Do Search Engines Care If Your Domains Are Hyphenated?

This is a pretty hotly debated topic at the moment, so I thought I would share what I have found in my research, as well as in the school of hard knocks…

According to Matt Cutts, Google mouthpiece, Google’s software doesn’t penalize for use of hyphenated domains even if there are more than 2 or even 3 in a domain name. So keyword-rich-domains.com will fair no better with Google than keywordrichdomains.com will.

Of course this is not necessarily true of the rest of the search engines. For most of us, our main concern is what Google’s software will or won’t do, but there are a lot of other search engines out there too.

The one area Matt Cutts separated out was circumstances where there could be confusion as to where the breaks between keywords should be. An example shown was that of books-exchange.com vs. booksexchange.com for obvious reasons. Matt claims that Google can tell which division is appropriate for your site, one would assume due to content.

But what if you are using a domain primarily as a redirect? I am not completely sure they would pick it up in that case, so keep that in mind when buying domains only as redirects…

Interestingly, Matt says that it is preferable to separate your keywords in a path by hyphens as many search engines will pick them up much better this way. He specified that hyphens were far better than underscores. What we are referring to here is the section of a particular url that occurs after the extension (.com, .net, .info…).

So according to this method yourdomain.com/whatever-you-want.html is better than yourdomain.com/whateveryouwant.html for many search engines.

To take advantage of this in a WordPress blog situation you need to change the Permalink structure under Settings to Custom and type in this: /%category%/%postname%.html

This changes the pathways structure for your blog and allows you to hyphenate the keywords you choose to include in the pathway portion of the url for each post.

None of this is to say there aren’t downsides to hyphenating the root domain such as best-domains.info Most of these have to do with verbally communicating your website address and the confusion that can result. Some people also think that a non-hyphenated domain name just looks better.

These concernsare not entirely frivolous, but let’s face it folks we are also dealing with a commodity that is not unlimited! There are definite advantages to a keyword rich domain name just as there are advantages to a .com over a .net or a .info as this site uses.

So you weigh your desired keywords over availability of extension. You take into account whether your keywords should be hyphenated, or even if the non-hyphenated domain is available. Keeping in mind your intended use for the domain (redirects) you then make the best decision available to you…

Competition over keyword based domain names is at a fever pitch these days, so these issues are not going away anytime soon, or probaby ever!

I advise you to use the extensions necessary to get the best keywords but be alert to opportunities that present themselves in the marketplace. Use hyphens to get your desired keywords when you need to, or to segment ambiguous domain names when necessary.

Apply balance using hyphens in domain names and you will be fine…

Jim Patterson
Keyword Based Domain Names Plus Backlink Packages
Tips And Pointers on Domains and Related SEO Tips

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