What To Do If Your Desired Domain Name Isn’t Available

One of the first tasks tackled by entrepreneurs is registering a domain name. It’s a critical part of establishing your brand and marketing your company online. Now that the major email providers, like Google & Yahoo, have implemented an anti-spam measure requiring a verified domain name, it has become even more important that you have one.

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The first step is to come up with a list of domain names that will work for you and then start searching. Maybe you only want your company name, or perhaps you’re looking for certain keywords. Run your name choices through a domain search tool to see what’s available and make a list of alternatives. Most domain search tools will offer a list of suggestions for you to consider.

Learn more about choosing the best domain name for your Canadian business.

Registering your domain name makes it officially yours, as long as you continue to renew it for the specified time (usually up to five years). Following are companies we’ve worked with that provide Canadian-friendly domain registration, including the .ca option.

HostUpon (Based in Canada)

HostPapa (Based in Canada & Canadian currency)

Many go to NameCheap for the cheapest domain name registration, but the prices are in USD so make sure you’re comparing apples to apples.

As your business evolves, you may want to register more domain names for different product lines, ad campaigns, languages, or locations, or to protect your brand in general. Otherwise, you may register mybrandname.com only to have someone register mybrandname.ca, for example. Registering with all domain extensions isn’t practical, but you can check the most common alternatives in Canada (.net, .org, .com, .ca and provincial extensions) and decide if you want those too.

My Domain Name is Taken!

If your preferred domain name is taken, don’t panic! You have a few options.

Close Enough

If you can’t find the exact match you’re looking for, try adding a keyword, location, abbreviation, numbers, or characters to your domain name. It may not be as short or memorable, but it shouldn’t effect your branding too much. For example, Staples.ca could have been StaplesOfficeSupplies.ca. You can also add “Canada” or wherever your service area is. Or drop the business name entirely and use related keywords for your domain name.

You may have heard keywords in your domain name could help you rank better in search engines. However, the tactic doesn’t have the same level of impact as it used to and might even make your site look spammy if you go overboard.

Try Another Domain Name Extension

Choosing the top level website name is only part of the challenge, you’ll also have to choose a domain extension, such as .ca, .com or one of the many other possibilities. The .com domain extension is usually the most desired. Unfortunately, that means the domain name you want may already be owned by someone else (there are well over 100 million domain names that use .com). Luckily, there are many other domain name extensions to choose from.

You may want a different domain extension for other reasons too, such as geographic (if your target market is primarily in one country or province) or to further describe the type of website (such as .org for charities or .shop for a store).

If your target market is local or primarily in Canada, consider .ca or provincial extensions, such as bc.ca. Location extensions are referred to as country code top-level domains (ccTLDs). These extensions tell both search engines and consumers where you are. For more information, read Should you Register a .ca Domain for your Canadian Business?

Remember to check for trademarks, however. You don’t want to build a website and then receive a copyright violation notice. For example, you couldn’t use shopify.shop without violating Shopify’s copyright.

Buy an Existing Domain Name

If the domain name you really want is taken or there are no other viable options, you can consider purchasing an existing domain instead.

There are two possible scenarios here:

A) If you visit the website that owns the domain name you’re after, what do you see? If it’s a ‘coming soon’ page or the domain registrar’s ‘parked’ page, the domain is owned but not active. You can try contacting the owner to see if they’re interested in selling the domain to you.

“If it seems like you may be able to buy the desired domain name, your first step will be to contact the owner and, if they’re willing to sell, make an offer,” suggests HostPapa. “The WHOIS database will be your best resource. If you can’t get the owner’s contact information that way, you might have to go through a domain brokerage like Snapnames or Sedo. Such companies may be able to reach out to the owner and make an offer for the domain.”

You can register a domain name and continue to keep your eyes open for an ideal one. If it becomes available, you can redirect the URL to your existing page or vice-versa.

B) If you can’t find a domain name you like that’s available, you can head to a domain name marketplace like Buy Domains to see what’s for sale.

Have you ever searched for a domain name and found out it wasn’t available? How did you handle it? Please share your experience or questions in the comments below, or join us in the Online Business Canada Facebook group.

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Digital Business & Marketing Manager at Online Business Canada | Website | + posts

Melody McKinnon is an internet entrepreneur with 25 years of experience in a wide range of online business models, backed by a formal business education and enhanced by training and mentorship. She has owned or managed both educational and ecommerce websites. Her book, 7 Recession Proof Online Businesses to Start From Home, is available from all major ebook retailers.

Melody has worked with many businesses & brands in a multitude of capacities. She can often be found on CanadianDigitalMedia.com, CanadiansInternet.com, CanadianFamily.net, and AllNaturalPetCare.com, as well as other quality digital publications. Her content has earned reference links from highly-respected websites, magazines and university textbooks.

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Lamont Rempel

Thanks for breaking down the complexities, made it much easier to grasp.


I tried buying 2 domain names and they went to someone else. They go FAST!!! There wasn’t any more available that I was interested in but I’m keeping an eye out still and registered a new one in the meantime. Great advice, thanks.

Inthenet Online

Down the rabbit hole LOL I’m overwhelmed with domain name possibilities and it’s swallowing me whole. I know I’ll find the perfect one without buying one but it’s tough to decide the best name for us. I’m going to narrow it down to three and then get friend & family votes. Wish me luck!