So you’re starting a new business, you’ve come up with the perfect business name and you want to showcase that in your domain name. But uh-oh the URL is already taken! What do you do?
If you find that your domain name is already taken, you are not alone. There are more businesses now than ever, in every industry. This means that if you have a good idea for a domain name, there is a greater chance that somebody already had that idea.
Lucky for you, if somebody has taken your domain name, it isn’t the end of the world. There are still lots of options available for you. However, choosing the right option can be difficult.
Therefore it is important that you know and understand all of the options available to you and choose the one that is best suited for your individual business situation.
Before we dive into the options available if your domain name is already taken, it is essential to look at some general information about the importance of a quality domain name and what you need to consider when choosing one.
Why you need a quality domain name?
On its own your domain name doesn’t mean much. However, your domain name is important when combined with other aspects and it encompasses a major section of your SEO campaign. You may not think it but your domain name does have an impact on your performance. Your domain name is one of the ways people find you on the internet.
If you choose the wrong domain name it can certainly impact your SEO negatively. A poor domain name may make it difficult for your potential consumers to find you. Or even confuse consumers. This is certainly something you want to steer clear of.
It is also important (if you can) to keep your domain name similar to your brand name. This is because it is a major way that people search for your business online. For example, our business name is SEO Shark and our URL is www.seoshark.com.au. See! If people search for “SEO Shark” on Google, our website should be highly visible for users to find.
A quality domain name will add so much value to your brand. Your domain name will also help distinguish the type of branding and the direction of your marketing campaigns. Your domain name reflects your image (and obviously you want to create a positive brand image).
It is recommended that your domain name reflects a keyword of your business. Although it doesn’t provide as many benefits as it used to, it is still a good idea (if possible). When people search for a certain keyword and you have that word in your URL this will show the consumer that you are a business that provides the product or service they are looking for.
What you need to consider for your domain name?
There are many dos and don’ts when it comes to your domain name. You will need to consider the following points:
- Ensure your domain name is short and memorable. Try to avoid numbers/ symbols etc.
- It is important your URL is easy to read and understand when said aloud. Avoid words that have different types of spelling (especially if you are an international business). For example in Australia we spell “colour” whereas in America it is spelt “color”.
- Try to steer clear of any words that have the potential to be misunderstood. Remember that something which is clear for you may not be for others, so try to get friends and family to look over your domain name.
- Most importantly, you need to ensure your URL doesn’t infringe on a copyright or trademark. Do your research before you make your final choice.
Now that’s all out of the way, it’s time to take a look at your available options if the worst happens and your domain name is already in use:
1. See if you can purchase it
This is clearly the most obvious option. And if you love your domain name (which you should) this needs to be your first option. However, keep in mind that you may not be able to purchase. But you will never know if you don’t try so make sure you look in to it.
Another issue with this option is that if you do have the option to purchase it, you may not have the cash to do so. However, there are some circumstances in which you may be able to purchase a domain name for a cheaper price. For example, if the current owner isn’t using it.
If you find yourself in this situation you should get in touch with the site owner. But how do you find the site owner? Well, lucky for you there is a tool for that! Try inputting your desired URL into Whois. It’s free to use and it clearly shows whether your URL is available or not. If not, it also offers some suggestions for similar names. Here is a screenshot of results when “SEO Shark” is searched:
This tool explains that the domain name “SEO Shark” is not available (no surprises there!). However, it gives options of similar names, as well as this you can click “Whois” to find out more details about the owner of the website. Unfortunately SEO Shark is not going to sell its domain name!
Sometimes there will be little or no information about the owner on the website. If you find yourself in this situation, it would be your best bet to simply contact the owner through the website directly. Most websites will have a contact page which will include an email address. Start here and hopefully someone in the business will point you in the right direction.
2. Extend the brand in your domain name
This may sound confusing but it is actually quite simple; just add another word to your URL. If you are looking to have your brand name and domain name identical, there is a greater chance your URL is already taken, especially if your brand name is short and simple.
By extending your brand name in the domain name you are potentially resolving the issue. For example if you are an online clothing shop and you come up with a business name, say “Pretty Sun”. The URL for "Pretty Sun" exactly may be taken. However, if you add “clothing” i.e. “Pretty Sun Clothing”, there is a chance that domain name is available.
By extending your brand in the URL you are ensuring a certain level of trustworthiness. This is because users can see what your business is about just by looking at your URL.
It is vital that your extension is actually relevant to the brand and easy for users to forge the connection.
Adding words to your domain name is always a struggle and has the potential to be ineffective. This is why you need to take the time to produce associated words that add to your brand while having no impact on memorability.
3. Add a verb
If you are unable to purchase your domain name, then this is probably the way to go! Verbs are a great option because you get to keep almost the original URL you wanted. Your brand name is still included and you also don’t have to look at other Top Level Domain (TLD) options.
Side note on TLDs: TLDs are the highest level of domains in the ranked Domain Name System on the internet. TLD include options like “.com”, “.net” or “.edu”.
Verbs such as “try”, “use” and “get” are some of the most popular when adding to a domain name. Obviously, you have to choose a verb that has at least some sort of relevance to your business. If you are having some difficulties thinking of the right verb don’t fret, head on over to Linguasorb, they provide a list of 100 of the most common verbs! This option (if possible) also looks better than other TLDs and they are typically easier to recall.
4. Try a different TLD
There is more than just “.com” available, so make sure you check if another TLD is available with the same domain name. This is a good option if you 100% set on keeping your domain name the same (and you can’t purchase the existing one).
However, there are some precautions you will need to take. When using other TLDs like “.net” or “.org”, this becomes something additional that your users need to remember if they were to search for your URL. If they just type in the brand name, for example, and then “.com” they won’t be directed to your website. Just be careful when heading down this path.
As well as this, people tend to place more trust in “.com”, it is the TLD that is most commonly used therefore users are more aware of it. To add fuel to the fire, many people think that other TLDs are unreliable.
If you believe that a different TLD is your best option, try to choose one that is related to your business. For example if your website is all about providing information, then you could add “.info” as the TLD.
All in all, you need to think about the memorability of your new TLD. Do you think your consumers (and potential consumers) will be able to remember the difference? As well as this, do you think your consumers (and potential consumers) will trust a TLD that isn’t “.com”?
If you are a national business your best option would be to add “.com.au” as your TLD. It still has the “.com” component which users trust and it helps people determine that your business in local (i.e. in Australia).
5. Include your country/ city in the domain name
This is similar to option 2 and 3, and works if “.com.au” isn’t available. This option works best if your business is going to stay national (i.e. not so good for international businesses). If you find that your perfect URL is taken try and add “au” or “aus” to the domain name.
As well as this you could go even more local. For example if you were a cleaning business in Sydney, your domain name could be “cleanerssydney”. However, this does add potentially a barrier if you are looking to expand in the future.
It is important to think about the likelihood of business expansion or similar. If you include a geographic location, especially something as specific as a city, users are likely to think you only operate that area alone.
It is becoming very rare these days that your perfect domain name is available. If you find that your domain name is in fact taken, don’t stress! There are a lot of different options available for you to choose from. It may not be exactly what you what, but the goal is to get it as close as possible.
The different options provide a variety of different pros and cons. It is important that you become aware of all the options available to you so you can choose the one that is best suited to your business.
The first thing you should do if your domain name is taken is try to purchase it off the current owner. This doesn’t always work but it is worth giving it a try, you never know! If the owner doesn’t want to sell then you don’t have another choice, you will have to alter your URL in some way.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing! By adding more to your brand name you are showing your users more about your business. Adding a verb is another good option to create some action or motivation in your consumers.
Choosing a different TLD is also available, and depending on your situation, “.com.au” may be a good alternative! If you are a local business you could also look into adding a city or even a country name into your URL.
Sarah is the head of guest posts outreach and an SEO expert. Her interests are search engine optimisation, social media and brand management.