Domain name registration is big business today. Like Internet economists with a strong stomach for high risk, certain individuals and companies register whole banks of domain names they predict may appreciate in value in the future. As a case in point, the domain name Pizza.com was registered by just such a company. A few years ago it sold for $2.6 million!
So what does this mean for you when you are trying to choose the perfect domain name to launch yourself online? In this article, find out what you need to do to get the domain name you really want by looking at a handful of different scenarios.
How to Search Available Domain Names
If this is your first time registering a domain name, you may be wondering how you find out whether the name you want is available. The first thing to know is that there are two components to every domain name, the name itself (what comes before the “.”) and the extension (i.e. what comes after the “.”, such as com, net or org).
So when you search for an available domain name, you will be searching to see if your desired name AND your desired extension are both available, together as a single URL.
Here is how to search:
- First, navigate in your browser to www.domain.com.
- Next, navigate to where you see the red SEARCH arrow (top of screen, left side).
- Type in your desired name and hit “enter.” A screen will pop up to show you if the name is available at all, and if so, in combination with which extensions.
- Continue until you find a combination of name plus extension that works for you and is available.
Scenario #1: Your desired domain name AND extension is available.
In this first, best-of-all-worlds scenarios, you want a domain name and extension (such as ILovePizza.com) and every element is available (i.e. not currently lapsed pending renewal or registered by another owner).
So here, this is what you need to do to claim the domain name and extension for yourself:
- First, choose your registrar. You can register with Domain.com or with your hosting provider. (HINT: Check to see if your hosting provider offers any free domain name registrations with your service!).
- Next, choose your length of time. You can register in increments beginning at 1 year. You can also set up auto renewal alerts so you never risk losing your domain name.
- Finally, pay for your domain name(s). Here, you will see a number of options, including “domain privacy.” This option masks your identity so another interested party must contact your registrar rather than you if they want to buy your domain. This isn’t necessary but can be nice.
- Register all the relevant extensions. It is best to register the major extensions (at least .com and .net at a minimum) for your new domain name to avoid trouble with rival traffic later.
Scenario #2: Your desired domain name is available, but your desired extension is not available.
In this scenario, your name is available but you can’t get the extension you want. This may or may not be highly relevant to your business. Typically, if you are registering a domain name for a nonprofit, using the extension “.org” is important to convey the right first impression.
If you are not a charity and .com is not available, .net, .info or .biz are your next best bets depending on what you do and what kind of impression you want to make.
One way around this is to consider an alternate domain name that includes keywords instead of your exact name or business name, or you could add a hyphen in between your company name words to see if that frees up a .com extension.
Once you have found a combination you like, follow the instructions in Scenario #1 to get domain name ownership in your name.
Scenario #3: Your desired domain name is not available.
In this scenario, either a legitimate business is using the domain name you want, or an enterprising investor has bought your domain name along with a bank of others and is holding it to see if you will make them an attractive offer.
In this scenario, here is what you need to do to see if you can purchase the domain name from the current owner:
- First, find out who the current registrar is. You can use www.WhoIs.com to find out who is holding the domain name (or at least who their registrar is).
- Next, contact the owner or registrar. Your goal is to inquire about buying the domain name. If they are interested in selling, you can ask for the price and/or make your own offer. You may need to haggle so be prepared.
- Wait for their response. Unfortunately, in most cases (save those of trademark or copyright infringement) it is up to the current owner if they want to sell the domain and, if so, at what price. You may get a yes or a no.
Scenario #4: Your desired domain name has lapsed.
If you get a no or the price is too high, there is one more potential scenario to consider. You can wait and watch the domain name and see if it expires and try to buy it then. Just be aware this can be a lengthy process.
To date, the process of buying a domain name from another owner, even if that other owner is not currently using it for anything, is still somewhat convoluted. So if the domain name plus extension combination you want is currently under someone else’s ownership, you will have to be patient and persistent to have a chance of claiming it at a future date. In the meantime, it can be wise to choose another combination so you can launch your site.