Domain Name With or Without Hyphens?

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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?

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

newest oldest most voted
Manoj Vijayakumar
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 WordFactory.com etc., since the Adwords Popularity are go high. Any advice is greatly appreciated. Thanks!
Michael
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 sthruc.com and I have registered a couple of domains for the official company name. Could I use this domain (www.sthruc.com) or should I go for something closer to the company name ?
Thanks, Mike
Jeanne
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 clothing.co.uk.

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!

Nell
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,
Nell

Kyle
Your thoughts on going with .co instead of .com? I don’t have to use my middle initial if I go with .co.
Kyle
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?
Issokay
Hyphens – in a website?
No.
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 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?
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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 future? Forever21 using numbers as well. Hope to hear from you soon.

picklink
I personally prefer SeeofLife 😐
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
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
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
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
I choose dashed domains, I think it is good for seo.
Or Ellenbogen
Great post!
Helped me get to a decision for my new domain!
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
Glad we could help you Shawn! Hope your site is a success!
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
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 partner seems to think that people will forget the hyphen or mess it up if we use one. I think that having they hypen helps the customer remember the business name as they will link Oji with Orchid Journal International. Can you give me your opinion please?
Coenraad Loubser
What about oji dot online?
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
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 a .com first, unless it makes more sense for you to have a different one

picklink
Well, hyphen is the only symbol allowed.
Kimberly Alt
That is true as well 🙂