What’s in a (.com domain) name?

Do you need a .com domain name?

Quite coincidentally, I’ve received a number of questions about .com (dotcom) domain names lately. The issue that has come up is, in sum, do you need a dotcom domain name? And if not, what are the alternatives?

First off, “dotcom” is what is known as a TLD or top level domain. Others popular in the United States include .org, .net, .gov and .edu. There are, however, dozens of TLDs, ranging from generic to country-specific. Some countries, like Tuvalu, have carved out a niche: .TV for budding filmographers. Or from Montenegro for the narcissism set, .ME.

But what about dotcom? Is a dotcom essential if you run a business? What if someone else has the dotcom you want? Are all the good dotcoms taken?

Personally, it’s not clear to us that having a dotcom is essential. .BIZ, .INFO, and .NET may all be worthwhile alternatives. In many instances, people click on a link instead of typing out a domain address. If it’s just a click you’re worried about, it really doesn’t matter what TLD it is.

The problem usually is, however, that someone else has the domain you want on the dotcom TLD. Many situations arise. You may already have “yourbusinessname.BIZ” and someone else has “yourbusinessname.com”. If you’re just starting out, maybe you registered yourbusinessname.BIZ thinking you would use it provided you could also somehow get “yourbusinessname.com” later.

Potential scenarios with an existing dotcom

  1. Owner of the dotcom is sitting on it, but there’s no business going on there (“This domain is parked courtesy of XYZ.”)
  2. Owner of the dotcom indicates, either expressly or through a broker like GoDaddy, that the domain is “for sale.”
  3. Owner of the dotcom is running a business on the dotcom domain.

Situation 3 is probably fairly simple. Unless your .BIZ is a business very different from the existing business on dotcom, why would you use the .BIZ? Won’t that be confusing to your potential customers? If your businesses are similar, the last thing you want to do is inadvertently send customers to your competitor. Or maybe you’re trying to get the dotcom to buy your .BIZ domain? Are you just waiting for a “take down” letter from the established dotcom? You probably don’t want to be accused of being a cyber squatter.

Scenarios 1 and 2 are a little more interesting, and we see them as substantially similar. That is, the domain is for sale, whether it is said expressly or not. Everything is for sale, right? So let’s make an offer.

Make an offer to buy a dotcom

How do you do that? Well, if your .BIZ (or .NET and etc.) has a going business, you may not want to send the registered but non-functioning dotcom an email from your domain indicating you’re interested in buying it. That flags to the potential seller considerable interest on your part. What about using a personal email? If I’m a seller, I’ll check your name to see if figures in any existing business with a domain that’s the same or similar to my dotcom, but with a different (or not) TLD. How? For starters, by checking the WHOIS database.

You might wish to employ a broker yourself who wouldn’t necessarily be linked to you and just make an offer. Dotcom domains may cost in the $10-15 range, or less, to register each year. In other words, there is very little cost associated with holding on to a domain and doing nothing with it. Which means you should make an offer that makes it reasonably worthwhile for the seller to release the dotcom to you. Because otherwise, why would they?

Before you make an offer, figure out what you’re willing to pay for it. And also figure out whether there’s a going market for the domain. Search online for “domain name value tool” or similar, use multiple tools, and check out some results. Chances are any seller will be doing the same before accepting an offer.

Don’t be afraid to make a reasonable, but not your highest, offer. Leave some room for negotiation.

Do your domain name research, secretly if necessary

When doing your research (and you have to do research), especially if you are after an especially desirable dotcom, consider using a web tool like an “anonymizer” that conceals where you are searching from, so visits to the dotcom cannot be tracked back to you.

Takeaways on how to approach the dotcom domain name dilemma

There is a fair amount to think about, strategically. Here are some tips on what to do to make it through the analysis.

  1. There are a lot of TLDs out there. You don’t necessarily need a dotcom. Other TLDs have been around long enough to be accepted by the business community generally. Everyone knows about the relative shortage of unused word combinations for dotcom TLDs.
  2. If someone is already using a dotcom domain that is one you would like, think twice before you use the same domain with a different TLD.
  3. Do your research, anonymously if need be.
  4. Use a broker if you’re concerned about being discovered as a potential buyer of a dotcom for sale. Be concerned about this.
  5. Don’t be afraid to make an offer and negotiate, but set a reasonable price for yourself based on what you can afford and are willing to pay.
  6. If the registration status of a dotcom domain just changed, it may be desirable to make an offer after some time passes so as to not flag that you have been watching the status of the dotcom registration.
  7. Lastly, don’t stress over the name too much. Search engines do not necessarily reward you for a name that has to do with your products or services (like “bestwidgetsuppliesdotcom” or some such). Relevant content on the site is much more meaningful for search.

Do you need help strategizing about your domain name? We can help. Our marketing and communications services are very affordable. Contact us today about helping you to set up the right domain online.

What do you think? Is a DOTCOM essential to do business today?

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