WordPress.com is making a strong bid for Google Domains customers after the the product was sold to Squarespace in a deal reportedly worthy $180 million. Shortly after the sale was announced, WordPress.com pitched Google Domains customers, reminding the public that the company is also a domain registrar, but the call to action didn’t include much incentive to switch.
This week WordPress.com is putting the heat on with a new offer to pay transfer fees and an additional year of registration for the first million domains moved from Google Domains. WordPress.com is also guaranteeing Google Domains customers the same pricing or lower for 400+ top-level domains.
“This will also apply to existing WordPress.com customers across most domains, meaning that in many cases we’re lowering your prices.” Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg said in the announcement this week.
“This isn’t a temporary thing. We’re committed to keeping domain prices low, and will only raise them if our wholesale costs go up (we’ll run our domains business like Costco).”
Squarespace has committed to honor the renewal prices previously set by Google Domains existing customers for 12 months but will set its own prices after this time.
In an interview with The Verge, Squarespace CEO Anthony Casalena said his company is already using a lot of the same infrastructure Google is using in their Cloud DNS product, having resold Google Workspace for almost a decade. Squarespace currently employs 1,750 people with revenue under a billion dollars this year. Acquiring Google Domains gives the company the opportunity to cross-sell website packages to its incoming domain customers. There are approximately 10 million domains up for grabs in the transfer of customers.
Casalena said that being a reseller of Google Workspace was a major factor in Google’s decision to offer the domains to Squarespace, in addition to having the infrastructure to manage the business. This partially explains what was an otherwise bewildering deal that came as a surprise to the industry:
First off — once in a lifetime opportunity for us. Incredibly grateful that we were selected as the stewards of that business. We weren’t asking them, like, ‘Hey, planning on shutting down domains or anything?’ It wasn’t exactly outbound. I think they made the decision that it’s not a business that they were going to be in. And they contacted a couple of legitimate parties who could potentially even take on a business of that size because, again, it’s not the code or the employees are moving — it’s basically the domains themselves and the hosting services and the registrations, that sort of thing. So that really narrows it down to the number of companies that could even support that.
Then the other thing that was a big factor is we’ve been a huge fan and big reseller of Google Workspace for nearly a decade now, which was very important to them, and we’re incredibly sophisticated in selling Domains, selling Google Workspace, servicing it, and managing that for millions of people. So we were able to find a transaction that worked for us.
Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg reacted to the deal on Twitter this week, saying that he was disappointed Google didn’t make it a more competitive process.
“This might cost a ton of money but I was bummed we didn’t even get a crack at this, my guess is Cloudflare, Godaddy, and Bluehost didn’t either—why Google didn’t make this a competitive process?” Mulleweng said. “Concerning to have so many domains going to a proprietary CMS.”
WordPress.com has been slowly inching towards becoming a one-stop shop for users’ website needs. The company recently made its monetization features available for free, making the platform more attractive to creators who are just starting out online. Based on the reaction to Mullenweg’s tweet, it seems many people are still not aware that they can buy their domains from a registrar and host their websites elsewhere. If you are just hearing about WordPress.com’s domains, it’s natural to think they are only for WordPress sites, so the company has some work to do in making prospective customers aware.
Users can be hesitant to move to a new registrar when they don’t fully understand the process and don’t want to negatively impact their online presence. In the case of Google Domains customers, they are moving to a new registrar after the sale closes later this year, whether they like it or not. WordPress.com’s deal is a compelling offer if they can better position their domains as an independent service.