A Few Great Tips on Getting an Unavailable Domain Name

Not a day goes by when I’m not thinking about a cool and quirky website that tons of people would love to have in their lives. Immediately after I picture that website, I think about the name.

Then I think: can I get that in .com?

Usually I can’t. Some cybersquatter or domainer has it locked up in cage somewhere with other cool domains, or it’s being used by someone who was faster and smarter and beat me to it.

But over time I’ve learned not to get too discouraged about this. For one thing it’s pretty darn fun and rewarding to come up with your own original domain name. And it that doesn’t work, there are few things you can do.

First, Investigate the Domain

Before you get totally let down, put the domain name in your browser and see what happens. What do you see? If it’s obvious that someone is using it for something, then you should stop and start over. You’re not likely going to get it.

It’s a good sign, though, if you get one of those generic parking pages or even nothing at all. That means the domain isn’t actually being used for anything—yet—and you can move on to the next step.

The next step means going back to a domain name registrar and checking the WHOIS data on the domain. From there you’ll be able to see the most important piece of information: the expiration date.

Depending on your patience or urgency (or both), you may be able to tolerate an expiration date for off in the future. If so, then it’s time to move in even closer. I’ve got 2 methods for this:

The Cheap Way

The cheap way to get a domain name that’s unavailable is to wait it out to the bitter end with the hope you can renew it when it’s released back to the pubic.

It will only cost you the price of the domain to do this, which is usually about $10-15 a year.

The cheap way has some massive drawbacks, though. First of all it’s a real pain to have to track an expiring domain name. The approximate timeline is: name expires, it enters “redemption period” for about 30-45 days, then it’s another 30 or so days until it gets deleted. It’s about 75 days in all.

However, in all my experience, there is not a definite or consistent number of days from the time a name expires to the time it’s back on the market. Different registrars have different times they hold, release and delete names from their systems. Doing a Google search on the topic won’t help either.

Trust me that trying to get a domain name “the cheap way” way is a completely maddening experience. I personally don’t use it anymore because I have neither the time nor the tenacity.

The Not So Cheap Way

I prefer to use Snapnames, which is a domain backorder service. Thanks to these guys, I got Wordful.com (which is another long story, by the way).

With Snapnames, all you have to do is place a “backorder” for your name and they will do everything they can to get the name for you. The base cost of getting a backordered domain is $59, which if you think about it is worth every penny if you believe your website is worth at least that much.

If someone else wants the same domain, however, you have to be prepared to enter an auction. Depending on the popularity of your name, you might get some high rollers who have enough cash to keep raising the price until everyone else wilts away. It’s entirely up to you if you want to participate in the auction.

I’ve never been in a domain auction myself, but I can tell you that after awhile you’ll get a feel for the value of your domain name. You’ll more or less know if it’s a $59 variety or something higher. I learned that the more creative (and still catchy) your domain name is, the more likely you can get it for $59.

Just a few tips for you! There’s so much more to getting unavailable domain names — this post is just the tip of the iceberg. If you really want the ultimate lowdown, read this.

Photo by oddsock.

4 Replies

  1. Vishal Gaba Reply

    Super cool and really important information. I connected with the article write from the first line and when I read the first step[whois], I started following side by side. Just thought, why I didnt strike me earlier.

    Good one!

  2. StrangerStranger Reply

    Thanks for the info! I’m having one problem though… the domain I want is not available (naturally), but when I searched on Google and WhoIs, I got nothing. It said “no match in the registrar database”. How can I find it??

    • Charles Bohannan Reply

      Hi StrangerStranger — when a WHOIS search turns up “no match in the registrar database” or something like that, I go to networksolutions.com and use their WHOIS search. It’s really good on returning the information you need.