Grabbing an expiring name
Domain names are reserved for a limited period of time. What if someone no longer wants their name lets it expire? At first it enters a grace period for 30-90 days, during which the original owner can still renew the domain. After that it enters the redemption period, during which the original owner can still renew the domain, but there is a fee involved. If even after the redemption period is over the original owner has still not renewed, then it “drops” (becomes available).
The risk with using an expiring name is that it might have hosted some less than desirable content before or might have a lot of spammy links from bad neighborhoods pointing to it. You can see some of the backlinks by googling "link:example.com" and the previous content by checking what the site looked like in the past with Wayback Machine.
You might think that if you see a domain registration expire, you could just wait until the redemption period is over and register it yourself. However there are groups which use special software that rapidly attempt re-registration of these expired domain names over and over again in order to be the very first to re-register it. You will not be able to beat them manually.
Luckily these companies are sort of mercenaries for hire. By paying them a small fee you can use their guns to get you the domain you want. If you want to know more about this subject, I highly recommend Mike Davidson’s classic article How to Snatch an Expiring Domain
The gist of it is that you can maximize your chances of getting your domain by instructing several of these “drop catching services” to attempt to get your name. I’ve had some luck using pool.com for this purpose, but there are many others as well. You can enter as many domains as you wish on their site, which they will then attempt to get for you. You can also browse domain names which will be “dropping” soon.
Consider a brandable variation of your key term
In the beginning I wrote that all the good names are taken. That's not entirely true. Actually only all OBVIOUS names are taken. Your best option may be to come up with a new unique name that no-one else has thought of. Something catchy, with personality and branding potential. A nice example of a name with benefits is mailchimp, an email marketing service provider which uses a chimp as their mascot.
The tactic is to try your desired word + an interesting suffix. You can put these ideas through Instant Domain Search to try them quickly, but there is an even faster way. There are services where you can enter lists of words to try as prefixes and suffixes and it tells you which ones are available. Some even have those lists built in.
The best one I have found is called Lean Domain Search. Suppose for example that you are thinking of starting a snack-related subscription box. As there are already dozens of snack boxes and many domain speculators out there, you will find that almost any good name is already taken. Entering the word “snack” into Lean Domain Search, you'll find that actually some good combinations of popular word beginnings or endings added to “snack” are still available. It doesn't suggest cute animal suffixes, but can find for example that “SnackGlobal.com”, “SnackGate.com”, “EpicSnack.com”, “ViaSnack.com” and “SnackBoss.com” among many others are still out there for grabs.
Thanks for reading
I hope I helped you find a great name.