Secret hacks smart brands use if their domain name is taken

Obtaining a domain name that ideally suits a business or personal brand is becoming difficult these days, especially when the startup wants to go with one of the coveted TLDs. After a business owner or board of directors set up a business and decide on a brand name, they often find out there’s no way to use that name for the new business website. While that can obviously be a disappointment, it shouldn’t put a hold on the plans to set up an online presence with a brand-able business website.

Internet users keep growing by the million, with thousands of new domains snapped up daily. This makes the chance of securing a desired domain grow thinner by the day.

When businesses are not able to use their preferred brand name as their domain, it may negatively impact the business, particularly if it has a lot to gain through online leads. A redirect could even happen if potential customers search for the brand name and are taken to a competitor’s website of the same name.

But not being able to find a perfect match shouldn’t spell doom for a business. Smart businesses find a way out. They don’t necessarily need to rethink their brand name just because someone else online also has that name. There are ways to get around this situation and still be in business, without using the ideal domain name originally pencilled down.

So, what are the methods creative business owners use when a preferred domain has been taken? They explore any or all of these ideas to stay on track online with their brand.

1. Going the traditional way by buying the domain

Most domains which have already been bought are not always procured for building a website around them; some are purchased and put up for sale. This is called Domain Flipping. It has been a quick way to make money online. It’s something like ‘domain investing.’

So, when an astute brand owner searches on a registrar’s site and find their favourite name’s been taken or is ‘unavailable’, they don’t just simply give up. They go on to enter the ‘taken’ domain name into their web address bar to find out if the registrant is actually using that domain. If the domain is up for sale, it’ll usually have things on the site like landers (suggesting the site is up for sale) or even an error message.

Next, they directly contact the owner of the domain by looking up their ‘whois’ contact information. A registrar can also help to make a bid on the site to find out if the owner is willing to sell.

There’s also the auction route, where domain owners put their domains up for sale to the highest bidder. However, this might be expensive, depending on the kind of parties pursuing said domain.

A much cheaper alternative is going through the backorder route. A backorder involves placing an order for an already taken domain, in order to buy it the moment it becomes available for registration. There is no guarantee with a backorder route, as it is not usually known when the domain will become available (or indeed, if it ever will).

However, startups or businesses on a shoestring budget, with funds that would be better reserved for ventures other than a domain name, often instead like to look over the next options.

  1. Using another TLD

If a desired domain is unavailable, it mostly means the .com TLD has been taken, but other TLDs may be available. Over the years, ICANN has been dispensing numerous TLDs, but some are considered ‘spammy’ by many internet users.

The .com extension has been around for a long time and many users tend to trust sites with this extension more than others. Although other extensions like .net, .org, and have gained prominence down the years, they still (to an extent) live in the shadows of .com.

Internet knowledge has also been growing at a steady rate and web users are now coming to terms with other TLDs, especially novel ones such as .tv, .fm, .io, and .biz domains, amongst others.

Another great alternative is using a country code top-level domain (ccTLD). This will be more appropriate if a business operates solely within one country. Some ccTLDs are already popular and can be easily classed as gTLDs. But absolutely care is required with this, as some ccTLDs are famously used by spammers (like the .cn and .ru extensions), while some are banned in a number of countries.

A point worthy of note is that the selected extension has no effect on a site’s SEO. The only catch is that users tend to favour .com URLs over others.

3. Brand name extensions

The brand name shouldn’t necessarily be the only thing that can represent a business online. When that identical, like-for-like name has been taken, brand owners can get innovative and even make their brand sound more exciting and trustworthy.

For instance, Nissan Motor (as big as they are) couldn’t get their exact brand name for their domain (even via a lawsuit) and had to settle for Tesla made do with until they acquired in 2016 (for a hefty sum).

Alternatives to choosing a different domain include:

  • Adding the business brand focus to the domain name, just like Tesla did.
  • Adding the country of operation to the brand name, like Nissan.
  • Adding a verb before the brand name, especially if the business is trying to spur people into taking action on the site. For example, if the brand sells products called ‘Meatrolls’ and ‘’ is taken, the brand owner can adopt This can prove a great alternative, as it calls for action and can be easily remembered.
  • Using a hyphen to separate words in the domain. This is becoming a popular alternative, as many brands have adopted this. This could be hard for users to memorise, so it would be better used as a last resort.

Using the exact business brand name as the domain name might be the best thing to do, but the internet is already densely populated, so being wiser about things is the only true alternative. Businesses may create another brand name altogether, but what if that’s taken as well? Shrewd brand owners have continued to explore this variety of smart options when choosing a domain name for their business to ensure it remains marketable and suited to their brand – even if it isn’t a perfect match.

Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn’t know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.