It can be frustrating to discover that a particular domain name is already in use.
Web addresses are often an afterthought when establishing a new business or service, with greater effort typically invested in branding and pricing than choosing a web address.
In today’s internet-powered world, that’s a critical mistake. With over 1.75 billion websites already in existence, there’s a high chance your preferred domain name is already in use.
However, all may not be lost.
Park and ride
You might assume it’s impossible to acquire a domain name that’s already been registered, in the same way nobody else can trade via boots.com or vauxhall.co.uk.
However, there are ways to take ownership of domains which aren’t actively hosting web content.
A live website may exist at your preferred location, but it could contain nothing more than a message saying: “This domain is for sale”.
Many domain names have been purchased speculatively, and then parked without ever being used. Estimates suggest almost 43 per cent of global web domains are currently parked.
There are many reasons why a person or company might purchase a domain and then park it.
These may include speculative plans for future rebranding, acquiring top level domains similar to an existing TLD to prevent cybersquatting, or vague hopes of making a future profit.
It’s even possible to generate small sums of money by selling links on parked domains, which is why many websites simply contain a list of hyperlinks on a plain background.
Below, we consider several ways to acquire a domain name that’s already been registered.
Appeal to the site owner directly.
Many site owners have forgotten they own a particular domain name, with affordably priced auto-renewing policies a low priority amid busy lives.
It’s worth trying to contact the owner of a parked domain, either via an email address on their parked site, or by looking them up on the global WHOIS database of domain ownership.
Sometimes, the owner will appear on a WHOIS lookup as the registrar. More commonly, it’ll be a web hosting company like 1&1 IONOS, which may complicate matters.
Approach a brokerage.
Some web hosting firms offer a brokerage service, while dedicated brokers also exist.
For a fee, these companies will track down a website’s owner and ask if they’re amenable to selling, usually taking a percentage of any subsequent purchase price as well.
Advertised prices tend to be indicative rather than fixed, but brokerage fees are non-negotiable, pushing up the price of securing a domain in this way.
Choose a different top level domain.
This can be controversial, but it’s a great option if you really need a website to reflect a particular brand.
The obvious domain to register for a gifts company called Want It Right Away is wantitrightaway.co.uk. However, this might be in use (it wasn’t at the time of writing).
Registering the .com domain could be viewed as plagiarism, but you’d be free to register wantitrightaway.biz (for business) or wantitrightaway.scot (for a business based in Scotland).
Wait for the domain to expire.
This is the most passive option, and one that requires considerable patience.
Domain names are constantly being released back onto open sale, perhaps because their current owners no longer need them, or because they forgot to renew their hosting contracts.
You can create domain alerts which monitor WHOIS status on a daily basis. If a domain becomes available, you’ll be one of the first to know about it.