The domain name is something that many people give very little thought to when setting up a new business or website, on the otherhand a few people over think the issue and end up wasting weeks searching and choosing the correct domain name. So how much time should be spent selecting your domain name and how much thought should go into it?
The importance of the domain name has diminished over the years, back when the internet was still quite young, around 10 years ago, having the right domain name could mean the difference between success and failure so this was a time when many unscrupulous companies bought 1000's of what they called premium domain names in a attempt to resell them for a outrageously high price, luckily most of these companies have gone whilst a few still operate hoping to dupe some unsuspecting companies into thinking these premium domains still matter.
So What Where Premium Domains?
In the industry they where referred to as exact match domains (EMD's). An EMD is one that uses the main keyword or keywords you are targeting as the domain name i.e buycosmeticsonline.com (if you wanted to target "buy cosmetics online") Many people still think that an EMD has advantages over a non EMD and that it will naturally rank high for that keyword. This was true about 10 years ago but not now, in fact in 2012 Google release an algorithm that targeted EMD's and many of these domains lost their ranking overnight.
Many novice marketers and dubious companies try to sell expensive EMD's names will tell you that EMD's still work and will show you selected results where EMD's do in fact rank but they rank because the site also has good content and has nothing to do with the domain name. The problem with using an EMD is that Google will scrutinise it more closely so i always recommend a branded domain ( the company name) instead.
What Extension Should You Use?
Again this is not as important as it once was and when a preferred domain name is not available for a certain extension many people simply choose and alternative extension and while there is no rule as to what extension you can use a badly chosen extension can give the wrong impression about your business or website.
My advice is to use the domain extension that most fits your reason for being online. For example, charities should us a .org or .org.uk, UK companies serving only the UK market should have a .co.uk and personal websites and blogs look great with a .me extension.
Also, search engines recognise that you are in the UK when you are doing a search so are more likely to display a website ending in .co.uk higher than one ending in a different extension. Some misinformed people will tell you that a TLD (top level domain) such as a .com is the way to go but a .com indicates that you trade Worldwide and a plumber in Bolton for example using a .com not only looks a bit ridiculous but can adversely effect his local search results.
Other Factors To Consider
Think about the length of your domain, don't make it too long or else it can look out of place on business cards and letterheads and hard for people to type into their browser without making mistakes. 30 characters or less is considered the optimal domain name length.
Avoid hyphens. Hyphens used to be used a lot in EMD's to separate keywords so too many hyphens can result in Google penalties, one is considered acceptable but remember someone may forget your hyphen and visit your rivals website instead. If your preferred domain is taken use a different one altogether, don't hyphenate.
Don't try to be too cleaver with obscure spelling and hidden meanings, your visitors just want to be able to find you and are not interested in your knowledge of Latin or your smart play on words. Make your domain name short, simply, easy give to someone verbally and use the appropriate extension.