What are your options when you can’t buy your ideal domain name?

Just because someone else owns a domain you really, really want doesn’t mean you’ve hit a dead end. There are still a few moves you can try…

Define “can’t get”…

First of all, are you certain you can’t get your ideal domain name? Do you mean the domain can’t be registered? If so, that doesn’t mean the domain is not available. This simply means someone else has already registered it. The current owner may have even listed the domain for sale on Flippa or other domain marketplaces. And if the domain’s not listed for sale, you still have the option of approaching the current owner and trying to convince them to part with it. I’ve covered how to go about acquiring a domain name that is owned by someone else in another Flippa blog post, so consider that prerequisite research!

Time to play the waiting game?

Assuming that there’s no way for you to buy the domain you want from its current owner, what are your options now? If you’re not in a rush then the best thing to do is play the waiting game. What I mean by this is that you can wait and see if the current owner does not renew the domain name. Domain names are registered in periods of one-year increments, and if the current owner of the domain does not renew his or her domain at the end of its registration period, that domain will expire and could eventually be acquired by you.

The simplest way to go about this is to start by checking the expiration date of the domain. You’d do this via a whois lookup of the domain. Here’s a simple whois tool you can use for that: http://whois.icann.org/en

An expiration date will be displayed. With most domain names, the current owner will have about 25-30 days after that date to renew the domain name. After 25 days (or so) the domain may flow to an expired domain name auction (such as NameJet, SnapNames, or GoDaddy Auctions) and/or the domain will eventually ‘drop’ and be released for re-registration. In practice, however, most of the good domains never ‘drop’ so the smart play is to not count on that ever happening. Instead, if the domain that you want does expire, your best bet is to check the various expired domain name auctions to see if the domain shows up there and/or place a backorder on the domain at several of the domain ‘dropcatching’ service providers (such as DropCatch, and also offered by NameJet, SnapNames, and GoDaddy). Since most of the ‘dropcatchers’ only charge you a fee if they are successful in grabbing the domain for you, you’ve got nothing to lose by placing backorders at multiple providers. In fact, this will increase your odds of getting the domain name. Just be prepared that if several other people are also pursuing the same domain name you may end up needing to participate in an online auction for the domain.

Try switching things up.

If playing the waiting game is not your thing, isn’t possible, or you simply don’t have time, then you should explore the options to switch things up with your domain. There are three different ‘switching it up’ routes I suggest you consider when your ideal domain name is not available:

  1. Try to obtain your ideal name in a different legacy gTLD. For instance, if you were hoping to get a .com domain but cannot, you could try switching to the .net, .biz, or .org version. If you’re launching a startup or tech-oriented company, you could consider getting the .co or .io version, both of which are popular with the startup crowd. And if the new thing you need your domain for is focused on a specific geographical audience, you could go with the relevant country code TLD (ccTLD) such as .ca for Canada, .de for Germany, or .au for Australia.
  2. Get creative and obtain your name in one of the hundreds of new TLDs that have emerged since 2014. If your new thing is community-oriented, perhaps a .club domain would do the trick? If it’s a science related Website, .science might be an ideal choice. Launching something to do with photography? Take a look at .photography. With hundreds of new TLDs available, and more launching every month, you may be able to find a new TLD that is a good match for you and your name. In some cases, the end result could be a shorter domain name. For example, if you had hoped to get TorontoPhotography.com but are unable to, you might be able to get Toronto.Photography, which is 3 letters shorter than the .com version. Please keep in mind that it’s going to take a while for the general public to get used to all these new domain extensions, and you’re going to have to market harder to get your target audience to navigate to your ‘non-com’ domain name.
  3. Try adding a short prefix or suffix to your dream name. This is a great solution if you’re dead set on sticking with a .com domain. Verbs are quite popular as prefixes, and you could try things like getNAME.com, goNAME.com, and tryNAME.com. For suffixes you can experiment with descriptors and try things like NAMEweb.com, NAMEsite.com, and NAMEonline.com. Spend some time exploring which two and three-character words might make a suitable prefix or suffix to your name. This might turn out to be the simplest solution for you, especially if you are on a shoestring budget. While adding a prefix or suffix to your name is a compromise solution (compared to getting the exact match .com domain), lots of companies do so and consumers are used to seeing this.

Don’t try this at home.

There are some other options you could try – at least in theory – however none of these I recommend. I am going to mention them as a courtesy, but I believe they will cause you more trouble than they are worth and should only be considered as a last resort: You can incorporate a dash in multi-word names, e.g., go with Toronto-Photography.com. And you can also get ‘creative’ with spelling and/or drop vowels from words, but be prepared to forever be having to spell your confusing domain out to people. I’d avoid these last options if you can.

The nuclear option?

I suppose there is one other option, although it’s rather drastic, and that would be to give up on your dream name and switch names altogether. I’ve certainly seen a few people resort to this out of sheer frustration, and it’s understandable that this can happen sometime. By starting with a clean slate, however, you may open the door to many more creative and domain name options.

Good luck on whatever path you take.


  • How about registering the trademark, would that then allow you to claim the domain name?

    • Great question, Neil. The short and general answer is “no”. In most situations, your trademark registration would need to pre-date the registration of the domain name in order for you to have a legitimate (and successful) legal claim on the domain name. Even then it would not be a slam dunk. I would recommend you speak with a lawyer experienced with domain name laws and the UDRP / URS process to get an official legal opinion on your specific domain name situation. Thanks for being the first to comment.