Hyphenated domain names, two or three words, bad for SEO?

Contemplating a new off topic open discussion, community forum, (possibly vB if I can afford it) but the two or three word domain names of choice have been taken, but the hyphenated versions are available.

Do you think, considering the domain names will also be valid keywords, obviously w/o the hyphens, this will impede indexing of site/pages based on the relevance of the domain names on the page content, or have little or no affect?

Remember the words used in the domain names will also be used in the title, description, and keyword, meta tags, as well as be 100% relevant, and hopefully at a preferred density within the landing page’s, and site page’s content!

Thanks for any feedback on this, I am currently learning PHP, and MySQL, as well as bumping my HTML, up to XHTML, and the associated CSS instead of hand coding every aspect of pages in any new sites I build!

Point is I am new to this and will likely have lots of questions!:x

These days, I don’t think it matters.

Hyphenated domain names aren’t bad for SEO.

I personally would always put the user above SEO. For example, I’d rather have a “brandable”, easy to remember, easy to pass on domain name rather than a domain name centered around mere keywords. I generally like having at least one keyword in the domain name to give the user some expectation of the website.

Make a list of available domain names that you are considering, gathering domain names from both ends of the spectrum. Get domain names that are more keyword dense, and then get domain names that are more brandable. See if you can find a middle ground that pleases you and makes sense to your target audience.

But I don’t suggest making a domain name decision purely based upon SEO. SEO is more dependent upon the content of your website as well as off-site indicators that have nothing to do with your domain name.

Sitepoint.com, for example, is one of the largest web development destinations and communities on the internet as you well know.

Then you have something like the popular http://www.pick-up-artist-forum.com/.

One domain name might have a short run advantage over the other, but in the long run, it doesn’t really matter, and I recommend brandability for the long run.

Oh I understand this completely, it just so happens that the domain name words work out to be keywords.

I agree completely about putting visitor experience and branding first, and to not just strive for SEO, but often this ends up being the case.

Like my niche market forum (ignore the current display, just did an upgrade that antiquated some plug-ins that didn’t reallocate the tables it occupied, so I am still working on it if it looks skewed) CusdtodialGrandparents.com, is a forum for grandparents with custody of their Grandchildren.

Now using this example if I HAD to use Custodial-Grandparents.com or worse Custodial-Grand-Parents.com, my question would relate to… not so much the single hyphenated one because the word “Grandparents” remains intact, but if it were the last case, wouldn’t my results likely be lost amongst serps showing custodial cleaning products, because the relationship between grand and parent are broken, and using “grandparent” as a keyword will show less relevance to the site name?

And then of course every site with lots back links and the word “grand” in it alone, such as Grand Pianos, Grand Cayman Island, and the such, would also be competing for position in those results?

I have tried such searches for site names broken with hyphens for this reason, but really not could assess anything solid not knowing how big a market is, because leaving out the hyphens brought many more on target results, although a few times it did in fact bring in results better on target, where as there weren’t a million of the same type of sites in the response, but just a few, before the subject criteria changed, as words often fall in to multiple categories of products or services, just as custodial, grand, and parents, does. Custodial cleaning products, grand Pianos and parents seems overly connected with babies.

Do you better understand what I am asking now?

I tried to keep the word count down in the first post because many people glaze over when they see a long winded post, regardless of the relevance of the many words NEEDED to properly communicate a thought or concept!

But after repeating those searches I did a few years ago, (just as I was typing this) it seems to make much less difference, since many sites are now displayed in the serps based on the “proper” keyword phrase being in the page title or description, despite the domain name, and also offered an alternate search in the manner of “[I]did you mean grandparents?”

[/I]So I guess you got me my answer pretty down pat, and this is no longer a concern to contend with when selecting domain names.

I also feel this dispels the common misconception that “meta tags” are no longer needed, or considered by search engines, because many results I just got, were from page title, and description, meta tags, despite the domain name being totally different and irrelevant from the search terms.

Thank you both for your input, it is really appreciated!


This is what I see people telling others:

asite.com this is good for humans as it is easy to remember and type

a-site.com good for SEO

But I personally think that using or not using Hyphens do not matter. Just choose a name that will be easy for your site users to remember and type.

I wouldn’t use more than one hyphen in a domain name, and even if I did I would buy the unhyphenated domain name and have it automatically redirect to the hyphenated name.

I did this just this week as the domain name (two separate words) looked silly amalgamated into one domain name - it happens like that sometimes.

They might be of a lesser value but no difference in regards of SEO…

There is no impact on Hyphen in SEO, people used to select keyword targeted domains to achieve better rankings,
IMO, one can get good rankings with out use of keywords in domains than hyphens in domain are worthless.

I have a few sites with hypernated domain names with the target keywords and they do quite well. I would always perfer the domain name without hypens but if the domain is your best bet with keywords, users can remember it easily and it needs to have hypens so be it. Only so many domains to go around.

Sometimes you need hyphens. Hyphens are blessings. Use them when necessary.

could be
Superb-Owl.com (a restaurant, The Superb Owl)

So use what you need to keep the name clear.

Sometimes (or lots of times) when searching for a domain name for your site you will find that all the non-hyphenated names are taken. My take on this is that it’s probably better to try for the hyphenated names that accurately describe the content of your site if the non-hyphenated names are not available. True… they are harder to remember, but you’re still in the ball game.

Excellent perspective and example…wish there were more like you out there LOL!

Not to say I don’t appreciate all input on a subject, because even the biggest dolt can sometimes inspire a thought that resolves an issue!
But back to the issues at hand, I am going to accept, from what all you good people have offered, that

  • Domains with hyphens do not affect crawlers from indexing!
  • Domains with hyphens may make branding sightly more difficult!
  • Domains with hyphens may be a little harder for people to remember!
  • Domains with Hyphens may in fact increase one’s understanding of the domain name as in the super bowl example, making it EASIER to remember!
  • Finally even if two hyphens are needed, as in one case for one new domain I am considering, it won’t really detract from anything if it makes the brand name stand out better than a runonword.com domain name!

Thanks for the variety of perspectives, brain storming with experienced people is always a gift to us amateurs!

Domains with hyphens may make branding sightly more difficult!

Domains with hyphens may be a little harder for people to remember!

Sometimes. : )

There are a lot of sites which label their sub-pages with hyphenated words making up a sentence. I can’t remember where I’ve seen them, but they go like this (ok, they’re not domain names but the same SEO rules apply actually):


This is perfectly googlably crawlable and is actually rather easier for people to remember (not that most folks would be typing this in, but possibly looking at their addressbar if it remembers stuff) than


which you do often see.

3 or hyphens are bad, as previously many spammers have registered such domain names. Search engines may consider such site as spammy website if the domain is registered for only 1-2 years.

Are you making that up or do you have a source for that? I see a lot of multi-hypehenated domain do OK. Do you really think the search engines actually care?

i dont think search engines care about hyphens in domain names. For SEO it has no impact. For the internet user, its not easy to remember if he needs to type the url.
Making sure that your domain name is easy to recall and also meaningfull (perhaps using your main keyword if there’s a possibility).

I mean in main domain name my-domain-name-us.com, there is no impact if you use hyphens in page names or directory names.

Matt Cutts who works for google said that hyphenated domain names are treated
the same but the less words you use the easier it is for people to remember it
so you probably should not use more than two words.

I mean in main domain name my-domain-name-us.com, there is no impact if you use hyphens in page names or directory names.

There is no negative impact from search engines either way that I know of. Where did you come up with this information?

If I was to buy a domain name, there’s no difference in SEO for hyphens, hyphenless domains, but bear your user in mind.

The superbowl/superb owl example is good, but the other thing I hyphenate is if the words begin and end in the same letter eg. hyperreview.com, I prefer getting hyper-review.com. Reads better IMHO.