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Domain Name With or Without Hyphens?

Hand holding a domain name

Photo Credit: www.anna-OM-line.com

This is also a long disputed discussion in the search marketing community. Technically hyphens are recognized as a separator (or space), so they should be used in instances where search engines may not correctly discriminate your keywords. For example, expertsexchange.com – is that experts-exchange or expert-sex-change? In all other instances hyphens are unnecessary, as search engines will correctly parse out the keywords. We are finding that keywords in your domain name play a larger role than we expected with Google, especially for low competition keyword phrases. Either way, you should focus on the branding aspect of your name – i.e. stick with one that is short, simple, and easy to remember, as that will pay off most with your visitors in the long run. Remember – cater to your visitor first, not the search engine. Read our article on Keywords in Your Domain Name for details.

Word of Mouth Marketing

There is one undisputed argument for non-hyphenated domains. And that is when you are marketing your domain name by word of mouth. It is much easier to tell someone to go to “we rock your web dot com” than it is to try to get them to remember “we hyphen rock hyphen your hyphen web dot com” Chances are they will forget the hyphens, insert them in the wrong place, or not know what a hyphen is to begin with. To avoid this confusion, it is recommended to either begin with the non-hyphenated domain, or have the hyphenated domain redirect to your non-hyphenated domain. That being said, if you market your non-hyphenated domain and people link to it, your hyphenated domain will lose out on that link juice.

The Myth of “Hyphen Dropoffs”

Many people have reported that they are seeing drop-offs in rankings of their hyphenated domains in Google SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). Upon further inspection, however, the drop-offs are also being realized by hyphenated domains. The bottom line is that Google is constantly updating their search algorithms, so your page rankings will vary day-to-day, and often pages will go up and down in ranking or (worst case) be dropped from the index. But this has nothing to do with hyphens. Just imagine the risk Google, or any search engine for that matter, would run if they penalized hyphenated domain names that ended up being high quality sites. A simple, crude filter such as this has nothing to do with distinguishing quality content – and the complex Google algorithms have been refined to a development point that is far beyond this.

The Myth of “Non-Hyphenated Search Results”

Others argue that most top results reveal non-hyphenated domains and therefore non-hyphenated domains are better. Of course the results are going to reveal more non-hyphenated domains. Why? Because people try and register non-hyphenated domains first, because as mentioned, they are easier to market and brand. So the majority of sites use these – hence the majority of results contain non-hyphenated domains. The simple fact that the SERPs also contain several quality multi-hyphenated domains (domains with multiple hyphens) is evidence that these domains are not being penalized. The bottom line is quality – sites with quality content organized in quality fashion that are marketed well and are linked to by other high quality sites in the same industry should rank well over time, regardless of domain name technicalities.

The Myth of “Non-Hyphenated Popularity”

There are those that believe that people are less likely to click on hyphenated domains because of their association with spammy sites, and because long-lasting traditional domain names tend to be hyphen free. We’re not aware of studies having been conducted on the influence this has on current search patterns (please comment below if you are), but if this is an issue for you we suggest you go with a non-hyphenated domain name if possible.

The Fact of “Hyphenated Spam Domains”

Others will point out that multi-hyphen domains are rapidly disappearing from SERPs. This is no doubt the case – but it’s because spammers tend to use keyword loaded domains separated by hyphens, not because Google is specifically targeting hyphenated domain names.

Hyphens or Underscores?

If you are in a situation where you must use hyphens to differentiate keywords correctly (as in the above example), then it is important that you use hyphens, and not underscores. While Yahoo and MSN may correctly interpret underscores as hyphens, the predominant search engine, Google, does not (ie. it reveals different results for hyphenated and underscore searches, treating the underscore as a character instead of a space).

Wondering Which Domain Name To Get?

Do you have a short list of domains for yourself or your business and you’re having trouble deciding which to go with? Feel free to ask us in the comments below, we’ll be glad to give our opinion. Important – we ask that you register your domain names before posting them here, to prevent “domain squatters” reading this from “stealing” your domain names and then trying to sell them back to you for a higher price.

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About Alex Schenker

Alex bring a series of in-depth articles on search marketing and content management systems as well as troubleshooting tips to We Rock Your Web's collection. He is an avid tennis player, nature enthusiast, and hiker, and enjoys spending time with his wife, friends, and dogs, Bella and Lily.
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  • Darija

    Hi I just started a company caled Cata sailing and now I need to have a domain for it. I can either go with cata-sailing.com or catacharter.com. I’m worried about the impact of hyphen on SEO if I go with cata-sailing.com, but I’m also having doubts if catacharter.com will confuse people and weaken our brand. Please advise

  • http://www.hovertours.com Nelson Herrero

    “The key thing to remember here is keywords in domains aren’t nearly as powerful as they used to be.” I guess that’s true for English speaking domains. But for other languages, I notice this doesn’t really apply. As I’ve seem powerful Spanish keywords in domains get ranked really high.

  • http://www.spotondomains.com Ron Miller

    Hi Alex, I am attempting to purchase a domain to build an affiliate site for a specific product. I can get a two word exact match .NET domain with a hyphen in between. The competition on this exact word match is High and the avg. monthly search is 135,000. My concern is that I won’t be able to get it to rank on Google’s first page due to the High competition. I do plan to build plenty of good, relative content into the site as well as product listings. Would I be better off purchasing a related two word domain with a much lower avg. monthly search (6,600) with Low competition in order to rank on Google’s first page? Or should I go with a brandable .COM?

    • http://www.coverstorymedia.com/ Alex Schenker

      Hi Ron, excellent question. I would need some more specific information to give you completely accurate advice, but generally I would lean towards either the two word low competition domain or the brandable .com. Which one depends entirely on what your niche is, how you plan to market, what the actual keywords are, etc. The key thing to remember here is keywords in domains aren’t nearly as powerful as they used to be. If you want to send that data via our contact form, I can consult you outside of this public forum.

  • Alex

    Hello Alex, if a domain name has been purchased and placed on auction, but is not in use: is it not appropriate to purchase the hyphenated name if it would be good for traffic?

    • http://www.coverstorymedia.com/ Alex Schenker

      Hi there,

      Sorry for the delayed response, your comment slipped through the cracks! I’m not sure what exactly you’re asking here: are you unable to secure the domain that’s on auction so you’re going for the hyphenated version? Ideally you would have both, but if you can’t afford the non-hyphenated version and you anticipate your traffic coming primarily from organic search (ie. clicks on your link), the hyphenated version should do fine.

      If you can elucidate your scenario a bit more, I can give more targeted guidance.

  • kez

    Hi Guys, I have a problem…… I want to register a domain, i told someone and they registered it and now want more money than i can afford to pay, to release it to me. Could i use the same domain name i wanted but put in Hyphens? I am worried that this works against my rankings etc? any advice greatfully accepted!

    • http://www.coverstorymedia.com/ Alex Schenker

      Hi Kez,

      First off, I’m so sorry this happened to you! This guy sounds like a real scumbag. There’s two things you can do: yes, register the hyphenated version, as far as SEO goes it will be just as good as the unhyphenated version. However, for word of mouth marketing, it won’t be as effective and people may forget to enter the hyphen. You could try to come up with an entirely new (and possibly better) name, or you could use the hyphenated version for now and put a reminder in your calendar to grab the unhyphenated version in casehe forgets to renew it a year from now. Lastly, if there’s any kind of brand or trademark associated with the name, it’s rightly yours and you can file a lawsuit. Obviously, this incurs some legal fees and may not be worth it.

      Let us know how it goes and good luck!

  • Roxana Valdes-Lynch

    Simple question. Which one will be best ?
    byroxanalynch.com or roxanalynchdesigner.com?

    • http://www.coverstorymedia.com/ Alex Schenker

      Hi Roxana,

      I vote for roxanalynchdesigner.com. Simple reason: it took me a minute to figure out that byroxanalynch.com meant “by roxana lynch,” because the words “by” and “roxana” run together (“byroxana”) and make it more difficult (at least for me) to parse the word. The second benefit, from a keyword perspective, is that roxanalynchdesigner.com includes the word “designer” – which may help anyone searching for your name associated with this term.

      A third alternative is roxana-lynch.com, that’s also a good one (I might register this one as well just in case, even if you don’t decide to use it). And then of course there’s roxanalynch.net. But my top pick is still the version with “designer” in it.

      It’s never a bad idea to run these ideas past a focus group. That could simply be some of your friends or colleagues. Good luck and let me know what you decide!

  • Diego Rever

    Sorry it might be off-topic but this reminds me of another important doubt you have already met. Could be an interesting twist not so off topic, and I don’t know if you have already covered:
    >> Is it good for SEO to use a parent folder only for having keywords in the URL like diegorever.com/empreendimentos-sustentaveis/ecopet/ (uf) or better a shorter easier to remember that might even well be the main address like diegorever.com/ecopet (for the AmigasEcoPet.com domain to forward) , or to put it otherwise, is it worth the keywords put that long way (for worst entrepreneurship is a long word in Portuguese, well in English too…

  • Diego Rever

    Hi WeRockYourWeb! great article, it shed some good light on me but I’m still having a hard time deciding the best name for a brand of a series of ecological modular pet bottles I invented called ecoPETs. I want the name ecopet in the domain name but they are all taken, but none for a company in the pet bottles design segment, so it’s still a perfect name for my bottles. I decided to use the name Amigas ecoPET (ecoPET Friends in spanish and portuguese my major market), but the name looks kind of akward (amigasecopet.com), is it better with a dash (amigas-ecopet.com)? But that’s not all, it is curiously free another great name but without the ecopet keyword, only eco (ecoamigas.com [ecofriends in the feminine gender]). I think is more beautiful and easy to remember, so should I choose it despite the brand name is Amigas ecoPET? Is it a good idea to buy both domain names amigasecopet.com (or amigas-ecopet.com) and ecoamigas.com. Thanks in advance for any further illumination.
    Yours, professor Greenbrain

    • http://www.asecurelife.com/ Kimberly Kurimski

      Hi Diego!
      Is the name of your brand ecoPET or Amigas ecoPET?
      If it is Amigas ecoPET, I suggest using the domain name amigasecopet.com (without the hyphen). The brand name will be all over the site so customers will know that amigasecopet (the beginning of the URL) is the name of the brand.

      • Diego Rever

        Thank you soo much Kimberly for your prompt help, that’s what I’ll do, that was making sense for me too and I’m glad to confirm my sense was right.

        • http://www.asecurelife.com/ Kimberly Kurimski

          I’m glad I could help you out Diego! Good luck with your new venture!

    • http://www.coverstorymedia.com/ Alex Schenker

      Hi professor Greenbrain,

      Kimberly is correct as far as AmigasEcoPet.com targeting your brand name the closest, and we always prefer a .com with no hyphen when available (assuming the hyphen is not needed to make sense of the words).

      Some additional guidance: while I like EcoAmigas.com, it does not describe your brand (eco PET bottles). And while amigas-ecopet.com is easier to read, you can always market your domain name as AmigasEcoPet.com.

      I did some further research and found some other good candidates. I have emailed these to you to ensure that no one else reading this thread grabs them before you, should you decide you like them.

      Remember you can use keyword search tools such as adwords.com’ Keyword Planner to see if people are searching for your keyword phrases. If there’s an exact match with your domain name, that can help you get some initial traffic when you launch your brand.

      It’s always our advice to register variations of your domain name to help protect your brand, and to prevent competitors from getting them.

      Lastly, make sure you’re not registering a word that’s already trademarked. PET apparently stands for polyethylene terephthalate, and I don’t think that’s trademarkable, but you’ll want to confirm that.

      Good luck and please let us know which name you decide to go with!

      • Diego Rever

        Thanks sooo much Alex, your answer was extra complete and plus Kimberly has turned me a WeRockYourWeb fan already. I also look forward to reading your email as well. Today, I bought that domain AmigasEcoPet.com but no doubt it will give some ideas, maybe to buy a second domain.
        Greetings

        • http://www.coverstorymedia.com/ Alex Schenker

          Glad we were able to help Diego! Best of luck with your Amigas Eco Pet business. Feel free to check back here anytime for assistance as you grow your presence on the Web.

  • Theresa

    Hi,

    I like the fact comments are actually replied to so I’m hoping you can help with this one. I have recently launched an online gift store just-because.com.au. I also purchased another domain justbecausegifts.com.au. As I wanted the focus to be on the words “just because” I thought the hyphen would help. I’m in the process of doing some marketing campaigns and finding it difficult to include the “-” in the VoiceOver when mentioning the website. Do you have any suggestions?

    I then thought I might re-direct justbecausegifts to the just-because site and use the non hyphenated weblink on the marketing materials. OR is it better to just re-launch as justbecausegifts and redirect the just-because to this URL?

    Looking forward to hearing from you.

    • Kimberly

      Hi Theresa, I suggest dropping the hyphen. When I think back to the sites I visit most often, there aren’t hyphens in them. That is until I click to a direct page. For example, our domain is http://www.werockyourweb.com, not http://www.we-rock-your-web.com. When you go to this article the URL is http://www.werockyourweb.com/domain-name-with-or-without-hyphens. The hyphens help make it more direct for the search engine.

      If you’re thinking about redirecting one site to the other, I would redirect just-because to justbecausegifts. For your marketing materials, I suggest using the actual URL you want people to use. When I see justbecausegifts I can distinguish the words easily and I know that your site is probably filled with gifts that people can give to others for no specific reason. Just because they want to do something nice.

      Also, from a user perspective, it is much easier to type in justbecausegifts.com.au than just-because.com.au. That hyphen can slow typing down (which can get irritating) and I might forget that there is a hyphen. I could accidentally go to justbecause.com.au.

      Hope this helps Theresa, and if you have any more questions please let me know.

      -Kimberly

  • Steve

    I found your article while trying to research my problem. I was searching for a free hosting site, and I thought I’d found one that was going to be workable. The site listed several domain choices I could use for free, and the one I chose was their is-great.org as steve-tabler.is-great.org with my intention being to create a resume site and a blogging site. I did get the basics for my site setup, and I then added a Facebook “like” button. That’s when things went wrong. In testing the Like button, on the Facebook page I’m using for my testing, the very first attempt changed the button to the word ‘Error’ in red, and I could make out a much longer message while I hovered over it. Something about how this URL has been blocked for excessive spamming. I’ve sent a message to facebook, but I’m not holding my breath on their responsiveness. I have googled for issues surrounding the Like button, and I’ve found several hits from 3 years ago to 3 days ago with various nonfunctional Like buttons. I’ve also tried out a few Like buttons that did work. My question at this point is: Does the Like button have a problem with spamming and has blocked the is-great.org domain, or is this a problem with hyphens in the URL?

  • David Merrington

    Many thanks for all the very useful and interesting points here. An amusing one: When I registered for my membership advertising site I was not thinking about key words at all. Just needed a memorable name. Anyway, it was on Google 1 within four hours, and seems still to be there. Shows the potential power in choice of words…

  • Bender Rodriguez

    Have an opinion on hyphens, sure. But why oh why does the argument, “Oh, it’s too hard to say WORD HYPHEN WORD…” always come up? Who actually *says* the word hyphen? It’s dash!

    “Go to WORD DASH WORD…” Easy peasy, no? Not as complicated as the argument saying hyphen.

    Seriously… who SAYS hyphen?! sheesh! lol

  • Abdullah

    I would greatly appreciate your comments and suggestion regards to hyphen within a single word, where without a hyphen is unavailable.

    target keyword is islam.

    web address is http://www.is-lam.org

    google keyword search shows islam equals is-lam

    • We Rock Your Web

      That’s a tough one – in most cases, I would not split a single word into two with a hyphen. I would only use the hyphen two separate two words. The same goes for how Google treats these keywords – in most cases it would recognize two independent words. However, in the case with “Is lam” it appears that Google recognizes it instead as a spelling mistake, and immediately searches for your keyword “Islam.”

      From a search perspective, therefore, this approach appears to work fine. However, I would still recommend against using a hyphen to split a keyword because from a users perspective the URL looks confusing, almost like a mistake.

  • Richard Esq.

    I feel comfortable asking this question because I can see that you respond to your comments. I currently have an active long domain name with hyphen.

    http://www.smart-surveillance-tips.com

    I have registered http://www.SmartFoxSecurity.Com without the hyphen which I think makes more sense – it’s shorter and easier to remember. My website is currently PR3. Point is, I’ve been thinking of changing and moving my contents to the new domain for almost 4 weeks now but haven’t simply because I’m not sure if it’s necessary or if the current hyphenated name is good enough.

    Any thought on this?

    • We Rock Your Web

      Hi Richard,

      Excellent question. I think the answer depends on where the majority of your website traffic is coming from, and how important branding is to you. Some insights:

      *
      The recent Google EMD (Exact Match Domain) algorithm update devalued the importance of keywords in the domain name. While they still play a ranking factor, that appears to be diminishing over time.
      *
      A non-hyphenated domain name such as SmartFoxSecurity.com is definitely easier to remember and brand than smart-surveillance-tips.com. In addition, the Smart Fox name is rather catchy and more memorable.
      *
      If most of your traffic is coming through organic search, the branding of the domain name might not play as important a role as you think (as most of your traffic will be from visitors clicking on a link, in which case the exact keywords in your domain name won’t play as significant a role). However, even those visitors will be impacted in some fashion by the name of your website.
      *
      If you make a branding push down the road to e-mail newsletters, printed materials, etc. – the Smart Fox name will become that much more important.
      *
      Using 301 redirects and the redirect functionality in Google’s Webmaster tools, you should be able to more or less create a seamless transition to the new URL, retaining the majority of your search traffic and ranking points (we have done this with a couple of our websites with no major problems).

      Bottom line – if this were our website we would move to SmartFoxSecurity.com.

      Hope this helps! Please let us know what you decide, and keep us posted on how the transition goes should you decide to move.

      [Edit]: I see that you made the move already. Congrats! How did it go?

  • Anonymous

    The author of this article also lists out the basic arguments for several of the more popular lines of thought, both in favor of and against using hyphenated domain names. I am very glad to report that the author comes to the correct conclusion by stating that all of these arguments, both pro and con are not worth their salt.

    What every argument for one factor being overly important in terms of your Google ranking fails to take into consideration is that there is a whole ranking formula behind the search engines. To take a single factor in isolation is a huge mistake and it proves nothing. OK, so a number of spammy sites used hyphens in their domain and now they have disappeared from the search engine rankings. That settles it, hyphens in your domain are the kiss of death. Do not do this! Sorry, but again, this is an over simplification. The reason a spam site disappeared from the search engine rankings might have been that the site itself concentrated on spam. Maybe the site just stinks? Yes, that is a technical term. Stinks is when Google identifies a site as not worth of the digital space it occupies in cyberspace and should be immediately delisted.

    The arguments for how to get your sites to rank on Google still has not changed. It is not about whether or not you should or should not use hyphens in your domain. It is not about whether you should use link cloaking or some other black hat type of trick. The game still has not changed. It is just that now Google is becoming better and better at identifying those web masters who are attempting to game the system. Let me be the first to tell you the truth. Google does not like it when people game the system or play them.

    The way to have a site that ranks on Google is to create, build and maintain a quality site. This means good, quality content and information. Give people what they are looking. Make it a good experience for your visitors. Think about things from their perspective. Do your visitors really want to come to your site only to look at your sales letter? Do you think they are coming to your site with credit card in hand and asking themselves what will they buy today?

    If this is what you think then you will simply never make any money on the internet. Get off now and leave things to us responsible marketers who are trying to do things the right way. I am serious. People are online for one reason. They are looking for information. If they have a problem that has led them to your site, then do not abuse their trust or waste their time. Instead, give them the information that they came for. Provide value. If you do this, and do this first, then they might reward you with leaving their name and email addresses.

  • Anonymous

    As an internet marketer myself I found the article about whether a domain name with or without hyphens is most effective to be very interesting. This is actually a very old debate. I can remember reading debates in public forum about this very topic years and years ago. So, apparently the more things change, the more they stay the same.

    The reason for all of this is Google. The thing is that Google changes their ranking methods and formulas on a regular basis. In fact, it seems that sometimes a rash of consecutive updates happen, while at other times things are quiet on the Western Front of Google for 6 months, a year or even more. When the rash occurs it seems like we have just barely adjusted to the last update and then a new one occurs.

    Each time the update occurs, there are many so called search engine or marketing experts who seem to crawl out of their holes and are released from their self imposed exiles for a time. Then come out and tell everyone that they need to do this or that with their sites, or stop doing one thing or another. The whole game can be quite mind boggling and very confusing if you let it get to you.

    My own personal opinion is that having hyphens in your domain name does not really matter that much one way or another.The main thing that influences where you will be ranked by Google is your optimization activities. This basically means the number and quality of links leading back to your site.

    I do also think that if your domain is an exact match for an important keyword, this has some good ranking effects. In this case, I would probably NOT recommend putting any hyphens in the domain name. I think that Google is smart enough to correctly parse your domain name either way. Even if it could be read in several different ways, like the author pointed out, there will be clues within the content on your site. If there are not enough clues for Google to figure this out, then you are in trouble and having a good hyphenated or non hyphenated domain name is the least of your worries.

    The author did correctly point out the fact that having a hyphenated domain name is a real pain when you are telling customers or prospects to go to the site A, hyphen, B, hyphen, etc… Anything that is too complicated will likely not be done. Something like that cannot be easily remembered. Really, I do not think that having a hyphenated domain really works any way. To me, there is almost no value in doing do.

    I also think that the author is on track when he says that it more important to cater first to your visitors and second to Google. So often as online marketers we get things turned around.

  • Joe

    This is a question I have wondered about myself. I am creating a new website now (my 2nd) and the domain name I want to use has 3 words. Should I use hyphens in between?

    Also when I post articles using WordPress, it automatically puts hyphens in the titles (permalinks). Should I take these hyphens out or leave it alone? Thanks, Joe

    • We Rock Your Web

      Hi Joe,

      Excellent questions. As far as your domain name goes, see our response below (we recommend only using hyphens if the un-hyphenated version of your domain name is taken, or if the hyphens are needed to make grammatical sense of the name). As far as pages, it’s fine to use hyphens in the titles. You’ll notice that our website does this, we feel it makes the page URL’s easier to read.

  • http://marketbold.com/KeywordSniperPro/ Keyword Software

    I didn’t know that Google does not recognize underscores to be a hyphen. Thanks for telling me that. I should avoid underscores then. Better safe than sorry.

  • a web rocker

    Thanks for the article. Do you think the hyphen matters if the hyphen would normally be used in English? For example: ex-husband.com. Do you think it would still be better to use exhusband.com if it is available? Thanks.

    • We Rock Your Web

      Great question. Normally you want to use a hyphen if it helps make the combination of words more legible or is commonly used that way in the English language. However, in your case, I can imagine people simply typing in “ex husband” without the hyphen. The general rule in the domain world is that if you can get both the hyphenated and unhyphenated version, by all means do. Decide which you would rather use, and then redirect the other. That way, no matter what people type in, they end up on your website.

      Let us know what you decide to go with!

  • Lt

    So let’s say you bought both hyphen and non-hyphened domain names. Does pointing the hyphened domain to the non-hyphened domain help your SEO or vise versa?

    Also, how would you point to lets say, a forum folder on the site…i.e. mysite.com/forum if your home page was the domain with the dashes? i.e: my-site.com/forum ?

    • We Rock Your Web

      Redirecting the unhyphenated version (mysite.com) to the hyphenated version (my-site.com) may have some potential traffic benefit if your unhyphenated domain receives what’s called type-in traffic (traffic from users that type mysite.com directly into their browser’s address bar). Typically you will only receive type-in traffic for very common English words (for example, webdesign.com).

      Typically there’s not much benefit to redirecting the hyphenated version (my-site.com) to the unhyphenated version (mysite.com), unless you’ve used the unhyphenated version in marketing materials, or anywhere that might actually cause a user to type the name in. In other words, if no one visits the hyphenated version (my-site.com), there won’t be any traffic using your redirect.

      As for how to do the redirect, we recommend you read our article on search engine friendly domain name redirects.

  • jakcy

    The other truth is that most end users typically just click on one of the web sites from the very first research benefits.

  • http://www.Find--a--job.com Find A Job

    I am using the url Find–A–Job.com to research on double dashes to see if it can get on page one of Google which will take some time. While the site forwards to our main website, I believe dashes with key words should be a part of everyone’s Internet marketing strategy.

    • We Rock Your Web

      Interesting approach with the double hyphen. That hadn’t even occurred to us. I can see how that opens you up to a new set of domain name possibilities that otherwise would have been taken. However, I’d like to pass on a couple things from our experience that may prove useful regarding domain names in general.

      Don’t worry about the search engines when selecting a domain name, especially given the recent Google Panda updates (keywords in a domain name aren’t as important as they used to be). We always counsel our readers to focus on their users (readers, or visitors to your website). In other words, how easy will it be for people to remember to type in the double hyphen? Given how uncommon this practice is, I think you may have some trouble with word of mouth marketing. Then again, if you get most of your traffic from organic search, it might not be as big of an issue (since users will simply click on links to get to your site, they won’t have to actually type in the double hyphen).

      If this is just a test, we’d be interested to see how it works out. Please share your results once you’ve had the site up for a while!

  • The Duke

    Hi All,

    This comment will probably bring a smile to your face. I am a novice and Domaining, but enjoy keyword research.

    On a recent look at Google keywords I noticed the vast number of people that type the word Torrent into Google a month, 220 Million Global searches a month.

    Then I noticed that the domain torrent.com sold for $126k.

    So I typed t-o-r-r-e-n-t into Google Keywords and low and behold,

    Torrent and T-o-r-r-e-n-t have the exact same search results, Now I know no one will ever type that domain, but I think a % of people will click it. And as it will rank as well as torrent.com For this reason I thought it was worth a bet so I bought it.

    Once you stop laughing, what are your thoughts?

    • Sean

      I haven’t stopped laughing yet.

  • raksrocks128

    Thank you for sharing information. Hyphens make it hard to give your domain name verbally and falls down on being easy to remember or type. The use of hyphens can make the domain name look more spammy, so from a branding point of view, the domain name without the hyphens is a lot stronger. For getting a good domain name in terms of accessibility you need to follow some factors given below

    *
    Domain name must be short.’
    *
    Try to avoid too many ‘_’ symbol in your domain name.
    *
    Get the domain name that related to your business or product or organization.
    *
    If you want to get the domain extension .com and that is not available, try to register the new domain with the other extension like .org, .info, .edu, etc.

  • Lena

    Hi,

    I am not sure this is the right place to ask this question, I am new to this site and was impressed with the answers you provided to the questions about the hyphens in domain names. So hopefully I can ask my question here. I had purchased 2 domain names months ago, for two websites I am building, I was told then that the Google’ spider cannot distinguish two words so I had to put a hyphen between them.

    One domain was Hypnosis-Portland, the other was Psychics-Portland. For me it is important that the city name is included to be found locally. Then after doing more research on the web and reading yours and some other websites, I tried to find some names with no hyphens, however it was not easy to find some that made sense, so I bought those that were available but I am confused now, which to use, as they make sense but those that are good, also have 3 words rather than two and I wonder if Google spider will find it confusing, and too long? I really need to count on the domain name to try to be on top rather than the bottom, would you please help? Which would you choose?

    Here are the ones I bought now:

    *
    BestOregonPsychics.com (too long but logical)
    *
    Exceptionalpsychics.com
    *
    Trulypsychic.com

    and

    *
    PortlandHypnosisCompany.com (too long but has city name??)
    *
    HappierHypnosis.com

    I would like to target the local market too, so the long ones would be ideal if they were no that long. Your website URL has 3 words, but they are short so they sound good!! Which of these above do you think I should choose for the Hypnosis site and for the Intuitive Psychic site? Thank you so much, for your help, if you like you can post this question in the right place, if it may help others.

    Lena

    • We Rock Your Web

      Hi Lena,

      Thanks so much for your question! I’m going to try to answer the various parts of your question as best I can. Please let me know if I leave anything out:

      *
      Google not being able to distinguish words is false. They are very good at distinguishing words, usually no hyphens are necessary for this purpose.
      *
      Don’t worry about the Google spider so much – think about your users (potential website visitors). If the name looks good to you, and is easy to remember, Google will like it as well.
      *
      Don’t worry about length – as long as the name is easy to remember, it doesn’t matter how long it is.
      *
      Local market – if targeting your local market is a primary concern, it probably will help to have the city or state name in the URL. But keep in mind that if you ever move, you’ll need to make adjustments (ie. pick a new domain name and transfer your content).
      *
      From your first selection, independent of local market, I like TrulyPsychic.com the best. That’s a great name, short, easy to remember, and very catchy. BestOregonPsychics.com is good for the local angle, assuming you have multiple psychics working at your business. It also sounds a bit like a review site of the “best Oregon psychics.”
      *
      From your second selection, independent of local market I like HappierHypnosis.com. I could see this name being a good “branding” companion of TrulyPsychic.com, as they use a similar, fun play on words. However, again, if the local market is more important to you, PortlandHypnosisCompany.com is probably your best bet.

      At the end of the day, it sounds like the decision will come down to whether or not you want to focus on the local market with your domain name. Keep in mind that you can still be successful and cater to the local market with the “non-local” domain names. In the long run, your website content will play a more important role than the keywords in your domain name. So as a rule of thumb, think long term, and think of your visitors before the search engines. Search engines change their algorithms and they way they treat keywords all the time, so trying to optimize for them is a less valuable investment of your time than focusing on your user base and their needs.

      Cheers,

      Alex

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for this article. It is well written and explained well with examples. Please tell us something about the importance (or negative aspects of) country name extensions in domain names; specifically third level domain names, etc. How does this apply in searching, in terms of SEO credit, etc.

    • We Rock Your Web

      Country coded domain name extensions (ccTLD‘s = Country-Coded Top Level Domains) really come into play outside of the United States. In the U.S., the .com extension predominates and is preferred over .us. However, elsewhere in the world, usually the country coded extension is preferred, especially for local businesses.

      It all depends on your business model. If you are catering to customers worldwide, and are not associating yourself with a specific country, try and get a .com domain. If, on the other hand, you are associating yourself with a particular country or have a large customer base in a particular country, consider registering the country-coded domain extension for that country (ie. example.ch for Switzerland). If you do go with the country-coded extension, it’s not a bad idea to get the .com variant as well, if possible, to help protect your brand.

  • Anonymous

    Which is a better domain name for SEO purposes ekeywordphrase.com or keyword-phrase.com?

    • We Rock Your Web

      That’s a good question. That would honestly depend on the specific keywords you’re talking about. For example, I like eDigest.com better than Electronic-Digest.com, but Blue-Widget.com better than eBlueWidget.com. In general, I would go with the hyphen unless the “e” really makes sense or is semantically part of the keyword phrase (ie. if it is short for “electronic” or a similar keyword).

  • Anonymous

    Hi We Rock Your Web readers and posters far ‘n wide …. I’ve just found this site though a Google search, and as soon as I landed, I suddenly realized that your Google ranking is in the top 10 of about 1,010,000 (without hyphens). You’re really “walking the talk” :)

    I’ve been trying to understand how to get the most out of keyword research. It was getting kinda brain twisting the deeper I got into keyword research. I’ve been getting more confused – somewhere along the lines of “information overload,” if you know what I mean.

    This is partly due to the plethora of great tools available for free online. They let us really dig deep, wide, long, and short, for keywords. Enough results to fill a book … However, thank goodness I’ve cracked it.

    Well, the first cut is the deepest, so to speak ;) Check this out – my first attempt to gain a ranking with a dead domain name but with some really good content in house though that has not done me or the site any favors in the SEO rankings since day one? I’ve book marked this great page of info. Thanks We Rock Your Web!

    Plus I will spread your link around in my social networks. Thanks for your input and understanding.

    Cheers, and all my best to you,

    Phillip Skinner

    • Anonymous

      Look up the term latent semantic index and then remember the following:

      * 2-3 keywords or phrases max per page to “optimize” for.
      * Include them in the H1, Title, Description, Keywords and first sentence of the content.
      * Include the latent semantic keywords (the words that normally appear on a page that has a specific keyword already).
      * Break your PPC (pay per click) keywords up along the same lines as your narrowly targeted content.

  • a web rocker

    Hello.

    What if I am considering triple hyphen?:

    example: “federal-republic-of-germany.com”

    Or “federalrepublicofgermany.com”?

    Which is better?

    • We Rock Your Web

      For your particular example, I would definitely recommend not using any of the hyphens. As a rule of thumb, we would only use a hyphen if:

      *
      The un-hyphenated version of the domain name is unavailable.
      *
      Inserting hyphens is necessary to separate meaningful words (ie. see the experts-exchange example in the article).

  • Anonymous

    Hi, Without a doubt people who use hyphens in their domain name will not rank as high as people with domain names without hyphens. Just test it yourself. Go to Google and search for a keyword.

    When you see the results you will see websites without hyphens in the first results. There are so many white hat techniques you can use to rank on the first page of Google. It is even possible to rank in Google In 60 Seconds.

    Cheers,

    Andy

    • a web rocker

      I do not agree with those stating that having hyphen do not give good ranking. A good example is searching at google.fr with the keyword: location de voiture ile maurice”. The result is http://www.locationdevoiture-ilemaurice.com which is in the second position.

    • We Rock Your Web

      The fact that there are more search results pages of domain names without hyphens merely suggests that there’s more domain names without hyphens out there. Google’s series of algorithm updates over the years suggest that they are neutral about the presence of hyphens.

      This makes sense considering the saturation of the domain name market. Just because a company is unable to obtain an unhyphenated domain name, doesn’t mean they should be subject to punishment by the search engines.

      There are plenty of other factors that determine how sites are ranked. Don’t spend your time worrying about whether or not your domain name has hyphens for ranking purposes. More important is whether people will remember to insert the hyphen when they type your website name into their address bar.

  • Anonymous

    Like this article suggests, the only time a hyphen makes a significant difference is in word of mouth marketing. Take a look at your web analytics (ie. Google Analytics): if you’re getting the majority of your traffic (90%+) from search engines, then it doesn’t matter how long or convoluted your domain name is – most of your traffic is from clicks.

    That being said, a hyphen will always be more difficult to convey and remember. Imagine being at a cocktail party and telling your friends and coworkers about your latest website venture: “yeah, check it out at bla bla hyphen bla hyphen dot com.” Chances are, even if they remember the name, they won’t use the hyphen.

  • Anonymous

    With the few good options still left in the unhyphenated domain, I’m amazed that this is still even an issue.

    • Anonymous

      I would have to agree. It makes no sense to me that a domain name would be penalized for any reason, other than maybe containing adult keywords (in which case it will probably simply be re-categorized, not penalized – ie. it will be more difficult to place in non-adult search results).

      The fact is, the domain name market is like a hugely over-bloated and saturated real estate market right now. Domain names are slim pickin’s, so I would think search engines would concentrate more on website content and less on domain name keywords.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for this page, this page has answered some pressing questions I’ve had and concerns. I feel I will be able to purchase a domain name, and if it’s already taken, I’ll add a hyphen where needed. Thanks again.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think that hyphens have anything to do with the strength of a sites’ visibility on the web. The key issue to consider, in my humble opinion, is in the “talk-ability” of the site when introducing others to it or telling them verbally.

    When I first started my business, somebody already had my business name in a URL so I used a hyphen. This became a big problem in telling others about my web address. I eventually dropped the hyphen on my Clearwater Real Estate site and went to a dot net address (BullardRealty.net) as opposed to the former hyphenated version.

    I am happy that I did!

    • We Rock Your Web

      You bring up a really good point, thanks for sharing your insights. We’re glad you ended up with a domain name that you’re able to market more readily.

      As you mention, a key factor that should be considered, especially if you don’t plan on getting the majority of your traffic from search engines, is how easy it will be to market your domain name verbally. Tell a friend, over the phone, the domain name of your website, and without asking them to specifically do so, see if they remember it the next day.

      While a .com is easier to remember than a .net (most people default to trying .com), in certain cases it may be that a hyphenated .com domain name, as you point out, is even more difficult to remember than a .net domain. The best way to test this theory is to try it out on a small group of people and see if there’s an obvious difference.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve seen many articles on how to choose a domain name written but in very few of them (if any) have I see a discussion on the type of traffic that you will be wanting to build your website/blog around. Thanks for the nice post. I enjoyed it completely.

    • We Rock Your Web

      Glad you enjoyed it! We’re making regular updates as we learn more and as search engines tweak their algorithms.

  • Anonymous

    What do you think of using a non-hyphenated domain name for literature, brand recognition, and memorability with a redirect to the hyphenated version for search?

    Grabbie

    • We Rock Your Web

      In most cases, I would stick with the non-hyphenated domain name for everything. The search engines are smart enough to discern what your name means, in most cases. The only time I would insert a hyphen is if, as explained in the article, the name could be mistaken for something else (ie. experts-exchange.com (expert’s exchange) vs expertsexchange.com (expert sex change)

  • Anonymous

    I own chickenpaprikash.com and chicken-paprikash.com. My site is on chickenpaprikash.com without the hyphen. There are currently 8000 searches per month for the keyword “Chicken Paprikash” on Google. I rank on the second page of Yahoo, MSN and Bing for the keyword “chicken paprikash” but I am not to be found on the top 20 pages on Google.

    I have only been online for about a month but before I start getting backlinks and get established, should I try putting the site on chicken-paprikash.com with the hyphen? Is Google able to tell that the url is two words rather than 1 without the hyphen in the name.

    Thanks,

    Chef Rick

    • We Rock Your Web

      Hi Chef Rick,

      I recommend you stick with ChickenPaprikash.com (un-hyphenated). Google is good at splitting words, and the un-hyphenated version has an advantage when it comes to type-in traffic, word of mouth marketing, etc.

      The reason you’re not showing up on the front page of Google is mostly likely due to the fact that it’s much more difficult to rank in Google for certain keyword phrases than it is on Yahoo or Bing. With time, you’ll get up there. Try to focus on creating unique and relevant content for your users. Your time is spent more wisely here than it is worrying about backlinks.

      Good luck! Let us know how it goes.

      • Anonymous

        I just wanted to say thanks for taking the time to answer my question. I believe I will keep the un-hyphenated version. I have talked to several people and they all have different opinions. I was counting on my .com name being a searched “keyword” to rank higher in Google.

        Thanks again,

        Chef Rick

        ChickenPaprikash.com

        • Anonymous

          Good thing you did – your site is number 7 on page 1 of Google for “Chicken Paprikash” :) Remember, content is king.

          As an aside, if your website is called Expert’s Exchange and your domain name is expertsexchange.com, Google and other intelligent search engines will figure out your website has nothing to do with Expert Sex Change. Just do a Google search for “Expert Sex Change” and you’ll see my point. Ultimately the content will determine your page rank, not how you punctuate your domain name.

  • Anonymous

    I find that some countries (Germany (.de domains) for example) actually prefer hyphens. I was at a tennis tournament in Hamburg recently and was amazed at how many hyphenated domains were being advertised. They’re definitely easy to read – but the question begs, will users enter the name with the hyphen when they get home to their browser? I’m guessing it depends on the overall Internet habits of the populous. In the case of Germany, probably yes, because they’re used to seeing hyphens. Here in the U.S.? More doubtful…

  • Anonymous

    “…Not that that matters though, as Google largely ignores the content of your domain name…”

    I don’t think that’s true. I registered a domain name, and parked the site with pretty much nothing in the site, and it still shows up high for the keywords in the domain name.

    • We Rock Your Web

      You’re absolutely correct. Some studies we’ve done since writing this article show that keywords in the domain name do have a considerable effect. This is probably so that people searching for company names can find what they’re looking for. Competition definitely plays a role (highly competitive keywords are very difficult to rank for, even if you have all the exact keywords in your URL), but for less competitive keyword phrases we notice a boost in rankings when those keyword phrases are present in the domain name.

      You should also take into account type-in traffic to your website. This is from visitors typing your domain name directly into their address bar. This is particularly relevant for domain names that are short, simple, and generic (ie. dictionary words), or that have a very high search volume.

      [Ed: 2011 update: Google has been adjusting their algorithms to place less emphasis on keywords in domain names.]

  • http://www.murdochmarketing.com Tom

    Good, concise and balanced article on whether to use hyphens in url or not. I will likely RT or blog this. Thanks.

  • mbook

    Hi –

    Glad I found this comment thread. I am facing a dilemma… the domain I need is taken, so I registered the same domain with a dash/hyphen in the middle. Another person involved registered the full name but using the .me variation. What is the consensus to these possible names and will one generate more traffic than the other?

    coronadotv.com {taken}

    Choices:

    coronado-tv.com

    coronadotv.me

    Thank You!

    mbook

    • Kimberly

      Hello, mbook. I think what it will come down to is the quality and the content of your website. I believe coronado-tv.com would be preferred over the .me URL. If you have good information and content the URL will succeed. If you have any other questions please let me know, and thank you for reading and commenting!

      -Kimberly

    • Kimberly

      Hi mbook, I’ve done some further research that I wanted to share with you. We believe that .com is stronger than .me because .com is what people type by default. It’s so natural to them. Here’s our order for US market:

      *
      .com no hyphens
      *
      .com with hyphens
      *
      .net and .org
      *
      the rest

      As mentioned above, this is specific to the US market and not so much for Britain (co.uk), Germany (.de), France (.fr), etc. These countries have a cc-TLD that is actually more common for them.

      Please let me know if you have any further questions!

      -Kimberly