If you want to set up a website then you’ll need a good domain name to go with it. But there are millions of possible domain names to choose from. So here’s some advice on choosing and using the best domain name.

First one important point. Even if you don’t plan on having a website just yet it’s a good idea to register a domain name anyway. (You’re allowed to register a domain name but not actually use it.) This will stop anyone else jumping in and ‘pinching’ your favourite domain name from under your nose.

* Make it as short as possible. Short domain names are easier for customers to remember and use, and are more eye-catching too.

Unfortunately most 3/4 letter domain names were taken years ago but there are still lots of slightly longer names up for grabs if you look hard enough.

* Make it relevant to your business. Yes, some companies use weird-and-wacky domain names. But relevant ones are usually better for customers – and better for search engines too. So, for example, if you’re selling cameras there ought to be something about cameras in there. If you’re running a cleaning service then, ideally, there should be something cleaning-related actually in the domain name.

* Check it’s not too similar to an existing name. Search for similar names and see what happens. It will cause confusion for customers, may lose you traffic, and could even get you into a dispute with an existing business.

* Check it doesn’t mean something other than what you expected! Here’s a classic example of what I mean here:

I’m not sure it is really a great idea for a website called The Therapist to use www.therapist.com! Also www.expertsexchange.com might be great for a gender reassignment clinic. But it was originally registered for something called The Experts Exchange.

So study your chosen name carefully to make sure it gives the right impression!

* Investigate the costs. There are loads of registration services out there who will register your domain name for you, and who can also offer hosting and so on. But check carefully into the ongoing costs – not just this year but for subsequent years.

Lots of domain name registration services offer low cost fees in the first year but then really ramp them up in the future.

If you can, it’s usually much cheaper per year to register your name for five years at a time.

* Look at the pros and cons of registering other TLDs. A TLD or ‘top level domain’ is the .com or .co.uk part of the address – others available include .net, .org, .info etc. You don’t have to register more than one but it can make it easier for customers – and stop other businesses from registering them in future and so benefitting from the traffic you’ve developed.

Lastly, should you buy a name that someone else has already registered?

There are businesses out there that register popular names and then offer them for sale to other businesses – often for hundreds or thousands of pounds. If you see a name you really like you could consider doing this. But remember – most likely you’ll be buying just the use of a name, nothing more. It won’t come with any established Internet traffic – which is what you really need for Internet marketing success.