When step one of the business plan is "establishing identity in the marketplace,'' discovering your preferred website name is already trademarked or registered by another entity is a serious, but not insurmountable, setback. Entrepreneurs have three reasonable options when their coveted dot.com site URL is unavailable.
1. Lease the domain. Startups concerned about cash flow typically lease their retail or office space, even when they must spend lots of money making improvements to fit their needs. Internet domains, also, are bought, sold and leased. Don't spend spend a fortune, up front, buying a domain name that you may be able to lease for a few hundred, or maybe a few thousand, dollars per month.
2. A rose by any other name. Perphaps that name wasn't quite perfect. Getting a little creative can make the domain name all yours, without spending very much money. Adding a hyphen or an extra word may even improve your branding. If you are locally focused, consider appending a state abbreviation or something similar that resonates with local customers.
3. The universe is not just dot.com. Consider registering your site on another top level domain, or TLD, such as a dot.net or dot.org. This choice has long been unpopular but attitudes are changing, particularly with plans by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to launch up to a thousand new TLDs. Some of the new TLDs will be service and product based, others will be related to geographic areas. Dot.London, dot.Wales, dot.NYC and dot.Berlin are already in the works.
This massive expansion of available TLDs will force search engines to pay attention to the Internet beyond the dot.coms, said Andrew Rosener, CEO of MediaOptions.com, a boutique domain brokerage service. He expects businesses will embrace new TLDs once they grasp the benefits for branding.
“People increasingly are navigating the internet using search engines, mobile apps and social networks, rather than typing URLs directly into their web browsers,” he explains. “The new TLDs are more palatable for the average web user, a fact first-movers in their respective niches can definitely exploit.”