One of the first (and most nerve-wracking) steps of the website building process is securing a domain name for your website. Your domain is your online identity and should align with your branding as closely as possible.

But, as you probably already know, good domains are tough to come by. Once they’re bought, they’re gone. That is, unless you’re willing to pay an inflated price or negotiate for an already purchased domain.

Let’s say you’re lucky enough to find a fitting domain name for your up-and-coming site … now what? You have the domain, but no website to connect it to. I’m happy to inform you that you’re now the proud owner of a parked domain.

Parked domains are useful for both new and experienced website admins alike. So, in this guide, I’ll explain what they are, how they’re most often used, and how to set one up in your hosting account.

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What is a parked domain?

A parked domain is a domain name that is registered, but not connected to an online service like a website or email hosting. In other words, it is a purchased domain name that is not currently being used. Instead, it is “parked” for future use.

Whereas most domains we’re familiar with point to a web page (for example, the domain name hubspot.com points to the HubSpot website homepage), parked domains usually point to either a basic “parked domain” page, a “but this domain” page, an ads page, or no web page at all. In the latter case, you’ll see an error in the browser like this:

a browser error message that a parked domain cannot be reached

A parked domain can also send visitors to the same web page as another, more primary domain name. In this case, the parked domain is referred to as an “alias domain” for the primary domain.

Why have a parked domain?

If a domain isn’t being used for anything, what’s the point of having one? As it turns out, there are several good reasons for keeping one or more parked domains:

To Protect a Valuable Domain Name

A fitting domain name is a rare and valuable asset. Unfortunately, anyone who’s tried to secure one for their website has likely found that their top choice has already been purchased, and that their only hope of getting it requires spending hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.

For this reason, many people will buy a domain early on in the process of starting a new business, even before they’ve started building their website, to take the domain off the market. Given the importance of a good domain name, it’s worth the cost of holding the parked domain until your website is ready to launch.

To Send Users to the Same Website as a Primary Domain

As mentioned, a parked domain can serve as a secondary domain for another primary domain. This parked domain points to the same IP address as the primary domain, and serves the same website as the primary domain.

It’s common for companies to purchase multiple parked domains with similar names to their primary domain — for example, a website with the primary domain product.com might also register other domains like:

  • getproduct.com
  • product.org
  • product.co

These domains are then set as aliases for product.com.

This tactic directs those who misremember or mistyped the primary domain to the correct website. It’s also useful for marketing campaigns — an alias like the getproduct.com domain can be a clever promotional tool.

Lastly, reserving aliases protects against cybersquatting. Cybersquatting is the practice of purchasing domains that are variants of a business’ primary domain name, then attempting to sell them back to the business. This may damage brand credibility, as cybersquatters can do whatever they want with this domain until your buy it back. Purchasing several related domains at once and connecting them to your site reduces the chances of this happening to you.

To Sell a Domain

Since domains are a highly sought-after commodity, many individuals and organizations make money by purchasing domains for a low price, then selling them off in the future for a profit. In the meantime, the domain stays parked. If you’ve found your perfect domain to be taken, this may very well be the reason.

To Keep a Domain Before It Expires

Finally, if you no longer wish to keep a website active, you can unlink the domain from your site’s IP address and park it until it expires. This prevents other websites from taking the domain until your ownership period runs out.

How to Park a Domain

If you want to park a domain, either to save it for later or to utilize it as an alias, the process is similar to securing a normal domain.

First, check whether your desired domain is available to be purchased. The simplest way to do this is by entering the domain in your browser bar. If there’s no website associated with the domain, the domain name might be available, or it may already be parked.

So, a good next step is to conduct a WHOIS lookup. The ICANN lookup tool will tell you if a domain is owned, who owns it, and other potentially useful information if you want to acquire the domain from someone else.

If your perfect name is taken, try variants on the name and the domain extension (try .org, .net, .co, or .io). If not, head to your domain registrar of choice and purchase the domain.

And that’s it! If you’re just holding onto the domain for now, you can keep it parked as long as you renew your ownership of the domain. When you’re ready, you can link the domain to your active website.

How to Create a Domain Alias

A domain alias is an alternative domain name that serves the same content as a primary domain name — for example, getproduct.com can be the domain alias for product.com. If a user were to enter both of these domains into their browser, they would see the same web page under both URLs.

You can set your domain aliases in your server control panel, the most popular one being cPanel. To create a domain alias in cPanel:

1. Log in to your cPanel account.

2. In the main window under Domains, select Aliases.

the cpanel dashboard with an arrow pointing to the aliases button

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3. Under Create a New Alias, enter your domain alias in the text box and click Add Domain. You’ll see your new parked domain added to a list of domain aliases. For each alias, you can set a redirect or delete the alias.

An important note: As cPanel instructs, for your new domain alias to work you must point the new domain to your hosting account’s nameservers. Otherwise, your website will not load under this alias.

Domain Parking Services

To cover the cost of holding a parked domain, you might consider using a domain parking service. Offered by many domain registrars, this free service is an easy way to monetize your parked domain — the registrar sets up a page for your domain and places display ads on this page. You and the registrar then split any earnings from these ads.

While convenient, this isn’t the best option for everyone. Namely, domain parking services will associate your brand’s domain with display ads. Those who find out about your company before your site goes live may see this page instead of the professional website they expect.

Since you have no say in which or how many ads appear on your parked domain page, a parking service could easily damage your site’s reputation before it even goes live. So, while it might cover some of the cost, it’s not a solution for long periods.

Addon Domain vs. Parked Domain

Before we wrap up, there’s one final distinction worth making: addon domains vs. parked domains. You’ll see both of these options in your cPanel account. While similar, they’re meant for separate things.

A parked domain is any domain name that is not linked to any unique website or web service. Parked domains may not be linked to any page, or they could serve as an alias for another, primary domain.

An addon domain, on the other hand, is meant for showing a completely separate website from other domains. You can add an addon domain through your cPanel, and this lets you control settings for multiple websites from the same control panel.

To summarize, parked domains are multiple domains for the same website, while addon domains are multiple domains for different websites (but accessed in the same control panel).

Have an extra domain? Put it in park.

There’s nothing glamorous about parked domains. At their most basic, they’re just registered domains that aren’t being used. However, that doesn’t mean they’re not useful — you can reserve domains before you actually need them, or send traffic from a parked domain to your main domain to catch some extra misguided traffic.

Whatever your reason, the moment you come up with a unique domain name idea, lock it down as soon as possible. Then, decide how you want to make use of your new online identifier.

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Originally published Mar 17, 2021 7:00:00 AM, updated March 17 2021

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Website Development