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, – 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.

About The Author:

Alex has been involved on the business side of the internet since the early 2000's. He holds both a Management Science degree from the University of California at San Diego as well as a Computer Science degree from NJIT.

We Rock Your Web had its roots back in 2004 as the tech blog for a web design and development company Alex founded that has grown and evolved into the parent company of We Rock Your Web.

While his foundation is rooted in web development, his expertise today lies in content and digital marketing, SEO, organic and paid search, analytics, and publishing. Alex is an avid tennis player, nature enthusiast, and hiker, and enjoys spending time with his wife, friends, and dogs.

Disclaimer: This website contains reviews, opinions and information regarding products and services manufactured or provided by third parties. We are not responsible in any way for such products and services, and nothing contained here should be construed as a guarantee of the functionality, utility, safety or reliability of any product or services reviewed or discussed. Please follow the directions provided by the manufacturer or service provider when using any product or service reviewed or discussed on this website.

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Could it also look better with a hyphen?
For example (fictive):
rhoguerilla or rho-guerilla. Or psiexperiment or psi-experiment. Or picake or pi-cake.

And if “.com” is free, do you choose ALWAYS .com?
“.com” originally means “commercial”.
If the content of the website is not commercial, e.g. “.org” better?

General advice: Do not use dashes or numbers in your domain name – it is hard for people to remember, unless it is central to the theme of your site.

If you own a domain without hyphen and which consists of two words, you should register also the domain with hyphen.

Otherwise you will lose traffic, as a part of consumers will type your domain with hyphen into the browser.

Worst case: A competitor has the same domain with hyphen.

Hans-Peter Oswald

I want to comment on a hyphenated domain… registered 2008. I think that the government hacked this info it says registered since 2008 but why not register the unhyphenated domain not registered until 2013. PS when were people first allowed to register hyphens. Also I paid godaddy for domainbuy and backorder and the registrar changed for from hero something to uniregistry. I was pretty much ripped off by goDaddy and the registrar changed info but I cannot get info at PS I am registrant of and the trademark and the facebook page since 2012.

Just one word answer :

Which domain is good for Seo?

www(DOT)tshirts(DOT)in (or) www(DOT)t-shirts(DOT)in

Which will be ranked more?

We can use that and redirect the other.

Great article and nice to read the comments. Even after reading everything, I am still struggling with the best method for my needs. I own a small local manufacturing company that sells many diverse products and want to branch out and market one specific product online and not market it locally. I did some keyword research and this one product gets huge popularity on Google Adwords (673,000). So rather than try to market this through my existing company name which I only get about (320) and my main products only get a popularity of about 6000. I was hoping to get a domain with the three words that are the name of the product, example: wordwordword(dot)com However, a squatter has the domain and its counterpart word-word-word(dot)com So I did find that word-wordword(dot)com is available which the first word and the hyphen and other two words combined work well together. So I am really leaning toward this option. Otherwise I did find wordwordwordPlus(dot)com that is available. And I don’t mind as I the Plus could also allow me to market some complementary products with this main product. But then this would have a total of 17 characters. However, I did find that the wordwordword(dot)biz and word-word-word(dot)biz is available. My business partner hates the .biz extension, but I am not opposed to it and I have the final say. So my question is, would it be best to buy both the .biz domains and also the word-wordword(dot)com and build the website at the word-wordword(dot)com and redirect the other two domains to the .com domain? Or Skip the .com altogether since it would be easy for someone to omit the hyphen when typing it and mistakenly get to the squatters page. However with the .biz that could happen, since most people are somewhat clueless if it is anything but a .com. Or the alternative, find a domain that is somewhat relevant to the product such as WordShop(dot)com or WordFactory(dot)com or similar and build the site up with hypenated page names such as: WordFactory(dot)com/word-word-word(dot)html I favor the option of using all three keywords as the domain over trying to come up with a site like etc., since the Adwords Popularity are go high. Any advice is greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Hi Alex, I had a question about hyphens but I found the answer here. Thanks. I do have another question that I hope you can help me with. I have a company name and a tagline. In the marketing industry is it ok to use a variance of the tagline for your domain? The company is Transatlantic Collaborations. My tagline is ‘Solutions thru Collaboration’. I own and I have registered a couple of domains for the official company name. Could I use this domain ( or should I go for something closer to the company name ?
Thanks, Mike

Hi Alex,

My domain name is taken by a company in another part of the UK also selling clothing, although aesthetically they are very different. The domain name is company name followed by

I’m considering using just the company name (5 letters) but hyphenated between each letter. (a-a-a-a-a) and maybe just including company name + clothing in the page heading/elsewhere on the landing page. Or just avoiding that altogether and letting the images speak for themselves.

Is this a terrible idea for SEO reasons? I believe that anybody visiting their site would know right away that it was the wrong one.

It’s not trademarked or even a registered company name but they do seem to have been trading since 1998.

I have my heart set on this name. It’s just too perfect.

Many thanks!

Hi Alex, I’ve found your article really useful, so thank you! I’m still in a bit of a quandary though, so I’m hoping you can help.

I’ve recently qualified as a kinesiologist and am looking to set up my own business now which I plan to name after myself (e.g. Firstname Lastname Kinesiology). This is where I’m running into problems with the domain name though!

As far as I can see, there are two potential problems. The first is that I’ll end up with quite a long domain name (23 characters). I’ve considered shortening it to FirstinitialLastinitailKinesiology, but I’ve discovered that there is already another kinesiologist using that as their company name – they’re not very local and are only using it for a Facebook page rather than a website, but I’d rather not go treading on anyone else’s toes or creating potential problems for myself.

The second issue is that my second name ends in ‘s’ which means that when it all runs together in the domain name it can read as ‘skinesiology.’ I’ve considered using a hyphen to try to eliminate this, but the majority, if not all, of my business is likely to come via word of mouth and it sounds from your article as if this might be problematic?

I’d be really grateful to get your view on the above.

Many thanks,

Your thoughts on going with .co instead of .com? I don’t have to use my middle initial if I go with .co.

My own name as a .com domain was taken. I am debating kyle-(lastname).com or kylew(lastname).com With W being my middle initial. Do you have a recommendation?

Thank you for the feedback. I think I will go another direction. Leaning toward kylelastnameassociates or possibly consulting instead of associates. I’m a behavioral profiler and provide assessments and debriefs to individuals and businesses.

Your thoughts?

Hyphens – in a website?

Hi Alex
Your article makes for interesting reading !
I registered 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. ?

Its good people post articles like this as people like me are able to learn and try to understand the complexities of the web. Thank You

Regards Andrew

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?

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

I have a non profit organization. I can’t decide on a Domain name. Can you help?
Put all together with no hyphens.

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.

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.

You didn’t read or you didn’t understand. He perfectly pointed out the problem that also happen in the real estate business: investors not living in the premises and creating artificially inflated prices. That is nasty, whatever you think of it.

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 someday, there should be some metrics as to what fair market value is or a bidding process to allow all us low income “locals” an opportunity to participate in the domain name game.

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?


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


Hi Alex,
We’re a retail eyewear company going online. We chose the name “” but some people like it and some not. So we decide to go with “” 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 future? Forever21 using numbers as well. Hope to hear from you soon.

I personally prefer SeeofLife 😐

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, or alternatively thanx for any reply ?

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?

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?

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.

Hi Sarah, great question. If most of your traffic is coming through organic search (i.e. Google), it shouldn’t matter. For branding purposes, I would lean towards VivaAdmin as the primary name (notice how I used capitalization to differentiate the “A’s”, a possible approach for your marketing materials). I would also grab Vivadmin (one “A”) and redirect that and the hyphenated version to the primary if possible. Also note that in some countries, hyphens are a lot more common, sometimes even preferred (in the U.S. they are not), so consider who your target audience is.

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

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

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!

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