Do Hyphens in Domain Names Hurt Your Website Ranking?

picture of hyphens and website rankings

You do not have to look far on the internet to find a wealth of information, sites, blogs, and articles all offering helpful advice, tips or do’s and don’ts.

While it is easy to get information on some of the bigger items, like ‘where is it best to host my website’, or ‘how should I design a blog’, some of the smaller details are harder to find relevant information on.

With the world of the internet and digital marketing being so ultra-competitive these days, small changes can make a big difference.

If you are looking to start a blog or an affiliate site, you might be thinking “Damn, all the good domain names are gone, maybe I should add a hyphen?”

That may be a solution, but what are the side-effects of adding a hyphen, and are there any solutions to finding a good domain name?

We will take a look at all these questions (and more), so keep reading…

To Hyphen, or not to Hyphen?

Hyphenating your domain name does have somewhat of an effect.  Simply by the inclusion of a little hyphen, that little dash that links the words together, you can often get the website name that you so desperately want without downgrading your site to a second level domain; anything other than .com, . net, or .org.

But what does this mean for your search engine rankings? Does the addition of a hyphen have a negative impact on your sites ability to get listed high in the search results?

The unfortunate answer is MAYBE. Unfortunately, unlike linking your names together after getting hitched, the inclusion of a hyphen in your domain name can have an effect on your rankings and make your website look less reputable.

Taking advantage of everything possible to help your site rank can be the difference between success and failure. For those that spend time doing their own SEO, you will know that the minimum of tweaks can sometimes have a large impact.

So when it comes to choosing your websites domain name can that have an effect on your sites ability to ranking in Google’s search result. Absolutely. There are various things that will impact your ranking both positively and negatively. Read on to find out some of the different things that you should consider when choosing your website’s domain.

Choosing your Domain Name

One of the first steps you will undertake when beginning your new website project is picking a domain name. There is a huge amount of name extensions available like .io .in and .biz and it can be tempting to tag one of these on the end of your domain name and boom! You instantly get the name you want.

However, although this may seem like an easy fix and end to the frustration of searching for available names it isn’t going to help you in the long run.

Google seems to prefer top-level domains (TLD’s) for their website results. That means sticking to the tried, tested and very popular extension of .com or .net when possible.

If your website is location specific you should also consider a top level domain that reflects that too. For instance, if you are located in the UK use a .co.uk for your domain. Google will be able to better rank your site in geographic search results.

When selecting your new website name correctly it should be

  • Short and punchy
  • Attention-grabbing
  • Relevant to your business
  • Be a .com extension

Ways to Find A Great Undiscovered Domain Name

Once you have got your name ideas (or if you don’t have one you can try using one of the many domain name generators) the trick is to try and find one that you want that is available. As there are so many websites that have been built, many popular domain names have gone.

Finding the right name may prove to be a bit of a challenge. Using domain name generators can be a short cut to getting you the name you want or close to it.

Some generators simply tell you what is available, but some make clever suggestions based around the information you enter and may often return a name suggestion you hadn’t thought of that will work just as well for your site.

There are several options available so try a few of the different generators and see what kind of results you are getting based on your website name.

You can play around with various word modifiers like BESTwebsite.com or MYwebsite.com but another way to get the name that you really desire is to hyphenate, you know that thing that people do when they get married but don’t want to lose their name? Thank you, Mrs. Davis-Brown!

The hyphenation of website names has long been a matter of debate. Should you do it? Shouldn’t you? How does it affect your website and rankings? Is it actually useful to separate keywords?

There are several factors to take into consideration and while hyphenating doesn’t spell disaster for your website there are certainly strong arguments as yo why formatting your website’s name in this manner should be avoided.

Reasons to Avoid Hyphens

Apart from the lower rankings, there are a few other reasons why you should avoid using a hyphen in your domain name:

  • Hyphens make your website name harder to retain, and less memorable for site visitors. The hyphenated name is not as easy to recall as names without a hyphen
  • Hyphens are also associated with spam sites and less reputable domains, while your website may be completely non-spammy you will still be considered guilty by association. Best to avoid the hyphen all together and not run the risk of Google thinking that you are spam or otherwise disreputable site.
  • Multiple Hyphens impact even more. If you absolutely HAVE to use a hyphen for whatever reason and it is just unavoidable, then limit yourself to one and one only. 

The people that design and market the most popular website know what they are doing. So it is interesting to note that when listing the top 500 websites not ONE includes a hyphen in their domain name. It is not simply a coincidence, hyphens hurt and web designers know that so they tend to avoid using them.

Is there ever a time where a hyphen is a good thing?

Occasionally yes, but rare. The only time the hyphen will help is in assisting Google to determine what your site is really about.

For instance, if you have a clothing store Mens Exchange and your site is www.mensexchange.com Google may read that as ‘men sexchange.com’  not good!

They hyphen in this instance will actually assist Google in determining what industry your site is targeting so mens-exchange.com can help make things a bit easier for Google to understand as well as making sure you are appealing to the correct audience!

Are Hyphenated Domains Disappearing?

There have been reports recently that hyphenated domain names are disappearing from search results due to being filtered out by Google’s algorithm.

There isn’t much evidence to support this and should your domain already include a hyphen and is a legitimate website there is no reason to believe that Google is unfairly targeting you.

The fact of the matter is that we are getting more sophisticated and hyphenated websites are being used much less.

Also, there is an associated between hyphenated names and spam sites. As Google has developed its search and methods these types of sites are getting filtered out of the results, which probably accounts for the reduced numbers of hyphenated website names seen in search engine results.

Summary

As a final consideration, your website name does represent your business and hyphens look a bit messy.

That is purely an aesthetic perspective but again, why risk anything that conveys a negative impression. Again, if you have to use a hyphen, stick to one and one only.

If there is any way possible to avoid using one then delete it completely, and only use one willingly if its there to help Google grammatically determine the nature of your site.

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