A short, one-word name (ex. cat.com), and especially .com domains, will be pricy because simple titles have a lot of potential uses, meaning people probably already check them out on their own. If you are going after a registered .com domain, you will have to contact the current owner, and even then, prices could be high for misspellings and multiple word domains. In the past years, companies and individuals have settled for bizarre names, misspellings, and old tricks like adding “the” or “my” to the front; note, however, that this will also reduce domain performance.
Make sure you can use their SMTP servers for outgoing email. Many hosting and domain name registration providers will not let you use their SMTP servers for sending emails. They assume you can send email via your internet server provider’s SMTP servers. However, a great many ISPs and broadband providers will only let you use their SMTP servers on their branded email accounts (i.e. [email protected]). This means that if you use your own email address (i.e. [email protected]), you won’t be able to send email via their SMTP servers. There are workarounds but you shouldn’t have to go to the trouble.
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Contact the owner. Before so much as hinting at a price, simply email to ask whether or not the domain is for sale. If you are known or can clearly be linked to a thriving business, create a generic alternate email address through which to contact them, as your success might be leveraged against you. Be aware, however, that an informal-sounding email address is more likely to be regarded as spam or junk mail.
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By definition, a domain name is simply a human readable form of an IP address. In function it is the destination that you type into a web browser in order to visit a website, such a www.google.com. Metaphorically, it is very similar to how you would scroll to a contact in your cell phone rather than manually dialing the person by entering their full phone number; the phone number would be an IP address and the saved contact would be a domain name. Always buy a domain with a reputable domain registrar.