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What to do when the domain name you want is not available

Having a custom domain is very important for your business and your online brand. It helps to improve your website’s credibility your search engine rank.

Choosing a domain name or URL for your website can be a very simple task. A lot of times your first choice may be already taken. That’s no reason to close shop or think of a new idea. It happens to everyone. There are, after all, over 700 million websites in the world – and counting.

Still, there are ways you can still have the domain of your dreams, unless you expect to have something like nike.com, then… well, good luck.

1.  Try an alternative extension
As of 2012, there are over 103 million .COM domains registered. It is by far the most popular domain extension. This means, that quite often the .COM domain you’re after may not be available. There are other generic top-level domains (gTLDs) on offer besides .COM. For instance, .NET, .INFO and .BIZ are all other extensions you could consider. Another great alternative is .ORG for organizations and .EDU is an option for educational institutions.

Or if you’re not married to the “M” you can go with .CO, which started life as a country code domain for Columbia and is now treated the same way by Google as other gTLDs. Some high profile names, such as Vine and Walmart (www.goodies.co), are opting for .CO domains.

Plus ICANN, the Internet’s governing body, approved a registry agreement to offer more than 1000 new gTLDs, such as .MUSIC, .APP, .SHOES and brand specific domains like .NIKE. As a result, there will soon be even greater choice of domain extensions to accommodate the rapidly growing number of websites in the world.

In any case, you don’t always need a .COM to have a visible online business.

Domain names and internet concept
2.  Get patriotic
If you’re searching for a gTLD domain like a .COM but are a company based only in a specific country, why not search for a country code top-level domain (ccTLD) instead. Examples of ccTLDs include, .FR for France, .CA for Canada or .CO.UK for United Kingdom.

A major benefit of choosing a ccTLD is that Google tends to rank websites with the ccTLD higher than those websites with a gTLD when a user searches in that country. For example, a user in Canada searches on Google.ca for “flowers for delivery,” the search results presented are likely to give preference to .CA domains rather than .COM domains or other gTLDs. Therefore, if your new website is a budding local business, then it’ll probably be better for your local site visitors and customers to not have a generic domain extension.

Not only do ccTLDs have SEO advantages, they may also enhance your website credibility and raise customer confidence. In a recent report from the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA), 89% of online Canadians believe it is important for Canadians to have a .CA domain, and 75 % of them prefer to support Canadian businesses whenever possible.

This is consistent with other ccTLD surveys, a report by Nominet showed that when buying products or services online, 8 out of 10 British Internet users prefer to use a .uk website over a .com.

3.  Add a keyword
If your business name is not available as a custom domain, why not add a keyword that explains what your business does?

For example, you run a home decorating company called “Inside Outside” but www.insideoutside.com is already taken by another company, you could add the keyword “decorator” to your domain to make it www.insideoutsidedecorator.com. Not only will you get a domain with your company name in it, but it also contains an industry specific keyword that will help your search ranking for that term.

Although there are many benefits of a keyword rich domain name, be careful not to pack your domain full of keywords. First, your domain will become too long; and second, Google is likely to penalize your website for keyword stuffing.

If you’re a local business, another alternative would be to add your location in your domain. This will help your search ranking for that geographic location. For example, the hairdressing salon The Short Cut is based in Watford, UK so has the domain http://www.theshortcutwatford.co.uk/.

keywords

4.  Abbreviate
Making slight changes or abbreviating your domain name may help you find a domain that’s available without changing the URL completely. For example, if your business name starts with “The” try searching for a domain name without “The” or vice versa.

If you’re a company based in a location, try using an abbreviated form of that location (“SF” instead of “San Francisco”). If your business name contains numbers (“Three Crowns”), you could also use a number in your domain (3crowns.com). Shortening your domain by using abbreviations will also make it easier for your customers to type and search.

5. Make an offer
Lastly, if you still can not find a suitable alternative for the domain you want, you can always approach the current owner of the domain and make an offer to them for it. Using a lookup tool such as Domain Tools, you can find the currently owner and contact them to see if it is for sale. (Here’s Nike, if you want to give it a shot.)

When you get it. Keep it.
Once you have found the domain that’s right for you, be sure to register it for multiple years and also make sure it is set to auto renew. This way you don’t run the risk of losing it. And if you don’t want poachers to email you for it, there’s always private registration. We offer this and a custom domain free for a year with a yearly subscription. And, of course, we’re always here to help. There are plenty of places you can register your domain name; Yola is just one.