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What to Do If Your Preferred Domain Name Is Taken

What to Do If Your Preferred Domain Name Is Taken

There are billions upon billions of possible domain names. The number of existing domain names is in the hundreds of millions. What are the chances to have your preferred domain name taken when you go to the registrar? Math would say slim.

Experience, however, proves otherwise. Coming up with a combination of letters and numbers is one thing. Making sure the combination produces a good domain name is a completely different process. There are simply not that many good ones to choose from.

This is exactly why it’s possible that, when checking domain names, you’ll find that someone has already registered your top picks. These things happen. We’ll show you, however, what your options are if it happens to you.

You’ll read about:

How to Check If a Domain Name Is Available

How to Check If a Domain Name Is Available

When you want to create a website and you’re trying to figure out that perfect name for it, you’d be smart to come up with a couple of ideas in case one of them is already taken. You can figure out the name is taken during the brainstorming or research process if you simply type the domain name into your browser’s address bar and press enter.

Three things can happen. You can visit a website, which means that your domain name is taken. You can be directed to an error page, which likely means your domain name is free for you to grab. Finally, you can be served a sales page asking you to contact whoever owns the domain name and has put it up for sale.

If you worry that visiting an unknown website poses a security risk, you can check website availability at websites such as Whois.com, a tool you might want to remember because we’ll come back to it in a moment or two. Also, some hosting providers that work as registrars might offer you to look up the domain name of your choosing online without going to the website.

In the case of bad news, which can be any news except that your preferred domain name is free to use, you can continue further in two ways. You can either do whatever you can to keep the name, or you can find hacks or alternatives that might work. Let’s explore both options a little bit.

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What to Do If You Want to Keep the Name?

What to Do If You Want to Keep the Name

When you want to use a domain name that is already taken, your first course of action would be to figure out who owns it. Head back over to Whois.com and type in the address. If the contact information of the owner is available – if it’s not made private – you’ll be able to see it and contact the owner directly. If not, maybe the website itself will have some contact information about the seller.

How to Handle the Purchase of a Second-Hand Domain Name

If they’re willing to sell – great, you only have to navigate buying a domain name from a person or company you’ve only ever met online. Usually, this means using services that will help you make the exchange.

A service like Escrow can help. You and the seller agree on the terms and then you put your money in escrow at Escrow. The seller then transfers the domain name to you – something every registrar has a procedure for, you check and approve the domain name, and they get the money.

What to Do if You Can’t Purchase the Website?

Things get more complicated if they’re not willing to sell. In that case, you might try to get your lawyers involved and sue the owner for cybersquatting. Depending on how it’s handled legally in your country, you might be able to win the suit, but only if you prove that they’ve infringed on your trademark, or are generally sitting on the domain name with bad intent.

If you don’t want to get your lawyers involved, or if you simply can’t find out who the owner is, you can try purchasing the domain name with an alternative TLD. So instead of .com – we’ll suppose you went straight for it, as you always should – you can try buying the .org or .net version of the website. Keep in mind, however, that this can lead to some confusion and maybe even brand dilution.

Also keep in mind that people trust .com domains more than any other. A lot of country code TLDs are perceived as spammy (this is particularly the case with .cn and .ru). But then, there are country codes like .me that can be perfect for certain brands. TLDs like .tv are great for businesses from the entertainment, video or gaming industry. Extensions like .net, .tech and .store are also popular, trusted and can make a great fit for a variety of businesses.

In some cases, you might even manage to split your domain name into two and use the second half as the top-level domain. So, for example, you can get examp.le instead of example.com. Again, this might cause some confusion and it might work better if the domain name is made up of two words.

No Luck? Pick an Alternative

What to Do If You Want to Change the Name

For one reason or another, you can also decide to avoid the hustle of figuring out how to get the perfect name and choose an alternative. This can be an exceedingly difficult decision if the domain name you wanted is your brand name, too, but these things happen often, and brands find ways to work around them.

You don’t want to use a name that has absolutely nothing to do with your business, blog, or whatever you tried to register. There still has to be some kind of connection to the original idea.

Expand the Original Domain Name

There are certain words you can add to the original domain name that wouldn’t distract from its meaning – they might even serve to amplify it. The exact thing you can add will vary based on the domain name, the type of business, the industry, and a whole lot of other factors.

But let’s say your domain name of choice was “something.” You can expand the domain name by adding an appropriate verb, such as “dosomething” or “buysomething” or “readsomething” and “makesomething.”

Use Related Words

There are also several kinds of related words that might work as a domain name instead of your brand or business name. Again, these will work better for some brands and businesses than others, but they still might be worth a shot.

You can, for example, use a keyword instead of the brand name. So instead of “something” you can use “beststoreinlondon,” for example, or “orlandoplumber.” In this case, the name of your business doesn’t have to match the name of the domain.

If there’s a way to make a word out of the original domain name that’s similar and brandable, you might also try to do that. So, for a magazine that’s called “something,” the website can have the domain name “somethingians.” You can let your imagination run wild, but you should always make sure that it ties somehow to the brand, business, product, or industry.

Add Location to Name

This is not a solution that can fit all brands or businesses, but it can work great for many. If you’re looking for a domain name to start a website related to a business with physical locations, like a shop, a bar, a restaurant or a cafe, a local output of a big company or franchise, you can only benefit from adding the name of the city, country or neighborhood to the name. It is good for SEO and it is good for user experience since it provides more complete information than just the name.

For instance, if you have a pet store named Paws, and it’s located in Prague, and paws dot com is, as expected, taken, you can go for pawsprague dot com, or even pawsinprague.

It’s even easier if you’re operating in an entire country or region – pawseurope or pawsgreece dot com are quite solid domain names.

Look Into Domain Hacking Options

Although it sounds like something not quite lawful or right (and it shouldn’t be confused with domain hijacking), domain hacking is actually a legitimate practice. It consists of creating a domain name that’s a combination of a word, phrase or name, and the extension, ie. of the adjacent levels of the domain name, to create a name that suggests a word. An example will explain it better – for instance, the WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg has a blog with the domain name www.ma.tt. The .tt extension is the official ccTLD of Trinidad and Tobago. Clever, right?

The Montenegro ccTLD .me is a particularly productive one, and a lot of brands already use it: even Facebook has an URL version fb.me, then there’s WordPress with wp.me that redirects to wordpress.com, and a particularly smart one is ti.me, used by the famous news magazine.

Another good one is the top level country code TLD for Lybia: .ly. It’s particularly popular with lifestyle, fashion and cosmetics brands, but in a lot of other industries, too – just think of bit.ly. If you’re based in the US, but even if you’re not, you could also look into .us, to create a domain nam consisting of an adjective ending in -ous, like delicious, righteous, gorgeous, etc.

Let’s Wrap It Up!

Domain names are important, and you needn’t look further than the reseller industry for proof. When you’re choosing yours, make sure you have a couple of alternatives. If you go to the registrar determined to get one name and it turns out to be taken, you can end up signing yourself up for an unpleasant and maybe even expensive ride. It might be much better to show some flexibility – something that even big brands had to do when faced with a domain sitter who wouldn’t budge.

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