What if my domain name has already been taken?

In an ideal world, every new business would be able to choose a perfect domain name. The chosen domain would be concise and relevant to both the company and its industry, finished with a choice top level domain ‐ .uk for a proudly British brand, .house for an estate agent, and so on.

Unfortunately, this is not an ideal world. And with an estimated 1.75 billion websites already in existence, there’s every chance your preferred domain name is taken and already in use. That might not be a surprise if you’re launching a company with a generic title like Astra or Belmont, but it’ll still be annoying. Anyone assuming your company’s domain name will be its name with a co.uk or .com suffix will find themselves on a completely unrelated website. Once there, they’re unlikely to continue trying to find your actual domain. A prospective customer has been lost, possibly forever.

Happily, there are things you can do if your preferred domain name is taken. We outline the key steps to consider below, using the fictional example of a garage in Cumbria specialising in old Saabs.

A walk in the park

There’s a chance your domain name has been registered but not used. An astonishing 100 per cent of some generic top level domains (gTLDs) are parked, featuring links to unrelated websites or simply gathering dust. The owner may be willing to sell this unwanted domain, and sometimes they’ll advertise a price on the homepage. You could even approach a broker to negotiate a sale, though their fees can be considerable and there’s no guarantee of success.

Speak and spell

If your business’s name is already associated with another website, you could consider an abbreviation, or change the order of the words. If classicsaabcumbria has already been registered, you could check the availability of alternatives like classicsaabs, cumbriaclassicsaab or saabsofcumbria. These still convey the essence of your business, and it’s unlikely competitors would have registered them all.

Top of the pops

There are over 1,500 generic top level domains in existence. Some firms register the .com version of their .uk address with an automatic redirect from the former to the latter, but no company has purchased every possible gTLD for their brand name. Although it’s not particularly professional, if your ideal domain is in use, you could register the same domain name with a totally different gTLD. Our fictional mechanic could pick from .auto, .car or .repair, among many others.

Waiting for changes

If your preferred domain name is taken, your final option is simply to wait. Domain names are generally reserved on rolling one‐year contracts, but they often come back onto the open market when their owner’s circumstances change. This can happen for a variety of reasons, from rebranding to retirement. Patience may enable you to acquire the domain of your dreams, even if you have to use an alternative domain name in the meantime…