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Domain Name With or Without Hyphens?

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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?

First off, we recommend Namecheap for your domain registration needs. They offer solid prices and back it with great customer service and functionality. We are very familiar with their platform so can help out if you run into troubles. I would highly appreciate it if you could use this link when registering your domain name (we receive a small commission) so I can continue providing this free domain consultation service (see comments below – I’m answering several new comments each week, which takes up valuable time and research). Thanks and good luck!

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 (on Namecheap, our registrar of choice) before posting them in the comments, to prevent “domain squatters” reading this from “stealing” your domain names and then trying to sell them back to you for a higher price.

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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178 Comments on "Domain Name With or Without Hyphens?"

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Andrew
Andrew
Hi Alex Your article makes for interesting reading ! I registered cruise-ship-shore-excursions.com as without hyphens is purchased but for sale (price unknown) but i still worry hyphens might not be good for us? We have built a simple site and hope seo will eventually be the dominating factor, Most business will come from search and click! Thinking down the line (Two-Three years) the hyphens won’t matter? or should we be looking at purchasing the domain without hyphens ? also what about multiple domains pointing to one site i.e. cruiseshipshoreexcursions.co.nz .co.uk ? Its good people post articles like this as people… Read more »
Jim

Quick question. The domain I would like to use Is priced in the thousands. It’s an 8 letter 2 word phrase so I have the option to hyphenate or get the .io version. Which do you recommend?

B. Gabriel
B. Gabriel

I’m a writer. The domain name I’d like (my own name) is taken, ex: FirstnameLastname dot com That site isn’t a competitor, since it’s a different sort of business. Would it make sense for me to hyphenate then? first name-lastname

Laura allen
Laura allen

I have a non profit organization. I can’t decide on a Domain name. Can you help?

Sundance-equine-assisted-therapies.org
Or
Put all together with no hyphens.

Lance
Lance

Nice post. Here’s an interesting notion. If companies or people would stop holding domains hostage we probably wouldn’t have this discussion. I don’t know how many times I’ve searched for a domain name and come to find it’s taken but not being used. But I could by it for $2000-4000 dollars. What!!!? To me that’s ludicrous. There should be some oversight on this stuff. So adding in a dash to make use of a domain that is the same makes sense to me.

Funny Guy
Funny Guy

Lance, I have the exact same sentiment for your home. You are holding my home hostage by living in it just like they are your domain, and you want to extort some inflated price for the wood, shingles and nails you are living in. But I could buy it for $100,000-$500,000 dollars. There should be some oversight on this stuff.

Eric
Eric
Yes but the house analogy doesn’t really work seeing as if you own a home, the thought is you live in it. For example, in Vancouver BC, there are absentee buyers from overseas that buy homes and hold them as real estate investments, thus driving up the costs for locals who want to buy homes to live in. If I want a domain that is in use, there is value associated with domain as its in use (ie lived in)… but if someone bought a crap-ton of domains in order to “sit” on them hoping their meager investment pays off… Read more »
Joe Taylor
Joe Taylor

Hi Alex. I am looking to buy a domain with the key part being that it is going to sort of act as an A-Z directory.

These are my options and at the time of writing they are all available. Personally I think the first looks the best. Would you please give me your opinion?

1. KeywordA-Z.com
2. KeywordAtoZ.com
3. KeywordAZ.com

If anyone else wants to have their say as well, it would be much appreciated.

Thanks!

Ron Talmor
Ron Talmor
Hi Alex, We’re a retail eyewear company going online. We chose the name “SeeofLife.com” but some people like it and some not. So we decide to go with “2seelife.com” the meaning for the 2 can go few ways: 2 as to – see life – words play. 2 as our main price is 2 for $15. And 2 as we are 2 partners. Some say the number will give us problem with Google. Most of our customers will come from Instagram or Facebook page or advertise ads. What do you think about the name? Can it hurt us in the… Read more »
picklink
picklink

I personally prefer SeeofLife 😐

ivanski
ivanski

Hello Alex !
I am trying to decide which name to choose for a business I intend to start up soon. It is a papercraft, mostly animals either placed as a trophy on the wall (deer’s head) or standalone (cat, rabbit etc) I am thinking paper-animals.com, or alternatively paperobjects.com. thanx for any reply

comment355
comment355

Hi Alex. I have one hyphenated domain name with keywords “travel” and “globe” – travel-globe . net Maybe you say me where hyphenated domains wanted, where I can sell it?

Tom McNally
Tom McNally

I have several domains I’d like to use for subdomains for SEO purposes. My business operates in Raleigh-Durham NC. Should I keep the hyphen in Raleigh-Durham in the domain name or not? For example, should I buy raleigh-durhamveterinarian or raleighdurhamveterinarian?

Sarah Pluves
Sarah Pluves

Hi Alex, just came across your article above via Googing about hyphens. I have registered vivaadmin(dot)com and also viva-admin(dot).com. I got the hyphen just to separate the two a’s in the name as I thought it look better. What do you think? Is it necessary for the hyphen? Cheers.

Linda
Linda

I choose dashed domains, I think it is good for seo.

Or Ellenbogen
Or Ellenbogen

Great post!
Helped me get to a decision for my new domain!

Shawn
Shawn

Thanks for the great article. I just registered a name with Namecheap with the hyphen because the name I wanted was taken. I used the above link so you guys get the royalties from the sell. Thanks again!

Kimberly Alt
Admin
Kimberly Alt

Glad we could help you Shawn! Hope your site is a success!

Sheldon
Sheldon

Hi Alex, first of all thank you for writing this awesome post. It was a good read! I’m currently developing a website that lays out the proper usage of “a versus an”. I’ve checked around and a lot of domain names are currently taken (e.g., aoran(dot)com, a-or-an(dot)com). I’m currently thinking of isitaoran(dot)com (or aversusan(dot)com – sounds weird., a-versus-an(dot)com, isit-a-or-an(dot)com) do you think any of these options make sense or will cause confusion? Furthermore, do you think any of these option will provide high google search results? Thanks in advance.

Brett Moloney
Brett Moloney
Hi Alex. I have bought the domains oji-online(dot)com and ojionline(dot)com My business name is Orchid Journal International. From past experience with Facebook groups I run I found people came to use an acronym that could be sounded out like a work, as say Oji. My business partner and I are debating to use a hyphen or not. For me I thought to go with a hyphen and mirror the non-hyphenated name to the hyphenated domain. My vision is that Oji will eventually become part of the brand as much as Orchid Journal International, our website and online magazine. My business… Read more »
Coenraad Loubser
Coenraad Loubser

What about oji dot online?

Will
Will

It seems domains with hyphens are not recommended. What symbols can be included in a domain? Now I have some examples in mind for a business/brand/domain. Would you recommend a combination of numbers and letters? Even numbers only? Or letters only? Would you recommend .net, .biz, .xyz, .co, .io, .online or any other? Or simply .com?

Kimberly Alt
Admin
Kimberly Alt
Hi Will, I would suggest the only symbol you use by hyphens. As for numbers and letters it can depend on your company name. For example B2B(dot)com makes sense to have a 2 in the domain because it’s in the title. I don’t suggest using tons of numbers and typically, it’s best to stick to letters only. As for using .net, .biz, .xyz, etc. I would shoot for .com. People typically associate .com with more reputable sites. So in general, following these guidelines: -hyphens should be the only symbol -only letters unless numbers are in the business name -go for… Read more »
picklink
picklink

Well, hyphen is the only symbol allowed.

Kimberly Alt
Admin
Kimberly Alt

That is true as well 🙂

Gabriela Fellini
Gabriela Fellini

Hi Alex. I want to to buy a domain but soulocal.com is not available anymore. So I think soul-local.com is ok but I am not sure about this hyphen. It’s a worldwide web so any advice would be great. Thank you!

Satish
Satish

Hi Alex,

My company’s name is Biostarch plastics LLP, and we are into manufacturing medical equipments in plastics.

Biostarch.com is not available.

I’m not sure which domain name I should choose from.

Available options are:

1) Biostarchplastics.com

2) Bio-starch.com

3) Dispogreen.com (brand name – dispogreen)

Please advise

J Mayo
J Mayo
Hi Alex, I just came across your site while looking for SEO solutions, I did a travel blog http://www.zimguide.com for my client. To my surprise it is not ranking for the term Zim Guide. I’m now confused even thinking that a Zim-Guide dot com could have been better. From your responses i gather that a 2 word domain could still do better without the hyphen. Is that your conclusion.. I’m slowly beginning to think that Google algorithm gives a higher score to clearly descriptive domain names, especially those with hyphens! I’m about to get into another project and i’m tempted… Read more »
Katherine Robinson
Katherine Robinson

Thanks! This post and your comments have been immensely valuable!

S Lewis
S Lewis

Hey Alex,
The domain name I want is already taken with the domain suffix .com . Should I hyphenate the name since whoever has the domain name is an architectural company and I will be doing apparel. Or should I just go with “.co” or put “The” in front of the name? Help please thanks!

Jeff Stephens
Jeff Stephens

I client that needs a website and his business name is Rick Wilson Plumbing, which RickWilsonplumbing.com is taken so I am thinking of an alternative and that being either Rick-Wilson-Plumbing.com or RWilsonPlumbing,com. I feel the hyphenated version is too long, what do you think?

David Wheeler
David Wheeler
Hi, I’ve built my own website, the address is http://www.tourtheuk.co.uk. This name was chosen after considerable keyword research. I am getting very little (if any) traffic and if I enter “tour the UK” into Google (without the “ ” and with the spaces) nothing comes up at all. But if I enter “tourtheuk” (without the “ “ and without the spaces) then the site comes up first on page 1. The natural way of searching in Google would be to type in the spaces. The site is built with WordPress and changing the site ‘title’ between “tourtheuk” and “tour-the-uk” (adding… Read more »
Michael Moody
Michael Moody

Great article Alex! Do you think hyphens are necessary for more effective keyword searches on the other url’s of the site though?

For instance, should I change my website page “michaelmoodyfitness dot com/personalfitnesstrainerchicago/” to “michaelmoodyfitness dot com/personal-fitness-trainer-chicago/”?

Gryph
Gryph

Hi Alex, could use an opinion here – I have a lengthy name and I’m a bit lost. GryphonTheriaultLoubier.com seems a bit long in the tooth. I currently have g-t-l.com and a couple of others, most variations are available. GryphTL, GryphonTheriault, etc. What do you suggest?

Eco Erin
Eco Erin

Thanks for the great article. I would like to use smslife.com, but it is already taken (It is available for purchase, but it is way out of my price range). I have the option of using thesmslife.com or sms-life.com. I am leaning towards the hyphen because it seems easier to market and sticks in the customers head. What is your opinion?

ohmypony
ohmypony
Hello Alex! First of all, thank you so much for this article, it helped a lot. I’m a photographer and I have a couple of registered domains already as the one I wanted is not available and it’s selling for $3500: deboraribeiro(dot)com. deboraribeiro(dot)net is also taken and .pt doesn’t sound promising knowing that it will only rank in Portugal. I have: deboraribeiro(dot)co – I currently use this one and redirect the two below to this domain. debora-ribeiro(dot)com deboraribeiro(dot)org What do you think would be best? .co or hyphen with .com. I think the hyphen would be a little more difficult… Read more »
Athletes Care
Athletes Care

Thanks for the wonderful blog. I also have the same questions please suggest me whether to use physiotherapy-ottawa.com or ottawaphysiotherapy.ca. Which would be better with hyphen or without hyphen?

Rui Pereira
Rui Pereira

Hi. I want to register a domain with my own name for some services. I want ruipereira.com but it is already taken. I have the option rui-pereira.net, rjpereira.net, rjpereira.pt or rui-pereira.pt (that is .pt for my country, Portugal). I always prefer the domain .com but can’t find one.

Janet
Janet

Starting a Blog: marketfreshcreative.com is taken (no content currently), so I was considering market-fresh-creative.com. In your opinion, do you think I will have trouble with this domain name given the hyphens? Any advice is greatly appreciated. Thanks!

UMABooma
UMABooma

Would using a hyphen in “sustainable” as in “sustain-able” for a domain name be confusing? There is more to this, but I’m not saying the rest.

Yiddish Translator
Yiddish Translator

Hi Alex, I couldn’t get the domain I wanted without hyphens, so am stuck with picking between a hyphenated name and a modifier. Which would you think would be better (I bought both already):

http://www.yiddish-translator.com
or
http://www.theyiddishtranslator.com

Sania zehra
Sania zehra

Hi Alex, I was going to buy a domain name xy.com, where x is an adjective and y a noun, but only recently someone has bought y.com. Do you think it will cause a trademark problem?

eg: Princess.com vs. HappyPrincess.com … Can Princess.com sue HappyPrincess.com? Or, the vice-versa?

Many thanks in advance for your help!

Jan

Hi Alex,

I currently own 3 domains names and deciding which one would be the best in terms of marketing and overall appearance.

http://Gls-Solutions.com
http://GlsSolutions.com
http://Gls.Solutions

out of these 3 which do you reckon would be the best?

Cheers.

Lisa
Lisa
Hi! Thanks for the article. Although, I’m still a bit confused. I plan on laying a heavy hand on SEO. I just purchased a website and I’m having a hard time coming up with a domain name. I’m a relatively new real estate agent and I own 3 URL’s: 1) http://www.buy-sellbaltimore-harfordhomes.com 2) http://www.lisanemec.com 3) http://www.thedominohomegroup.com The last one can’t be used because it’s for a team concept once I get there. The first one is so long and it’s hyphenated. I came up with this one way back when I was trying to teach myself SEO, LOL. And the 2nd… Read more »
Dawn
Dawn

Article was extremely helpful. I am renaming/branding my business and have been hesitant to buy the url because of the double e’s. My company name: Dawn Marie Events url: dawnmarieevents.com or dawnmarie-events.com. I’m concerned that when someone is typing the url they will miss the double e’s. Thoughts?

Sheri
Sheri

Interesting post. I’m starting a travel blog called Someday Today. I bought the url someday-today.com but am worried I will be ranked lower because of the hyphen. The actual somedaytoday.com was a ridiculously high price because of the very common words used so I can’t buy it. The only other option would be someday2day.com, but it sounds kind of silly to me to put the number 2 in there and isn’t the actual blog name. They also have somedaytoday.us, which I don’t care for either. This is tough. Do you think I’ll be ok with someday-today.com? Thanks!!

Brandfishing
Brandfishing

Hi Alex,

I have a relevant question regarding hyphenated domains and trademarks. If the non-hyphenated domain is trademarked, does it constitute a case of trademark infringement if the hyphenated domain is later registered and developed into a business?

For example, if say mobileapps.com (just an example) is trademarked and I get mobile-apps.com and develop it into a site and business, can the owner of mobileapps.com sue me?

Thanks.

Kwesi Banson Jnr
Kwesi Banson Jnr

Hi Alex – I am about to register a domain for a company with the name “blanko oil.” I have been fighting with idea of using hyphens, please advise me.

Rich
Rich

Hi Alex,
I have 2 options for a web-design related site: nekstar.com or d-igit.com.
What would be the best choice?
Thanks in advance!

Gabriel
Gabriel

Hi Alex

Great post. I was thinking of renewing a domain name that I had bought recently. This post helped my final decision. The domain was website-design-ottawa(dot)ca, however that may come off as spammy since I already market my professional web design services at techhelp(dot)ca.

What do you think?

xull
xull

Hi Alex,

I want to develop a website. I have an offline brand associated with it. Let’s say, for example, I run a hotel named Residence Hotel and I’m based out of Paris. But, ResidenceHotel.com is taken. What should I choose? Residence-Hotel.com, ResidenceHotelParis.com or ResidenceHotel.net?

Should I consider geo-targeted domains in the event that I expand my business somewhere else, let’s say the Arctic? Thanks!

alex
alex

Hi Alex,
I want to buy .com domain to use my affiliate links to get referrals. But sad thing is all short and easily memorable sites are already sold. For example I want to buy http://www.topptc.com but the price is too high. So I want to make my own site with hyphen looks like this http://www.top-ptc.com Would it effect SEO and decrease traffic to my site? Please advice.

Darija
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

Nelson Herrero
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.

Ron Miller
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… Read more »
Alex
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?

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!

Roxana Valdes-Lynch
Roxana Valdes-Lynch

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

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