It’s an incredibly common question and one that many startups face in the early days of the business. Limited budget but the need for a solid brand to build on. Sure owning a stellar $400,000 one-word .COM would make a difference but if you just raised $500K you’re not going to spend $400K of it on a domain.
Most startups begin in the wonderful world of bootstrapping which means every dollar counts. So how do you pick a domain name if your budget is right around $1,000. Below are tips I give startups with this same question just about every week:
- Check-out Namejet, Go Daddy Auctions, Afternic, and Aftermarket.com – there are great domains expiring every day that might resell for tens of thousands of dollars some day but can be picked up for a lot less, as long as there aren’t a zillion other bidders. Also domain marketplaces like Afternic and Aftermarket.com have some great deals and it’s easy to pick up the phone and talk to someone who can help you find something within your budget. Just remember, you don’t have to make something up and search for a name nobody else has registered, there are plenty of options available, you’ll just have to do some digging.
- Go with a .CO, .ME, .TV, .IO, etc. – the list of startups who have raised millions of dollars on non .COMs is growing every week. You don’t need a .COM to build a successful startup, yes in some ways it can help but it’s no longer the requirement. Once you get out of the .COM space you can sometimes snag the exact word you want for a much more reasonable price. A lot of startups are afraid that if someone already owns the domain name then they can’t buy it. Sure you can. Just do a WHOIS lookup with a service like DomainTools and shoot the owner an email, you never know where someone’s head will be at when it comes to pricing.
- Use a domain hack – while I think there are some pretty clear drawbacks to domain hacks they still serve their purpose and can be a good option if there is a specific word or phrase you absolutely want to brand around. Don’t have the budget for places.com? What about Plac.es? Yes, you will lose some amount of traffic to people accidentally going to places.com but that might be a tradeoff you are willing to make.
Of course there are plenty of other options but the three above represent what I think is the easiest path to get a name you can run with in a lower price range. The most important thing you can do is to be realistic. You aren’t going to get that killer .COM or premium .CO or .ME name, you’ll most likely end-up with your third or fourth choice but you’ll still have lots of choices.
As I’ve said many times before, app-makers typically aren’t as concerned with their domain name so you might be able to stick with a name in this range forever. Other startups will begin with a cheaper name and upgrade once they have taken their business to the next level.
No matter what you do, don’t let anyone convince you that you need to spend 50%+ of your funding on a domain, this makes no sense. I typically think spending around 10% of your funding on a domain is reasonable if you are a consumer-facing brand and your website (and people remembering it easily) is critical for your business.
Last but not least. Always remember that the price of a domain has a lot more to do with who owns it than anything else. If you find someone owns a one-word .CO and wants $50,000 for it, that doesn’t mean that a name that you might even consider better couldn’t sell for $500, it really all does depend on the domain owner. That being said, don’t be ridiculous and go around offering one-word .COM owners $1,000 for their six-figure name.