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Website Woes: What to Do When Your Domain Name Isn't Available

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I bite my lip nervously as I pull up the domain name search engine and type in my query. I’ve come up with the perfect name for my project, but it hinges on that domain name being available. If it isn’t, I have to go back to the drawing board.

Buying domain names is now a vital part of doing business. You’re going to have to do it several times throughout the course of your business life. Most of the time it’s pretty easy - you type in your business name, and then click “buy” - but sometimes, it’s not as easy as that.

People snap up domain names for all sorts of reasons, sometimes never using them at all. And with the internet being more popular and more essential than ever, it. Internet Live Stats estimates there are around 945,977,599 websites live right now - and that’s not even counting the number of domain names purchased that have nothing on them. It’s more likely than ever that the name you want is taken.

So what do you do? Here are a few tips to walk you through the process of choosing a domain name that fits with your business needs:

Help! Someone Took My Domain Name!

The most obvious option is to choose a different business name. Personally, when I start a new project, the first place I head is a domain name search - if the project isn’t available, then I will go back to the drawing board on a name until I come up with something that’s going to work. But what if you already have an established business, or you’re need a domain to be your personal name?

First, look at the page that’s on the domain - is an actual business using the name? Or is it someone who has just purchased the domain and parked an ad on there? If so, you could always contact that person and enquire if they’re interested in selling it. It may cost you more than you originally budgeted, but it might be worth it for the perfect name.

Next, you can try some alternatives. Add an extra word or two to your business name. You could add a word that describes your industry - lawyers or engineering - or find another way to describe who you are. For example, When graphic designer Shauna Haider started her design agency Branch, all iterations of that domain were taken. Instead of being defeated, she decided on www.wearebranch.com.

As another example, my friend Andy and I started a little business selling funky socks online. We came up with the perfect name - Asockalypse - but the .com domain was already taken by an independent film company. We decided the name was too good to abandon, so we added “the” on front - you’ll now find us at www.theasockalypse.com.

Likewise, if your business name is quite long, it might be better to shorten it for your URL. For example, David Jessop Chartered Accountants shortened their name to DJCA for their URL: www.djca.co.nz - much easier to remember!

Do I have to have .com? The .net is available!

If someone owns your .com, it’s not the best idea to simply grab the .co.uk, .net or co.nz and just use that. Why not? Well, many people will not remember your domain name - simply the name of your business - and they’ll type this into their browser with .com at the end and will think they got it wrong when a completely different company shows up. Your search results will be corrupted by this other company, who will likely rank higher as they own the .com. It’s better to choose a new business name or an alternative domain name and get the .com, in my opinion.

Should you own the minor domain names for your business? I think so, if possible - there are two reasons for this:

  1. It prevents other people (competitors, well-meaning bloggers or malicious trolls) from buying up these names and causing all manner of damage to your brand.

  2. You don’t have to create new websites - you can simply point those domains to your main websites - so when someone types in yourbusiness.co.nz, they’ll be directed to yourbusiness.com. I use this technique all the time when I do local promotions for international companies.

What to consider when choosing a domain name

Here are a few simple do’s and don’ts:

  • It should be easy to remember - don’t add numbers or other complicated sequences. Keep it short, snappy and memorable.
  • Avoid phonetic issues - Your URL should be easy to understand when talked about aloud. Problogger gives an excellent example in this article on domain names: razinghomes.com and raisinghomes.com both sound identical, but have very different meanings.
  • Don’t choose anything that can be misinterpreted. Another example from the Problogger article was the Teachers Talking website - their URL suggests something very different: www.teacherstalking.com.
  • Make sure your URL doesn’t violate a trademark or copyright. Do your due diligence before you purchase!
  • Find more great tips for choosing a domain name on First Site Guide.

Phew! I bet you didn’t realise there was so much to think about when you chose your domain name. But don’t worry - a little forward planning now to secure the right domain name will save you mountains of pain later on.

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