What do you do when the domain name or suffix you want is not available?

Finding the perfect domain name to represent your business can be harder than you think. A frustrating problem for many new businesses and startups, the domain-name competition is only getting more intense.

According to Netcraft, there are currently 850 million active websites on the Internet. With that kind of volume, it’s no wonder domain name competition has become the aggressive duel it is today.

Luckily, if you find yourself in this situation (and you will) there are some alternative routes you can take.

Get creative. Make sure you’ve exhausted all your options.

Before you go through the headache of legal action, you may want to evaluate whether another gTLD (generic top-level domain) would work. The core group of gTLD’s is comprised of the com, info, net, and org domains. As well as the restricted gTLD’s, which includes, biz, name, and pro domains.

If .info works for you, your problems are solved! But let’s be serious, nothing sounds better than a .com domain. Generally speaking, a .com domain is what a searcher types in first, it’s easy to remember and eliminates the guessing game.

Alternatively, if you determine that a different gTLD just doesn’t cut it for you, you might be better off making a change to the domain name. At this point, its time to get creative. Start writing down as many variations of your brand’s name as you can think of. If you have to, add in hyphens or abbreviations.

Using my company’s website as an example, instead of tmprod.com, I could go with something like:

  • trademarkproductions.com
  • tmproductions.com
  • thetmprod.com
  • tmprodoffice.com
  • tmprodagency.com
  • tmdigitalagency.com

See the idea? Once you’ve found a domain name that you’re satisfied with, it’s imperative that you do your research. A conflict could arise if your new domain name starts stealing organic traffic from another site using a different extension. Make sure to purchase both .com and .net, if possible, to avoid any future problems.

Some more general tips:

  • Use .org when you are a non-profit or a foundation
  • If .com is unavailable, .net is your next best option
  • If you are country-specific, there are many country domain extensions that could work
  • If you’ve exhausted all of the above, try looking at the 350+ domain name extensions to see if you can come up with something clever that’s branded and memorable. An example could be honey.be, homebrew.beer or ITA.ly

Investigating & Suiting Up (With Lawyers)

If you’ve exhausted all your options and your creative domain brainstorm left you empty-handed, this is your next best option. Do some investigating and try to determine who owns the domain name you want. This can be a tricky process, but a good place to start is with WHOIS, a utility used to find information on the registered domain name owner.

Unfortunately, many times you’ll run into people who are “cyber squatting” on various domain names in hopes to make some quick cash. And unless there is a trademark issue involved, there’s not a whole lot you can do about it, aside from dishing out the cash.

If your business is trademarked then you’ve got some options. ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) oversees global domain registration and globally has rules and standards for registrars to follow. All registrars must follow the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (often referred to as the “UDRP”). Under this policy, most types of trademark-based domain-name disputes must be resolved by agreement, court action, or arbitration before a registrar will cancel, suspend, or transfer a domain name. Disputes alleged to arise from abusive registrations of domain names (for example, cybersquatting) might be addressed by expedited administrative proceedings that the holder of trademark rights initiates by filing a complaint with an approved dispute-resolution service provider.

Be sure to read up on the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy  to learn more about the guidelines that must be followed by all registrars.

To invoke the policy, a trademark owner should either (a) file a complaint in a court of proper jurisdiction against the domain-name holder or (b) in cases of abusive registration, submit a complaint to an approved dispute-resolution service provider.

Going Aftermarket with a Broker

A domain broker serves as the intermediary in the purchase or sale of a domain name. However, as you can imagine, there are pros and cons to this option.

Pros of a Broker

  • They have the experience and resources to handle this transaction in a professional manner. They know the market, process and territory well.
  • They do the negotiation
  • More realistic pricing based on a number of established factors
  • For a fee, usually to the seller but can be negotiated. The process canbe very smooth and worthwhile
  • They hold the liability in the event the seller bugs out
  • Broker’s protect your identity which can help with a level playing field for valuation

Cons of a Broker

  • Being the seller you are usually going to give 15-30% of the sale price and incur transaction fees
  • Exclusivity
  • Attention: If your target domain is not as valuable as others it could have little attention; sometimes all you get is exposure to their client list via a listing in an email blast
  • Regulation: There does not seem to be any in this industry aside from company specific morals and processes

Wait for domain name to expire

If you’ve exhausted all the options you possibly can, the only thing left to do is wait. But even this can be a bit tricky, as registrars are generally made aware of the expiration date. But if you have the time and patience to wait it out, it might end up working to your advantage. There are various services available to you at reasonable prices, if this is the route you decide to take.  Most services include daily monitoring of the domain as well.

As you can see, finding the perfect domain name can sometimes be a hassle. But the difference between a good domain and a bad domain can make all the difference in the world when it comes to the amount of traffic to your site. My advice is to spend the time and effort to acquire a domain name that is most representative of your business. It will pay off in the long run.

The above article was written by CEO Dwight Zahringer, and published by Search Engine Journal.

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