How do you pick a good domain name? Sadly, many of the good domain names are long gone. So keep this thought in mind: Domain names ending with “.com” are still the highest “value” for your online identity. Be warned, if you settled on a “.net”, “.biz”, “.us”, or any of the other dozen top level domains, people may still think “.com” when they type your address in their Internet browser.

If you’ve proudly created and maintained “MyCompanyAddress.net”, and a similar business owns and operates “MyCompanyAddress.com”, you’ve just given them free advertising and quite possibly some of your customers. The same rule applies for hyphens in your domain name. Granted, some business names actually have hyphens in their name, but when hyphens are used interchangeably with spaces, you’re setting yourself up to give away business. If your company’s website is “My-Company-Address.com”, how many people are going to forget the hyphens when typing, writing, or sharing your domain name? Also, interestingly enough, if you have too many hyphens (5 or more) it can negatively affect your placement on the search engines.

Unless you’re a non-profit organization, don’t even think about “.org”. Many of them are available, but they are supposed to be dedicated for non-profit organizations. If you register a “.org”, you’re going to give your potential customers mixed signals.

As more and more domain names are registered, it can be difficult to find that perfect domain name. Sometimes it can seem almost impossible, but with persistence, you can find a domain name that gets you the most return for your investment.

When considering your domain name, remember, the only valid characters for a domain name are letters, numbers and hyphens (-). Any other common punctuation, like the apostrophe (‘), underscore (_), space ( ), question mark (?), asterisk (*), or an exclamation mark (!) is not permitted.

Once you’ve settled on your domain name, keep these items in mind when presenting it: any decent web hosting company will not require you to put the “www.” in front of your domain name. You definitely don’t need to express the “http://” with your address. You can safely tell people “MyCompanyAddress.com” instead of always saying “http://www.MyCompanyAddress.com”. It gets unwieldy to say and write “http://www.” all of the time. People can only remember about 7 items (hence the reason phone numbers are 7 digits) so don’t waste their brain cells on “http://www.” Domain names themselves are case insensitive. When presenting your domain name, especially if your name has multiple words in it, use capital letters to make it easier for the reader to read and remember your domain name. “MyCompanyAddress.com” is easier to read than “mycompanyaddress.com”.

When selecting a domain name, keep in mind how many digits long it is. Even though you can register domain names over 60 characters long, they still need to fit on your business cards. The longer the domain name, the more likely it is that someone will misspell it. If you have a difficult to spell name or web site, there can be value in registering the misspellings to keep a hostile entity from doing so. If you have a long company name you may want to register “MyCompanyAddress.com” as well as an abbreviation. You’ll have to be extremely clever since practically every domain name made up of 5 letters or less has been taken for years.

It can be helpful for your domain name to contain the words of what you sell or what you do. Search engines can lean favorably toward them, but the rules for search engines change so often that you shouldn’t spend a lot of time or effort on this piece of advice.

An important note when selecting your domain name: when you find one that you like, buy it immediately. Now. Click the checkout button. Why the hurry? There’s an annoying and unexplained phenomenon that occurs when people research domain names and then think about it for a couple of days. When they go back to register the one they want, it’s gone. Sometimes it’s just dumb luck. Desired domain names have been lost by as little as 15 minutes. Sometimes it’s malicious. Some organizations watch for domain lookups and then buy the name you were thinking about in an attempt to get you to pay an exorbitant amount for the name. It’s quite nasty. Read the article “Whois Hijacking My Domain Research?”1 to learn more.