How to safely research domain names in 2021

safe domain name research

So you thought of your perfect domain name. Great! Innocently, you hop online to check domain availability – has someone else already thought of your dream domain name? You’ve heard a lot about GoDaddy as a host so you use the GoDaddy domain name search tool to see if it is available. Seems like a perfectly reasonable thing to do for your website domain search, right?

That domain search bar below seems so innocent… helpful, even. It promises to help you find your “perfect domain name”, after all…

domain search tool godaddy

It’s not easy to find a domain name you want – let alone one that is available. Domain availability search can be downright nerve-wracking as you wait for the results. You are thrilled, and make a mental note to register your new domain name ASAP you just need to check on a few things first… After all, what are the chances that someone else will want to buy that exact domain name this week? Turns out, higher than you think…

Sometimes, however, just a few days later when you go to actually purchase that domain that you had found on their site, it is suddenly owned by a mysterious someone else. Suddenly it is a “premium domain” that is worth way more – hundreds or even thousands (!) of dollars. Has this happened to you? Have you seen your previously available dream domain suddenly disappear? I’ll give you a hint: That “someone” is not another small business owner, it is almost always the domain search tool where you searched for the domain availability.

Why is your dream domain name suddenly unavailable?

Unfortunately, many domain search services are taking advantage of you at that moment by buying the domain out from under you and then offering to resell it to you at a higher price. When you check domain availability using their tools, you are literally helping them to identify a valuable asset that they can make more money on – your dream domain is now seen as a “desirable” domain that is worth it for them to own & invest in the speculation that you will be willing to buy it back from them.

I know. It sucks. And unfortunately, it happens. This practice of domain buying & reselling is widespread, and even includes major hosting companies that you think you can trust.  What’s up?

Well, this domain reselling practice is it’s a lousy and unethical thing to do, but perfectly legal. Basically, these hosting companies use the domain search tool on their websites as a way to gauge consumer interest in a given domain name. It’s a reasonable assumption that if you are searching a particular domain for ownership, you will quite likely want to purchase it – even if you don’t do so that first day when you searched to see if it was available.

They know, of course, now that you want the domain you are more likely to pay more for it. If you had purchased it on the first day it would have been available for somewhere in the range of $8 – $15 / year. Now? They offer you the chance to buy the domain from that mysterious “someone” at a much higher rate plus a commission!

How to Safely and Securely Search a Domain Name:

It’s easy! Simply go to Namecheap.com, a reputable domain search & registration company. You can safely research your options there without worrying that the company helping you research is about to take your options away…

Or, start even simpler and just use google. Simply type the URL into your browser bar to find out if anyone out there is already using that domain name. Sometimes, however, a domain name is owned by someone but just not being used yet…  You’re looking for a blank screen like the one below:

safe domain availability name search

Need guidance on how to go through the steps of choosing a domain? Here are my step by step guides to choosing a domain and domain registration, as well as a good one on why you should say yes please to the option for domain privacy.

p.s. If you ever get an email or snail mail letter offering you the chance to buy a domain out of the blue, this is, in general a domain scam. You get the purchase that domain at a higher rate (ugh…), AND pay that company for a required period of hosting that domain before they will let you get it out of their hands. They’ll even try this trick with a domain that you already own! It’s a crafty way to try and get you to transfer your domain to them, when in fact your domain was already safe and sound on your chosen registrar.

p.p.s. I strongly advise against choosing a web hosting or website building tool from GoDaddy as well. >> Learn more about web hosting options here.

Sarah Juliusson

Hi there, I’m Sarah Juliusson, The Website Doula. I support your practice growth with creative website design, seasoned business guidance, and plenty of great resources to help you find your way. With 20+ years as a doula and childbirth educator, I believe in the value of your work as much as you do. >> learn more about my work as the website doula

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