Domain Names: What to Do When the Name You Want is Taken


In the second installment of this two-part series, SnapNames tells us what we can do if the domain name we need is already taken.

In Part 1, we discussed what makes a domain name great for your business – from keyword inclusion to geo-targeting to finding something that fits your brand and is easy to remember. It’s like striking gold when you come up with a domain name that includes everything you need. But with hundreds of millions of domain names already registered, there is a strong chance that the domain name you want is already taken. So now what do you do?

Make Minor Changes

The first thing you need to ask yourself is if you can make minor changes to the name and still have it work for you. Can you adjust the geo-target? Can you swap the order of any of the words in the name? Can you use a different extension? Even though most people would prefer the .com extension, it is worth looking into .net or .biz versions of the domain name you want.

Determine if the Name is Active

If you don’t feel comfortable going with a different variation of the name you want, you have options. First, you need to find out what is happening on the domain name in question. Type the domain name you want into your web browser to see if there is an active website and online business. If so, the owner will not likely be open to selling it to you, and you should consider letting go of this one and choosing a new domain name.

If there is no active website, it’s very possible that the owner is just sitting on the name until it expires, or because they know they can make money re-selling it. In these cases, you can use a domain name aftermarket service, like SnapNames, to get more information about the name, and possibly get it as your own.


If you have some time to wait and don’t feel the need to aggressively pursue the particular domain name, placing a backorder would be the best idea. This doesn’t cost anything. It simply means that you would get SnapNames to secure the name for you if the owner did not renew, and let it expire. You will only be charged if you acquire the name. If another person, or several people also placed backorders on this same name and SnapNames acquires it, you then go into a private auction, and the name goes to the highest bidder. It is a good idea to think about the maximum amount you are willing to pay for this name should it go into auction or require you to make an offer to the current owner.

Make an Offer

Chances are, if you went through the process of picking the perfect domain name and discovered that it was taken, you’d rather not wait to see if it gets renewed by the owner, in order to acquire it. You have the option of making an offer to purchase the name outright from whoever owns it. However, contacting the owner of a domain name on your own can prove to be tricky, or lead to a dead end. Even though you can often look up the domain owner’s information on WhoIs, the information may be outdated or could be masked through a private registration service. Additionally, a domain name owner may not take a random email from a stranger seriously, or may never see it due to their own spam filters in their email. It’s best to use a professional domain name broker to navigate through the contact process and see what the asking price is for the domain name.

Know Your Limit

If you find yourself in the position of having to buy a domain name from its current owner, you need to think about what it is worth to you. Domain names that someone already owns can cost a bit of money, and only you know what you can and cannot spend on a domain name. Set your limit and stick with it. Keep in mind that there are tools out there to help you determine the value of a currently registered domain name, and they take several different factors into consideration. In this regard, it can be most helpful to have a domain name broker on your side who can help negotiate a fair price on your behalf, based on fair market value.

So, even if you find yourself in the frustrating position of thinking up the perfect domain name for your business, and finding that someone already owns it, there are options to consider and steps you can take to help make that domain name yours! You can find more information about getting a domain name on

Author information


Trish Leighton

Trish Leighton is the Marketing Manager for SnapNames, a company. She lives in Jacksonville, FL, with her husband and their three cats. In her free time, she enjoys reading, making jewelry, and shouting out the answers during Jeopardy.