How to Check If a Domain Name Is Available
Domain names are the base for any online activity. It doesn’t matter if you are looking to start a business blog, online store or simply want a company website. All of them start with a domain name.
What Is a Domain Name Actually?
A domain name is simply an entry in a list. This list is called a “zone file”. Each zone file describes one top-level domain (e.g. “.com”). All domain names in the list point to a server, which is serving the website, blog or shop of the owner.
Can I Use an Already Registered Domain Name for My Business?
With the registration of the domain, the name is blocked for others to use. You can’t register it again, until the previous owner deletes the domain or doesn’t renew it. If your desired domain name is already registered it might pay off to configure a check service to see if it gets released.
Should I buy the ".com"-domain for my business?
There is no easy answer to this question. Of course, it depends on the price tag for the domain. Generally, a little investment will not harm as it will give you an edge over the competition. It also shows potential customers that you are serious about the business.
Yet, if you’re starting fresh, you do have other options too. For a local business, it might be better to opt for a country-TLD or you could start off with a “.net” and attempt to acquire the “.com” later on.
You might want to set up a watch service to track if the domain expires. In this case, you can get the domain without paying a heavy price.
Can I Use My City Name, State or Country in the Domain Name?
The name of any city, state/province or country will not be vulnerable to infringement as they cannot be trademarked in most countries. A city name like “London” is not available for exclusive use. Such a name has universal availability and can be part of anyone’s domain name.
There is still a chance that a geographic term or landmark is part of a trademark. For a trademark to be considered breached, it usually would need to be more than the geographical reference which is used by someone else - for example unique words, phrases or a design/logo. Domain ownership is easily available and is only limited by a trademark breach. Checking it beforehand is highly recommended.
Locations in different languages could also be trademarked. For example, could “Deutschland” the German word for Germany) be trademarked in some English-speaking countries. It never hurts to double check.
Also, country-specific domain extensions, such as “.de” for Germany, “.nl” for the Netherlands or “.in” for India, have their own rules. Research the rules before you use a domain name with the name of a geographical place.
Should My Business Name and Domain Name Match?
Generally speaking, your business name and domain name don’t have to match - but there are cases in which it makes sense. This depends mainly on how your company name aligns to the brand you are trying to establish.
If you named your company after your brand, you should of course use the same as the domain name. As an example, if your company is called “AdClicks Ltd” and you aim on running an advertising network under the name “AdClicks” the domain should naturally follow and be “adclicks.com” (or similar).
On the other hand, if your business name is rather generic, you shouldn’t use the matching domain name. For example, if your company is called “J&A Trading Ltd.” because you and your business partner’s first names make up the company name, yet you are selling baby accessories under the brand name “baby’s world”, you should use ”babyworld.com” or something similar. It wouldn’t make any sense to go with “jatrading.com” as it hurts your search-engine ranking.
In the latter case, you might have a corporate website sharing company-related information while running the main project under the respective branded domain name.
How Do I Pick the Right Extension?
There are various domain endings (so-called extensions) to your choice. Here is an overview of the most popular domain endings with pros and cons for each.
“.com” is without doubt the premium domain name you can have. It’s globally recognized and works for any kind of business - from a small café to a large multi-million dollar corporation.
With the clear advantages comes downsides: often the dot-com domain is already registered. In this case, purchasing is often the only way to get the name.
If you really want to have a domain name that is not available with the “.com” extension, go for a “.net” address. These are ideal options for tech companies since there is a subtle familiarity of “.net” = internet or network. The “.net” extension comes second in terms of success and wide acceptance among all kinds of brands.
If you can’t opt for the “.com” extension or if the resulting domain name gives the incorrect impression. “BestBurgers.net” can survive if it’s operated locally, but it’s not the best name for an international restaurant chain.
If you are a non-profit organization, then “.org” would be the ideal option, especially if you are already well-known offline. Such an additional signal is more than enough to eclipse the “.com” mindset.
Business ventures should not go for a “.org” extension as it implies a charitable objective and not a profit-oriented venture.
If your business is building open source software or has a charitable section, it makes sense to split this into a “.org” part for the non-profit part while keeping the “.com” for the for-profit part of the organization.
BestJeansEver.org is probably not the best option if you are running a for-profit business.
If your jeans website exists just to compile and provide jeans-related information and statistics, a “.info” extension is the way to go. It makes sense to avoid promoting products or services over the top.
If you are simply advertising yourself, a product or a service, then it’s not an optimal choice. Info domains are considered less recognized and you might miss out on web traffic.
For a business owner, “.biz” is a suitable option. Businesses can get the necessary attention due to the extension not being vague and clearly indicating the brand’s type.
In some cases, your domain name can sound very different from its original intent due to adding “.biz” at the end. RapidReliefs.biz certainly comes off a bit dubious and suspicious instead of a genuine website so it quickly becomes a deal-breaker for a new brand.
There are many more domain endings to choose from. Depending on your industry or business model, some make sense while others won’t. Sometimes these are actually top-level domains of countries, such as “.io” for tech companies used out of context.
Many questions around domain names should be cleared up by now. If you’ve still got any questions left, feel free to get in touch. Don’t get stressed if you can’t find the right domain name at first. Persistence and good naming leads to success.