Choosing a good domain name is very important for every website. A good domain name not only makes a website recognizable but also plays a vital role in SEO. Domain name may contain letters (a-z), numbers (0-9) and hyphen or dash (-). So, of course, hyphen is allowed in domain names. Moreover, a single domain may contain multiple hyphens in it.
But because of recent spam activities, a new question has arisen whether having a hyphen in domain name is good or bad. We will see different factors regarding this issue.
Are hyphens in domain name bad for SEO?
I wouldn’t say it is bad to have hyphen or dash in a domain name. But it may be bad if the instincts behind that are bad.
Majority of good domain names are already booked. The even sadder part is most of those domains are parked domains. So, it is sometimes convenient to ad an extra character in your domain, so that we can get the desired domain words or brand name.
But one must take care that the non-hyphenated version of the domain name is not a brand. Otherwise it may look spam or phishing. For example, face-book.com. There is no any point in booking this domain, just because it is available. It does look spammy. Because it conflicts with facebook.com.
So, if you are worried with the domain availability, consider this fact first.
Hyphenated domains are usually confusing. People usually get confused with the dash. They often forget the dash.
A very popular hyphenated domain I know, is Digital-Photography-School.com. While people talk about this website, they call it as “Digital Photography School”. No one says “Digital dash Photography dash School”. And a common tendency is to type all these words without hyphen. So, if anyone doesn’t know about these dashes, he/she may type DigitalPhotographySchool.com, which is nothing but a parked domain.
This may result in a huge loss in traffic. Hence, I would recommend to go with a domain name without any hyphen. This will help you to gain the viral traffic.
Google treats hyphens as separators. They even make it easier to separate out the words for people. So, they can be convenient many times.
Consider this example. expertsexchange.com. One may read it as Expert Sex Change instead of Experts Exchange. This forced them to change their domain name to experts-exchange.com.
In case you are looking for convenience, it is not bad at all to go with a hyphenated domain name. But, if possible, also book the non hyphenated version of that domain. It will help you to secure your traffic.
Spammers may take bad advantage of the convenience. They book hyphenated domains only to stand out in search results. For example, buycheapviagraonlieneinindia.com is much more complicated than buy-cheap-viagra-online-in-india.com. The second domain fetches more attention than the first one.
Only for this reason, hyphen domains may be considered as spam. Rand Fishkin of Moz says that :
Avoid hyphens. Hyphens detract from credibility and can act as a spam indicator.
Of course, this is not necessary every time. If your website doesn’t mean to be spammy, it will not be treated in this way, ever.
One dash can be considered ok. But multiple dashes may make it suspicious.
As, hyphens are allowed in domain names, Google as well as other search engines do not take it as bad in first view. For search engines, domains of both the types are same. Neither helps, nor hurts.
What matters is the way you treat your domain. highly-keyword-stuffed-domain.com vs. quality-content-rich-domain.com have a huge difference.
Hence, as stated earlier, spam may result in a penalty. Otherwise, it is 99.99% safe to use dashed domains. But still.. there is 0.01% of risk.
Hyphens in domain name make it very difficult to build your online brand. I already said people say only the words. No one says “the dash brand dash name”.
I still remember my friend told me “Theme Junkie provides very good themes”. And I visited themejunkie.com. This domain was parked, with highly relevant ads. I didn’t know anything about parked domains at that time. I was caught in the labyrinth of ads so that I couldn’t even get that it was a wrong place.
Hence, if you are pursuing a good brand name, never ever go with the dashes.
If you are running your personal blog, it is convenient to add a dash between your name and surname. Especially if your name creates confusion like Ben Dover and Bend Over. (Don’t take it personally. It is just an example.)
Also, first name – last name domains are available in most cases. So, you can easily book both the versions.
Everything discussed above is applicable to sub domains as well. keyword-stuffed-sub-domain.example.com may be degrading the user experience. Hence, content quality matters in the case of sub-domains as well.
If you are thinking about your internal URLs, note that I am talking only about root domain names and sub-domains.
URLs, directories and file names with hyphen do not at all create a bad impression. domain.com/my-keyword-url.html is not bad. Rather, it is good for SEO. You can also use underscores in URLs. I have already written a post explaining dashes and underscores in URLs.
So, make sure you are not interpreting anything wrong from this post. Also, tell me which domain you prefer.