One of the most important decisions in establishing an online presence is choosing a domain name. The right domain name for your website is important, for both your target audience and search engines. Ignore the trends and fads of the day and choose a name that makes sense for your business or subject matter now and will still make sense 10 years from now. Here are 10 tips to help you make a good domain name purchase.

  • Always start with thorough research.

    Whether you are searching for a brandable domain or an partial match, it is important to first do extensive research before buying a domain name for your new or existing venture. Explore related businesses to see how your competitors are naming their respective websites. Google is your friend. Run several searches using topic-related keywords and browse the results that come up. This should give you a general idea of what names your potential or existing customers will find appealing and respond well to.

  • Opt for domains that are memorable and easy to spell

    While search engine optimization is very important, you should still lean towards a domain name that is unforgettable. Barring a few exceptions, stick to the proper spelling of words. Most of companies that have started out with misspelled domain names have ended up acquiring the correct versions later down the road. A good example is Twitter, which was formerly Twttr. What often happens in this that most of your marketing effort will drive traffic to the proper spelling of the domain name.

    At any rate, your preference for a short domain name should not drive you to a word so obscure and unrelated to your venture that people have a difficult time commit it to memory. Never forget the power of word-of-mouth marketing and promotion. Your choice of a domain will always determine how effectively your users relay news about your website.

  • Choose domains for the long haul.

    Pick domains that can withstand the test of time. Unless you are targeting only a small user-base, stay away from slang terms. This will help ensure that your domain remains meaningful for the next 10 years and over. Even if you're not doing business overseas, it will also enable your local, non-native speakers understand and remember your name.

  • The length of the domain name matters.

    Consider these two domain names: DomainCater.com vs. WeCaterToYourDomainNeeds.com, which one of the them has a greater chance of being misspelled? You are right, if you guessed the former. While most good single word domains are long gone, you can still find some pretty creative, short and relevant two-word names that will serve your purpose. Adding an adjective or a verb to a single relevant word, either before of after, can result in some pretty interesting and effective variations. It is important to understand that your domain name is an extension of your brand. In this light, you should ensure that it conveys your company vision, and how your customers perceive you.

  • Dot com is always king.

    Because the .com extension was the first established,   most people assume that all domain names end in that extension. Consequently, it always takes a little more branding and marketing effort to gain a following for domains with other extensions. As a rule of thumb, it is always advisable to secure the .com version of your domain no matter the extension you build it on. You always run the risk of losing traffic to the .com alternative when you set up your website on any other extension (.net, .org, .info, etc). While certain ventures are more commonly built on other extensions, it doesn't hurt to own the .com as well and redirect it to your current website. This helps tremendously with brand protection.

  • Avoid trademarks like the plague.

    If your purpose in buying a trademarked term as a domain name is to try to confuse people, you’re opening yourself up to having a complaint filed against you and having to give up the domain name. Even if you’re not trying to create confusion, you’re likely to face some legal challenges by buying trademarked terms in your domain name. To be safe, you can search for U.S. trademarks at www.uspto.gov and make sure no one owns a trademark on the name you are considering.

  • Maintain uniqueness in indentity.

    Even if the term isn’t trademarked, don’t buy domains that are just a variation of another domain name. This means avoiding plurals if the singular is taken (DomainCater.com vs. DomainCaters.com), hyphenating a phrase (Domain-Cater.com), or adding “my” or some other preposition (MyDomainCater.com). Alternately, you might consider buying these variations yourself and set them up so that if someone types one of the variations, they are redirected to your main site.

  • Hyphens are often tricky.

    Using hyphens to separate words in a domain name makes it easier to read and makes it somewhat easier for search engines to recognize the individual words. However, people often forget about the hyphens when they type domain names. If you do use hyphens in your name, don’t buy a domain with more than three hyphens. It’s just too messy.

  • Handle numbers with finesse.

    Avoid having numbers in your domain name. People can get confused about whether the number is a digit (3) or a word (three). If you want a number in your domain name because there’s a number in your company name, buy both versions (digit and word) and redirect one to the other. Be especially wary about using the number “0” in a domain name as people may see it as the letter “O.”

    There are a few exceptions where numbers might work better. For instance popular expressions such as  360, 365, 247, 420 are better written in numbers than spelled out. Try not to combine them with more than one word.

  • Consider social media handles.

    When you have a name picked out, go see if that word or phrase is available on social media sites like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, and Tumblr. Even if you don’t plan on using social media right away, you’ll want to have the option when you’re ready, and it’s easiest if you can use the same phrase on each site.