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  • 6 Alternatives When Your Domain Name Isn’t Available

    6 Alternatives When Your Domain Name Isn’t Available

    Deciding on a domain name can be a lot of work and something that you’re likely to put your heart and soul into if it’s for your business or a passion project. Imagine it, sitting down thinking, scribbling ideas, hours’ worth of thoughts, all to craft the perfect domain name.

    Then BAM! That domain name isn’t available and you’re left figuring out what to do. There are millions of websites going up every day and to think, someone took your perfect name. A name that only you could have come up with! Ok, maybe not, but still, it can be disheartening and can throw out hours of work.

    If you’ve already built assets around this perfect domain name because you were sure it wouldn’t be taken, then you’re in quite a pickle. Sure you change it slightly and try to see if that works, but remember, you’re likely building a business around this exact domain name, and changing it can negatively impact how your business performs on the web.

    Don’t worry, that’s why we’ve put together this guide to what to do when your perfect domain name is taken so that you don’t miss out on all that hard work. To help you figure things out, we’ll also discuss the importance of perfect domain names to your business name and why you need to pick the best one possible to maximize your web traffic.

    Why a Domain Name Matters for Your Business

    Why a Domain Name Matters for Your Business

    Before we start talking about alternatives to your unavailable domain name, we thought it would be best to discuss the importance of domain names to your business. Ideally, you wanna pick the domain name as soon as possible to avoid this type of conundrum. If that isn’t an option, then you’ll have to hope it’s available or one of our alternatives works for you.

    The use and benefit of the right domain name go far beyond just picking a name you like or that sounds cool. We’ll break down some of the elements that your domain name impacts and why choosing the right one is important.

    Domain Names Identify Your Business

    It sounds simple but it’s more than just a name for your business name on the web, it tells users something about your business. If you’re already an established brand, then people will recognize your domain name because it is already associated with your brand.

    If not though, your domain name should tell users on the web something relevant about what you do. If you sell candy, for instance, you wouldn’t want the domain name sneakers.com, that would only confuse users (and Google/search engines too for that matter).

    It’s not enough to be catchy or unique, your domain name should really mean something to the business you’re in so that when users see it they go “oh that’s what they do”. It isn’t possible to convey everything in a domain name, but the right name will set you up on the right foot for getting users to click on your site and give you their business and their trust.

    Even if you don’t have a brand identity yet, having a domain name that is the same as the brand you’re trying to establish will help you build user trust and repeat business in the long run.

    Look at all your favorite companies and the domain names they own. They are almost instantly recognizable by those domain names alone. This is the type of recognition you want to build for your brand.

    If you already have an established brand, then it’s pretty much imperative that your exact domain name matches that brand name.

    The Credibility Factor

    Another thing that isn’t always considered when picking a brand name is how credible you sound to potential customers as well as other businesses. A unique name may seem fine, but it may lower your credibility when you’re trying to conduct serious business.

    Not only is the name credible in terms of how it looks and sounds, having your own domain and not a domain designated by another ISP or free service says to the web that you’re serious and helps you stand out from the crowd. This is a tough distinction to establish with billions of sites on the web, but having your very own domain ups your chances and makes you appear less generic.

    Users equate generic as cheap and unprofessional. If your goal is to truly make a mark on the web, then you need your domain name to be your own and to be tied to your brand.

    More Web Mobility

    Owning your own domain gives you the ability to be more mobile on the web. This means you can change hosts, establish your own servers and even branch out to multiple domains that are all tied to the same brand without having to worry about a forced URL change.

    Domain owner/ownership makes you able to adjust to your business and expand and move as needed. Not only that, the domain you own is always your property so long as you keep the rights to it.

    Even if you go inactive for a time, or are in a down period with your business, retaining ownership of a domain always gives you the option to return or start again if you so choose. The ability to remain flexible is one of the best assets you can give yourself and your business.

    The Right Domain Name Draws in Business

    If people are able to easily identify what you do from your domain, they are more likely to seek out your services. If you own shoes.com and someone looking for shoes comes across it, well, they’re likely to check it out.

    That is of course if you followed our first tip of making sure your domain name matches your business intent. If you own shoes.com and sell umbrellas, well then you might need to do some website rebranding.

    Not only will you automatically draw in business, but a domain that contains keywords that are relevant in search will also rank higher in Google/search engines and show up higher in the SERP. While traffic isn’t the only goal with a domain, more traffic means a more successful business.

    8 Alternative to a Domain Name That’s Unavailable

    Now that we’ve talked a bit about the importance of a domain name, we’ll provide some alternative solutions for when your desired domain name is taken. Don’t let a little hiccup get in your way.

    1. Make a Logical Change to Your Domain Name

    Logical Change to Your Domain Name

    We know, you’re saying you don’t want to change your domain name, that it’s what makes you unique. Well, if you’re certain your prime choice of name is not available, then making logical changes to the domain name that still convey what you do and your brand is a way to get around that.

    What we’re suggesting is not changing the key point of your domain name, just modifying it in a way that makes sense.

    For example, say you sell boat insurance, you want the domain name boatinsurance.com, now this is more than likely unavailable and whoever has it isn’t likely to give it up so, one solution while still staying relevant is to add a modifying word, that is to say, a verb, adjective, adverb, etc.

    So you could go for getboatinsurance.com. Still says exactly what you do, it looks funny at first, but once you read it it’s easy to understand. Remember, the ability of users to easily read and understand your domain name is part of being successful. This small change still conveys the message of boat insurance and gives you a usable domain name to roll with.

    If you’re not up for just adding an action word to your domain name, you can try extending your brand name through your domain. Let’s go back to boat insurance for a minute, if you sell boat insurance, but also focus on bikes, then you could reasonably use the domain name boatandbikeinsurance.com. Ok, yes that one looks a little funny, but again, break it down and you see exactly what you get from that site, boat and bike insurance.

    Doing it this way keeps you on brand and allows you a usable domain name that will still drive traffic to your site. Lots of major brands have done this before their primary domain was available.

    2. Add Your Country to the Domain Name

    This is actually a pretty simple solution that works without you having to change the content of your domain name. You have a couple of options here and should use whatever makes the most sense.

    Going back to our boat insurance problem, you could easily choose the domain name boatinsuranceUSA.com, this is a bit more of a mouthful, but still conveys the message of boat insurance.

    You could put USA at the front of the domain name instead, but then that’s what people will see first before boat insurance, so it’s important to think about the positioning of the words you use as well.

    3. Try Another TLD

    This isn’t always the first thing that everyone thinks about, but it is always an option to think about.

    In case you’re unsure what this means, TLD stands for “top-level domain” and is essentially the label of the last three characters in your domain name after the final period. In other words, these are your .com, .org, .net, .edu, .gov, and other domain organizers. Think of the domains we own, including Website.Design. Yes .com is standard, but hundreds of other options will exist.

    There are dozens more that most people don’t even know about, the ones we listed are just the most common.

    Typically, when a domain name is taken, this refers to the .com version of that domain, meaning that all those other TLDs are still out there and available. Now, there are a few things to consider before you rush out and purchase whatever one you can get.

    The first thing to note is that certain TLDs are reserved for specific fields, such as .edu for example which is typically tied to domains in the field of education, particularly colleges and universities.

    Secondly, users trust .com the most. They may see a .org or .net and think it is sketchy. So it’s important to consider how much reputation you will lose if you go with a non .com TLD. That’s not to say they aren’t worth it if you really need to stick with a certain name.

    Lastly, there is no impact on SEO for choosing a different TLD, so if this does appear to be your best option, you won’t have to worry about losing ranking because of your domain’s last three letters.

    Before choosing this option, weigh the risks and benefits of staying on brand versus consumer confidence and see whether it makes more sense or not.

    4. Try to Buy Your Domain

    This can easily be the trickiest and most expensive option on our list. The first thing you’ll want to do is actually look up the domain you’re searching for, starting by actually entering the URL. If it is taken you’ll get one of three things.

    First, if it is taken and being used, you’ll go directly to that site (duh!) and so then your chances of buying the domain are out.

    Second, you may see that the domain is up for sale from a listing page or hosting site. Some sites specialize in selling repossessed or expired domain names.

    Lastly, you may see a blank page with a message that says something like “this page can’t be accessed. If either of the last two happens, you may in fact be able to buy it.

    That’s where the process gets a little tricky. You’ll then need to go about finding out who owns the domain name. There are some registries out there that you can try to search for the owner of the site and the contact information.

    If you are able to track down an email address for the owner, you can contact them directly and try to negotiate the sale of the domain name that way. If that isn’t an option, you may find that the site is held by a hosting service and being leased out or sits unused. In this case, you can contact the hosting service to see about acquiring the name, either through them or through the current owner.

    If all else fails you can pay a domain broker to help you acquire the domain name of your choosing, though this can definitely get pricey, depending on the value of the domain name. If you’re dead set on the domain name you want and are willing to take the steps necessary and pay the cost associated (or finance the purchase of the domain), this is the most legitimate way to acquire an unavailable domain name.

    5. Try Miniscule Changes

    Try Miniscule Changes to Your Domain Name

    We talked a bit about this with one of the others on the list, but this time we’re talking about things like adding characters or abbreviations to make the alternative domain uniquely different, thus a new domain name, but still relatively the same as what you’re seeking.

    The most common character used is the hyphen, so to go back to our boat insurance example, it would be boat-insurance.com. See how that works? A unique domain name, exact same words. The added benefit of this is that it’s still easy for users to understand and you also won’t lose any valuable SEO either.

    You can also try abbreviations or word substitutions, though you’ll need to be mindful of your brand and make sure that you keep it something that can be easily understood.

    6. Try a Different Country’s TLD

    This may not be an ideal solution for everyone, but international brands, large companies, or people who aren’t especially concerned with a standard TLD from the United States can try some of the others. For example, .ca is the TLD for Canada, .jp is for Japan, and of course .co.uk is for the United Kingdom.

    Though .com is the standard in America, the TLDs of other countries are generally well-received and considered safe. This means that you won’t take as much of a hit to your credibility if you choose this option, though you may lose out on a bit of traffic if people think you are based far away.

    This is a great solution if you’re exploring every avenue to keep your new domain name on brand.

    A Few Other Tips

    There are a number of things you can try to get past the hurdle of that unavailable domain name. You could use a domain monitoring tool to watch and see if it comes available and then snatch it up like a last-second bid at an auction site, or you could use a slogan as your website instead of a brand name. If people come to know you by the slogan, then this will lower the confusion for web traffic.

    If everything else fails, it may be time to go back to the drawing board. How can you keep your business goals and ideas intact, but change the name to something that’s available? That might be a tough decision to make, but it may be the right one in the end. Just make sure the domain name you want the second time around is available before you start printing those business cards.

    Final Thoughts

    Well, there we go. Six alternative solutions to when your top level domain name is taken. Remember, if you’re going to acquire an old(er) or aged domain, be sure to check its backlinks. It’s like doing a home inspection before buying.

    Hopefully, one of these works for you to get you out of that tricky spot and on your way to a successful business, hobby, or whatever else it is you’re trying to do.

    Our final tip is to start your journey with keyword research. If you even think a website might be in your future, get the professional help and guidance you need to do things the right way the first time so that you don’t have to waste loads of time and energy rethinking your entire strategy.

    Chief Revenue Officer at SEO Company
    Industry veteran Timothy Carter is SEO.co’s Chief Revenue Officer. Tim leads all revenue for the company and oversees all customer-facing teams for SEO (search engine optimization) services - including sales, marketing & customer success. He has spent more than 20 years in the world of SEO & Digital Marketing, assisting in everything from SEO for lawyers to complex technical SEO for Fortune 500 clients like Wiley, Box.com, Qualtrics and HP.

    Tim holds expertise in building and scaling sales operations, helping companies increase revenue efficiency and drive growth from websites and sales teams.

    When he's not working, Tim enjoys playing a few rounds of disc golf, running, and spending time with his wife and family on the beach...preferably in Hawaii.

    Over the years he's written for publications like Forbes, Entrepreneur, Marketing Land, Search Engine Journal, ReadWrite and other highly respected online publications. Connect with Tim on Linkedin & Twitter.
    Timothy Carter