If you are starting an online business or looking to add additional domains to your portfolio of websites, the question that should start the decision process is how much should I spend on a domain. Unfortunately, domains are unique, and many times people discover their company name has already been taken and unavailable or is listed for what they see as outrageous pricing.
What To Do If Domain Is Taken
If you are starting a new online business or bringing your offline established business onto the web and find your companyname.com is already registered you will need an alternative option. Sometimes companies change their names though this can lose them any brand recognition they may have built, especially for an established brick and mortar business. People have been known to use a different name for their online presence, but that just creates confusion. The following options may offer possible solutions.
Use a geographic modifier.
Add LLC or Inc to the domain.
Try alternative TLDs.
Negotiate buying the taken domain.
Using Geo Modifiers
Whether you are Sam’s Deli or Sicily’s Best Pizza or any other relatively generic or common company name, an often used option is to add your geographic location to the front or end of your domain name. Try samsdelialbany.com or albanysuperiordrycleaners.com - if you live in a large metropolitan area, you can use the neighborhood as opposed to the city name, hellskitchensuperiordrycleaners.com.
Using this option will also help you in the search results. The addition of your location in the domain alerts the search engines to where you are, and they can include you in specific location searches such as dry cleaners in Hell’s Kitchen. It can also help get you in their map listings, especially if you include your address on the website you create.
You also save a lot of money by not having to buy superiordrycleaners.com for at least $50,000.
Add LLC or Inc to Domain
Another simple and money saving method is to add LLC or Inc to the end of your domain name. Interestingly domainers very rarely grab those options. The superiordrycleanersinc.com domain is actually still available right now (depending on when you are reading this).
Like other options, you will always lose a certain amount of business as some people have a tendency to just type name with the .com added at the end - but this is where you need to consider cost versus reward.
Having the full company name in the domain name will help in search results where most people will go to find you. Make sure you mention your location in your title and description meta data, so it shows up in the results and people can identify you as the one they are looking for.
Try Alternative TLDs
This can get a little complicated as terms like TLD (Top Level Domains), domain extensions, etc. are not terms people who do not work in the digital space full-time may know. So keeping it simple, apart from .com and .net there are over 1500 different TLDs - from.edu and .gov to .xyz. They all have some benefits, but we will discuss a few that may be more relevant to new domain buyers.
The first option you should try if your simple option is unavailable is a geographical one. Every country has their own domain extension - .ca is for Canada, .co.uk for the United Kingdom for example. So if you are operating outside the United States - which technically has .us – look to see if that option is available. They will help for searches in your own country.
Apart from those you can try other extensions that work like .website or .club etc. - a good list of those available can be found here. Remember some are a little more expensive than a .com but not as costly as buying the one someone else owns.
Negotiating Buying the Taken Domain
The volume of business you generate online and the absolute need you have for the exact .com are two large factors when determining how much money to spend on that domain. Obviously, some industries and specific domains are worth going after. I was at the auction when Party Gaming paid 2 million dollars for bets.com - but that would have been recouped in a few months, if not sooner simply due to the traffic that domain would generate.
And that is the first consideration you need to make - will the domain give you enough return to justify the cost. To determine that, you need to look at a number of factors. What specific traffic can the domain generate and what percentage of that traffic could be your potential customers; these should be worked out first.
What to Look At - Traffic, Keywords, PPC, Analytics...
If the domain is in use, you can find information about its traffic using the SEMrush tools. Look at geographical information too if you are not global, but looking at the keywords it ranks for, and the volume of traffic the domain has is another part of the decision. You can possibly improve the rankings or lose some if the inbound links are coming from other domains in the owner’s portfolio, which they usually drop after the sale. Try and get something in writing to have them maintain those links for a couple of years; this will allow you to get replacements.
Looking at the cost of PPC for the terms it ranks for is another way to evaluate the value. If you are doing paid search or are a new business launching onto the web, these numbers are something you should be already looking at and know. There are industries that pay anywhere from $25 to $100 per click, so they would be much more interested in buying a domain if it has good ranking and traffic.
You need to ask the seller for access to their analytics or a breakdown of confirmable traffic sources prior to buying. Keep in mind, there could be cheap irrelevant traffic being bought to inflate traffic numbers to increase the purchase price.
If you are a small business looking for a more specific domain, the same considerations should be followed. There are a number of sites that evaluate website worth, so type the domain name in one of them and see what comes up.
One thing you should not do is allow vanity to blur your judgment. Too many times I have encountered people who pay way too much for a domain purely because their egos want them. This is not a wise business move and can leave you struggling to recoup the spend.
Use good business practices when buying domains, while I know .com is the most popular extension used now, this is changing as mobile access to the web increases and how people find you varies. If you are a location based business, chances are you will be found through a geo-targeted result the search engines provide. If you are global, then your power to rank for that name with an alternative TLD must be considered. The web is changing; social media and other platforms like apps are another way to be found and must be used in making any decision.
Poll your existing customers, ask them how they found you and how they use the web that way you are better prepared when deciding what to do.