Whether you’re a Fortune 500 company or an small business, a great domain name is a must-have. Think about your favorite brands. They all have quick and catchy domain names that flow right off the tips of your fingers. That’s no coincidence. Big brands put a ton of time and effort into their domain names. They know how essential a domain name is for their digital marketing and website strategy.
You may not be Disney or Apple, but your approach towards your domain name should be no different. A great domain name can optimize your web presence by improving your SEO. It can also create brand recognition among your audience. Just like your favorite brand, you want a domain name that your customers know off by heart.
But that’s easier said than done. There are over 367 million registered domain names in the world. Finding an available domain name that checks off all the boxes can be next to impossible. On the other hand, you certainly don’t want to settle. Your business is your baby. Going with a domain name that doesn’t follow SEO best practices can destroy your Google ranking and your brand.
The good news? You don’t have to settle. If the domain name you wanted isn’t available, get creative with it. Follow any one of these 15 hacks to secure the best available domain name for your brand and digital marketing strategy.
Table of Contents
1. Buy the Domain Name
By now, you’ve probably given some thought to what your domain name should be. If you haven’t, don’t be afraid to get some expert help.
You might consider partnering with an enterprise SEO agency if you work for a large corporation. Or you might consider partnering with a local SEO agency if you’re running your own small business. Of course, no one knows your branding strategy and web presence like you do. But it never hurts to get an outside opinion.
From there, it’s buying time. Step one: check if your desired domain name is even available. You can look this up on registrars like GoDaddy.com or NameCheap.com. It’s easy, and kind of fun. Just type in the exact domain you want into their search tool and see what comes up. If it’s available, that’s great! The registrar will show you how much you can buy it for along with some other similar domain names.
In this example, GoDaddy is charging a premium price because this domain name contains high-value keywords. Before you start rethinking your budget, don’t worry. Not all domain names cost this much. Domain names usually cost between $10-$20 unless they’re a hot ticket item. With that said, if the price is right, make sure you act fast. You don’t want someone beating you to the punch.
Unfortunately, your ideal domain won’t always be available. Domain names that are short and use common words are tough to come by. Cybersquatters have spent years buying these up and selling them at a premium, which makes it hard for people like you to find them.
But here’s the thing: just because it isn’t available on the registrar doesn’t mean it isn’t for sale. Many domain names are inactive or “parked,” meaning they aren’t connected to a website. This is a good sign. It means that there’s a chance the owner isn’t using it and might be willing to sell—time to bring your negotiation A-game.
The best way to check if a domain name is parked is also the simplest: just search it up. If you see an error message from your browser or an “under construction” message, your domain might just be parked. Look up the owner on the WHOIS database and see if they’re open to selling.
Just make sure you play it cool. Reveal how crucial the domain name is to your website strategy, and they’ll jack up the price. Play your cards right, and you might just end up with an affordable domain name that helps you increase brand recognition and optimize your web presence.
2. Go Local with a ccTLD
The domain name you had in mind likely had a .com at the end of it. Makes sense. It’s the most popular suffix globally and likely the best option for your digital marketing strategy. As far as brand awareness goes, nothing beats .com. The unfortunate reality? Your ideal domain might not be available with a .com extension.
Here’s the good news. Country code top-level domains (most commonly called ccTLDs) are a great alternative that might actually work better for your business. These extensions are country-specific, which is perfect if the locality is part of your branding strategy. For example, .us is used in the United States, .ca is used in Canada, and .uk is used in the United Kingdom.
These regional TLDs have some unique benefits. You might find that your click-through rate beats out the competition. Local users just trust you more. You might also find that in certain markets, your ccTLD outranks competitive sites with a .com extension.
In Germany, for example, .de is more popular than .com. Depending on your business needs, a local SEO agency might actually recommend a ccTLD.
However, while ccTLDs have a ton of pros, they also have their fair share of cons. Attracting visitors from other countries may be tricky if you decide to scale beyond your borders. Ranking in other markets could be challenging from an SEO perspective. People just don’t trust foreign websites as much as local ones.
You might even consider purchasing other ccTLDs in other regions, but this can get pricey. Plus, there are no guarantees your domain will be available in every local extension. Watch out before you detach from your original brand URL. It can be a huge blow to your branding strategy.
Make sure to assess your long-term goals before you move forward with a ccTLD. It could prove to be a huge advantage or a huge headache.
3. Consider Adding your Country or City
Don’t want to go all-in on a ccTLD? Totally understandable. You might want to consider adding a country or city to the end of your domain name instead. For example, perfectdomain.com isn’t available. Fair enough. It has high-value keywords and ends with .com:
Then we add a country and everything changes:
Extending a domain using a region is pretty common in digital marketing. An enterprise SEO agency might even recommend it to a multinational to secure a better Google ranking in specific markets. It also works great if national pride plays into your branding strategy.
Otherwise, it’s just a creative way to keep your new website strategy on course. It’s worked well enough for Murphy gas stations. They’re a Fortune 500 company that doesn’t own their domain. Instead, they use murphyusa.com, and they’ve done pretty well for themselves.
4. Add an Extension of Your Brand or Service
You might not want to tie yourself down to a country. If that’s the case, try adding your service or industry to your domain name. It’s a great way to keep brand recognition high without stepping on your SEO or digital marketing strategy. For example, if you’re a marketing agency, try adding the word “marketing” or “agency” after the name of your business.
It’s worked wonders for DTC giant Away. Away has revolutionized the way luggage is distributed, and yet, they don’t own the domain name away.com. This is what happens when you visit that URL:
Same with digital product design platform InVision. Instead of just using invision.com, they also use invisionapp.com. The only difference? They own both, and one redirects to the other. This lets them have a recognizable brand URL that still has strong SEO. Here’s what happens when you type in invision.com:
Stick to your website strategy by adding your company’s service to your domain.
5. Get Creative with Different TLDs
Don’t get boxed in by traditional TLDs like .com or.net. There’s been an explosion of new TLDs in the last decade you can use for your domain. Here’s just the beginning of the list of almost 1,500 TLDs now available for use:
Mind you, not all of these roll off the tongue. Search ICANN to find a TLD that works best for your branding strategy if a more traditional TLD like .com or .org is already taken. Have some fun with it. Don’t be afraid to choose something with a little bit of character, and don’t worry about SEO – it most likely won’t affect it at all.
There’s only one hurdle you might have to overcome: your audience. If your digital marketing strategy is targeted towards an older generation, think twice about straying from the classic TLDs. Gen X and Baby Boomers tend to trust .com sites a little more.
6. Adding a Verb to your domain
Using active language is always a great hack. It’s true in blogs and social posts, but it’s just as true for domain names. If the exact domain name you want isn’t available, try adding a verb.
For example, if you’re starting a premium water brand and name it “Ice,” chances are that name is taken:
But once you add “drink” off the top, life becomes a lot easier:
Adding a verb is a great way to build brand recognition and provoke action. This was extremely effective for Dropbox, which originally didn’t own dropbox.com. For their first few years in business, they used the domain getdropbox.com.
If you can’t think of what verb to use, check back your website strategy or brand awareness strategy. Remind yourself of the action you’d like your customers to take and use it as inspiration.
7. Domain Hacking
This isn’t nearly as technical as it sounds. Domain hacking means combining the second-level domain with the top-level domain to create one word. For clarity, a second-level domain is everything that typically comes after “www.” and before a TLD like .com:
Some huge brands use untraditional TLDs creatively. Take Plex for example. They’re a streaming platform that lets people watch live TV. So naturally, they went with a .tv TLD:
Creativity is key here. Search through available TLDs to see if you can combine any of them to create a word or phrase. For example, if you’re starting a company called Baby Blue, you’ll get this result:
But with a little bit of creativity (and a few dollars):
Expensive? Yes. Available? Also yes. With some ingenuity, you can domain hack your way into an affordable name that’s perfect for your website strategy.
8. Abbreviate your Brand or Business
Maybe your business name is a little long. Or the name of your business is taken. In either case, try abbreviating. You can do it with the company name itself or the industry you’re in.
A great example of this is Basecamp, a project management platform previously known as 37signals. When they decided to change their name, basecamp.com was unavailable.
Luckily, they stayed the course on their website strategy and kept their web presence consistent by purchasing basecamphq.com instead. Their branding strategy positioned them as a digital headquarters for businesses, so adding “HQ” just made sense.
9. Make your URL Memorable by Adding a Catchphrase
You might not need your business name in your domain name at all. If you have a catchphrase that you use for brand recognition, consider that instead. Charles Schwab uses FindYourIndependentAdvisor.com, and TAG Heuer uses DontCrackUnderPressure.com (just to name a couple).
Sloganizing your brand URL can become a huge part of your digital marketing strategy. Don’t have a catchphrase just yet? Work with a copywriter and an SEO agency to help you craft one. The best catchphrases are fun and catchy, so it’s in your best interest to work with professionals.
10. Domain Hacking Using a ccTLD
We already talked about how powerful domain hacking can be. But don’t just consider traditional TLDs when you’re brainstorming. You can throw some ccTLDs into the mix as well.
Some are just made for domain hacking. Montenegro’s .me, India’s .in, and American Samoa’s .as to name a few. Many websites also use Libya’s ccTLD .ly, which naturally can turn anything into an adverb.
The most famous example is probably Bitly. Their original URL was bit.ly before they were eventually able to secure bitly.com.
Take a page out of Bitly’s book and use a ccTLD. Just make sure you consult a local SEO agency beforehand to understand how it could impact your web presence.
11. Monitor the Domain You Want
Sometimes, a hack just won’t do. You have to have the domain name you want, exactly how you want it. In that case, use software like Domain Monitor to stay up to date on any domain names you have your eye on.
Some registrar services like GoDaddy can help you monitor domains too. Just opt-in, and they’ll send you an email if availability changes.
Warning: you’ll need to be patient. If your branding strategy or website strategy is on an aggressive timeline, you’re likely better off following any of the hacks above. Otherwise, strap in for a long wait time and a big bill.
12. Add a Hyphen to Your Domain Name
A hyphen is the only “special” character you’re allowed to put into a domain name. So why don’t we see more of them? Well, hyphens are somewhat polarizing. On the one hand, they can make brand URLs easier to read by breaking up words. Some SEO agencies might even recommend a hyphen for exactly that reason. And they can certainly help you secure a great domain name.
Consider the domain name idealdomain.com. Unsurprisingly, this it’s taken. But when you add a hyphen:
On the other hand, some argue that hyphens aren’t the best option for brand recognition. Take this with a grain of salt, though. It seems to work just fine for powerhouse brands like Soul Cycle (soul-cycle.com) and Merriam Webster (merriam-webster.com).
Does using a hyphen work for your digital marketing and branding strategy? That’s for you to decide.
13. Understand Your Audience
Make sure you really think about your audience before you pull the trigger on a domain name. Will they trust alternative TLDs? Should your domain name be simple to type? Will they even know it’s a website if it doesn’t end in .com? Go back to your website strategy and be honest with yourself about who will be visiting your site.
This is especially important for your social presence. Understand where your audience spends their time. Then make sure the domain name you’re leaning towards has something similar available on those platforms. Tools like BrandSnag can help you there.
For the sake of your brand awareness strategy, make sure your web presence is as consistent as possible. Really think about your audience and their favorite social channels before you go too far with a brand URL.
14. Legal Action
What if someone else is using your trademark in a registered domain name? You might have the right to sue. But proceed with caution. Lawsuits like these can cost tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. They can also take years, and there are no guarantees you’ll even win.
Consider the example of Nissan. Nissan Motors sued a small computer company also called Nissan over their domain name. In the end, Nissan Motors ended up losing and got some pretty terrible press along the way.
Before getting a lawyer, talk to a digital marketing or SEO agency. They can help you understand just how crucial your desired domain name is. Ideally, you can avoid taking legal action, wasting thousands in legal fees, and receiving brutal PR.
15. Go Back to the Drawing Board
If your domain name isn’t available, maybe it just wasn’t meant to be. Take the time and brainstorm some new options. Creativity is boundless, and there are likely hundreds of other options that work with your website strategy.
Not sure where to start? Sites like wordhippo.com can help get the wheels turning.
Just make sure you’re considering your audience, your web presence, and digital marketing best practices.
What is a Domain Name?
A domain name is a unique address that directs to a website. Users type in a domain name to a URL bar in order to visit a website. A great domain name is essential for your digital marketing and branding strategy since it often represents your business.
How Much Does a Domain Name Cost?
Domain names vary in cost depending on their demand. However, they typically cost under $20/year. Domain names that are short and feature common words can be more expensive, sometimes costing thousands of dollars.
Can I Buy a Permanent Domain Name?
You cannot buy a permanent domain name. Domain names are leased and must be paid for yearly. However, you can prepay for many years in advance. Setting up autorenewal with your registrar ensures you retain your domain name.
What is a ccTLD Domain?
A ccTLD domain, also known as a country code top-level domain, denotes the geographical area of the domain. Common examples include .ca for Canada, .uk for the United Kingdom, and .us for the United States. They are typically two letters in length.
What are the Types of Domains?
There are five types of domain names. Top-level domains include suffixes like .com, .org, or .net. Additionally, there are country-code top-level domains, generic top-level domains, second-level domains, and third-level domains.
What are the Most Common Domain Extensions?
The most common domain extension is.com. It has become an internet standard and is the most familiar to users. Other common domain extensions include .net, .us, .org, and .co. An SEO agency or expert will often recommend using .com as it typically has the best international SEO performance.
How Long Should a Domain Name Be?
For the sake of your branding strategy and SEO, a domain name should be as short as possible. Keeping it between 6-12 characters not only gives your domain name a better Google ranking but also enhances brand recognition by being more memorable.
Can I Add Special Characters to My Domain Name?
You cannot add special characters to your domain name. The only exception to this is a hyphen. However, it cannot appear at the beginning or end of your domain name. You also cannot have spaces in a domain name.
What are the Top 5 Domain Names?
The top 5 domain names are likely those that are the most expensive. The most expensive domain names ever sold and publicly reported are carinsurance.com for $49.7 million, insurance.com for $35.6 million, vacationrentals.com for $35 million, privatejet.com for $30.1 million, and voice.com for $30 million.
Is .com or .co Domain Name Better?
Any SEO agency or SEO expert would tell you that a .com domain name will always outperform a .co domain name. Domains with a .com extension typically have a higher Google ranking because they’re the most familiar to users and work best for international SEO.
Should you Trademark your Domain name?
Trademarking your domain name is the best way to protect your business, especially if your domain name contains your business name. Also, ensure that your business name is trademarked so that copycats can’t legally use it to create similar variations of your domain name.