Domain names · Branding

Recommendations for a domain name when .com is taken?

David Berkowitz Tech-Savvy Marketer, Marketing-Savvy Technologist

May 1st, 2016

I'm curious to hear what people have done when a .com domain is taken for the name of some business or project they're involved with. Leave aside buying it from the owner - assume it's not for sale. Which of these approaches have you used or do you prefer? Say the company you're starting is Acme Widgets and you can't get What do you do?

A) Use the .net (

B) Hyphenate for a .com (

C) Shorten for a .com (

D) Use a different TLD (,,

E) Something else?

Mindy Ph.D Executive Coaching. Leadership. LifeWorks Integration

May 1st, 2016

Hi Neil and David, 

I actually had that issue when I created the domain name for my coaching, leadership and innovation firm. I settled on using .net to create The rationale for me, is that it is the easiest to remember after .com or shortening the name. 


Joseph Wang Chief Science Officer at Bitquant Research Laboratories

May 1st, 2016

If it's a startup and you can change the name of the company, I'd consider changing the name of the company.  The fact that someone else has taken the .com says that the name may not be that unique.

If you are doing a geek-product, you might want to get a .io  In fact for geek-products, .io is considered "cooler" than .com

You can run into the following problems with keeping the name....

1) if it turns out that the .com is owned by an existing business then you are going to create confusion between your brand and their brand.  Worst case scenario is that you end up with a trademark fight.

2) if it turns out that the .com is not owned by a viable business, you could be setting yourself up for blackmail.  What could happen is that once you get well known, some company will set up a really nasty site with the .com name, and will ask you for a large amount of money in order to get the .com.  If you don't, then people that mistype your company name will be directed to a really nasty porn site or something like that.

Larry Aronson Systems Psychoanalyst

May 2nd, 2016

Option D is my choice. To give a good example - My client owned Now, pointing to the same website, we also have:  and

Note that Google has gone on record saying they do not penalize not-com TLDs in their ranking algorithm.

Sachin Agarwal Founder, Braid ( - lightweight project and client management built into Gmail and Google Apps

May 3rd, 2016

I'm a huge fan of .coms because non-technical people just don't get other domains.  Yes, Google will not penalize but users expect a .com at the end - I've seen them do things like even when you spell it out letter by letter.

For us, we just added "hq" to the end to get  You could also add "get" or "my" as a prefix.  Lot of companies have done both.  For example, Slack started as, Dropbox started as, and Mint started at

Jeremy Pepper

May 1st, 2016

I've gone with .tv and .net when I've been unable to get .com for myself. I think the industry and people do notice .net or .io or .whatever more and more now, so it's not as bad as it was.


May 1st, 2016

Keep your name short, but explore using a hyphenated name, as in rather than using a period in the middle, or alternatively there are other name extensions such as available depending on your business and all are acceptable.

Jim Falvey General Counsel & Advisory Board Member at Green Key Technologies

May 1st, 2016

I think you've pretty much listed your options. In our case, we ended up buying the name for a hefty price. But, we had been using the name for quite some time.  So we had to get it.  Otherwise, a viable option can be to change your name.  Good luck

Michael Rice Founder at CMO-in-Residence

May 1st, 2016

You have the right approach. Exhaust your options with what's available. I like for your example. It's $30, concise and more brands are going to be using TLDs like .co in the future. The downside is the .com owner will likely develop content to sell traffic back to you (directly or indirectly), and you're competing against all the other acme widget named companies.

I have a client who was named Diamond Technologies Inc. Couldn't win any SEO battles for obvious reasons. Competed against a dozen companies in the US with the same name. I rebranded them DiamondIT.Pro. Their SEO is through the roof. They have no domestic competition from a naming perspective. Their brand is memorable. My point is to get creative. Find some white space for your client to operate in. No legitimate brand really wants to have a 100+ character keyword-laden domain name. SEO has matured beyond the domain significance due to all the squatters. 

Yes, would be more intuitive, but we all know that 99.9% of intuitive domains are gone or for sale at ridiculous prices. Try to find something memorable that they can own. Let their marketing help build their brand from there. Easier said than done, but that's what I would do. Good luck.

Shel Horowitz I help organizations thrive by building social transformation into your products, your services, and your marketing

May 1st, 2016

There are probably at least 100 solutions, and I've used many of them. Some that haven't been mentioned here:
  • Create an alternate .com domain name that reinforces your brand
  • Develop a .com name based on what you do (one of my favorite examples is a local food nonprofit whose domain is - but the same principle applies even better to .com domains)
  • Work out a reciprocal arrangement with the owner of the domain you want--I have owned for many years, and actually originally developed because my fingers added the s and I dind't catch it in time. My financial advisor at the time called his firm Principle Profits and of course had So, while he was alive, his website told people that they could find the ethical marketing guy (me) by clicking over to my site, and on my site there was a note that the socially responsible investing guy could be reached by clicking over to his.
  • Add an extra word, place indicator, or some other factor to create a unique domain name
I've used hyphens on occasion, but I'm never happy with a hyphen domain after the original euphoria wears off and I think at this point I've gotten rid of all of them as the unhyphenated versions became available.

BTW, one of the consulting services I offer is helping people come up with great domains. Please send your email address via private message if you'd like to know more.

Stefan Vermeulen

May 1st, 2016

Hey David,

Great question!

I think most solutions have already been listed here. I'd really recommend reading a bit about de SEO implications when you are purchasing your domain name.. I think .co and .net work pretty well, nowadays. 

If I'd go for your options listed, I would go for "A". To be more straightforward. And take that one anyways, I'd say, you won't go broke for having a domain name.

In contrast to the advise listed above, however, I would NOT go for using a hyphenated name. I have some, but I never use them. They are harder to explain on the phone, and people don't remember where to place it. In general: try and go for a domain name that is easy to pronounce. 

Good luck!