registered with it, that person will now have access not just to your content but your domain too (and will be in a position to transfer it elsewhere).
And finally, there’s the question of what happens if for any reason you fall foul of Shopify’s acceptable use policy — you may find your account locked. In this scenario, if you have your domain registered with a different provider, you’ll have the option of building a store quickly on another platform and mapping your domain to that.
By contrast, if both your domain and your store are wrapped up in Shopify, you may have a headache on your hands and some time-consuming disentangling to do. All of which will effectively cause more downtime for your website than you’d like.
So to sum things up, in a lot of cases (particularly hobby-level stores) it’s fine to register a domain with Shopify, and it’s certainly the easiest way to go about linking a domain to a Shopify store.
However, from a security and administrative point of view, it’s technically wiser to register a domain with a reputable third-party provider and map it separately to your Shopify store. Merchants with high volumes of sales would probably benefit the most from the latter approach.
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