You’ve just decided to create a new business, or maybe you just had an idea for a new website. Either way, you do what everyone does in the 21st century: you go to register a new domain.
Unless you came up with an incredibly unique domain idea, you will likely discover someone – possibly even a domain squatter – has already registered the .com version of your domain.
After all, there are more than 1 billion websites.
Don’t despair just yet on your naming idea! You have plenty of options available to still turn it into a great domain name.
What Should You Do When Your .COM Isn’t Available?
Before digging into alternative ways of registering your domain name, it’s important to take a step back and think about your plan on bringing traffic into your website.
If your website will primarily be used in offline advertising like TV commercials, billboards, or business cards, it is critical that your domain be easy to spell.
Inventing a new word might seem like a fantastic idea and an easy way to get your perfect domain, but it can have unintended consequences. Online photo service Flickr lost 3.6 million unique visits a year to Flicker.com.
On the other hand, social news site, Digg.com, live workout app, Gixo.com, and domain reseller, Sedo.com all were able to maximize on their short made-up word domains because they were unique enough to not be confused with anything else.
Iterate on Your Domain Name Idea
Here are a few ideas to help you get started:
- You can consider not using a .com if most of your traffic will come from sources other than direct type-in traffic. Search users and those discovering your website on social media are agnostic to what your domain is and will likely not even notice if it’s a .net, .org, .us or even info.
- Consider using one of the new top-level domains (TLDs) like .agency, .jobs, .online, or similar. While there seems to be downsides for people that are unaware that these even exist, it still won’t matter if your traffic is primarily from search and referral sources.
- Look for synonyms. Use an online thesaurus, like Thesaurus.com, to come up with word alternatives similar to your original idea.
- Try using domain name tools like NameMesh.com or BustAname.com which even have alternatives in other languages. You may not like the suggestions that these tools recommend, but they will at least give you some creative ideas.
- If there are several words in your domain name, try rearranging their order if you can. Sometimes one specific order may not be available as a domain name, but another may be. NYCmarketingagency.com may not be available, but marketingNYCagency.com could be. If you don’t have several words in your domain name, you may want to consider adding one, which brings us to the next suggestion…
- Add another word to your domain name. TopMarketer.com not available? How about trying AmericasTopMarketer.com? Sometimes just adding some fun descriptive words will not only make your domain and business name more unique and available but also take your business name’s marketing from “OK” to “WOW!” You can also just add words like “online” or “best” if you are short on other concepts.
Domain Best Practices
No matter what domain name you ultimately land on, you may want to stick to the following best practices:
- Your domain name should be as short as possible. Shorter domains are easier for direct-type ins, don’t overflow on business cards, can be fully visible in search engines, and are social friendly (they can be easily shared from one person to the next).
- Don’t buy a dropped domain unless you aware of the history of the domain. I once saw a real estate website that had formerly been a Japanese adult site. Even if any penalties or negative association had been scrubbed in search engine ranking algorithms, you can imagine that the backlinks to that site were not pretty.
- Don’t put hyphens in your domain. They are easy to forget and confuse with the version of the domain names that don’t use hyphens.
- Don’t use domains that are at all related to someone else’s trademark. This is illegal and can land you in hot water quick if someone finds out and decides to sue you. Any brand equity that you build into the domain will be lost as soon as you get that cease and desist notice.
- Use keywords, if at all possible. Even if there is little SEO value to a keyword-rich domain, it will still build better keyword to domain associations with your customers.
- But don’t stuff keywords! It will look terrible to users and not help with search engines.
- Think about your social presence. If you’re naming a new business, it is ideal to make sure you can get some other social media accounts with the same business name. Before you settle on the domain use KnowEm.com to make sure that the most popular social media handles are available.
- Buy similar domain names. Purchase easy misspells and other popular TLDs if they are available to keep anyone from squatting on your business name. This could be costly later once you have built up a brand and the domain squatters know that you don’t really have any negotiating leverage.
- Don’t settle for the .co TLD of your brand just because it might be available. Although, there are many popular products and companies like calendar.co, angel.co and pocket.co they still likely lose large amounts of traffic to the .com versions of their domain which are completely unrelated to their business.
Whatever domain name you choose, it doesn’t have to be a lifelong commitment. You’re better off starting your web presence with the best solution you can find rather than spending weeks trying to find the perfect domain name.
With a little creativity and ingenuity, you can find a domain that works for you either temporarily or for many years to come just by following these tips and tricks on what to do when your .com is not available.
In-Post Images: Screenshots by Eli Schwartz. Taken August 2017.
Editor’s note: This post was previously published. It has been completely rewritten and updated.