Blog Post

What to Do When the Dot-Com You Want Isn't Available

dot-comAs web workers, you’ve probably had to purchase domain names, or been asked to get them by clients. Most people prefer a name ending in .com, since that’s the “top-level domain,” or TLD, that everybody knows. But that also means it can be hard to get the name you want.

From a couple of years ago on WWD: “You must get the dot-com: It doesn’t matter how great the name is, if you can’t get, it’s not worth having. People will look for you at the dot-com even if you’re registered at one of the other top-level domains, no matter how often you emphasize the difference.” And from last year: “For most web workers .com is still the place to be. That’s because no matter how Internet-savvy you are, it’s fairly likely that your customers still hear ‘Internet’ and think ‘dot-com.’ If you want to be found, put your site where the clicks will go.”

So, what do you do if you (or your clients) find that the dot-com domain you want isn’t available? Here are a few suggestions.

  • Pick a different name, especially if the organization is new. But try and keep it as short as possible. Just because domain names can be 63 characters long doesn’t mean that something that long should be used! “” says it all.
  • Add dashes or numbers. Domain names can include letters, numbers and dashes. But be careful. As Mike said in the post I linked to above, “[I]f your…name is not easily and unambiguously spelled over the phone, you’ll regret it.” I agree. As a former radio person, I always cringe when I hear some poor announcer having to spell a domain name on the air.
  • Consider buying the name from the current owner if they aren’t using it. Sites like DN Journal have lists of recent domain sales, so you can get an idea of what the name you want might be worth.
  • Incorporate the city or region you serve into the domain name.

Sometimes, none of the above options will work. I think that you can take the “get a dot-com at all costs” mentality too far, so you may want to consider alternatives to .com. Some TLDs are relatively well-known, like:

  • .net Originally intended to be for Internet service providers and other parts of the Net’s infrastructure, but it’s now unrestricted, open to anyone, and more or less synonymous with .com.
  • .org While most people think of .org as being for nonprofit entities, it is actually unrestricted.
  • .biz Limited to “bona fide business or commercial use,” but widely available.
  • .info Open to anyone.
  • Country-based TLDs, like .us, .ca or .uk, depending on where you’re located. Europeans may also register .eu names, and Asians may register .asia names.

Some TLDs, while nominally country-based, allow anyone to register a name. Many can be registered through a number of different companies. Search for “registrar” plus the appropriate TLD to find where to buy them.

  • .bz (not to be confused with .biz, mentioned earlier)
  • .cc
  • .fm
  • .gd
  • .gs
  • .im
  • .io
  • .me
  • .mp The folks at are giving these names away as part of their service, which I mentioned, and Darrell reviewed, a while back. If you don’t want to use the service, .mp names may be purchased separately.
  • .tc
  • .tv

There are also some specialized top-level domains that you may want to consider, such as:

  • .aero Available to aviation businesses and related organizations.
  • .coop Available to entities that are legally organized as cooperatives.
  • .jobs Can only be used for displaying open positions at the company registering the name. The idea is that users who want to work at Acme Widgets would type and be taken directly to the company’s available jobs page. These domains are expensive, though, so I’m not sure why companies would opt for this domain rather than, say,
  • .mobi For sites designed for mobile devices. This TLD seems to waning in popularity, as mobile browsers and technologies for adapting standard web sites to mobile use improve.
  • .museum Limited to museums. The list of .museum domains is pretty short, and few of them appear to be active.
  • .name Intended for individuals to establish their Internet identities, in the form “”.
  • .pro Open to licensed professionals only, who must provide proof of their active standing.
  • .tel We wrote about this service back in December. The idea of an Internet-based directory is interesting, but there are many other ways to achieve the same results, so .tel has not become popular.
  • .travel Only available to travel-related businesses and organizations, although their definition is fairly broad, and includes hotels, B&Bs, restaurants, and “attractions,” among other things; in other words, .travel is available for sites that might be of interest to tourists.

There may soon be a whole new set of TLDs, if a current proposal is approved. Meanwhile, there are more than enough options to find a good domain name, even if your preferred .com is not available.

What alternative top-level domains have you used? Are you satisfied with the results?

Image by stock.xchng user annaOMline

12 Responses to “What to Do When the Dot-Com You Want Isn't Available”

  1. Unfortunately, sometimes those harmless-looking, perfectly-named domains may have a checkered past. Before picking up a domain name that may be banned or blocked due to previously delivering malware, trojans, or porn, you need to do a background check.

    We’ve set up a free Domain Background Check cheat sheet – just enter the domain name you are researching and we generate 14 links to domain check, anti-malware, and other tools to quickly check if your domain name is ready for business or is still on parole.

  2. Shell out the money for the .com, it’s worth it. But, if the price is _really_ outrageous, then build on something catchy that passes the radio test or a generic name that describes your business. And stick to two words. Please don’t replace numbers 4 words and stay clear of hyphens. Keep your brand looking as spam-less as possible.

  3. Like a couple of the other comments, I am not sure I agree with going with an alternate TLD or dashes.

    I think the best advice is spend a little time doing some keyword analysis. You might find another combination of words that consumers/users use as or more frequently.

    I also like action words with main concepts. For example, Dave Winer wanted a Berkeley blog, with gone he used–clever.

  4. @marcus – I don’t believe that is true – why should the TLD have an effect on ranking, except for geographically-related searches? I think the reason why .com versions of the same domain ( vs., for example) appear higher in rankings is that people are more likely to link to the dot-com when given a choice, not because dot-coms are inherently better.

  5. If you are interested in getting your site ranked in the search engines, then .com is the way to go. It seems google gives .com higher rankings than .net and .org.

    If your preferred domain name is taken, I suggest ad a simple number or word to it.

    For example..

    Instead of it could be
    name.com1 or etc..

  6. austinandrew

    Good article. The one point I disagree on is using numbers or hyphens in your domain. You add a disclaimer to that, but I strongly advise against doing it. It’s worth noting that DNJournal shows the top reported domain sales; most .com domains can be purchased for $1,000 or so.

    I wrote an overview of picking and buying a domain name on budget.

  7. Very good overview. Another idea is to find a catchy phrase – we have iWantMyName for our domain registrar ;) or use a domain hack.

    I don’t agree that .TEL hasn’t become popular though. The extension is only a couple of months old and already has more than 200k registrations. That’s nearly as much as .NAME has after all these years. The .NAME is not restricted to third-level domains anymore btw. You can register in the meantime which makes it a good extension for your online identity.

  8. Another good option to still get a dot com is to try searching domain names related to the keywords you want to aim on the internet or the best quality or promotional name you can come up with related to your business for example or something similar