A first step in starting an online business involves choosing a name. Your choice of a domain name should satisfy two primary goals. Your domain name should be easy for your customers to remember and the name should be related to the content of your site so that the search engines will index it better.

Here are a few tips to help in selecting a domain name:

Keep it Simple – When selecting a domain name it is best to keep it as simple as possible. Use short common words and keep away from incorrect spellings. For example, if you chose a domain name for a boys clothing line – something like clothes4boyz.com – you invite misinterpretations of the spelling of your domain name.

Leave out the Extras – If at all possible avoid the use of hyphens or underscores. A visitor is likely to type the entire name of your site forgetting the extra characters.

Com Extension – .com names comprise nearly half of all registered domain names and are by far the most common extension. Out of habit, if nothing else, a potential visitor is likely to type a .com after your domain name. Currently, .net is the next best alternative extension, if your .com domain name is already taken and you cannot adapt into a different one.

Stay on Topic – Choose a domain name that is related to your website. Not only will this help your customers associate your site with your domain name, search engines also use domain names to help establish relevance.

To sum up these suggestions: use a name that is easy to remember and to the point.

Now that you know what to look for in a name here are a few things that you should be aware of when shopping for a name:

Keep From Paying Too Much or Too Little – Most domain registrars pay between $5 to $7 per name and those who register large quantities may get even better rates. With that in mind, a fair price for a domain name is no more than $10/year. Additional features such as ID protection, also known as Whois Privacy, may be worth extra costs. But, you may be able to get FREE domain name Whois Privacy depending on which Registrar you choose to buy your domain name from. For example, our most favorite domain name and website hosting company is Dreamhost; they offer free privacy protection with every domain name you buy from them. Excellent!

Compare this with other guys, like GoDaddy or Network Solutions, and you’ll find true value in Dreamhost’s no-tricks pricing (they price doesn’t get hiked up several dollars after your first year’s purchase) plus their free Whois Privacy protection.

Beware of Hosts That Offer Free Domains – Not that this is a bad way of acquiring a domain name, but be sure to read the fine print. Make sure that if you decide to change hosts you are able to transfer your domain name without cost.

Check the Renewal Price – Although many Registrars may advertise an unbelievably low domain registration price, they may make up for the initial loss by charging a much larger price for renewal the following year. Contact us for recommendations on which Registrars to avoid, based on our own experiences.

Benefit of Whois Privacy Protection – Registrars are required to maintain accurate contact information for all domains. In fact, willfully providing inaccurate information can cause your domain to be taken from you. What this means is that your personal contact details are available to anyone who performs a Whois search on your domain name. By using privacy protection services, your contact details are replaced by those of a Domain Privacy protection service offered by the registrar. The service keeps your email address on file private, along with your name and mailing address, and forwards any important communication to you.

Now that you know how to pick a domain name for your new business, here is our recommended Registrar and hosting provider:

Dreamhost. Best quality, best service, best overall price and value. We use them for all of our own services and over 90% of our clients’ services.