Starting a new website venture or project can be a lot of fun. First and foremost, you’ll need to think of a domain that you want for your website, but what happens if the perfect domain name is already taken?
Don’t give up on your business name dreams just yet! This comprehensive guide will show you how to buy a domain that’s already taken and the steps you can take to secure your dream domain.
Table of Contents
Don't Get A Different TLD
A TLD (top level domain) refers to the .com, .co.uk, or .net at the end of your domain (there are of course many others to choose from).
If your perfect domain is already taken, you might be thinking of using the same domain with a different TLD. For example, if you want www.mywebsite.com but it’s taken, you could choose www.mywebsite.net – but that’s not the right thing to do.
Why? Because people tend to remember your domain rather than the TLD itself, resulting in your website visitors ending up on the wrong website. This can lose you website traffic and decrease your conversions. And that’s not what we want at all!
Registering existing business names can sometimes land you in trouble. Business owners could argue that you’re trying to steal or infringe on their brand name, even if that’s not your intention. So, it’s best to try and get your hands on the original domain name you’ve been desperately seeking.
How To Buy A Domain That's Taken
Let’s assume the domain you want is already taken. There are several steps to follow in order to get your domain name.
Note: It may not always be possible to get your perfect domain name due to a number of reasons including affordability or it not being up for sale.
1. Check What The Domain Is Being Used For
Firstly, you should visit the domain you want to buy to see what it’s being used for. Desirable domain names are often purchased but not used on a website. Some domain names may have not been used for a number of years. However, if the domain name is in use and the website is regularly updated, the owner probably won’t be interested in selling their domain.
If the domain seems dormant, you may be in with some luck. You can sometimes run into domain names that are parked for buy/sell purposes meaning you can approach the seller with more confidence.
A parked domain name will look something like the above, from GoDaddy. If you see this, you know that a seller may be waiting for the right buyer to come along and make them an offer.
2. Discover Who Owns The Domain
If you know the domain isn’t in use, you can try to find out who owns the domain. The quickest way to obtain this information is by using a WHOIS service like WHOis.net where you can lookup domain names, registration, and availability.
The kind of information you can expect to receive from such services includes:
- When the domain was registered
- Who it was registered by
- Contact details
- When the domain expires
If you’ve ever registered a domain yourself or you’ve got one for free from a web hosting company like HostGator, you may know that you can add privacy protection to your domain.
This means the name of the person who owns the domain won’t appear on a WHOIS search. If this happens when finding your dream domain, you may have trouble contacting the owners.
3. Decide How Much You Want To Pay
If your domain is looking like it’s available to be negotiated, and you know the contact details of the domain owner, it’s time to decide how much you’re willing to pay for it.
There’s no set amount you should or shouldn’t pay for a domain, so it’s really up to you what you want to do. However, you can look at similar prices of domains on a domain marketplace like Flippa, which is very reliable.
- Age: Older domains are often considered more valuable
- Length: A shorter domain will be more valuable than a longer domain as they are easier to remember
- Keywords: Domains with popular keywords will cost more because they will rank higher on search engines like Google
- Generic Value: A generic domain name that could work for multiple businesses and industries is likely to be more expensive
- Branding: Short and memorable names are easier to type and often are easier to build a brand around
Before you approach the domain owner of the domain you want to buy, think about the minimum and maximum amount you are willing to pay for the domain. Creating limits for yourself will be easier for you to accept and make negotiation easier if you are clear on what you want to achieve. Use a tool like Flippa to look at similar domain names, domain lengths, and keywords.
4. Making Contact
Once you’ve completed the above steps, you will be ready to approach the owner of the domain. You can either reach out to them directly using their contact details, or use a domain buying service.
Some popular domain name services include:
If you don’t want to contact the owner directly or can’t, then you can visit a domain buying service. The broker will reach out to the owner and start the negotiation process. This is a great way of keeping things professional but you will have to pay a fee for the service.
Negotiating The Purchase Of A Domain
You can start negotiating the terms of purchase once you’ve made contact with the domain owner. To negotiate, you’ll need to include the price, how the domain will be transferred to you, and any laws that apply to the region of sale.
If you are negotiating the purchase of a domain by contacting the owner directly, you’ll need to consider how to safely transact the purchase money and transfer of the domain. You should avoid wire transfers which can’t be protected and use something like Escrow.
Escrow allows you to transfer funds securely. The seller will see the funds deposited so they are safe in the knowledge you do intend to pay. Once you’ve got the domain, Escrow will release the funds. If you don’t receive the domain, Escrow will not release the funds.
Another option would be to use a domain aftermarket service. GoDaddy provides this service and will ensure all parties are protected during the purchase and transfer of a domain. You will need to pay a fee for this service, but it’s worth doing to ensure everyone feels safe.
Backordering A Domain
If you can’t get the domain you want or can’t make contact with the owner of the domain, you can backorder it.
Backordering a domain means you can wait untilt the ownership of the domain expires and purchase it when it becomes available.
Note: Using a backordering service won’t always guarantee you’ll get your domain. Typically domain registrars offer a grace period where a domain owner can renew their domain after it expires, sometimes up to 75 days.
What To Do With Your Domain
Once you’ve got the domain name you want (even if you have to change your mind on the domain name you originally wanted), it’s time to put it to good use.
The next step is to find the right web hosting company to start hosting your website. Web hosting companies often offer domain names for free for the first year, so if your domain name is available, it’s worth checking out a provider like BlueHost who will throw a domain in for free.
Alternatively, if you can’t afford to hire a web designer or don’t fancy your luck at HTML/CSS, you can use a drag and drop website builder like Wix to build your website in a matter of hours!