A name by any other would smell as sweet? Not so in the internet world. A name is your identity online. Your domain name can literally make or break you, so choosing a good one is of paramount importance.

There are several key factors you need to keep in mind when choosing your domain name. These days its becoming increasingly harder to match your domain name to your business name. Almost every English word in the dictionary has been taken in the dot com arena.

Everyday a staggering number of domains, running in the several millions, are being registered. As a result it’s getting harder to find a good dot com domain that has not been registered. You need to be well informed before choosing a domain name. I believe it’s becoming common place to first get the domain name you want online then naming the company after the domain name. Since it’s easier to get a traditional company name registered than a domain name, it makes sense to sometimes reverse the order of things.

So, what do you need to know about choosing a domain name?

I believe it boils down to one word. Descriptive. A domain name that best can describe the service that is being offered or product sold will have an advantage over one that does not.

Is the name easy to pronounce and easy to spell and does it match your brand?

Does it match your company name or the brand of product you sell? Some believe that you need to try and keep your domain name and your company or brand name the same if you can. When you market or promote your product you are essentially killing two birds with one stone. It’s always a good idea that the name you choose will be easy to spell and easy to repeat. The reason for this is because a lot of promotion of your website gets around by word of mouth and this in itself will build your brand. You certainly want to have your visitor remember your domain name in this instance.

If you are trying to create branding or already have a strong following that are familiar with your brand then getting a name matching your company name or brand of product will be a great idea.(that is if you can get it). Strong branding is usually built over time and can be very expensive for the new business person just starting out, so you may want to consider targeting your domain naming to keyword or service specific terms.

Is a shorter name better?

Not necessarily. A short domain name may be easy to remember if the word is not cryptic. For example: xstl.com would probably be harder to remember than extend.com. You need to remember that people must associate the name with something.

A longer name like extendyourhome.com may also be easy to remember, if your site is about extending homes. The key here is not necessarily how long a name is but how well will people a) Associate it with you b) Remember it

What about hyphenated names?

There are many people who will tell you to get a hyphened name because the search engines will treat it better and you’ll get better rankings. This is in part (very small part) true but we come back again to the fact that you want the name to be easy to speak and to remember. Trying to say extend hyphen your hyphen home.com may be a little confusing. However for marketing solely online it should not harm you if you kept your hyphenated words to a maximum of 2 and try using related keywords will also help your cause. Search engines spiders are intelligent enough these days to separate words even though they are running together in the case of your domain name.

The best alternative if you want a hyphened domain name is to get both the hyphened and non-hyphened name. (if you can.) This way you are able to market the one and send customers to the other. A word of caution here though: This could affect you in the search engines because it could be construed as a doorway page. Even though it may not be malicious or intended to spam the search engines. People have abused this by registering a bunch of domain names and redirecting the visitor to another page. Either way, whichever of those domain names they actually type into the browser, they’ll end up at the same page. Be careful of duplicating or mirroring sites that refer to each other. This can get you penalized.

Should I use my brand name for the domain name?

If you are building a name around your brand and have spent money in traditional advertising then it would be a good idea to try and get a domain name with your brand name. If people already know your brand through traditional sales and ads then why would you think they will try and search for an unrelated name to get to your website? If I have a sports shoe called “superfine” and it’s become well known, then I would expect anyone going online to type “superfine” to find my shoes.

One caveat though, make sure that you will not be infringing on anyone’s trademarked name. If your product is not trademarked you may open yourself up to a lawsuit. The technical details of this can be quite daunting so consult a legal professional first.

What about keywords in my domain name?

It is helpful to some extent to have a keyword in your domain name that reflects what you sell. For example. I sell sports shoes and shoes.com is, as you’ve probably guessed.. taken. If I chose a domain name I would probably want to find out what the most common search phrases are surrounding shoes. (There are web marketing tools out there that will help you with keywords and stats) Once I have those phrases I may decide to incorporate that into my name.

So for example, the word hiking was the most searched for term in relation to shoes, you may want to structure your domain name around that term, and make sure that your website makes use of those phrases also. (providing of course, that you actually sold hiking shoes).

The main objective here is that you want to maintain as much relevance as possible. This obviously does not apply to those names that are named around a brand. In those instances you will want your web pages to have relevant content related to the terms people will be searching for to find your product and products like yours.

Some things to remember about domain names:

You do not own it. Your domain name can expire if you are not careful to renew when your term is up and someone else may snatch it up, so hold onto it.

Make a list of domain names you would like to have first, then go and do a search for them at any domain registration site. Try and get as many variations of your domain as you can afford. I’ve already mentioned the hyphened example above.

Go for the .com names first and get other extensions like .net and .us if you can too. Do your homework! Research is probably the single most important thing you can do for your website. Absorb as much info as you possibly can and you will be better equipped to make decisions that will benefit your web site.