The post has been 1st posted here: https://feedpress.me/link/9375/14757949/cannibalization.
In today’s episode of Whiteboard Friday, Tom Capper walks you through a problem many SEOs have faced: cannibalization. What is it, how do you identify it, and how can you fix it? Watch to find out!
Click on the whiteboard image above to open a larger version in a new tab!
Happy Friday, Moz fans, and today we’re going to be talking about cannibalization, which here in the UK we spell like this: cannibalisation. With that out of the way, what do we mean by cannibalization?
What is cannibalization?
So this is basically where one site has two competing URLs and performs, we suspect, less well because of it. So maybe we think the site is splitting its equity between its two different URLs, or maybe Google is getting confused about which one to show. Or maybe Google considers it a duplicate content problem or something like that. One way or another, the site does less well as a result of having two URLs.
So I’ve got this imaginary SERP here as an example. So imagine that Moz is trying to rank for the keyword “burgers.” Just imagine that Moz has decided to take a wild tangent in its business model and we’re going to try and rank for “burgers” now.
So in position one here, we’ve got Inferior Bergz, and we would hope to outrank these people really, but for some reason we’re not doing. Then in position two, we’ve got Moz’s Buy Burgers page on the moz.com/shop subdirectory, which obviously doesn’t exist, but this is a hypothetical. This is a commercial landing page where you can go and purchase a burger.
Then in position three, we’ve got this Best Burgers page on the Moz blog. It’s more informational. It’s telling you what are the attributes to a good burger, how can you identify a good burger, where should you go to acquire a good burger, all this kind of more neutral editorial information.
So we hypothesize in this situation that maybe if Moz only had one page going for this keyword, maybe it could actually supplant the top spot. If we think that’s the case, then we would probably talk about this as cannibalization.
However, the alternative hypothesis is, well, actually there could be two intents here. It might be that Google wishes to show a commercial page and an informational page on this SERP, and it so happens that the second best commercial page is Moz’s and the best informational page is also Moz’s. We’ve heard Google talk in recent years or representatives of Google talk in recent years about having positions on search results that are sort of reserved for certain kinds of results, that might be reserved for an informational result or something like that. So this doesn’t necessarily mean there’s cannibalization. So we’re going to talk a little bit later on about how we might sort of disambiguate a situation like this.
First, though, let’s talk about the classic case. So the classic, really clear-cut, really obvious case of cannibalization is where you see a graph like this one.
So this is the kind of graph you would see a lot of rank tracking software. You can see time and the days of the week going along the bottom axis. Then we’ve got rank, and we obviously want to be as high as possible and close to position one.
Then we see the two URLS, which are color-coded, and are green and red here. When one of them ranks, the other just falls away to oblivion, isn’t even in the top 100. There’s only ever one appearing at the same time, and they sort of supplant each other in the SERP. When we see this kind of behavior, we can be pretty confident that what we’re seeing is some kind of cannibalization.
Sometimes it’s less obvious though. So a good example that I found recently is if, or at least in my case, if I Google search Naples, as in the place name, I see Wikipedia ranking first and second. The Wikipedia page ranking first was about Naples, Italy, and the Wikipedia page at second was about Naples, Florida.
Now I do not think that Wikipedia is cannibalizing itself in that situation. I think that they just happen to have… Google had decided that this SERP is ambiguous and that this keyword “Naples” requires multiple intents to be served, and Wikipedia happens to be the best page for two of those intents.
So I wouldn’t go to Wikipedia and say, “Oh, you need to combine these two pages into a Naples, Florida and Italy page” or something like that. That’s clearly not necessary.
Questions to ask
So if you want to figure out in that kind of more ambiguous case whether there’s cannibalization going on, then there are some questions we might ask ourselves.
1. Do we think we’re underperforming?
So one of the best questions we might ask, which is a difficult one in SEO, is: Do we think we’re underperforming? So I know every SEO in the world feels like their site deserves to rank higher, well, maybe most. But do we have other examples of very similar keywords where we only have one page, where we’re doing significantly better? Or was it the case that when we introduced the second page, we suddenly collapsed? Because if we see behavior like that, then that might, you know, it’s not clear-cut, but it might give us some suspicions.
2. Do competing pages both appear?
Similarly, if we look at examples of similar keywords that are less ambiguous in intent, so perhaps in the burgers case, if the SERP for “best burgers” and the SERP for “buy burgers,” if those two keywords had completely different results in general, then we might think, oh, okay, we should have two separate pages here, and we just need to make sure that they’re clearly differentiated.
But if actually it’s the same pages appearing on all of those keywords, we might want to consider having one page as well because that seems to be what Google is preferring. It’s not really separating out these intents. So that’s the kind of thing we can look for is, like I say, not clear-cut but a bit of a hint.
3. Consolidate or differentiate?
Once we’ve figured out whether we want to have two pages or one, or whether we think the best solution in this case is to have two pages or one, we’re going to want to either consolidate or differentiate.
So if we think there should only be one page, we might want to take our two pages, combine the best of the content, pick the strongest URL in terms of backlinks and history and so on, and redirect the other URL to this combined page that has the best content, that serves the slight variance of what we now know is one intent and so on and so forth.
If we want two pages, then obviously we don’t want them to cannibalize. So we need to make sure that they’re clearly differentiated. Now what often happens here is a commercial page, like this Buy Burgers page, ironically for SEO reasons, there might be a block of text at the bottom with a bunch of editorial or SEO text about burgers, and that can make it quite confusing what intent this page is serving.
Similarly, on this page, we might at some stage have decided that we want to feature some products on there or something. It might have started looking quite commercial. So we need to make sure that if we’re going to have both of these, that they are very clearly speaking to separate intents and not containing the same information and the same keywords for the most part and that kind of thing.
Lastly, it would be better if we didn’t get into the situation in the first place. So a quick tip that I would recommend, just as a last takeaway, is before you produce a piece of content, say for example before I produced this Whiteboard Friday, I did a site:moz.com cannibalization so I can see what content had previously existed on Moz.com that was about cannibalization.
I can see, oh, this piece is very old, so we might — it’s a very old Whiteboard Friday, so we might consider redirecting it. This piece mentions cannibalization, so it’s not really about that. It’s maybe about something else. So as long as it’s not targeting that keyword we should be fine and so on and so forth. Just think about what other pieces exist, because if there is something that’s basically targeting the same keyword, then obviously you might want to consider consolidating or redirecting or maybe just updating the old piece.
You’ve heard the story before… you have to do a lot of things right to rank well. Especially because there are over 200 ranking factors.
And to make matter worse, you have to continually keep up to date with what’s going on because Google is making over 4500 algorithm changes a year.
The reality is there isn’t enough time in the world to do everything. So you have to compromise.
You have to work on the stuff that will move the needle the most and is the easiest to get done.
And I am not just talking from a code perspective, but in many cases, there is low-hanging fruit. Such as a particular page may be in striking distance of a page 1 ranking for a term that could drive more sales and leads that you aren’t focusing on…
But how do you know which changes or issues to focus on first?
Top SEO opportunities
Well, to make things simple, we added a feature in Ubersuggest called “top SEO opportunities”. That will help you do this.
Just look at the image above it tells you what to focus on to get the best results, and it all isn’t code-related either.
It says that I could rank for terms like “performance marketing agency in the US”. Of course, I want to rank for more broad terms like “performance marketing agency”, but it is best to start with long tail terms that are easy and can show quick results, and then work your way up to head terms like “performance marketing agency”.
So when I click the “start” button it then takes me to the AI writer to help me write content around that term.
You then continue or you can adjust the keyword. Once you move on to the next step you select a title (keep in mind you can adjust it later).
Then you select a meta description (you can adjust it later on).
Then you choose your headings…
And then you have Ubersuggest write the content for you.
Now Ubersuggest won’t write full-blown articles for you. Instead, it whips up copy to help you start the writing process. And within that process, it automatically adds secondary keywords you should also target that it knows your website also has a good chance of ranking for.
You’ll then want to adjust the content, add it to your page and watch your rankings climb.
The cool part about this feature is that it doesn’t just focus on creating content, it does this for all aspects of SEO. From your code to page speed, to content, and even link building. And it helps you out as much as possible to reduce how much effort you need to put in.
So how can you get custom recommendations for your own site?
Create goals and run an analysis
Let’s get you some custom SEO recommendations that will provide results.
I want you to go to the Ubersuggest dashboard and click on “create your first project”.
Then you will see a prompt that asks you for your website URL and site name.
And you’ll want to add all the locations you do business.
The next step is selecting the keywords you are targeting.
Some keywords will be recommended if your site already has traction when it comes to SEO. For those keywords just hit the “+” sign to add them. Or on the right side, you can manually add keywords.
Then add your competitors. Again you can do so by clicking on the “+” sign or by typing them in manually on the right side.
And if you haven’t already, make sure you register to save your changes (it is free to register).
Then go to your dashboard.
Once you have added your site to Ubersuggest you’ll want to go to your dashboard to see your top SEO opportunities.
It could take up to an hour for you to see them. In most cases, it is much faster.
The cool part about the SEO opportunities report is that it can change daily, weekly, or monthly depending on how often you update your website.
So for example, if you are pushing out hundreds of pieces of content a day, or change hundreds of pages on your site… each day Ubersuggest will find new opportunities and reprioritize for you.
That way you focus your energy on what provides the biggest SEO ROI.
Yes, having your website buttoned up and optimized for all of google’s algorithm factors is great. But it is also unrealistic.
Instead, you should focus on low-hanging fruit. What changes can you make to your code, content, or site in general to provide the biggest SEO traffic gains.
And that is what the top SEO opportunities report does.
Disclosure: This content is reader-supported, which means if you click on some of our links that we may earn a commission.
What would you do with an extra $1,500 a day?
With a bit of work and the right ecommerce platform, you can create an online store that generates that kind of revenue (and more).
Shilpi Yadav is an excellent example. She quit her job to start an online clothing store based around her Indian heritage.
Despite all the risks, the brand now makes more than half a million dollars a year (averaging around $1,500 per day).
She built her online store using Shopify, one of the best ecommerce platforms on the market. However, there are a ton of different options to choose from depending on what you need.
And the most significant thing standing in the way of your own $500k success story is deciding which ecommerce platform is right for your new store.
In this post, I’ll break down the major aspects to consider in choosing the right platform for your current situation. Then we’ll take a close look at seven of top options available today.
#1 – Zyro Review — The Best for Setting Up Your Web Store in Minutes
There are plenty of good ecommerce platforms for launching your web store. Most of those work best with plenty of careful, gradual planning and site building.
But, with Zyro, you can get a solid online store up and running in no time.
Whether you’re starting with a simple ecommerce site before growing into a larger operation or your company needed a web store yesterday, Zyro is the fastest path to an online store you can be proud of.
Start with one of Zyro’s templates—30 of the over 160 options are already optimized for building an online store—then add your products, make little tweaks to fit your brand style, and then publish your site.
It’s that simple and even the least tech-savvy person can get a solid ecommerce site live in an hour or less.
All the other details are taken care of for you. Zyro includes a free domain for one year and three months of custom email tied to that domain on any of their paid plans. And, since Zyro is a part of Hostinger, you’re getting rock-solid web hosting included for no extra charge.
And that’s not all. What if you’re totally starting from scratch or you’re just building a web store for your side hustle or hobby? Zyro offers a bunch of free tools to help you fill in any gaps quickly.
For example, the refund policy generator will do exactly that—create simple, easy-to-read refund policy for your store and its customers. Or, use the AI writer to generate blog or product copy that you can tweak to meet your needs.
That all makes it a breeze to get started. But what about the long haul?
Zyro isn’t just a solution for simple web stores that want to stay small.
First, you can keep iterating on the ecommerce site you begin with. Zyro’s site builder is easy to use, but holds a lot of customization capability. Expand your inventory, add custom landing pages, completely rebrand the colors and look of your site—there’s plenty of potential for building something incredible over time.
Plus, Zyro offers an array of more ambitious ecommerce features on some of their plans. Need to offer more than 100 products on your digital storefront? Upgrade to the Advanced Store plan and you’re allotted up to 2,500.
That same Advanced Store plan can really kick your ecommerce operations into overdrive. In addition to more products, you can set your web store up to be multilingual for your international customers, sell subscription-based services, send out automated marketing emails, and even easily list your ecommerce inventory on other channels to let you easily sell on eBay, Amazon, Facebook, and Instagram.
That’s really just the broad strokes. There’s a lot you can do on Zyro’s most souped-up plan. So, let’s get into the price now.
Zyro Business (100 products): starting at $4.90 per month
Zyro Online Store (100 products): starting at $8.90 per month
Zyro Advanced Store (2,500 products): starting at $15.90 per month.
For basic ecommerce or someone just wanting to set up a web store to build upon, the Business plan can do the trick. That supports over 20 payment methods and provides order and inventory management.
The next step up, Online Store, delivers the ability to send discounts and coupons to customers which they can use on your web store, plus support for gift cards, shipping and tax management, and cross-selling to Facebook and Instagram stores.
But if you want a lot of the features we covered, plus even more tools for optimization and growing sales, go with Zyro’s Advanced Store package. At under $16 per month, that’s a better deal than some of the entry-level plans of other options on this list.
#2 – Wix Review — The Best for Flexibility and Customization
Wix is one of the most popular and reputable website builders on the planet. They also offer business plans with ecommerce capabilities, making it one of the easiest ways to create an online store without writing a single line of code.
You can start with one of 500+ templates that are optimized for selling out of the box. Then simply customize your pages with an intuitive drag-and-drop interface.
This provides you with exceptional design flexibility at virtually no learning curve.
You can design up a custom online store from scratch in less than an hour, and your customers won’t be able to tell the difference between your site and industry leaders. Wix gives you a professional appearance without the hassle and headaches.
I love the Wix mobile app. This makes it easy to edit your site from anywhere, with just a few clicks from your pocket.
Some of the top ecommerce package benefits include:
Support of 90+ languages and local currencies
250+ apps for added functionality
No extra transaction fees
Fully customized product pages
Global shipping and taxes
Discounts and coupons
Custom product collections
Advanced sorting and filters
You’ll also have access to marketing features like email accounts and social media from your Wix dashboard.
To access ecommerce functionality, you need to sign up for a Wix business package:
Wix also offers custom solutions and pricing options for enterprise sellers.
With that said, high-volume ecommerce shops with extensive product catalogs would likely be better off using Shopify or BigCommerce. Wix is better for smaller ecommerce businesses.
#3 – Squarespace Review — The Best Ecommerce Platform for Creatives
Squarespace is well-known as a free website builder, but they also have a trio of attractive ecommerce packages.
You’re getting the same high quality of templates that Squarespace is famous for, with plenty of customization potential to create a unique shopping experience for your customers.
Some of the other easy-to-use platforms are a little limited with what you can do. Squarespace gives you a lot more artistic freedom.
Install and customize multiple templates at a time to see which one you like best. And switching between templates takes just a few clicks.
Aside from beautiful templates, Squarespace’s web store plans include:
Subscriptions, digital products, and in-person compatibility
Built-in tax tools for automatic tax calculations
Discount codes and gift cards
Abandoned cart recovery
Mobile store management
Rich product listings
Quick view capability
Real-time shipping estimates
Furthermore, Squarespace integrates with most of the popular email marketing and social media platforms so you can sell and market your products like a pro.
And they have fantastic 24/7/365 customer support ready to answer your questions and help you get things set up the way you want to.
Squarespace offers three ecommerce plans:
Business — $18 per month + 3% transaction fees
Basic Commerce — $26 per month + 0% transaction fees
Advanced Commerce — $40 per month + 0% transaction fees
As you scan their pricing options, you’ll see a Personal plan for $12 per month. This is great if you want to build a website, but it doesn’t come with any ecommerce features, so it’s not going to work if you want to set up an online store.
They also have an enterprise plan with a dedicated account manager, SEO consultations, and prioritized technical support.
And while the Business plan offers ecommerce capabilities, I highly recommend choosing Basic Commerce to start. It’s the cheapest plan with no transaction fees, plus it includes other essential features like, customer accounts and ecommerce analytics.
#4 – Bluehost Review — The Best for Hands-Off WooCommerce Store Setup
I really like WooCommerce. And, fortunately, I’m comfortable enough with WordPress to install, customize, and manage the WooCommerce plugin and the additional plugins that really make it shine on my own WordPress sites.
But I know many folks who would rather not have that responsibility, whether because of a lack of familiarity with WordPress plugins or just a lack of time to self-manage WooCommerce.
Bluehost gets that, too—that’s why they’ve rolled out an easy, turnkey solution to getting a WooCommerce store up and running in no time, for anyone.
With Bluehost’s package for ecommerce powered by WooCommerce, you get a handy guided store creator, plus:
Built-in SSL and Jetpack for security
Unlimited product listings
Manual order creation
One year free of CodeGuard Backup Basic, for daily site backups
And that’s all in the Standard Plan. The built-in SSL certificate is really helpful because it encrypts information customers enter on your website (like credit card numbers or login credentials), and protects everyone from hackers. All you have to do is click a button and your set with Bluehost–this can be much more challenging if the host doesn’t manage SSL certificates for you.
What I think is most convenient, though, is that Bluehost has preselected the top 20 store plugins that your WooCommerce store will need. Not only does that save you the headache of researching and installing plugins on your own, they’re included at no extra charge.
That’s huge. Some of these plugins cost around $200 a pop to install.
Take it one step higher to the Premium plan and you’ll also get:
Online appointment scheduling
Advanced product customization
Local tax management
Free domain privacy
CodeGuard Backup Basic, included for free
Pricing is based on your initial term commitment. Choose from month-to-month billing, a one-year contract, or a three-year contract.
The Standard plan starts at $12.95/month for a three-year commitment, while Premium starts at $24.95/month for the same.
Both plans renew at the standard month-to-month rate after the term is completed—$29.95/month for Standard and $49.95/month for Premium.
#5 – BigCommerce Review — The Best for Medium to Large Stores
BigCommerce is an all-in-one ecommerce website builder specifically for large online stores. It includes more advanced ecommerce features suitable for managing high volumes and a large number of products.
With a customer base of 100,000+ stores, including some big names like Ben & Jerry’s and SkullCandy, they’re a smaller player in the industry.
But that doesn’t make the platform any less powerful.
BigCommerce plans include access to powerful, industry-leading features, including:
Customer accounts for faster checkouts
Abandoned cart recovery
Google AMP and Akamai
Advanced product filters
Coupons and discount codes
Advanced inventory management
Customer groups for personalized shopping
65+ payment gateways with no extra transaction fees
Built-in shipping management
Plus, all of their plans include unlimited products, file storage, bandwidth, and staff accounts.
And you can choose between 12 free mobile-responsive design templates or opt for a paid template to make your online store stand out from the crowd without touching a single line of code.
BigCommerce offers four paid plans (with a 15-day free trial), including:
Standard — $29.95/month with a $50,000 annual sales limit
Plus — $79.95/month with a $180,000 annual sales limit
Pro — $299.95/month with a $400,000 annual sales limit
Enterprise — custom pricing
If you’re just getting started, BigCommerce is overkill for your online store. However, if you’re an established business or plan to sell high volumes, it’s an excellent choice.
#6 – Shopify Review — The Best All-In-One Ecommerce Platform
Shopify is an all-in-one ecommerce website builder that powers more than one million online stores, making it one of the most popular choices on this list.
However, it’s not as customizable as Wix. But it offers more advanced ecommerce features because it’s built specifically to host online stores. Plus, it’s easy to use with just the right level of flexibility.
It’s also incredibly versatile, powering micro to large stores, and everything in between. Shopify plans include access to an incredible suite of ecommerce features, including:
Point of Sale for brick and mortar shops
Real-time carrier shipping rates
Abandoned checkout recovery
100 different payment gateways
Automatic tax calculations
Customer accounts and profiles
Advanced inventory management
Plus, with 70+ professional themes (nine of which are free) and 4,100+ apps, you can create a beautiful and highly functional ecommerce store without having to start from scratch. Or write a single line of code.
Combine that with award-winning 24/7/365 customer support and you have an excellent ecommerce platform.
Shopify offers five plans for businesses of all sizes, including:
Shopify Lite — $9 per month
Basic Shopify — $29 per month
Shopify — $79 per month
Advanced Shopify — $299 per month
Shopify Plus — custom pricing
Shopify Lite is a great option if you want to embed products and “buy” buttons onto an existing website. However, it doesn’t come with the all-inclusive website builder.
Keep in mind that Shopify has its own payment processor. They charge 2.4% – 2.9% + $0.30 depending on the plan you choose. They also charge additional fees (0.5% – 2%) if you use a separate payment processor like PayPal or Square.
#7 – WooCommerce Review — The Best for WordPress Websites
You don’t need to settle for a cookie-cutter website builder to run your ecommerce store. If you’re serious about selling online (and you’re using or planning to use a WordPress site to do it), you should opt for WooCommerce, one of the most powerful tools out there.
This lightweight WordPress plugin adds ecommerce capabilities like accepting online payments, configurable shipping options, and product listings to your site. But that’s just the start.
WooCommerce is wildly extendible and able to be integrated with other business tools. Customize it through extensions in categories ranging from inventory, shipping, and fulfillment to marketing, customer loyalty programs, live chat support, and much more.
The platform, like many good WordPress tools, is developer-friendly. Use REST API to tweak and tailor WooCommerce to your needs with custom coding and modules.
Not sold yet? Here’s a taste of some of the other built-in features you get:
140 region-specific payment gateways
Support of subscriptions and deposits
Automated tax calculations
Real-time shipping rates
iOS and Android mobile apps
Physical and digital product capability
Endless product variations
Extensive tutorials and documentation
Public support forum
And the best part? It’s free to download, install, and use. Forever.
However, some of the extensions aren’t free, so watch out for that if you start digging into those.
With the power of WordPress behind it, your customization options are only limited to what you can imagine. So, the sky is legitimately the limit with WooCommerce.
But with that said, it’s not the easiest or most intuitive ecommerce platform. So, I don’t recommend it if you aren’t already using WordPress and 100% comfortable with it.
#8 – OpenCart Review — The Best for Selling Digital Products
OpenCart is another open source ecommerce platform, much like WooCommerce. However, it’s not limited to WordPress websites. But you do need to have an existing website to use it.
Over 300,000 online stores use OpenCart to confidently sell products of all shapes and sizes online. Plus, most web hosting companies offer one-click installation or will install it for free, so it’s incredibly easy to set up.
Note: I only recommend going this route if you already have a website up and running.
While you can sell products of any kind, the no-fluff interface (and free price tag) makes it an excellent option for selling digital products to make more money with your online business.
All without adding an extra monthly expense because it’s 100% free forever.
OpenCart offers a powerful set of ecommerce features, including:
Simple and centralized admin dashboard
Advanced user roles and access controls
Manage multiple stores from a single dashboard
Limitless product variables and variations
Built-in affiliate management and rewards system
Discounts and coupons
One-click digital downloads
Product reviews and ratings
36 built-in payment methods
Plus, with 13,000 modules and themes in the marketplace, you can add any functionality you can imagine including service integrations, conversion modules, email marketing, and more.
Keep in mind that not all of OpenCart’s extensions are free. You may have to pay for more advanced capabilities.
And they don’t currently offer support for free, either.
If you can’t find what you’re looking for on their community forum, you have to pay for dedicated help. Dedicated support starts at $99 per site per month or $99 for a one-time fix.
#9 – Ecwid Review — The Best for Integrating With Your Current Platform
Like OpenCart and WooCommerce, Ecwid is an ecommerce platform you can use to integrate with your current platform, regardless of what you’re already using.
It integrates with platforms like Weebly, Wix, WordPress, Squarespace, and more. So, if you already have a website set up and want to add ecommerce functionality, Ecwid is an excellent choice.
With that said, they also offer an all-in-one ecommerce website builder if you want to start from scratch. However, there are better website builders to use.
So, I only recommend Ecwid if you want to integrate ecommerce into your existing website.
This ecommerce platform includes a wide range of features, like:
Integrated email marketing and advertising features
Centralized inventory and order management
No transaction fees
Fully responsive designs
Built-in POS integrations
Customer accounts for easy checkout
Real-time shipping rate calculator
Digital product capabilities
40 payment options
The biggest downside is that you can’t manage your store from inside your website account dashboard. You have to log in to Ecwid instead. So, you need to manage two separate accounts.
But the good news is that you can start on the limited free forever plan to try it out before making any investments.
The free plan only allows up to ten products, so you have to upgrade if you need more. Ecwid also offers three paid plans, including:
Venture — $15/month (up to 100 products)
Business — $35/month (up to 2,500 products)
Unlimited — $99/month (unlimited products)
This is the price if you pay month to month. If you are willing to sign a contract for a year, the price is a little lower.
As a stand-alone store builder you might be better off with other options (like Wix and Shopify).
But if you already have a website and want to add an ecommerce store, Ecwid is a great alternative to WooCommerce and OpenCart.
What I Looked at to Find the Best Ecommerce Platform
The best ecommerce platform for your business depends on several factors like your experience level, your customization requirements, and the type of products you want to sell.
But choosing the right platform can feel overwhelming because there are countless options to choose from.
It may help to start with a list of requirements and the features you need. From there, you can narrow down your choices based on the following criteria.
Physical vs Digital Products
Digital products are a booming market. Online courses, music, art, and podcasts are just some of the digital products netting new businesses tons of cash.
But selling and delivering digital products isn’t the same as delivering a physical product to someone’s doorstep.
If you want to sell digital products, Shopify is a really great option, but some ecommerce may not support digital products at all. So it’s important to understand which type you plan to sell before you make a decision.
What do you need to do to get your ecommerce platform up and running?
There are a few different ways to deploy your platform depending on where you are starting from and where you want to go.
If you already have a website, the best option is integrating an online store rather than creating a brand new website on a new platform. This way, you build on what you’ve already done. OpenCart is ideal for this use-case.
For people with WordPress sites, you can add ecommerce functionality via a plugin like WooCommerce. This is super simple to set up and easy to manage.
If you’re starting from scratch, you’ll want a website builder and other tools to help you design your platform.
In this case, going with solutions like Wix and Squarespace makes a lot of sense. They bundle everything you need to get started at a really affordable price.
Order management, product creation, tracking orders, and dashboard navigation are important factors of day-to-day ecommerce management.
Choose a platform that’s easy to use and manage on a daily basis. It shouldn’t feel like a struggle to create new products, check the status of an order, or update the pages of your website.
It’s all about finding the right balance of flexibility, customization, and ease of use. The more a platform can do, the harder it is to manage.
You can simplify your workload by choosing a platform that offers just enough flexibility without going overboard for your specific needs.
Some ecommerce website builders (like Wix) are truly drag and drop, meaning the customization options are endless. If you can imagine it, you can build it. But, that freedom also makes the platform more difficult to use.
Other platforms integrate into your current site, taking the look and feel of your existing website with very few customization options. For some users, this is perfect.
But others may want more control.
If you’re just starting out, simple designs and ease of use are more important than design flexibility.
However, if you already own a physical store or an established brand, design is more important so you can create a cohesive aesthetic from one touch point to the next.
Advanced Ecommerce Features
Do you want to be able to offer discounts or accept payments through different payment processors? Maybe you want to send visitors a reminder email when they exit your website with something in their cart.
Perhaps you’re interested in creating customer profiles and analyzing advanced analytics.
Other advanced ecommerce features include:
Email marketing integrations
Memberships and recurring payments
Gift cards and discount codes
Partial payments or payment plans
Shipping and fulfillment management
Think carefully about what you need and what would be nice to have. Then, you can use your list of requirements to narrow down your list of choices.
Finding an ecommerce platform does what you need is a breath of fresh air. After using dozens of different options over the years, I’m confident with my selection of the top options available:
Zyro – Best for setting up your web store in minutes
Ecwid – Best for integrating with your current platform
My #1 recommendation for most users is Zyro, because it’s the fastest route to a new web store and it’s super affordable. Wix is also great for users of all experience levels. But if Wix or Zyro are too customizable for you, Squarespace is a fantastic alternative.
The following article was first published by Neil Patel.
Disclosure: This content is reader-supported, which means if you click on some of our links that we may earn a commission.
Do you want to skip the read and get right to my top pick? The best VOIP phone services for most people are Nextiva, Ooma, or Ringcentral.
Buying VoIP for your business is going to save you money over a traditional phone line. And if you are already using a VoIP service from a clunky provider, you may be able to switch to something sleeker without losing anything except the frustration.
Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) may sound complex, but it simply means making calls over your internet connection instead of using the old analog phone line. If you are thinking about switching to VoIP for the first time, you are going to be blown away by all the advantages you get with making calls over the internet.
More than just saving money, VoIP has far more features, is incredibly portable, and very scalable.
To write a truly helpful post for my readers, my team got in touch with leaders who have used VoIP in different ways.
You can find about 80 percent of what you need to know about VoIP anywhere on the web—here’s the 20 percent you can’t find anywhere else.
We spoke with:
Gregg, who manages IT services for a living. He knows the good and bad of different VoIP options and helps businesses stay protected from hacks.
Jason, who has been working in call centers for nearly 30 years and just bought VoIP for his enterprise organization. He’s attuned to what’s important for your employees, whether they’re remote or in an office.
Makan, who’s set up dozens of high-volume telemarketing teams. He’s learned how to reduce the risk of regulatory fines and identify top performers in an industry with exceptionally high turnover.
Sarkar, who manages sales teams in the B2B SaaS space. He walked us through how to sync VoIP and CRM software with the fewest possible headaches.
Look, I know what works for a company like mine. By speaking with a range of experts, my team and this article can help a wider array of buyers with different use cases or situations than my own.
There are companies looking to outfit offices in 20 countries. Others have to protect patient data. Some folks just want to stop using their personal mobile number for work.
Here are the seven best VoIP phone service providers you can start using right away. After the reviews, you’ll find an in-depth buyer’s guide.
I hear a lot about the trends of working from home, but I don’t think anyone can say for sure what “office life” is going to look like two or three years from now. If you want your teams to stay functional no matter which way the wind blows, Nextiva is a solid choice.
It’s cloud-based VoIP, so your employees can come into the office, set up a desk at home, or use their phone on the go. Unlike an on-premises phone system, employees can use their phone without a VPN because they’re calling through Nextiva.
So, you have way less to worry about with security—which is definitely on the minds of managers who have people calling from hotels, coffee shops, and their home network.
The experts my team spoke with categorized it as a true plug-and-play system for businesses that want a dial tone without IT headaches. If your system is built on ten phones or fewer, you will have very little trouble getting Nextiva installed.
One thing that Jason pointed out, however, was that you’ll need to put some thought into compliance if you plan to take credit card numbers over the phone. But, for the most part, security is handled by Nextiva because everything is routed through their cloud.
Nextiva can scale to hundreds of phones if need be. There will be some backend configuration to get everything going, but Nextiva will help you deploy with a guided installation process.
And unlike some of the other companies that offer this type of flexibility, Nextiva can outfit your entire office. Fax machines, conference phones, multiple offices–whatever your setup, you’ll be able to transition it to Nextiva’s modern platform.
Level up your business phone by connecting it with email, text, and video—or centralize every channel within a single window for your employees.
All the call handling and user administration features you’d expect are included. And when I say they are easy to use, check out the Call Flow Builder that lets visualize how routing is set up:
It can be tricky to configure auto attendants in some platforms, but it’s drag-and-drop easy with Nextiva.
The company has done a lot to make everything as easy as possible on end users. If you’re wondering whether or not you have the necessary internet speed at your office, you can test it right now on Nextiva’s website. Simulate the traffic required for two or 200 phones. You’ll get info on speed, but also jitter and everything that goes into whether or not you can reliably make calls.
You can also use the site to test the speed of remote workers who need to be on call, which Jason highly recommended. If their home network doesn’t support VoIP, you may be looking at an expensive hiring blunder.
Nextiva offers 24/7 support for every plan. That’s not typical, especially for VoIP at such an affordable price (which is currently on sale too!)
Essential: starting at $18.95$11.95 per month per user
Professional: starting at $22.95$20.95 per month per user
Enterprise: starting at $32.95$26.95 per month per user
These are the annual prices—it’s a little bit more per user to pay month to month, but you don’t have to sign a contract.
The Essential plan is going to work for many teams. It includes unlimited voice and video calling, a free local and toll-free number, and 1,500 toll-free minutes. That’s a lot more than you are going to get with other entry-level plans.
Unlike RingCentral, there’s no user cap for the Essential plan. This means you can offer more people unlimited voice and video at a low price, rather than having to upgrade once you hit 20 users.
For conference calling and business SMS, you’ll need the Professional plan. This comes with Salesforce, HubSpot, and Zendesk integration. Essential only has integration with Outlook and Google Contacts.
At the Enterprise tier, you get integrations with CRM software and single sign-on, which is a huge boon to remote workers.
Nextiva One is the company’s omnichannel solution. If customers reach out to you through a variety of channels in addition to phones, this might be a good idea.
Your employees can see all communication with each account, which is really helpful if people are logging help desk tickets, chatting, reaching out on social media, and so on.
Jason argued that omnichannel also makes administrators’ lives easier. “I don’t have 10 systems to manage,” he described to us, “it’s all within the same system.”
You can coordinate ecommerce with a call center or tie multiple brick and mortar stores into a single system.
You also have one bill as opposed to dozens and you’re not chasing down information across multiple platforms. If a customer has an issue, you can go back through the entire record quickly, regardless of how they got in touch.
Organization is just easier with Nextiva. Staying on the same page with customers and your employees is as simple as logging into the system, no matter where you are.
For teams that don’t have an office to coordinate activity, Nextiva is the best VoIP solution.
It’s a product that employees new and old can start using immediately on whatever device they have. Should they ever have an issue, Nextiva’s reputable customer service is there to provide support.
If you are looking at the way features break down in the different packages and you don’t find a perfect fit, just reach out to Nextiva. You can purchase any feature a la carte.
#2 – Ooma Office Review — The Best for Adding VoIP to Existing SMB Phone Systems
Ooma can help you include the benefits of business-class VoIP easily with no loss in productivity.
If you have a phone that works, it can hook right into the Ooma system. No phones? Buy them from Ooma at a discount and skip the preconfiguration nonsense. They are plug and play out of the box.
Employees can make calls and collaborate with their colleagues in the Ooma mobile app, whether they are in the office or on-the-go.
One thing Gregg pointed out was how expensive it can get to customize your setup if you have to pay per extension. With Ooma, every user gets a number of free extensions: one for conferences, one for online faxing, and one for a Virtual Receptionist.
Virtual Receptionist is Ooma’s term for an auto attendant. You can set it to play custom messages about business hours, let callers dial by name, select a preferred language, or route the caller to another extension.
With other vendors—especially ones that cost as little as Ooma—you often wind up paying extra to enable online faxing. Some VoIP phone service providers don’t even accommodate it.
When Jason sent his business requirement document to vendors, “two companies bailed out right away” because they weren’t able to set up fax machines. Most of the other vendors told him they don’t really do that, but they would try in order to get his business.
With Ooma, each of your users can set up their own fax extension for free.
When it comes to integrating VoIP with existing equipment, Ooma minimizes the steps you have to take and maximizes your flexibility. Connect to Ooma Office via WiFi, ethernet, or use the base station to get analog devices on board.
Think of it as a cloud-based VoIP solution that’s really good at accommodating your existing equipment. It might take some time to configure a large office, but the administrator portal is straightforward. It’s not the prettiest interface of all time, but it’s stupid simple to use.
While Ooma offers solutions for enterprise, their VoIP phone services for small businesses really stand out from the pack.
There are no contracts—a rarity in this product space. But to get the best price on VoIP, you need to sign up for at least a year. For small businesses, Ooma pricing breaks down into three tiers:
Ooma Office: starting at $19.95 per month per user
Ooma Office Pro: starting at $24.95 per month per user
Ooma Office Pro Plus: starting at $29.95 per month per user
Upgrading to Pro, you get the desktop app, video conferencing, call recording, enhanced call blocking, and voicemail transcription. You’ll also be able to host conference calls of up to 25 people, whereas Ooma Office has a limit of 10.
You don’t have the choice of selectively upgrading users with Ooma Office—it’s all employees on one plan or all employees on another. But, at just $5 per user to upgrade, you’re still falling in the average range for VoIP.
The Pro Plus plan comes with advanced features like call queuing, Salesforce integration, and hot desking.
And, if you upgrade, you can set people up on their computers with a softphone, which means you have less hardware to buy.
You can avoid buying phones without upgrading by having people call from the mobile app (which is included with Ooma office), though Gregg warned us that VoIP can be hard on a cell phone. “Yes, you save money because you’re not buying physical equipment,” he said, “but it can drain the battery life right out of the device.”
Transition to the cloud at your own pace. Keep your equipment and manage it yourself with way less work than a traditional set up. Get a quote, sign up with Ooma, and start saving money today.
#3 – RingCentral Review — The Best for High-Volume Outbound Calling
RingCentral gives you unlimited calling, texting, and video conferencing at a competitive price. If you just need the phones and texting, you can get an even better deal.
Forget about per-minute charges and set up employees with VoIP that’s easy to use. For call centers, customer service, sales—anyone who has people on the phone constantly will appreciate RingCentral. This is especially true if you have to train new employees all the time.
First off, they’ll be able to use the interface. It’s intuitive to anyone who has used a computer. Administrators and managers will find they can shorten the time it takes to turn rookie hires into skilled ambassadors for your company.
“You save a lot of money because you can identify hires that aren’t doing a good job and wasting their time,” Makan told us. He’s set up a lot of telemarketing call centers with RingCentral and has really valued the ability to “tell right away who’s worth the money.”
The ability to track calls, KPIs, and listen back to recordings was like night and day for him compared to working on a landline. Teams can listen back to calls that went well (or poorly) to get a sense of how to better capitalize on each opportunity.
The reporting features aren’t going to take a data scientist to glean insights from. Find your top performers and figure out what they’re doing. Identify people who aren’t a good fit and let them go.
I hear a lot of marketing word salad like “this tool optimizes performance,” all the time. RingCentral walks the walk.
“You can actually predict your sales,” Makan said, “I know it’s difficult to fathom, but it’s true.”
He was able to figure out that 2,500 calls lead to one listing. This told him the number of minutes people needed to be on the phone in order to stay profitable. Over time, he could see how many listings an employee should be generating in their first month, second quarter, and so on.
You’re likely going to measure different KPIs, but it’s the same idea. With the kind of visibility that RingCentral provides, you can distill the numbers to simple metrics that hold employees accountable. You know ahead of time what your sales are going to look like, and you can scale up or down accordingly.
There’s a lot about RingCentral that’s well suited for large-scale calling. Admins don’t have to be IT wizards to add new users and give them access to specific resources. They’ll be able to provision new hires quickly. When someone leaves, they’ll be able to switch around accounts and recycle the number, so you don’t wind up paying for lines you’re not using.
If you have turnover—as many high-volume calling occupations do—you need to be mindful of your database integrity. RingCentral makes it easy to limit access to resources and revoke it if need be.
You’re definitely going to be using a CRM (or some form of database) to call at scale. RingCentral integrates with a lot of them. You want to keep that information private.
Another liability for call centers that RingCentral helps you navigate is compliance, which is crucial if you are making a lot of cold calls or using an auto dialer. There’s a TCPA safe dialer, which helps agents avoid bringing a “robo-call” lawsuit down on your company. Instead of worrying about messing something up, they can focus on the person they are talking to.
The DNC list features are also easy to use. Integrate with third-party tools to constantly update your list, and quickly show your employees how to maintain your own internal list.
RingCentral is HIPAA compliant, which means the standard for privacy and security is incredibly high. Fines for HIPAA violations are very steep, and that’s not the worst that could happen.
Selecting from RingCentral’s range of packages, you can replace your phones with VoIP and save a little money or completely outfit an omnichannel call center.
RingCentral MVP (formerly RingCentral Office) has four tiers to choose from:
Essentials: starting at $19.99 per month per user
Standard: starting at $27.99 per month per user
Premium: starting at $34.99 per month per user
Ultimate: starting at $49.99 per month per user
These are the prices if you sign up for a year of service, which reflect a 33% discount on the monthly rate.
The Essentials plan is capped at 20 users. You get unlimited talk and text, as well as document sharing, which can be helpful for sharing sales and customer service scripts. You also get team messaging, which is especially helpful in the days where not everyone is coming into a physical office.
With Standard, you get unlimited fax, video conferencing and integrations with Google Workspace, Microsoft 365. There’s no cap on users, either.
But if you are going for high-volume calling, I really recommend getting Premium. You get the CRM integration that is so important for dialing into your metrics and communicating effectively at scale.
At $10 above the average cost of VoIP, Premium is a steal. Remember, that VoIP average is for voice only and with RingCentral MVP you’re getting texting, video, and advanced call handling features that other “average” plans do not include.
Managers will be able to listen in on live calls and “whisper” advice. The employee can hear them, the caller can not. From what I found, features like this from other vendors were usually reserved for plans that cost upwards of $50. So in that sense, I’d consider RingCentral MVP well below the average price-wise.
RingCentral offers contact center software, as well, which will unify your communications. Your agents will be able to see a complete record of a customer’s history. When did they call, when did they chat? It’s all right there. You’ll have to get in touch with RingCentral for Contact Center pricing.
This is my number one pick for people who have to make a ton of calls. RingCentral helps you protect yourself from a number of the liabilities that come with outreach at scale. It also gives you the viability and tools to stay efficient and maximize each employees’ ability to contribute.
#4 – Phone.com Review — The Most Affordable Professional-Grade VoIP
Phone.com is a smart choice for businesses that are looking for budget-friendly VoIP. You can have unlimited calling or pay less for a set block of minutes each month.
One of the cost-effective features of Phone.com is that you can mix and match plans. Give your sales team unlimited plans while saving money on the employees that only use the phones occasionally.
And, with the Basic plan, you’re still getting most of the standard VoIP features like call handling, auto attendants, hold music and so on. You’ll have to upgrade to get HIPAA-compliant video conferencing, for example, but you can host up to 10 people in a regular session with Basic.
With most other vendors, you have to upgrade the plan for all your users. Phone.com can really help you keep costs down by giving users the features they need. This is one of those licensing irregularities that Gregg told us about, where it can work out well if you know what you’re doing.
Phone.com lets you pick what you need. Call recording and inbound faxing is extra, though you’ll be able to send faxes from your phone with any plan.
Nextiva and RingCentral are a little bit more robust, especially when it comes to reporting and analytics. And, in terms of CRM integration, Phone.com is limited to AllProWebTools and Zoho.
But some businesses just need a reliable phone with call handling capabilities they can manage themselves. Phone.com does more than that, and it’s just enough cheaper than those other options to net your company serious savings without settling for a unreliable solution.
Offer your customers the ability to text when they have questions. Phone.com keeps all of your employees’ messages organized. Come for the phone system, stay for the messaging.
To use IP phones, you’ll have to be on an upgraded plan. The company offers really great prices on popular phones of all styles. You can use what you’ve got, too, as Phone.com supports a range of hardware.
Using your own equipment will definitely lessen the initial outlay, but in talking with Gregg we learned that older phones can get hacked. Just make sure that the processor isn’t too far behind what Phone.com is trying to sell you, and get ready to do some of the configuration yourself. You really can just plug and play if you buy equipment through Phone.com.
Pricing for Phone.com is low across the board. You’ll get the prices below with an upfront annual commitment, which are 20% lower than opting for month-to-month billing.
Basic: starting at $11.99 per user per month
Plus: starting at $15.99 per user per month
Pro: starting at $23.99 per user per month
Basic comes with 500 minutes, which are pooled for all your users. This just means Basic users share minutes instead of having to worry about going over individually each month.
Each user also gets 1,000 pooled text segments. A segment is limited to 160 characters, which is way less than most phones can send in a normal text message these days. So it’s not 1,000 texts per month, unless you like to keep things brief.
Volume licensing brings the price down, both for users and for additional phone numbers. With 25 or more users, the price of Basic drops down to $8.99, Plus to $14.99, and Pro to $21.99.
Considering that Pro can hold its own with many of the call center VoIP solutions I’ve looked at, it’s worth checking out if you need a lot of phones on a tight budget. With HIPAA-compliant voice and video, it could be a good option for medical practices looking to support telehealth.
You really have to get input from every person and department using the phone system. Figure out the technology and functionality you need to support. If Phone.com fits the bill, it’s going to be a smaller one than you’ll find anywhere else.
Phone.com gives you a low price that scales up better than OpenPhone, Grasshopper, and other lightweight VoIP solutions.
I wouldn’t use it to set up a call center—you’re going to have to fully rely on your CRM for all but the most basic reporting and analytics—but you’ll be able to get plenty of phones set up for normal business needs.
If you are thinking about cutting the cord with your traditional phone line, this option is going to save you the most money. Sign up with Phone.com today, no contract necessary.
#5 – Grasshopper Review — The Best If You Need More Extensions than Phone Lines
Grasshopper is a great option for small companies that want to establish a professional identity without buying a very complex system.
I’m thinking about the restaurant owner that wants numbers for a few locations without having to pay for a traditional phone line going to each one. Or maybe the law firm that wants a few numbers with lots of extensions.
If you outline your business requirements and it turns out you only need the essentials, don’t pay more for things you don’t need. Grasshopper is going to set you up with everything you need for one flat rate each month.
You’ll get a suite of features designed for the daily work of a modern business, without the clutter aimed at larger organizations. There’s no need to upgrade just to access a particular feature. Every Grasshopper plan comes with unlimited calling, as well as every feature the company offers, such as setting up a phone tree, personalized greetings, call routing, and more.
There are even a few features, like instant response, that you won’t always get with other providers. If you miss a call, Grasshopper will automatically send a text message.
Simultaneous call handling and call forwarding lets you pass off calls to teammates when you’re busy. Voicemail transcription makes it easier to catch up on calls after hours.
Manage everything I just listed directly from the mobile app. Route calls exactly where they need to go—it’s just a few swipes on your cell.
You also get unlimited extensions with Grasshopper Small Businesses plans, and several free extensions with their other plans. Route calls to other numbers, mobile devices, informational extensions to answer FAQs, or a polite out-of-office voicemail.
Getting charged for extensions was something Gregg said people should watch out for in the contact they sign. The total cost can “go up real quick” if you have to pay for an extra line just to set up a voicemail extension.
With Grasshopper, you don’t have to worry as much. The entry level plan comes with one number and three extensions—perfect for the sole proprietor or founder to greet their callers with a professional menu and connect them with the right person.
Let’s take a closer look at your three options with Grasshopper.
Solo: starting at $26 per month for one number and three extensions
Partner: starting at $44 per month for three numbers and six extensions
Small Business: starting at $80 per month for five numbers and unlimited extensions
As I said, it’s really just the basics. There’s no CRM integration or call recording, so think about Grasshopper as a way to replace your phone system rather than revolutionize it.
That said, if you’ve been trying to work magic with free VoIP like Google Voice, the ability to set up call routing may feel downright revolutionary.
It’s also going to cost less and be way easier to set up than it’s more robust competitors. Toll-free numbers might take a day to start working, but typically your number is ready to go when you sign up.
If you want to add an extra line, it’s $10 per month. That’s a lot more than Phone.com for extra lines, which is why I don’t recommend Grasshopper if you need a ton. Plus, the interface isn’t built for handling a big system anyway.
But for the small office, it’s perfect. It doesn’t matter where you or your business partners work—people can be out in the field when a call comes into the office, or in a different city altogether. Grasshopper makes it easy to ensure your calls get where they need to go.
This product is a little different than the other VoIP options on my list. It’s a sales engagement platform, so it’s not designed to replace your phone system. Rather it’s designed to give outbound reps the perfect tool for prospecting, selling, and closing deals.
Is the team remote? Do people like to work out of the office? Not a drama. Your users can phone in from anywhere and start working through your hottest contacts.
It contains a CRM and auto dialer software built into the platform. You’re not trying to make technology play nice—it’s all set up when you open the box. You can integrate with your own CRM if you want, or simply import your leads and start making up to 80 calls an hour.
I don’t know what your reps’ pace is now, but 80 calls per hour is smoking. There’s no “telemarketer” delay when the call connects, just crisp conversation like it’s over a phone line.
And, because the CRM is tied in, reps can see exactly who they’re talking to, what stage of the pipeline they’re in, and any notes left in the account.
Sarkar said that pretty much everyone in the B2B SaaS game is telephoning through sales engagement platforms now. The auto dialer makes your agents far more efficient by eliminating the busy work of dialing. “You barely have to click anything,” he said.
With PhoneBurner, you’re not manual dialing, tabbing through pages to find a number, or copy/pasting emails frantically before the next call. Instead, you can drop voicemails without waiting for the beep, send an appropriate email, or move a prospect to another folder with a single click.
For Makan, auto dialer software was crucial for large-scale outreach in telemarketing, but it was a pain to set up. You have to specifically program the CRM and the auto dialer. From there, it’s expensive to get the CRM software tuned to your industry. He mentioned one popular CRM option that cost $25,000 and $50,000, “just to get you all set up with the phones.”
With PhoneBurner, a lot of that work is off your plate. It’s not going to groom your database for you, but the fundamental CRM/auto dialer integration is already in place.
The company takes it a step further by offering one of the most comprehensive onboarding packages that I have seen for any product. Their team works with you on goals before you set up, runs you through a test session, and then trains your team on how to use the platform.
You also learn how to build reports so you can track performance. It’s easy to do this wrong, on any platform, but your PhoneBurner advisor is walking companies through the process, week in week out. They’ll get you set up with dashboards, leaderboards, and all of it is going to be customized to your goals.
Leads are distributed automatically, based on rules you set. Toggle between pre-set configurations, like Round Robin or First Come First Served, or customize your own settings. Make sure leads get to the right agent every time, with only a small amount of work on the manager’s part.
PhoneBurner isn’t cheap, but remember that this isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison with the other VoIP providers because you are getting the auto dialer and CRM built in.
Standard: starting at $124 per user each month
Professional: starting at $149 per user each month
Premium: starting at $166 per user each month
These are the prices if you sign up for a year, which basically gives you two months for free compared to paying monthly.
You’re getting unlimited dial minutes, which is obviously important if your reps are making a thousand calls each week. With PhoneBurner, that’s not hard to do.
Call recording is stored free for 30 days with the Standard plan, 60 days with Professional, and there’s no limit for Premium plans. There are also limits on the number of contacts you can store, which start at 10,000 on the Standard plan.
You’ll need to upgrade to Professional to get softphone capabilities. It’s not a big deal if you already have phones, but I imagine that’ll bother folks that want to use their tablet or computer.
With Premium, you get a dedicated inbound line, as well as some of the handling features. I would not recommend using PhoneBurner for serious inbound traffic—the other VoIP options are going to be way cheaper—but some teams will appreciate having a custom voicemail and the ability to forward calls.
On average, a rep can make 233% more calls with PhoneBurner than they can with a regular line.
Does the math pencil out for you? For Makan, it took 2,500 calls to generate a listing. What’s your metric?
#7 – OpenPhone Review — The Best Way to Run Your Business From a Mobile Phone
Jason warned us about going with the “newest and cheapest option,” so I was a little bit skeptical when I heard about OpenPhone. It’s only a few years old and it’s $10 per month.
That’s way less than the average cost of VoIP, cheaper even than some of the “budget” options I looked at.
But the more I discovered about the company, the more I liked it. OpenPhone is new, but certainly not fly-by-night. It’s a recent graduate of Y Combinator, the startup accelerator that helped launch AirBnB, DoorDash, DropBox, and Reddit.
Like those companies, OpenPhone has come to market with a new set of assumptions about how people are living and working. Instead of trying to replace a business phone system, as many Cloud-PBX’s claim to do, OpenPhone simply turns your mobile into a better phone for business.
It’s really aimed at the modern startup or small business, especially if the owner is one of those people who steers the ship from their phone. You’ll get a business number for your mobile phone. Go local, toll-free, or keep your own number, you choose. Porting your old number is 100% free.
Set up an auto-attendant so callers can get the information they need and connect with the right person. Establish a professional identity for your business in minutes. You’ll be reaching people on a stronger footing because you always know if an incoming call is business or personal.
There’s no hardware necessary and no more giving out your mobile number. Keep your privacy. Get numbers for your team and let them keep their privacy, too.
Where OpenPhone really steps away from the crowd is the shared inbox. You can have multiple people call and text from the same number. They can even make calls from that number at the same time.
A lot of phone systems don’t include text messaging, let alone allow multiple users text in the same thread. With OpenPhone, you can text the way you normal humans do:
Tag users with @mentions to bring the right people into the conversation quickly. Group messaging is really helpful for collaboration, especially since you can send files, videos, and GIFs.
You’re just not limited with texting the way you are on a lot of other VoIP phone services. You can send snippets from templates as part of a campaign or auto-reply to missed calls and texts.
Managing contacts isn’t hard either, as you get limited CRM integration with Google Contacts or via Zapier. You can use HubSpot for a more robust CRM solution as well, which allows you to store recordings and view message histories with ease.
Keep in mind this is not going to be a full-blown CRM solution the likes of which I’ve described with PhoneBurner and others. You’ll need to get into HubSpot to make changes to contacts, for example.
Because it’s a young company, there will be additional and deeper integrations “in the future,” which I know can be frustrating. But if you are a young company as well, HubSpot’s free CRM software plus OpenPhone is just about the cheapest way I can think of to deliver the essential benefits of connecting VoIP and your CRM.
Standard: starting at $10 per user each month
Premium: starting at $25 per user each month
Enterprise: contact sales
Standard has most of what I’ve mentioned already, along with unlimited calling and texting. Bear in mind that it’s unlimited within the fair usage policy. According to the terms of service, for the Standard plan, you’re looking at 1,000 texts and calling minutes per month.
Though it’s not truly unlimited, that’s pretty generous. Phone.com caps their entry level plan at 300 minutes and 1,000 text segments, which is likely a smaller number of texts.
The Premium plan comes with HubSpot integration and more collaborative features, like the ability to transfer calls and an advanced auto attendant that gives you a wider range of call routing features.
Extra lines are $5. So, for the price of standard VoIP (around $25 pretax), you could get a company of four set up on the Standard plan.
There are other free ways to get a business number for your mobile phone. Go for it. Getting off the ground you need to save every dollar—I get it—but there’s a point where the inconvenience of trying to work around something like Google Voice starts to cost you money.
OpenPhone solves most of those problems for $10 per month.
How much does a single missed opportunity cost you? For a barber, maybe it’s a call from a stranger who would have spent thousands of dollars as a regular over the next few years. If only you’d been able to catch them.
What I Looked at to Find the Best VoIP Phone Services
I’ve been a small business owner who has needed the cheapest possible business line before. Like having a real number that people can connect to by using the “Contact Us” button on my Facebook page. I think it was still TheFacebook.com back then.
Now, I have people reporting to me about our VoIP options in Brazil.
Growing from a one-man show to a global operation, I’ve been on a few sides of this conversation. We’ve built a marketing machine and I know how we use VoIP—but my team wanted to get a wider picture of what’s going on to help more of my readers.
Some of you have on-call IT support and months to demo the best options. Others are completely on their own running a business and can’t sacrifice more than a weekend in order to find the best VoIP phone service.
Either way, you need to be able to separate the options that are working well for other businesses from the one that’s going to work best for you.
My team reached out to other leaders in the field to see what things looked like from their perspective. We don’t sell VoIP, for example. So, it was really interesting to think through buying VoIP with Gregg, who runs a managed services provider.
VoIP is just one of the IT services Gregg’s company manages, but over a few decades, he’s seen plenty of things go wrong, helped people out of bad contracts, and restored their business integrity after hacks. He offered a lot of insight on VoIP security and what people can do to make sure they’re not spending money on stuff they don’t need.
Technically, Gregg is a competitor with some of the services I recommend, but he was very frank and offered advice you are not going to find on any review site.
We also talked to Makan, who set up call centers for telemarketing in real estate. These are call centers where each employee is making something like 1,000 calls each week. His practical advice is hard-won in an industry that has a staggering attrition rate.
“You’re going to let go of eight out of every ten people who work for you,” Makan told us. New hires have to be brought up to speed, coached, and—when they have to go—be safely de-provisioned in order to prevent your database from leaving with them.
And simple employee mistakes can cost thousands of dollars in legal fines because telemarketing is so highly regulated.
But if you can do it right, the payoff is huge. Makan was able to use call center analytics to surface important metrics that guided his hiring, onboarding, and training. “We no longer have to keep employees for like a year and a half to see if it works or not,” he said.
In searching for the best VoIP provider, you’ll read a lot about using analytics to optimize performance. It’s not just marketing lingo. Makan explained how you can basically predict your sales with VoIP tied to a CRM, and scale hiring up or down accordingly.
Sarkar, a sales manager in B2B SaaS, also pushed the importance of VoIP/CRM integration. We talked a lot about how your sales strategy informs the buying decision.
Are you in a mature market that needs to handle inbound inquiries, or are you selling a novel product that requires you to hit the phones and educate prospects over a cold call?
Configuring a CRM to work with your VoIP, can be a ton of work. Sarkar helped us see how some companies save a lot of time and effort by using a sales engagement platform like PhoneBurner.
There’s just a lot to think about, depending on where you’re coming from. Jason has worked in call centers since 1992. He’s seen the market evolve from desk phones to headsets to AI. His eye for distinguishing meaningful advances from shiny objects that get you nowhere is unrivaled.
Talking through his experience with purchasing enterprise VoIP was extremely helpful in understanding how buyers have to work through their options methodically and coordinate with multiple departments to find a VoIP service that works across the entire organization.
And even though the scale is different, a lot of his guidance serves as practical advice for the small business owner. How do you know if remote workers have good enough internet for VoIP? How do you evaluate the quality of integration between VoIP and your key business software?
You may not have to buy as many phones or connect as many locations as Jason, but these questions still matter.
We covered a lot of ground in the interviews and research. Here are the three biggest takeaways that I think will benefit anyone shopping for VoIP:
The ability to self-manage is crucial: It used to be that you had to call your service provider to make any changes to your phone system. Want to add a user? Change a call path? The options I chose are simple enough to administrate without having to loop in IT. Admins won’t need technical support to accomplish their daily work. The problem is that some of the “bigger names” in the industry are stuck in the past. “It’s very cumbersome and convoluted,” Gregg told us. “End users are not making changes to it.” Avoid those and go with something you can manage yourself.
Identifying all of your business requirements early will save a lot of pain: Check in with every department that’s going to be using VoIP. What do they need, what would be nice to have, and what’s superfluous in their eyes? Your solution has to cover executives and receptionists, who will be using VoIP in different ways. You may be able to replace equipment like fax machines and conference phones—or you may have to find something that plays nice with inventory you want to keep. Jason created a detailed business requirements document and sent it to vendors. A few dropped out right away, which saved everyone time.
VoIP plus your other software and channels is the key: I’m really going to hammer on the CRM integration below because it was so important to almost every expert we talked with. But let me emphasize here the opportunity you have by connecting VoIP to your other business software. If your voice communication is tied in with live chat, email, texting, video, and social media, employees have everything in one place. They are looking at a complete relationship during every conversation, regardless of where it started. It also makes your billing a lot less complicated, especially if you have multiple offices. One bill for all your communications.
I looked for VoIP you can use right away. Admins will be able to make sure everyone is set up, and new hires will gain fluency quickly in the modern system. No more six-month deployments.
Companies like Ooma, RingCentral, and Nextiva can set up large offices very quickly. And if you have a small office, you may be able to get started this afternoon.
I wanted to find a few different products that work across every channel. These omnichannel solutions are more expensive, for sure, but they were worth it for virtually every expert my team talked with. It makes everyone more efficient because they’re not logging into different accounts and losing track of conversations.
I also looked at products that have a more limited selection of integrations and channels. These are way cheaper. Not everyone is trying to run a call center with VoIP—it could just be they want an 800 number on their ecommerce website. As long as their callers are routed correctly or greeted by a professional voicemail after hours, it’s all good.
Really, a lot of people get VoIP because they don’t want to give out their personal number for business anymore. OpenPhone will do just that. Grasshopper is perfect for the small office that needs the essentials covered and nothing more.
Alternatively, you can find a great deal on basic plans from some of the larger VoIP service providers. Ooma Office is a good deal no matter how you slice it. The Essentials plan from Nextiva is well within the small business price range, and can completely remove the need for an expensive traditional phone line.
Let’s walk through the big factors you have to consider. Evaluate your options like an expert by taking in the perspective from industry veterans and sales leaders.
Baseline VoIP Features
I want to focus on what makes these products different, not overwhelm you by describing every feature for every product. Once you start digging into VoIP, you’ll find that 30-40 different features is the low end in terms of what you get.
Every option I picked covers what I consider the baseline VoIP features, with some minor exceptions. You won’t hear me call them out unless there’s something superlative about how a vendor does it.
To be make my list of recommendations, the providers had to include:
Call handling features like call forwarding, call transferring, call waiting, and extensions, so that you never miss a call, no matter where you are.
Menus and auto attendants that let callers dial a certain department, listen to business hours, and so on.
Call recording that provides a history and playback of all calls, which is useful for training and sometimes necessary for legal reasons.
A mobile app that turns your cell phone into a business line
Online fax to replace the need for traditional machines while also digitizing documents automatically.
Softphone capabilities to let you make calls from desktops and tablets with just a headset.
Video calls and conferencing for meetings, webinars, telehealth, and more.
Voicemail transcription that turns your missed calls into a quick read by text or email
Some of the “entry-level” VoIP packages aimed at companies with five to ten employees only come with limited versions of these features. You may have to pay extra for call recording, for example, or go with a more expensive plan to get unlimited online fax.
Plans vary between basic business phone systems and premium solutions for call centers. The latter come with much more customizable call handling features, multi-level auto attendants, and deep reporting features that a small team isn’t going to miss.
Making a Cost-Effective VoIP Purchase
Traditional phone service, after tax, would be somewhere around $50 – $70 per month. In my research, I found many users switching to VoIP because they were paying a lot more than that.
I think this is how people “cut their phone bill in half” by switching to VoIP. They were getting dragged over the coals by their current phone provider. For people with a reasonable phone bill, the savings may not be so dramatic.
“It’s not some magic savings,” Gregg told us. “You’ll be saving a little, but not as much as you would think with your monthly phone service.”
But, since you’re probably going to be paying per-phone, even a $10 savings each month will add up quickly. The more intelligently you can select a provider, the greater your savings will be.
Let’s run through how to assess the sticker price, the real price, and everywhere you can cut costs by finding a system that fits your business.
Gregg said VoIP costs about $25 per user per month on average, which is basically what I found in my research. This is if you are paying for the phones outright or using softphones. If you’re renting desk phones, it’s typically about $10 per month extra, bringing the cost of VoIP to about $35 per user each month.
Call it $40 per month after taxes and fees. It’s not providers padding the bill, just the unavoidable government-mandated surcharges for the Universal Service Fund, which brings telecom to rural parts of the country and supports 911 emergency numbers.
Now you are definitely going to see VoIP for cheaper than $25 per line. I’ve included simple VoIP solutions like Phone.com and OpenPhone that are less than half that.
Typically, the tradeoff with the really low cost plans is that you’re getting a set block of minutes per month, whereas plans of $25+ tend to come with unlimited calling in North America.
For sales, customer service, and other use cases that require people on the horn all day, unlimited calling is a must-have. When you go over your set block of minutes, your VoIP savings can disappear.
If you are using auto dialer software over VoIP, you really need to avoid per-minute pricing. Makan did the math out during our conversation: if you have 100 employees expected to make 200 calls a day, you’re looking at 100,000 minutes per week. That’s way too much call volume to survive being billed by the minute.
Some providers, like RingCentral, Ooma, and Nextiva, offer plans in the $20 range for unlimited calling. So you can pay below average, but not have to worry about massive overage charges.
Another factor that can potentially lower the total cost of VoIP is understanding the licensing. For instance, is it going to cost you extra to add an extension? Are you paying per user, per line, per call path? Vendors don’t all charge the same way.
Gregg cautioned us that a lot of people don’t understand exactly how they’re paying in the contract. They go to customize something on their end, thinking it’s free, and then get shocked when the bill comes at the end of the month.
With Grasshopper, even the cheapest plan they offer comes with three extensions for free. This is great for a small business that wants one line for a few departments, or a startup that needs a basic phone tree.
Phone.com costs less to add a new number than Grasshopper, but you don’t get free extensions. The different arrangements can be confusing, but if you take the time to understand what you need, you can play it to your advantage.
If you are really trying to get VoIP on a budget, Jason warned us that you have to be a little cautious. It’s really easy to spin up a VoIP company these days—the technology is not new—and he laid out some horror stories of badd apple vendors pretending to offer reputable service and dropping clients as soon as they get their money.
“And since it takes about 30 days to port over a number, you’re kind of out of luck if that happens,” he said. The U.S. Department of Justice has prosecuted these cases, clawing back millions of dollars from phony VoIP fraud schemes.
Better to be safe than sorry, and use a VoIP provider like Grasshopper or Ooma that’s been around awhile. Or, a household name like RingCentral that is a publicly traded company. “I can’t imagine they would dump you in 10 days or anything like that,” Jason said.
Cloud-Based or On-Premises System
You can get VoIP infrastructure installed in your office (on premises), or use the internet to connect to the service (cloud-based). Either way, you’re paying less than you would for a traditional phone line, but there are important differences to understand.
There is a much higher initial cost of equipment if you go with an on-premises deployment. You have to buy the PBX, phones, routers, switches, etc., whereas a cloud-based provider hosts all of that themselves.
You can buy desk phones with a cloud-based solution and many people do. But, you don’t have to so long as you outfit employees with a softphone or a VoIP mobile app.
“When it’s cloud-based, you don’t have the big outlay,” said Gregg. “But you’re not really missing out by not getting the equipment because these systems come with a ton of functionality.” Some of the key capabilities he talked about were:
Your employees can work from anywhere in the world with internet
You’ll be able to self-manage features menu systems and call routing
You can scale up without buying equipment, and scale down without waste
You don’t have equipment to maintain and monitor
These are four of the top reasons why I only recommended cloud-based solutions.
Like any solution someone else is hosting, you do sacrifice a little backend control. You are limited to the features they provide, whereas an on-premises system can be completely customized to fit your exact needs.
But the end user can do the vast majority of what they need to with Ooma or Grasshopper. A shop-owner with zero IT experience can add an extension for a new employee or make changes to information about holiday hours provided by their auto attendant.
Most people get the control they need without the responsibility that comes with maintaining a system. If you need hundreds of phones and super customized configuration, an on-premises system may be your only option. That’s going to require IT overhead—hiring an MSP like Gregg to install, maintain, monitor, and replace your equipment—or hiring an in-house staff.
For many business owners, it would be a dream not to stress about the phones. The cloud-based providers I looked at offered nearly 100% uptime, and some offer financially-backed SLAs.
Like Gregg told my team, “You’re not so worried about the end at the main office being up at all times because your employees are connecting directly to the cloud-based server.”
The simplicity here is even more important if people are telecommuting or working out of the office a few days a week. It’s much harder to secure communications between external users and an on-premises system.
I’ll say more about that in the security section, but modern employees need access to company services at all hours. As such, cloud-based is becoming a lot more popular.
Greg told us flat out, “If you’re SMB in the ten phones range—give or take—it’s not worth it to do on-prem anymore.”
Larger companies will have more to think about, but VoIP providers like Nextiva, RingCentral, and Ooma can help you get set up regardless of what kind of deployment you need. With these vendors, you can really get the best of both worlds or make the transition to cloud at your own pace.
What Kind of Internet Speed Do I Need for Clear Calls?
Calls have to be clear. You can’t compromise on that, or you’ll wish you had your landline whatever the price.
So how do you make sure your setup handles VoIP?
Here’s the nuts and bolts of what I found: VoIP is not going to work on DSL. Cable might be okay for a small office, but it won’t be the greatest.
Fiber is what you want. It has the bandwidth you need and the upload/download speeds are the same, unlike cable.
Everyone we talked to about VoIP told us that running low on bandwidth is going to start causing issues—dropped calls, echoing on the line, and terrible conversations.
Here’s the thing, VoIP doesn’t need a blazing fast connection.
Gregg said that 100 kbps is good. 140 kbps is “like the most ideal, pristine phone call.”
So, if you’re on a 1 mbps line, you could potentially make ten phone calls. “Granted, you always wanna overcompensate for fall offs and whatnot, but that’s all you need speed wise,” he added.
Nextiva and RingCentral have VoIP plans aimed at smaller companies that don’t have commercial office infrastructure. They will let you test your connection right on their website. You’ll get all the information you need to figure out if you’re ready for VoIP, or you need to upgrade your internet first.
We’re not talking about a massive pipe here, the problems you run into are the stability of the connection. If you’re downloading a song, who cares if it takes two or three extra seconds? You wouldn’t notice. But when you’re having a conversation, even a slight delay is going to be a huge pain.
Any delay over 150 ms (that’s milliseconds) and your meaningful conversation is now impossible. For reference, a call over a landline has a delay of about 45 ms, so 150 is definitely the upper limit of what you want.
Any higher than that, you’re talking over someone or they missed what you said.
Making cold calls, helping an irate customer—it’s hard enough already. No one wants to repeat what they’ve said. And it’s not going to be good if someone mishears a credit card number.
“Where it becomes an issue,” said Gregg, “is if you have a cable modem that only has 5 mbps on your upstream, and everybody in the office is uploading stuff to Dropbox, OneDrive, and things like that, eating up that bandwidth.”
Remember the dark days where someone couldn’t be on the internet and the phone at the same time? Don’t go back. Make sure you’ve got the bandwidth to accommodate all of your users with all of their tasks.
Network and Hardware Considerations
Now you can have all the bandwidth in the world and still get bad VoIP quality if your network isn’t configured properly.
Small businesses don’t have to worry so much about this. According to Gregg, “If you only have five phones, maybe even as high as 10 phones, sure you could just dump them in on a network.”
He advised running a separate VLAN for anything beyond 10 phones in a single location in order to avoid quality issues. Separate the phones from the computers and prioritize voice traffic in the routers. This way, whatever your employees are doing won’t affect the quality of your calls.
Even with the so-called “plug and play” systems, you’re going to want to put some thought into network configuration if you are putting in more than 10 phones. “I mean you can just plug them in,” said Gregg, “but I wouldn’t be too hopeful about the quality.”
But it’s not just phones to think about. “The fax machines in the conference rooms really threw me for a loop,” Jason explained. “I’m like: I’m just buying a phone system!”
You have to be methodical. Where do the phone lines need to go? Are they connected to the security system? If you have PoE, you can just plug the ethernet cable into the phones, but if not, you’ll have to make sure there’s power running everywhere you want a station.
With a cloud-based service, you’re going to have to let the vendor behind your firewall.
Jason had an issue where one of his guys missed a key thing about the firewall requirements, and it delayed his VoIP deployment by about six months. “I was not too happy,” was all he said about that.
If you have a lot of traditional phones and fax machines that you want to keep using, I’d recommend Nextiva, RingCentral, or Ooma. They offer analog telephone adapters (ATAs) that allow you to VoIP-enable landline devices.
This allows you to phase out your old system gradually, instead of trying to Hercules your company through a massive (and much more expensive) transformation. It’s going to be painful to switch no matter what, but how long can you justify investing more money in an old PBX that’s twice as hard to use for half the functionality?
One last thing about using old phones. It’s great if you can use what you have or get a deal somewhere rather than going through the vendor.
Yet Gregg has encountered problems with aging phones. Hackers will try and log into the phones to start making spam calls. “We were seeing upwards of 100,000 attempts a day on a single phone system,” he recalled. The processors on the older phones weren’t powerful enough to withstand all the incoming requests, and the attack crashed the system.
So, definitely be on the lookout for deals and try to make the most with the equipment you already own. But just be cautious about buying a phone that has an older processor, because it might be a vulnerability.
Plus, when you buy a phone directly from your VoIP vendor, it’s pre-provisioned. It’s got a secure connection out of the box. When you start piecemealing things, you may lose that desirable plug-and-play functionality.
Make Sure Remote Workers Are Up to Speed
Cloud-based VoIP gives you complete freedom to go remote with ease. Connecting external users to an on-premises system has a lot more hurdles in terms of cost and security.
But even if you go cloud, which I highly recommend, there are a few things to be thinking about.
Remote workers need a solid internet connection for VoIP. When Jason hires someone working from home, the job post says they have to have a locked and secure WiFi.
He also has them take a speed test to make sure that their connections are robust enough to be able to take phone calls. He requires a minimum of 20 mbps download and 10 mbps upload.
It’s just a generic speedtest, nothing fancy. He sends them the link, they send back screenshots to verify. Jason said most people “blow those upload/download times out of the water,” but you need to be sure.
With telecommuting employees, you also have to think about training and management at a distance. I know I’ve said that the premium VoIP plans from vendors like RingCentral and Nextiva are aimed at the call center crowd. Well it’s also true that those features become really important for collaboration when there is no office.
Sharing documents within the platform, like phone scripts, or the ability for a manager to listen in on a new hire’s first live calls—you can provide more support to develop your employees, even when people are working from home.
For a small team, OpenPhone can work really well. People can share an inbox, tag calls, leave comments, and ensure that no opportunities are missed.
People love to be able to work on the go, even if they’re not fully remote. One thing that surprised Jason was how important the mobile app was to the executives. They wanted everything forwarded to their cell.
Mobile apps are great, but they’re not without their downsides. Gregg said VoIP on mobile was great for saving money, but he wasn’t so keen on it as a full-time stand-in for using a computer or desk phone. “It’s nice in a pinch,” he said, “but if you wanna watch a cell phone battery drain out before your eyes, that’s a great way to go.”
Integration with CRM
My team asked Jason what the biggest thing you can do to help reps and agents is, and he said integration with your CRM.
This was a tune we heard from everyone, and it dovetails with my own experience. CRM software is a total game changer when it comes to growing your business and providing service to customers.
Look for a VoIP phone service that has integration with your CRM. If you don’t have one, Nextiva and PhoneBurner have one built in that you can start using immediately.
The technology’s not new by any means, but CRM software has gotten really good in the last couple of years, and a lot less expensive. When you combine a CRM’s ability to track customer information with quality voice communication, the resulting experience for your employees is amazing.
A customer calls and their account information pulls right up on screen. There’s no digging for a file or asking for a customer to provide their name, ID, order number, etc.
Sarkar talked with us about how it increased his sales reps’ efficiency. “You get to have more conversations by cutting out the extra time you spend figuring out who’s calling.”
Really, every interaction is streamlined, which makes your reps and agents way more productive. If a customer has an order, the rep can see where it is. There are no extra steps to verify who’s calling, or ask them to dig up a purchase order number.
Saving seconds on every repetitive task adds up quickly. Employees can click-to-dial numbers within the CRM. Account information is centralized and agents can leave notes about calls. Everything is stored in a way that makes sense.
Makan put it well when he said, “Compared to a traditional phone system, voice over IP integrated with the CRM is hands down like: before iPhone [versus] after iPhone.”
The ability to record calls within the CRM was a huge factor for a lot of the people we spoke with. “In the past,” Jason said, “the systems that I’ve had for recording were kind of separate from the CRM, so I had to go chase that down. If somebody called in, I’d have to be like who do you talk to? When did you call? And that would be kind of a nightmare.”
When Jason moved to a new VoIP provider, integration with their CRM was the deciding factor. His company communicated on so many channels, all of which are recorded. The integration makes the process of listening back much easier.
“If you complain about a rep or something like that,” Jason said, “I can take your phone number, plug it in, and find every single call you’ve ever made over the last year, every chat, every email, every contact. It’s super simple. [It] saves me on time tracking down calls.”
For Makan, call recording was essential for assessing employee performance. “Traditionally, you give someone a dummy phone,” he said. “You don’t know how many calls they made, who they talked to, or what the level of conversation was.”
With VoIP, you can do quality control much easier. Listening back to the calls is easy. What went right? What could be improved? Identify who needs training and who’s not a good fit.
Makan explained how it really helps managers conserve their time and energy for quality candidates. They know who to invest in and who to send on their way. “I mean, you can tell in like 60-90 days. Any excuse they give, you can just listen to the quality of the calls.”
Be on the lookout for VoIP providers that showcase direct integrations with your CRM (and other software, for that matter). You absolutely have to demo it to see how that integration drives and works on a day-to-day level. If you want that “super simple” experience Jason was talking about for recording calls, the integration has to be tight.
Also be aware that the initial setup of your CRM and VoIP is going to take some time, especially if you are tying in multiple channels like talk, text, and chat. You need to customize it to fit your industry and use-case because the software is fairly general purpose out of the box.
“You can really geek out on it,” said Makan, “and that’s the challenge.”
Sarkar was a big fan of sales engagement platforms because they have the CRM built-in and they are already tuned for the job. Obviously you don’t want to use them for customer service, but something like PhoneBurner is going to supercharge a sales team with a lot less configuration required.
Convenient Compliance Tools Employees Can Use Without Thinking
There are a lot of regulations protecting consumers from getting robo-calls or having their credit card information stolen. So if you are making a lot of calls or taking financial information over the phone, there’s going to be telemarketing and privacy laws you don’t want to mess with.
I’m glad those regulations are there, but new hires (or just plain carelessness) can break a law by accident and get your company a heavy fine. I found that a single call to someone on the national Do-Not-Call registry could result in a five-figure penalty.
A single slip up could cost anywhere from $11,000 to $43,000. And that’s per call, as in you could get multiple fines if one of your employees screws up. If it happens multiple times, I doubt the government’s going to hit you with a smaller fine.
Or think about HIPAA compliance for healthcare providers. Accidentally exposing a patient’s protected health information can result in jail time. This is true even if the company didn’t know a violation had occurred.
And yet companies make calls and share private information all the time without going bankrupt or winding up in the slammer. This is because they use good VoIP providers that make compliance convenient for employees. Your agents get the proper tools so that they can focus on the customer instead of how to stay in the clear of arcane compliance laws.
Regardless of how big a business you are, if you are making a lot of outbound calls (especially if you’re using auto dialer software), you need to update your DNC list and use it to scrub those numbers from your call lists.
RingCentral, Nextiva and include easy-to-use features to make sure your DNC list is up to date. PhoneBurner has integrations with DNC.com in order to keep people safe.
Makan, whose agents made thousands of calls a week, said that Zoho CRM in conjunction with RingCentral was the cheapest possible way to set your employees up for success. You just have to keep up on your DNC list grooming, “because that’s something you’re gonna run into a lot, and they need to scrub the numbers that they call up.”
Recording calls is another area where compliance is important. These laws vary state to state. In New York, you don’t have to tell people the call is being recorded. In New Jersey, you do.
Products like RingCentral let you automatically notify people that the call is being recorded, so you’re covered. This allows your teams to think less about how to make legal calls.
Jason told us about one of the features that sold him on going with their VoIP provider. It’s illegal to record credit card numbers, so employees need to remember to pause the recording while they take that information.
“And as you can imagine,” he said, “if you take 1,000 or 1,500 calls a month, you’re bound to forget that a couple of times, or miss it, or forget to pause, or forget to unpause, which is a big no-no in our area.”
The VoIP service he chose automated this process within their CRM so employees didn’t have to think about it. As soon as their cursor was in the payment info box, the call stopped recording.
“So my reps don’t have to remember to turn that off, and that’s just super easy,” Jason said. “I don’t have to worry about PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliance. I don’t have to worry about, ‘Hey, if you forget, tell me so I can go delete the call out of the system.’ What if we delete the wrong call?”
Take every opportunity you can to automate compliance. The potential liabilities from a single oversight are enough to justify the cost of spending a little more each month on your VoIP, CRM, and training.
No one wants to pay for $20,000 worth of phone calls they didn’t make. That’s what happened to a client of Gregg’s before they properly secured their VoIP. Someone hacked it and used it to start blasting out scam calls.
Security is a major concern for any internet-based service, and VoIP is no exception.
It’s pretty straightforward for on-premises systems if all your phones are in one location. Set rules in your router so that no one can connect to the phone system except the phone service provider.
Gregg said, “As long as that’s configured you’re solid, and you can’t get hacked because the traffic can’t get there from anybody else.”
Securing an on-premises system gets a lot harder if you have people working from home, which is why a lot of companies are opting to go the cloud-based VoIP route. Residential addresses don’t have static IP addresses, so you can’t set rules in your router.
“The only appropriate way to do it is using a VPN service,” explained Gregg. “If you leave the ports open so that anyone can connect, you’ll see that the phone system will get hammered constantly.”
With cloud-based VoIP, the provider is ensuring that the right people are calling into their system. You still have to maintain good security hygiene at your company—long passwords, principle of least privilege, and de-provisioning old accounts.
These last two points are really important. You need to make sure that employees only have access to the data that they absolutely need. If possible, they should have read-only access. And when employees leave, you have to de-provision them.
For one thing, you don’t want to pay for old accounts that aren’t in use. If you have high turnover, be careful to re-use old numbers you’re already paying for, rather than buying extra ones. You don’t want to be shocked by a bill that has dozens of lines you’re not using.
“People need to be aware of sabotage,” said Makan. “If you get a disgruntled employee, they can wipe out the database, if you don’t back it up. Or they copy it. Or they just start corrupting the numbers and changing things in there.”
If you adhere to the principle of least privilege and are on top of booting old users out of the system completely, the risk of sabotage is near zero. If not, you’re putting your data integrity in jeopardy.
VoIP phone services like RingCentral, Nextiva, and Ooma make it easy for administrators to keep track of who has what privileges. You won’t need an infosec credential to keep all the accounts locked down.
If you need a full-fledged VoIP platform on the cheap, consider Phone.com.
Grasshopper is great if you’re more worried about having enough different extensions instead of unique, dedicated phone lines.
Need something that’s more suited to support your sales teams’ efforts? Look at PhoneBurner for a sales engagement platform that includes an auto dialer.
If you’re a solo operator or just someone who is sick of having to use your personal number for running your business, OpenPhone gives you an easy and cheap way to get a professional number and VoIP service.
Recapping my top picks and what they’re best at:
Nextiva – Best overall (For a limited time get 25% off, plus a free phone, when you signup!)
Ooma Office – Best for adding VoIP to Existing SMB Phone Systems
The following article was first provided by Neil Patel.
Disclosure: This content is reader-supported, which means if you click on some of our links that we may earn a commission.
Want to skip the read and get right to my top pick? The best domain registrar for most people is Hostinger (get a free domain with their web hosting).
I’ve had to secure dozens of different domains over the years. That’s meant searching and browsing through many domain registrars to find the right URL for my new projects and blogs.
Some of them have given me such a terrible, inconvenient experience that I’ll never use them again.
But others have done just what I needed them to. I was able to snag a domain I liked at a good price, with very little work and time spent on my end.
The domain registrars that have gotten the job done for me in the past are the ones I review below. One of them is certain to be a solution that works for you, too.
Let’s get started so you can lock in a great deal on your domain as soon as possible.
#1 – Hostinger Review— The Best for Getting a Free Domain for Your New Website
Picking your domain registrar is the most important part of creating your website. Get it right and go with Hostinger. Here’s why.
For starters, many of their hosting plans give you a domain for free. So right off the bat you’re saving money.
I recommend Hostinger’s Premium Shared Hosting plan. You get reliable hosting and a domain name with a single, affordable purchase.
Not only is this convenient—you don’t have to get hosting from one provider and a domain name from another—it’s also a really great deal.
You get everything you need for under $3 per month.
Quality web hosting is rarely that cheap.
And, since Hostinger is throwing in a free domain name, that saves you another $10-15 bucks in the first year, at least.
It’s also super simple to set up and get oriented, even if you have never done anything like this before.
Just select your hosting plan and enter your payment details, then Hostinger’s guided setup will take you the rest of the way.
Answer a few quick questions and Hostinger will offer you the right amount of assistance. Once you select your preferred site platform, Hostinger will let you either select a new domain to secure or connect one you already own.
Just click the option on the left and enter your desired domain to see if it’s available. Once you’ve found a suitable option, select it and Hostinger will secure it for you for free.
What about building your site after securing hosting and the domain? Hostinger can help immensely there, too.
They offer a wide array of site templates, Zyro’s website builder, and automatic installation of WordPress.
The whole process as easy as it gets. Go from nothing to a fully-hosted, ready-to-go website on your dream domain in minutes.
On top of all this, Hostinger’s Premium Shared Hosting gives you free tools to drive traffic to your site, improve performance, and strengthen security:
Intuitive domain management dashboard
Automatic WordPress updates
Free SSL certificate
Google Ads credit
Enable the free SSL certificate with one click. You don’t have to configure any of it in order to benefit from the increased site speed and security.
With other options you might have to set features up on your own, which can be complicated. And they might cost extra, whereas both are baked into Hostinger free of charge.
All of this comes at a really easy-to-swallow price.
Hostinger’s rates are extremely affordable for both standard shared hosting and WordPress hosting. Right now, the cheapest shared hosting plan with a free domain name starts at $2.59 per month.
Like most web hosts, you get the best rate for committing to the longest term available. With Hostinger, that means you can secure shared web hosting for four years at this attractive rate. Thus, at checkout, you’ll pay $124.32 and not have to pay another hosting bill for 48 months.
But if that’s a bit too much to pony up right away, Hostinger has decent deals on shorter commitments. A 24-month term runs you $3.99 per month, but you can grab Premium Shared Hosting for a single year for just 40 cents more per month than the three-year option.
Keep in mind that renewal pricing can also change depending on your initial commitment. If you’re going to stick with Hostinger for the long haul, you may want to go for the longer term so you don’t get gouged on renewal after the initial term ends.
#2 – Domain.com Review — The Best Total Package of Domain Services
Domain.com has been around for a long time, holding on to perhaps the most coveted web address for domain registrars. Over the years, they have grown considerably by offering the best array of domains, extensions, and adjacent services.
Let’s start with the fundamentals.
Domain.com has you covered on both the most recognizable domain extensions as well as new and emergent top-level domains (TLDs). Prices and renewal rates for either are easy to find and, generally, quite affordable.
Seriously, a .com from Domain.com can be registered for $9.99 per year for your initial commitment. Lock it up for up to five years at checkout and rest assured you’re getting predictable renewal price of $15.99 after that term.
Better still, you can use my exclusive offer code for 25% off any purchase (except premium domains) on Domain.com. Just enter NEILPATEL in the discount code box at checkout.
Now, granted, unclaimed .com domains are scarce. If your keywords aren’t available for that $9.99 .com rate, you have two options through Domain.com
First, you could opt to pony up for a premium domain. You can search for one the same way as any other TLD on Domain.com. Or, if this sticker shock is real, you can reach out to Domain.com’s team and they can help you find the right digital real estate at the right price.
Second, you could investigate less common extensions for your same keywords. Browse or search among hundreds of extensions, from .tech and .design to .help, .win, .dev, and tons more.
So, if you get a bit creative with extensions, you can still deploy all your keywords as domains–and maybe save a good bit of money, too.
Getting a domain with a .win extension, for example, only runs you $2.99 per year for your initial commitment, then renews at a paltry $4.99 per year after that.
But, it’s crucial to focus on renewal pricing for any domain extension.
Take a .tech domain. It costs you only $4.99 per year for one to five years, but then renews at $44.99 per year. Quite the rate hike, but that’s also Domain.com’s fault. You’ll see the same or close to it from other domain registrars.
If anything, it’s a sign of quality that Domain.com lists initial and renewal pricing so transparently on their site.
One other thing I don’t love about Domain.com is that it lacks a good bulk keyword search for domains. This just means you’re going to spend a bit more time hunting for options than some other registrars that can search for 50 or 100 keywords at a time.
Already have a domain with someone else but want better pricing?
If you are not happy with your current domain registrar, Domain.com will help you transfer quickly. And you’ll only have to pay a renewal price that’s usually equivalent to the low rates for an initial purchase of the same extension.
So, if you transfer a .com to Domain.com, you’ll only pay $9.99.
You also can get step-by-step support from the company’s 24/7 customer service teams during the transfer, so the end result is a smooth domain transfer with zero downtime.
Domain.com includes a lot of features that are great for people who need to transfer domains. You get DNS management tools, email forwarding, URL forwarding, and transfer lock to prevent someone else from hijacking your domain.
I’ve set Domain.com up as the best option for getting a wider suite of domain and domain-adjacent services. Beyond all the ease of locking down a good domain and the help you can get from Domain.com’s pros, there’s even more to love.
First, you can purchase a robust security add-on along with your domain. Not only does it deliver standard WHOIS privacy protection, but you also get malware scanning and blacklist monitoring.
This will keep your site (and visitors) safer and ensure that your web address hasn’t been flagged as spam or worse.
You’ll also get immediate alerts if your domains’ statuses change at all.
You also can get a competitive website builder from Domain.com for cheap.
This tool is both easy to use and functional, with one big benefit right off the bat.
The Domain.com builder will ask you a couple quick questions and then intelligently set layout and image and content formatting for you, giving you a template to start from in a snap.
It comes with a vast library of over 500,000 stock and licensed images to use on your site, too. So you can go from nothing to a full-fledged homepage in less than a lunch break.
Domain.com’s site builder comes in three options.
The entry-level plan for individuals is just $1.99 per month. That allows you to build up to six pages and build your site in minutes.
The next step up, Business, is $6.99 per month. You’re allowed unlimited pages and get site analytics, revision history, and phone support.
There’s only one plan that allows you to sell products. The eCommerce package from Domain.com runs $12.99 per month. Add products to sell, a shopping cart, and checkout pages. Plus, PayPal integrates with it for easy payment processing and you get inventory management and discount codes, as well.
Get in touch with Domain.com today and take advantage of all the tools and resources they have to offer. And don’t forget to use my discount code–NEILPATEL–at checkout for 25% off.
#3 – Namecheap — The Best Domain Names for $1 or Less
Looking for the absolute lowest cost to register your domain? Namecheap is the way to snag your site’s real estate for dirt cheap.
The company offers some of the best prices on popular domain extensions. You’ll find .com domain names for less than $10 per year.
If you are looking for a newer domain extension, the price drops even lower. That’s where the real savings happen.
You can find plenty of domains that start at just 99 cents for the first year and boatloads more that are no more than $6 per year.
If you’re willing to think outside the box, you can get a memorable, short domain for next to nothing. With all the new TLDs available, you may actually find a URL that works better than a .com.
I like the example Namecheap gives: instead of helpme.com, you could just go with help.me. It’s shorter, easy to remember, and still preserves the keywords you want to use in the domain.
In fact, there’s a lot about going with Namecheap as your domain registrar that will save you money in the long term.
WHOIS privacy is free forever with your domain. That saves around $15 per year compared to registrars who charge for it.
You also get email forwarding, which lets you set up professional email addresses with your domain name. Receive all your messages in your current inbox or set up another free Gmail to handle it. Your call, it won’t cost anything either way.
Namecheap also includes free DNS management and security tools. From time to time you will need these to update records and keep your site secure. When you do, the tools are right there, for free. Some providers won’t offer this or will make you pay extra.
And if you are unsure about DNS records or how to get your site set up, you can reach out to Namecheap 24/7.
One might think that rock-bottom prices would mean shoddy customer service, but the reverse is true. Most users report that Namecheap is extremely reliable. The relatively few people who report issues speak highly of the customer service reps they talked to.
Another reason I like Namecheap is the huge selection of TLDs and the excellent search tool to help you find the right one.
The search tool has a Beast Mode that lets you search up to 5,000 keywords at once. Plus, Namecheap includes
Free privacy protection
Domain name security
24/7 live chat support
Extensive knowledge base
Full DNS access
Free PositiveSSL certificate for one year
As I’ve been saying, the prices are about as good as you are likely to find anywhere, especially if you can catch a deal on a domain you want (even with the top domain extensions like .com and .net).
Sure, you can get deals on domains through other registrars, but I recommend Namecheap because renewal pricing stays low.
It’s not like you get a cheap domain and pay down the road once you’ve invested your energy into building your site and brand. A one-year renewal of a .com is $12.98, which is lower than the promotional pricing you’ll find with other vendors
Even if you go for one of the $0.99 TLDs, the renewal price is still good for most of your options. Yes, there are some pricey renewals for certain domains, but plenty of them are $9 or less to renew.
If you are paying way too much for your domain right now, consider transferring to Namecheap. When you switch, Namecheap will carry over unused time from your previous registrar if possible. It’s a nice bonus on top of all the other great savings.
Register for one year, two years, or up to 10 years. It’s just a good deal.
For a limited time, you can even get a .com for under $1 per year. That’s right, you don’t even have to compromise—find a .com through Namecheap today, register it for two years, and get it for just $1.96 at checkout.
#4 – Porkbun Review — The Best Renewal Pricing on the Market
What good is a cherry domain name if you can’t keep it? We’ve all heard the horror stories of losing prime URL real estate on expiration. You spend the time brainstorming ideas, find an available domain, and buy it only to have all your hard work (and domain authority) wiped away after a year.
There are two options for avoiding this—buy a domain for as long as possible upfront or find a registrar with affordable, predictable renewal pricing.
They offer a killer combination of some of the best first-year price deals on new, trending, and alternative extensions as well as the best renewal rates nearly across the board. They beat the market on renewal pricing for over 200 domain extensions.
Look, it’s going to be ridiculously hard to find an available .com for your keywords at this point in the game. Unless you’ve gone the startup route of naming your company a cheeky misspelling of a real word, .com URLs are rare to find. Even if you do, you’re going to have to pay out the nose for it.
But you don’t need a .com or even a .net to have a memorable, easy-to-type web address. Think about the array of extensions that roll off the tongue and make sense for the purpose of your site, the industry you inhabit, or the type of people you want to visit.
Here are a few examples and the excellent rates you can find on Porkbun for them:
.shop: $2.04 for the first year, $26.85 renewal
.store: $2.55 for the first year, $41.69 renewal
.tech: $2.55 for the first year, $36.54 renewal
.help: $7.77 for the first year, $21.09 renewal
.reviews: $8.22 for the first year, $16.97 renewal
That’s just a sampling. And guess what? Each of those promotional first-year prices and renewal rates are the best available for the extension, sometimes by a good few dollars.
Heck, take a look at their renewal pricing on .com extensions against some of the big names:
You can expect similar renewal savings on any extension you buy from Porkbun.
Plus, their great pricing doesn’t limit them from offering extras and options you’d expect from a good domain registrar. Every domain purchase comes with free WHOIS privacy, URL forwarding, and an SSL certificate.
You can even eschew the rock-bottom first-year pricing in favor of locking down a URL for up to a decade. Even then, you’re still getting some of the best rates in the biz. For example, a .shop extension can be secured for ten years for just $228.93. That’s even better than their renewal pricing rate, which itself beats many of Porkbun’s competitors.
So, if you’re not afraid of going with a non-.com extension, Porkbun offers you an unbeatable combination of domain options to choose from, fantastic initial pricing, and some of the best renewal rates you’ll find.
Network Solutions offers the full range of services a company needs to establish and maintain a professional presence online. That doesn’t separate the company from other domain registrars like Namecheap and Domain.com, but I’ll tell you what does.
You can register your domain for a century with Network Solutions. I’m not kidding. If you want, the company will let you sign up for 100 years.
Let your great-grandkids worry about the renewal.
I understand that option is not for everyone, but Network Solutions also offers 20-year registrations. This is twice as long as you can get with other vendors.
Every day, hundreds if not thousands of domains fail to get renewed. For companies with a brand or identity tied to their domain, this is a nightmare. Best case scenario, they are able to buy their domain out of redemption, which can be like $200 or more.
But if their registration is expired for long enough, they might lose their domain altogether. This is bad news, especially if they have sunk a ton of time and energy into building their site and online presence.
So if you are looking for a long-term domain registration to avoid these type of headaches and hassles altogether, Network Solutions offers you peace of mind like no one else.
One potential downside to Network Solutions is that there is not much more than your domain included. Whereas other vendors throw in domain forwarding, SSL certificates, and such, Network Solutions does not.
Every feature and capability you could ever want is available, you just have to purchase them a la carte.
But these sorts of features are less important if you are focused on locking down a domain for as long as possible. And this is where Network Solutions really shines.
It’s $15 per year for the 20-year registration of a .com domain. Sure, that price is maybe a little higher than some of the introductory prices you will find elsewhere. But it’s extremely affordable compared to other renewal prices, which may jump as high as $20, depending on the domain.
With a 100-year registration, the savings are even greater. Lock in the best price of $9.99/year for a century. You get entry level pricing basically forever.
For those looking for long-term domain registration, there are plenty of good options, but nothing compared to Network Solutions. Get started with them today and use coupon code NEILPATEL to get 25% off.
#6 – NameSilo Review — The Best for Buying Domains by the Dozen
NameSilo is my top pick for people who need a lot of domains at once.
Along with Namecheap, NameSilo has some of the best prices on domain names out there. This is obviously important if you are buying domains in bulk.
If you order more than 50 domains, NameSilo will cut the price. If you order more than 100, the price drops even further. Need 500? 1,000? 2,500? The price keeps going lower at every tier.
The bulk pricing discounts through NameSilo can give the edge to resellers or provide a huge discount to buyers who need a whole bunch of domains to secure their online presence.
Since WHOIS privacy is free forever with every purchase, you’re also saving $10-15 per year per site compared to a domain registrar who charges for it. With dozens or hundreds of sites, this adds up quickly.
NameSilo has a massive selection of TLDs. You’re never going to run out of options.
The incredibly rich search tools make it easy to find similar domains with different TLDs. Or you can search based on batches of keywords (up to 5,000), which can yield results of available domains you might not have thought about otherwise.
The bulk domain search is useful, too. You can simply check off the domains you want, filtering your search by TLD or extension category.
Another nice perk is that you can earn money off parked domains. This is not always the case, but with NameSilo, you get to keep all the ad revenue.
If you have a lot of domains, this is a big deal. With other providers, you might only get a cut of what your parked domain earns. Or, you might get nothing. NameSilo doesn’t get in your way.
Every domain you register through NameSilo comes with:
Free privacy protection for life
DNS management tools
Email and domain forwarding
Domain defender protection
Domain portfolio management
24/7 customer support
These features are really important at scale. With email forwarding and portfolio management, it’s a lot easier to keep track of all your domains.
Let’s talk about those low prices on domains:
As you can see, the price starts low, stays low (the red with strikethrough is renewal), and gets cheaper the more you get. I couldn’t fit the entire chart in a nice screenshot, but the bulk pricing for .com drops all the way to $7.29 for 5,000+ domains.
At such volume, that’s a serious discount.
One of the few things you don’t get with NameSilo are SSL certificates. Those cost extra, and the price is fairly high. I wouldn’t worry about that too much as it’s fairly easy to get a free SSL certificate.
A final benefit I have to mention is that NameSilo will add a year onto your coverage if you transfer your domain. Instead of losing out on the time you already paid for with your old registrar (which is usually the case), you get to keep it.
It’s just another way that NameSilo helps you save money.
Choose NameSilo for the massive selection of TLD’s, the fantastic search tools, great prices, and discounts for bulk purchases.
#7 – Google Domains Review — The Best Free Security and Privacy Features
Google Domains is as powerful and easy to use as you would expect from one of the world’s most recognizable companies.
The prices for domains are very competitive, starting at $9/year, but it’s everything that comes with that low price that sets Google apart.
You get privacy protection for free, for all your domains, forever. Instead of putting contact information for your or your company on the WHOIS database (where it will no doubt be spammed relentlessly), Google Domains will let you keep that information masked.
You also get a comprehensive selection of tools for DNS management, and you can enable DNSSEC (Domain Name System Security Extensions) with a single click. DNSSEC protects your domain from spoofing, cache poison attacks, and other common threats.
Google 2-Step Verification is also included with every purchase, which adds an additional layer of protection to your accounts. Even if an attacker got a hold of your password, they’d still be locked out of your account unless they got a hold of your mobile device or security key.
None of these features would be worth much if they were too hard to enable or maintain. Google Domains makes it as simple as possible.
If you have experience with Chrome, Gmail, or any Google product you’re going to be fine.
The interface and navigation scheme will be very familiar. It’s really easy to find your way around, even if domain management is not your forte.
Even if you don’t use Google products on the regular, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the minimal learning curve. Plus, the online knowledge base is extensive and organized really well.
Google Domains has a good selection of TLDs, more than 300 in fact. Virtually any popular TLD is available and quite a few of the newer ones as well.
Unsurprisingly, Google makes it really easy to search for the domain you want. What can I say—Google knows search. You can quickly discover which popular TLDs are available for your desired keywords, as well as a host of less common TLDs.
Including the privacy and security features I’ve listed, Google Domains includes:
Free privacy protection (unlike Domain.com and Hostinger)
Native integration with Google services
Domain management sharing
24/7 customer support
You can get a business email from Google if you want, but you don’t have to because of email forwarding. So, if you don’t need the collaborative tools included with G Suite or Workspace, just use a personal Gmail account with email forwarding.
Google Domains will give you up to 100 aliases for free, so you can receive email at plenty of different professional looking email addresses.
As I said, you can definitely find good deals through Google Domains:
These are great prices, plus you can register for up to 10 years through Google. There are no hidden charges and all of the great features I just listed come standard with your registration fee.
There are no bulk pricing options, so it’s not for people who want to purchase a lot of domains. But for the small business owner who wants to keep their information private, this is a really cost-effective solution.
You get well-built tools that don’t take a ton of technical skill to use. Connect your site with confidence to other Google and third-party services, like your email, online store, or business databases.
What I Looked at to Find the Best Domain Registrar
I have tons of experience buying domains, and I typically use different domain registrars. That’s because certain domain registrars are better to use in different situations.
In short, there are basically three ways to get a domain name:
Using a domain registrar
Getting a domain name bundled with web hosting
Buying a domain name through a reseller
Domain registrars assign IP addresses to domains, reserve domains, and handle everything else on the technical side of domain registration.
Domain.com and Namecheap are two of the most popular registrars on the market. They both make it super easy to find and buy domains.
But to get your site live on the web, you need to have web hosting in addition to a domain name.
Some of the best web hosting providers, like Hostinger, bundle domain names with hosting plans.
If you’re happy with your web host, I recommend using a domain registrar. But if you don’t have hosting or you’re unhappy with your current hosting provider, go with Hostinger.
I do not recommend buying a domain name from a reseller.
As the name implies, they resell domain names in partnership with domain registrars. Most resellers don’t offer dedicated support, and they charge extra so they can turn a profit.
With the exception of Hostinger, every recommendation on my list is a domain registrar. So how do you decide which option is right for you?
You can use the same criteria that I do as you’re comparing different options.
Note: You won’t be able to transfer a domain for 60 days after the purchase. That’s why it’s so important to find the right one now.
Registration Period and Renewal Rates
Most domain registrars offer promotional pricing for your initial contract term. Some limit your initial contract term to one or two years, while others may give you five to 10 years.
So if you’re looking to save money, your best bet is opting for the longest registration period available. Max out the discount for as long as possible.
This is also a great way to ensure no one else can buy it, since you don’t have to remember to renew it every year.
Of the domain registrars that I’ve reviewed in this post, Namecheap, NameSilo, and Google Domains will each allow you to purchase a domain for the full 10-year term at checkout. Domain.com maxes out at five years. There aren’t any tricky rebate policies with any of them, though, which is why I like these registrars the best.
With Hostinger, you get a free domain for the first year when you sign up for hosting and the renewal rate is usually only a few dollars more.
As you can see, the price changes a lot depending on the TLD (.com, .org, .net, etc.). Another name for TLD is domain extension, so you might see that term, too. They are the same thing.
Let’s talk a little bit more about these TLDs and how to choose a registrar that will make your hunt for the perfect domain as easy (and as affordable) as possible
Domain Extensions and Search Tools
I really like it when a domain registrar makes it easy for you to take advantage of all the different domain extensions available. Basically, you are looking at two things:
How many different TLDs do they offer?
How easy is it to search for domain names?
Every domain registrar on my list offers the familiar TLDs like .com, but some offer a larger selection of alternative TLDs. There are hundreds of new TLDs, like .online, .blog, and even .ninja.
This is great for people starting new sites because, as you can imagine, most of the desirable domain names are already taken for the .com extension.
A great place to check for a bargain deal on one of the newer TLDs is Namecheap. They run promotional pricing for domains as low as $0.99/year:
That’s a steal right there.
With new TLDs, you want to pick something that’s going to age well and makes sense with your business. Just keep searching until you find one that works.
Be aware that not all domain registrars offer the same selection of TLDs. As a random example, NameSilo offers both .theater and .theatre, whereas Google doesn’t have the British spelling.
If the name you want isn’t available, registrars will offer suggestions for slightly different names or alternative TLDs that are available. This can help you find something much quicker than having to search each name individually.
Namecheap and NameSilo let you search up to 5,000 keywords at once. This is incredibly helpful when you are trying to brainstorm an effective domain name.
If you want to change domain registrars in the future, you have to do a domain transfer. Some registrars make this free and easy, while others charge for it.
Make sure you read through your registrar’s transfer policy before making any final decisions. It’s important to choose a company you can count on, even when you’re transferring to a different service.
Otherwise, the transfer can cause unwanted downtime or accessibility issues for your website.
All of the domain registrars I’ve picked have guided transfer processes designed to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Namecheap, for example, has a process that you can follow that results in zero downtime. On top of that, you get to carry over any remaining time from your previous registration to Namecheap.
That’s not typical. Usually you just lose whatever time you had remaining from your old registrar.
NameSilo is another good option for domain transfers, as they will add a full year to your expiration date when you transfer.
Domain name registration involves providing your personal details to the domain registrar. However, doing so means your information is now part of the public record.
But the good news is it doesn’t have to be, thanks to WHOIS privacy.
This is a privacy service that masks private information, like your email, address, phone number from the public record. This way, it’s not accessible to scammers, hackers, or anyone looking for your information online.
Some registrars charge for this service, while others offer it for free. Hostinger, for example, charges $10/year for domain privacy and protection. Domain.com charges for it, as well.
With Google Domains, NameSilo, and Namecheap, WHOIS privacy is free forever.
I always recommend you use it, unless you’re registering your domain with your company’s address, phone number, etc. This information is already public so it won’t hurt to have it attached to your domain.
Number of Domains
It’s common for large and small companies alike to buy multiple domain names, including:
Common misspellings of their original name
Various domain extensions
Semantically similar domain names
Why? To make sure no one else can buy a similar name or intentional misspelling to steal their traffic. It also ensures your website is easy to find, even if someone doesn’t know how to spell it or what extension you’re using.
And while a multiple domain strategy is great for growing your business, it’s rarely necessary if you’re just starting out.
If you’re interested in buying 50+ domains, NameSilo is your best option. You get competitive pricing on domains and free WHOIS privacy forever (which saves money on every site).
You can also wield NameSilo’s powerful bulk domain search, which lets you find and buy as many domains as you need:
Another nice aspect of NameSilo is that you earn 100% of the profits from parked domains. These are sites you own that are directed to your main site and, usually, they have advertising that brings in a little revenue.
Normally, hosts or registrars take some of the advertising earnings from parked domains. NameSilo doesn’t.
Namecheap also offers a bulk domain search and good prices, so it might be another good option for people who need a lot of domain names.
If you just need one site, Hostinger offers one domain name free for the first year. So, this is an excellent option if you need a single domain name and web hosting for a new website
Domain names may feel like a “set it and forget it” type of thing. But in reality, they require ongoing management including renewals, security, and accessibility.
The good news is that there is not a ton of work that goes into domain management, especially if you only have one site. If you have a bunch of domains under your control, the management features become a lot more important.
Different domain registrars may handle domain management differently, so it’s crucial to understand how things work with the company you choose.
For example, most registrars offer auto renew services, meaning you don’t have to manually renew your domain registration every year. It’s important to get the auto renewal set up properly, because if your domain expires, it might cost you a lot to get it back.
With Domain.com, your website will be replaced by a parked domain and the email will stop working if you do not renew on time. From there, you’ll have 30 days to renew your domain for the normal price.
If you don’t renew during that time, someone else can snatch up your domain. And even if no one purchases it, you will still have to purchase the domain out of redemption, which costs around $100 on Domain.com.
I know that sounds bad, but it’s about half as much as buying your name out of redemption on Namecheap.
So you want to stay on top of domain management. In addition to autorenewals, some of the key management features to look out for include:
Email: Having email accounts @yourdomainname.com looks professional and serves as the place where you receive information about your domain. Some registrars a few free email accounts, whereas others only provide email forwarding.
Two-Factor Authentication (2FA): This is an extra layer of protection that makes sure someone can’t hack your account with a stolen username/password. The second factor of authentication could be a text message sent to a trusted device that only you own.
Domain lock: Sometimes called “Transfer lock,” this feature prevents anyone from transferring your domain.
DNS management tools: Domain name system (DNS) records are stored in databases called nameservers and tell web browsers where to find websites. You may have to update DNS records from time to time. It’s not difficult, so long as your domain registrar provides easy DNS tools.
Namecheap provides a free email account for the first two months and a DNS management tool that’s free forever. You can use Namecheap’s free DNS even if you use a different domain registrar.
Domain.com, NameSilo, and Google Domains offer free email forwarding, so you can keep using your current accounts to manage your new domain. All three of these registrars also offer free DNS management tools.
At the end of the day, the registrar you choose doesn’t really matter, so long as you go with one of my recommendations:
What’s important is getting the domain name and extension you want at a reasonable price with the protection and security you need.
With that said, Domain.com is great for most users and Hostinger offers a free domain for the first year if you need web hosting services as well.
However, both charge extra for privacy protection.
On the other hand, NameSilo, Google Domains, and Namecheap offer this protection for free.
NameSilo is excellent if you need hundreds of domains. Google Domains makes sense if you’re comfortable with the Google interface (and sharing more info with Google). And Namecheap is the most affordable registrar for .com domains.
But, there may not be a registrar that beats Porkbun on TLD variety and both promo and renewal pricing.
So, regardless of what you need, your new domain name is just a few clicks away.
Which domain registrars have you tried in the past? And how was your experience?