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How to Buy the Perfect Domain Name for Your Store

21 min read

When you’re starting an online business, one of the first things to do is buy a domain name. It identifies your website and helps customers find you online.

In this blog post, we will walk you through how to find, purchase, and set up the perfect domain name for your company.

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Why You Need to Buy a Domain Name

First, let’s answer the burning question most beginner online sellers have: what does a domain mean in business?

A domain is the address people will use to find your website, and it’s an important part of your branding. For example, Google’s domain is google.com.

The suffix that follows the domain name in a web address is called a top-level domain (TLD), also referred to as a domain extension. There are different kinds of domain extensions; for example, .com, .net, and .org are all TLDs. For a business domain, we recommend a .com domain because it is the most popular and memorable.

Learn more: What a Domain Is & Why You Need It for Your Business

Here’s why you should buy a domain name for your business:

  • It helps customers find you online. Customers type in a domain name in the browser to find your website.
  • It makes your business look more professional. Having a domain name shows that you’re serious about your business and helps you build credibility with potential customers.
  • It’s an important part of your branding. Businesses often use their brand name as the domain name, which helps with brand recognition.

How to Come Up with a Domain Name for Your Business

The domain name you choose will be the address of your website, so it’s important to choose one that’s easy to remember and type.

Here are some tips for coming up with a domain name:

  • Keep it short and simple. A domain should be easy to spell, pronounce, remember and type
  • Use keywords. Keywords can help with your website ranking in the search results
  • Avoid using hyphens. Hyphens can make it harder for people to find your website
  • Use a familiar domain extension, such as .com, .org, .net
  • Try out domain name generators if you’re not sure what to name your site. For example, Lean Domain Search or DomainWheel

Generating domain name ideas with DomainWheel

Learn more: 8 Best Practices for Choosing a Domain Name

Where to Buy a Domain Name

To buy a domain name, you can use a domain registrar. It is a company that manages domain names and makes them available to the public.

There are many domain registrars to choose from, such as GoDaddy, Google Domains, Namecheap, Hover, or DreamHost. They all offer different extensions at different domain prices.

Understanding the Domain Buying Process

Once you’ve come up with a domain name, it’s time to see if it’s available, using a domain availability checker. Most registrars already have domain availability checkers on their websites.

You will run into one of the following scenarios:

  • The domain name is available.
  • The domain name is already registered.
  • The domain name has expired.

Let’s see what you can do in each of those cases.

How to Buy a New Domain

If you run the domain name search on the registrar’s website and the name you came up with is available, the rest is easy. Add a domain name to a cart and proceed to the registrar’s checkout to buy it.

A registrar lets you know if the domain name is available

Congratulations! You now have a domain name for your business.

When you create an ecommerce website with Ecwid by Lightspeed, you get an Instant Site — a free site with a built-in online store. You get a free domain for it too! You can edit the free domain name so that it better represents your business. Or, you can buy a domain name from a registrar of your choice and connect it to your Ecwid Instant Site. Here’s how to connect a domain to your store.

What to Do If Your Domain Name Is Taken

So, you run a domain availability check on the registrar’s website, and it turns out the domain name you want has already been registered by someone else. Though disappointing, this doesn’t mean the end of your domain dreams.

One way to deal is to come up with an alternative domain name. Sometimes, you don’t even need to change the name itself — just changing the domain extension can do the trick. For example, instead of awesomecakes.com you can go with awesomecakes.net.

Most domain registrars do the work for you and show the available alternative domain names if your preferred name is already taken.

Google Domains shows which extensions are taken and suggests alternative ones

If you don’t like the suggested domain alternatives, you can go back to the domain generators to come up with a new name. Usually, it doesn’t take too long to find a suitable option for your business. Then, the rest is pretty straightforward — add a domain name of your choice to the cart and proceed to payment.

In rare cases, you can’t go with an alternative domain name. For example, if you have a very specific brand name that has already gained recognition and you can’t change it without confusing your existing customers.

Luckily, you can still get the domain of your dreams, even if it’s already taken.

How to Buy an Expired Domain Name

Every domain name is registered in one-year increments (minimum: one year, maximum: ten years). If the owner doesn’t renew the subscription at the end of the domain registration period, the domain becomes “expired.”

Once the domain owner fails to renew the subscription, it goes through the following stages:

  • Expired: Usually lasts between 0 and 45 days. The domain owner can renew the name during this period.
  • Redemption Period: The owner can renew for a steep domain price. Usually lasts 30 days.
  • Pending Delete: Domain goes back to the registrar and cannot be renewed.

Once a domain exits the pending delete status, it doesn’t always become free to register. It can be snapped up by an expired domain auction site or a domain backordering service.

Let’s learn more about this.

Domain Backordering

Some domain registrars offer domain backordering services. That means that if the domain name you want is taken, you can place an order and pay for it. As soon as the domain expires and becomes available, the registrar will buy it on your behalf.

Dynadot shows domains available for backordering

However, there’s no guarantee that you’ll actually get the domain this way, as there might be other people interested in buying it.

When there are several people who backordered a name, it goes to a domain auction. Your backorder payment will be used to place the opening bid. You can continue to bid on the domain name until you buy it. If the domain price gets too high, you can move your backorder credit to another domain name.

Expired Domain Auction Sites and Drop Catching Services

Instead of offering backordering services, some registrars just sell off expiring domain names to auction sites. This means that once any registered name expires, it is handed off to the domain auction site. Here, others can bid for the name. Once the domain is actually deleted, it goes to the highest bidder.

Here are some popular domain auction sites: Namecheap Market, GoDaddy Auctions, Sedo, SnapNames, NameJet.

You can find all kinds of domains on auction sites

Most high-value names will likely find plenty of bidders at any expired name auction. However, if there are no bidders for the name, it is released to the general pool. The moment when a domain name gets back on the market is called the “drop.”

This is where things get interesting: once the domain is released by the registrar, there is a virtual “free for all” to register it. You can try registering it yourself, but if you are not able to do that, you can use a domain drop catching service.

A drop catching service is essentially a domain registrar that will register a domain name once registration has lapsed, immediately after expiration.

You are usually charged a fee by a drop catching service. In most cases, the fee is only payable if the registrar actually manages to register the name for you.

Some domain drop catching services are DropCatch, Dynadot, Nidoma, and Pool.

Steps to Buy an Expired Domain

The best way to get a domain is to place a backorder for it on the domain registrar or their auction partner. To do that, follow these steps:

  1. Figure out the domain’s registrar by using the Whois tool. Type in the domain and check its registrar name.
  2. Go to the registrar’s website and search for the desired site name. Depending on the registrar, they will either offer to backorder a domain themselves or direct you to their auction partner.
  3. Place a backorder and complete the checkout process.

To increase your chances of catching the name, you can place a backorder on several drop catching services.

Once the domain expires, one of the following things might happen:

  • Case 1: The domain name has multiple backorders. In this case, the name goes to a domain auction and is registered to the highest bidder.
  • Case 2: The domain name is caught by the auction partner and has no bidders. If you have a backorder on the domain auction site, you’ll get it straight away. Otherwise, it is caught by a drop-catching service.

You can place a backorder on as many services as possible. Since the fee is only payable if the name is successfully caught, you don’t stand to lose money on duplicate orders.

How to Buy an Existing Domain Name

In some cases, the domain name you want has already been registered by someone else.

Luckily, some domain registrars can help you get in touch with the owner and make an offer for the desired domain. For example, NameCheap allows you to make an offer, and their partner, DomainAgents, helps you reach the owner and secure the domain.

Some registrars allow you to make an offer for a taken domain

If your registrars don’t provide such services or you prefer the DIY approach, you can find the domain owner yourself and reach out to them.

Depending on the domain and its owner, you may have a chance to buy it for cheap. The steps shown below are used by actual full-time domain traders to get bargains on domain names.

Find Out if the Domain Is Currently Being Used

Your first step should be to type in the domain name in your browser and see the results. One of the following four things will happen when you do this:

A. You see a blank page

In some cases, the domain simply resolves to a blank page or throws up an error message:

​​

This is usually a good sign. It means that the current owner is not utilizing the name. If you make them the right offer, you might be able to buy it.

B. You see an existing website

In many cases, the domain name will resolve to an existing website.

This may or may not be a good sign, depending on the site itself:

  • Case 1: The site is heavily updated and supports an actual business.
  • Case 2: The site hasn’t been updated in a while and houses a casual blog/info site.

In case 1, your chances of buying the name are virtually zero. Few businesses will let go of their domain name — and if they do, it won’t be for cheap.

In case 2, you might be able to buy the domain name if the owner is willing to sell it.

C. You see a parked page

More often than not, you will land on a “parked” page. These are simple landing pages filled with ads and minimal content. Domain owners use them to make money off people directly typing the name into the browser.

It’s easy to spot a parked page. It will usually have nothing but ads, along with a link to “inquire” about the domain.

A parked page is generally a good sign. It usually means that the domain owner wants to make money off the name and will be motivated to sell — at the right price.

D. You see a brokerage page
Sometimes, typing the name into the browser will take you to a domain brokerage landing page.

You can spot such pages thanks to the inquiry form on the page and the brokerage company’s name. Some domain brokerage companies are GoDaddy Domain Broker, MediaOptions, and Domain Holdings.

Landing on a brokerage page is not a very encouraging sign. It typically means that you are dealing with very motivated sellers who know the domain market inside-out. This significantly reduces your chance of getting the name for cheap.

Once you know what the domain is being used for, it’s time to look up the owner.

Find Out Who Owns the Domain Name

The next step is to find the domain’s owner. Not only should you know who owns the domain, but also how many domains they own. This will impact the price you pay for the name.

Start by searching for your domain name on the Whois website. You’ll see the domain profile, where you’ll be able to find the domain registrant.

You’ll also see the number of domain names associated with the registrant’s email. The amount of domain names owned by a registrant is very important to know in the domain buying process:

  • If the total number of names registered against an email is very high (say, over 300), it means that the registrant is a professional domain trader, developer or large business. This makes it harder to get a good bargain.
  • If the total number of registered names is low (under 50), it may indicate an amateur owner who may not be aware of market domain prices. In this case, you may be able to get a good deal.

In many cases, you’ll find that the registrant has millions of emails associated with its name. This usually happens when the domain owner has opted for Whois privacy. This hides the owner’s contact details.

Common Whois privacy services are Domains By Proxy, WhoisGuard, etc. If the owner has opted for Whois privacy, it might be difficult to get in touch with them via email. Keep this in mind when you proceed to the next step.

Make an Offer for the Domain

If the domain is not owned by a large company, doesn’t house an existing business, and isn’t blocked by Whois privacy, you have a good chance of buying the name. Now, let’s go over how to buy a domain name from someone else. To do so, follow these steps:

1. Study domain prices before making an initial offer.
Before you make an offer, it is a good idea to study recent domain sales so you get an idea of current market values. For example, check out Sedo’s Domain Market Trends or NameBio domain sales database.

Generally speaking, domain prices follow these trends:

  • Domain names using popular words with a .com TLD go for thousands of dollars.
  • Shorter domains are more valuable than longer names.
  • All 3 letter names (such as ABC.com) go for upwards of $10,000.
  • .net TLDs go for 1/10th to 1/20th of .com prices.

Once you have a ballpark figure, proceed to the step below.

2. Send a purchase offer via email.
You want to send the domain owner an email that is both polite and assertive when attempting to buy a name. Use a template like this:

Subject: [DomainName.com]
Hi [Registrant Name],
I’m a developer interested in acquiring your domain name [DomainName].
I can offer you $200 for it.
Regards
[Your name]

This email accomplishes three things:

  • The subject line will likely miss the owner’s spam filter — and stand out in the inbox.
  • It’s short and to the point.
  • An initial offer shows that you are willing to pay for the name.

We suggest starting with a low offer (around $100 to $500, or more if it’s a high-value name). If you don’t hear back, try to increase it by another couple of hundred dollars or with what your budget allows.

To quickly recap:

  • Buy: Unused or parked domains owned by non-professional domain owners.
  • Avoid: Existing websites/businesses owned by domain brokerage firms, professional domain owners, and large businesses.

To Sum Up

Buying a domain name for your business is easy when it’s not already used — all you need is to come up with a domain name and purchase it on the registrar’s website.

If your domain name of choice is taken, that’s not a problem either. The simplest solution is to choose an alternative domain name by coming up with a new one, using domain name generators, or just using a different extension. Most domain registrars will help you out by offering available alternatives.

If an alternative domain won’t work for your business, you can always backorder the domain right on the registrar’s website. In rare cases, you might need to turn to drop catching services or domain auctions to buy expired domains.

If all else fails, you can try contacting the domain owner directly and asking if they’re willing to sell it.

As you can see, there are many options available. You’re sure to find a domain name that will work for your business. And once you have that, you’re one step closer to starting a new ecommerce store!

Do you want to learn more about starting an online store?

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About the author

Anastasia Prokofieva is a content writer at Ecwid. She writes about online marketing and promotion to make entrepreneurs’ daily routine easier and more rewarding. She also has a soft spot for cats, chocolate, and making kombucha at home.

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