What happens when all domains are taken? Often, as part of the creation of a company’s new brand identity, the branding agency will work on establishing a new brand name. This may involve the brand strategists drawing out the company (or product) values through workshops, competitor analysis, market research, etc, with the goal being to establish a branding proposition that will help define the characteristics and personality of the company. And this in turn, helps filter the options when selecting a relevant brand name.
These days, more often than not, the brand name goes hand in hand with the domain name. Naturally, most companies prefer their domain name to complement the brand name. But, what happens when when all domains are taken?
Did you know, there are close to 650 million registered domain names in the world database? And, of these, almost two-fifths are .com domains which is the world’s most dominant domain extension. Understandably, the number of registered domain names has been growing at a steady pace year on year but interestingly, during the Covid-19 years, the number of registrations significantly bucked the trend. At that time, as global lockdowns forced offices to shut and saw consumers spending more time online, many new websites were launched to capitalise on the increase in internet traffic. And this led to a huge spike in registrations. From Dec 31, 2019 to Dec 31, 2020, there was a 21% increase in registered domain names. But when we compare Dec 31, 2020 to Dec 31, 2021, there was a massive 117% increase. Yet, even in post-pandemic years, the appetite for domain names does not show any signs of slowing down.
Are we running out of domain names? So, where does that leave us? If so many domain names are currently taken, then what is left? The answer may surprise you..
Interestingly, whilst your preferred domain name may not be available (we’ll come to that), there are actually still unlimited domain name possibilities out there. Let me explain… Imagine a 10-letter domain name. There are over 3.5 million different ways these letters could be presented. And therefore 3.5 million potential .com domains. Add one extra letter and the combinations reach 40million. Add one more and we are up to almost 500million. Of course, we are not suggesting that you actually want www.abcdefghijkl.com as your domain name but IT IS still possible to have it. Or combinations thereof. The fact is that the longer the domain name, the more chance it will be available for you to register as your own.
Of course, most businesses want a domain name that is memorable. And this often means the domain name is made up out of real words that match the business name. So, lets consider a real-life scenario where the company name has already been selected. And, for arguments sake, lets assume the company is a dog grooming business going to be called ‘Canine Cuts’. And, you really want www.caninecuts.com to be your company’s domain name.
The first step is to check its availability and this can be done by visiting a domain registrar such as ionos or GoDaddy Here, you can find out the status of your chosen domain name and, if it is available, how much it will cost to register. However, with this scenario, you will be faced with the following message:
You desired domain name is not available. Someone has got there before you and has registered it for themselves. So, what do you do??? The following provides ten option available to you.
Option 1: Try to buy it! Surprisingly, most people don’t consider this as an option. But it should always be the first consideration – especially if you really want it. The fact is many domain names have been registered but are just not being used. So reach out to the registered owner and see whether they would be willing to sell it to you and, if so, how much. But beware, it will always be a sellers’s market. You can find details regarding the domain name’s owner by using Whois.com’s lookup feature. Or, companies like ionos may have a domain name broker who, for a fee, will work on your behalf to reach out to the owner and try to secure a sale.
Option 2: Select other top-level domain extensions If you really wanted the name but a .com domain extension is not highest priority, then, it is worth seeing what other credible top-level domain (TLD) extensions may be available. And, we guarantee there are more options than you’d think – currently over 1600. There are the more common options such as, .info / .net / .org / .site / .online / .me , etc but also more interesting ones such as .dog / .pet / .love To see a full list of extensions, click here.
Option 3: Select your country code extensions Of course, the .com extension is a global standard – and especially prestigious in the United States – so its understandable why a company would want this domain extension. However, individual countries have their own country code extensions – known as ccTLDs and are just as trustworthy – even more so if the company trades only within that country. In the UK, we use .co.uk as the extension and so, if the .com domain is taken, consider the ccTLD instead.
Option 4: Simply add a hyphen If you just have to have a specific extension but it is unavailable then the solution may be as simple as adding in a hyphen (it is actually the minus symbol) to the prefix of the domain name. For example, instead of www.caninecuts.com, you could select www.canine-cuts.com
Option 5: Expand the domain length As mentioned earlier, lengthening your domain name with more letters, words or numbers can allow you to retain the integrity of your name yet making the domain less likely to have been taken by someone else. This could be achieved by adding additional letters words or numbers to your domain. For example: www.caninecutsltd.com / www.caninecuts19.com / www.caninecutslondon.com / www.thecaninecuts.com
Option 6: Change the spelling Whilst your company name may be spelt a certain way, your domain name doesn’t have to be. For example, you may want to consider alternate spellings – especially if they sound the same and therefore can retain the relevancy. For example: www.K9cuts.com / www.Kninecuts.com / www.kaninekutz.com
Option 7: Introduce a ‘domain hack A domain hack is a clever way of creating a domain name by using the domain extension creatively to form a word or phrase. For example, using the domain extension .ly to create the domain name “love.ly”. This list will show you all the possible extensions and you will see that there is a .tz domain extension. This is the country code for Tanzania. And so, in theory (and if your business was in Tanzania) you could have www.caninecu.tz And whilst, it may be a clever way to secure the domain name, this can be confusing to the customer if the name is not too obvious.
Option 8: Swap the words If you have several words in the unavailable domain, then you may want to consider swapping them around. So, for example, instead of having www.londontoolexchange.com try searching for the domain www.toolexchangelondon.com.
Option 9: Use a phrase When the company’s brand name is just not available as a domain name, there many be other brand words that can be utilised instead. For example, the company may have a phrase, saying or strapline that will / has become synonymous with the business. And so, using this brand slogan as a domain name may work equally as well. For example www.dothedog.com / www.loveyourdogs.com.
Option 10: Rename the company It wouldn’t be right to provide this list without including this option. If is still time to intervene before too much time & resources have been invested in the brand naming, then changing the company name to complement the available domain name may be a consideration. In this example, Canine Cutz or K9 Kutz may be a preferable company name. But, at the same time, there may be a compelling argument for a complete name change so as to secure the perfect domain name. And so, whilst the plan was for the business to be named ‘Canine Cuts’, the solution may need to be a complete U-turn and the name being something totally different. For example, in the hypothetical case of Canine Cuts, the business ended up being called DoGroom with www.dogroom.com being the registered domain.
In summary, we need to be strategic when selecting a domain name as part of a (re)branding exercise. The challenge is not so much ‘what happens when all domains are taken?’ but rather ‘what options are there when your preferred domain is taken?’. Let’s be honest, it is likely that your preferred domain name may already be taken, especially if you want a short, well-known word. But, if you still want a similar name then we hope the many options mentioned above will be of some assistance.
And now, for the legal bit. Please note that even if you do manage to register a similar domain name (to one already registered), please be careful that you are not infringing on any copyright. If an established company or brand is in the same business sector, same location and has already trademarked their name, this may limit your options. Please speak to your branding agency or a trademark attorney for assistance with this matter.
DID YOU KNOW??– DOMAIN NAME FACTS & FIGURES
1 THE FIRST DOMAIN NAME TO BE REGISTERED WAS www.symbolics.com. THIS WAS DONE ON MARCH 15, 1985. INTERESTINGLY IS WASN’T THE FIRST DOMAIN NAME TO BE CREATED, WHICH WAS nordu.net
2 THE SECOND MOST COMMON DOMAIN NAME EXTENSION IS .tk – THE COUNTRY CODE FOR TOKELAU, A SMALL TERRITORY OF NEW ZEALAND
3 ALL THREE LETTER DOMAIN NAMES HAVE BEEN TAKEN. AND HAVE BEEN SINCE 1997
3.8 WHEN THE DOMAIN EXTENSION IS NOT KNOWN, PEOPLE ARE 3.8 TIMES MORE LIKELY TO ASSUME IT IS .com
6.2 THE AVERAGE LENGTH OF A DOMAIN NAME AMONG THE TOP 500 WEBSITES
11 IN 2016, ELON MUSK PAID $11 MILLION FOR www.tesla.com
12 IN 1995, www.google.com WAS ACCIDENTALLY SOLD FOR $12. THEY BOUGHT IT BACK FOR JUST $12000
12.5 THE AVERAGE LENGTH OF A DOMAIN NAME IS BETWEEN 12 AND 13 LETTERS
19 THE 19TH LETTER IN THE ENGLISH ALPHABET – S – IS THE MOST FREQUENT STARTING LETTER FOR ALL DOMAINS
30 THE HIGHEST PRICE EVER PAID FOR A DOMAIN NAME WAS $30 MILLION – FOR www.voice.com
33 THERE ARE, ON AVERAGE, 33,000 NEW DOMAIN NAME REGISTRATIONS EVERY DAY. THAT’S ONE EVERY 2.61 SECONDS!
37 WITH 37.1% OF GLOBAL SHARE, THE MOST POPULAR DOMAIN EXTENSION IS .com
40 COUNTRY EXTENSIONS (.co.uk, .fr, .de, etc) AMOUNT TO 40% OF ALL DOMAINS
43 43% OF ALL DOMAINS HAVE GENERIC EXTENSIONS (.com, .net, .org, .gov, etc)