Are hyphens in domain names a good thing or the work of the devil?

It’s not what makes it easier to type it’s what is easier for the end user to remember.

yes, a better practice is to separate whole words in the domain with hyphens

Why? There is a significant SEO benefit to be had in doing this for page urls but very little in a domain

and the only way its going to happen is if you do good marketing!

And having an easy to remember domain name that you only need to glimpse without having to worry about punctuation is a major plus from a marketing perspective - also it is a lot easier to direct a user to a website by phone or give out an email address if you can just reel it off without having to say the underscores etc. Consider this: how many websites advertised on the tv etc have hyphens/underscores etc in their domain name?

As far as ‘ease of use’ is concerned … I would have to say that if users really like what they see and want to visit more often, they will bookmark the site! or even better type the url directly

They’ve got to remember the domain/url first, so the easier it is to remember the more chance there is that they will visit:p

why? that doesn’t make any sense

Because search engines don’t put too much store in the content of a domain name - whereas a page name can and should be very descriptive as to the actual content of the page- ie a product name or about us etc. Think of it in terms of a high street shop - Wilkinsons is called Wilkinsons, not ‘shop-to-buy-paint-and-food-and-other-bits-and-pieces’. The domain is the brand and should be short and snappy, as you drill down through the aisles (or pages) then they need to be labelled as to what they contain and that’s when you need to seperate your keywords.

I’m confusing myself with my own metaphors now so I’m going to take myself to bed - and referring to myself 5 times in half a paragraph means I (s**t - make that 6 times) should perhaps stay there!

Sometimes you have to work with what is available. The .com domain name availability is very limited. The .ca, .nz, etc. domain names are readily available for use. So if you want to go with a .com extension, you might have to go with a long domain name or very creative short one domain.

Here is a short list of possible benefits of a hyphenated domain names: and have the same keyword value. is an extremely long domain name. The hyphens help break up the word so users can easily indentify the intent of the url
• You show up in the search engine just the same with the proper SEO process and marketing is completed

The cons of this hyphenated domain names:
• If you have educated your clients or users where the hyphen key
• The direct link traffic will be low until the marketing can compensate for it

Hope this helps.

It isn’t that it is harder to type a hyphen (although it is an additional unnecessary character), but that it is harder to get right. If you hear on advert on the radio (for example), for “Bob the Plumber dot com”, the obvious assumption is that you need to go to - if you want people to go to, you’ll need to tell people “Bob hyphen the hyphen plumber dot com”, and I bet that a quarter of people will go to or some other incorrect variant even then.

Putting hyphens in a domain name puts up a barrier that is generally unnecessary, and will usually serve to stop some people from getting onto your website. That isn’t a good thing. Never, never forget that the majority of people surfing the internet are pretty clueless, and pretty apathetic. If they don’t get instant gratification upon typing in what they think is your URL (even if they’ve typed it into the search bar), they aren’t going to persevere, they will just give up there and then.

i don’t actually need to be the fount of all knowledge just to register disagreement, do i

No-one needs to be the fount of all knowledge. I know that I don’t know the definitive answer for everything I comment on. But what I do know is that if I want people to take me seriously, or if I want to help further the debate and develop the discussion, I need to say more than “X is right / Y is wrong”. Unsupported assertions with no evidence or explanation don’t help anyone, because there’s no way for people to know if you are on the right track, and nothing to help them understand why one way is better than another.

as for ornery, you must be comfusling me with the autistic cuckoo

Nope, in this topic you are just being downright awkward. If it wasn’t for 30,000 posts and several logos under your name, from your attitude here I’d have instantly dismissed you as yet another of the tiresome snake oil salesman that we get incessantly posting inaccurate drivel.

yes, a better practice is to separate whole words in the domain with hyphens

That’s the kind of unsupported assertion that n00bs pollute the SEO board with. Would you care to give any reasoning, rationale or logic for your view?

Well, your first and third points seem to be saying “if you hyphenate it, it doesn’t do any worse in search engines than if you don’t” … which isn’t really a benefit. Yes, your second point is true, that in some cases the domain name may be difficult to read if it isn’t broken up by hyphens.

The solution to this, of course, is to register both domains and simply have one redirect to the other - then however people type it, you’ll get them!

not any more, not after you’ve disrespected me personally

have a nice life

I haven’t disrespected you and as the OP I’d appreciate a explanation of the reasoning behind what you’ve said.

Since this sparked a little side-discussion, i should probably elaborate on my throw-away statement:

  1. By “best-practice” I didn’t mean prescribed best-practice - but rather commonly accepted practice.
  2. As soon as you start to use punctuation in your domain you start to add a very small (but noticeable) level of complexity in the real world usage where people get confused over things like www and .com, let alone http: and “where the dash thingy goes”…
  3. Search Engine algorithms are designed to parse domains that are predominantly concatenated words. Hyphenated domains are the minority that are mostly registered due to the non-hyphenated domain being already taken.

A good article breaking apart the pros/cons:

Thank you seriocomic and Stevie D for your input on this discussion. For Stevie D response, the main argument that I was trying to state that regardless of hyphens or not, search engines normally do not care. Key words, contents, and marketing will normally win in the end.

The only negative down fall of hyphens is that makes it harder on the user but this once again can be counter acted on you market your domain.

i think hyphen can help it more readable for everyone if they use it for multiple words used in a domain so as not to confuse others on how it should be read… i think it would depend… some use hyphens because some have already taken the domain name without a hyphen…

That’s a very dangerous road to go down. If someone else has already got the domain you want (and I’m assuming you have a legitimate reason for wanting that domain, rather than just squatting and hijacking their traffic), it’s a really, really bad idea to take the same domain name and put hyphens in it, just the same as it would be to take an existing domain and change ‘to’ into ‘2’ or ‘for’ into ‘4’.

If someone else is already using and you set up a website on, you’ll find that a lot of your traffic goes to the other site - people instinctively don’t put hyphens in domain names, as a general rule. Some of those people will realise that they might have mistyped it and will try again, and might eventually find your site, but others will (a) have found what they wanted on your competitor’s site, or (b) assumed that the website doesn’t offer what they want, and give up.

You’re better off trying to think up a new domain name that isn’t already established, wherever you can.

I’ve read some usability studies which back up that people often forget to include hyphens and there’s an increased verbal complexity when you start adding grammar into the mix. I have to agree that generally speaking their a bad idea. While there are occasions like experts-exchange where misconceptions could occur, those are pretty rare and should remain the sole purpose for usage. Many not too computer literate individuals may not even know what a hyphen or underscore character is, let alone what key to press… there’s a lot of dyslexics out there who don’t need that kind of pressure, so I side fully with Stevie D (with backed research). :slight_smile:

You forgot Pen Island :wink:


The list goes on.

In terms of SEO

Which is better for domain name and/or url: hyphen (-), underscore(_), or plus sign(+)?

Hyphens and underscores are the best keyword delimiter you can use in your domain name or URL. They are seen as equal by all of the major search engines.

Many say that separators are not necessary as search engines can find keywords in URLs without assistance. They are smart and most likely can pick some keywords out of a URL. But they are not that smart. Sometimes it is not obvious where one keyword ends and another begins. For example: can be seen as “experts exchange” and “expert sex change”. These are obviously two very different topics. In this case a hyphen or underscore would clearly separate the keywords and solve this problem.

Will too many hyphens in your domain name cause the search engines to label your site as spam?

No. This is a myth caused by many spam sites using multiple hyphens in their domain name. Many people have wrongly concluded that only spam sites would need to use more then one hyphen. The truth of the matter is that having more then one hyphen in your domain name will not result in your site being penalized. The more likely scenario is that having multiple hyphens will result in a flag being set at the search engines and a manual review being done to see if the site is spammy or legitimate.

One thing to keep in mind when choosing a domain name with hyphens in it: you users. When using a domain with multiple hyphens you make it more difficult for your human visitors to remember and type in your domain name. Domain names with more then one hyphen should only be used if you are attempting to market your website through the search engines. If you plan on doing offline advertising, including word of mouth, one hyphen or less is recommended.

Common SEO Myths (These are UNTRUE)

* Outbound links improve your ranking
* Submitting your site to the search engines too many times will get you banned
* Links from .edu and .gov sites are worth more then links from other TLDs
* Pages with .php extensions don't rank as well as pages with .html extensions
* Search engines won't index pages with query strings/all query strings are not search engines friendly
* Using seo software will get your site penalized
* Too many hyphens in your domain name will cause the search engines to label your site as spam
* Traffic is a factor in a page's ranking
* Being a shared IP address will hurt your rankings

In terms of usabilty, does anyone know of any studies or is it all conjecture?

Going by the “one hypen or less” even “hybrid” would be good enough

I’ve no idea why your reposting stuff from the SEO FAQ as this is clearly a post about domain names, not search engine optimization mitts, however I will say that in context of usability it doesn’t need any primary research to back up the fact that people get confused by grammatical terminology. It’s pretty easy to see that if you say “mysite_” someone might see it as “mysiteunderscore” or not know what an underscore is (especially if their not too computer literate). While I’m not aware of any specific research into the subject, I can without any shadow of a doubt back up the claims that it does seriously mess with the accessibility / usability of the URL as such non-alphanumeric terms cause great difficulty to illiterate computer users, people suffering dyslexia and I’m sure that screen readers declaring the URL won’t have much of a run ride squealing the underscore or hyphen character right mid URL path… what’s been described in this thread is the exact same cause and effect style problems I noticed when trying to show elderly people how to use the web for the first time… it’s just plain confusing to them. :slight_smile:

This thread is in the SEO forum.

@Jumping Bean
You started it here.
Want it moved to “usabilty” and see how it does there?

Well in terms of SEO, it’s pretty straight forward… search engines index content, the URL is pretty much a non-factor (entirely), the only part of a URL which search engines account for when indexing is the ccTLD (in regional indexes). The URL is only a path to the resource and search engines find an instance of that path and follow it… hyphen or no hyphen, search engines really don’t care and don’t use the URL (from everything I’ve read). The only factor which a domain name (minus subdomain and TLD) will have within the context of this discussion is in respect to usability as it’s the end user who’ll be typing it into the address bar. :slight_smile:

This comment is another one which is potentially misleading…

From FAQ: “Domain names with more then one hyphen should only be used if you are attempting to market your website through the search engines.”

So should I be using multiple hyphens if I’m marketing my site through search engines?

Or should I only be using multiple hyphens if I’m marketing my site through search engines?

Or should I be using multiple hyphens if I’m marketing my site exclusively through search engines?

Or should I only be using multiple hyphens if I’m marketing my site exclusively through search engines?

Or should hyphens be avoided except when advantageous for clarity?

It appears the latter is true but the statement doesn’t imply this.

There’s no golden rule here. Use the KISS principle.

Pick one that you like and stick with it. Pick one that you think will help your users find a website and stick with it. Try it on your friends and family - tell them to go to your website and see how they would type it in…

Remove search engines from the equation entirely, unless the keyword competition is non-existent, you are simply not going to see a ranking difference one way or another…