Do Dashes In A Domain Name Hurt SEO?
Over the years we have helped hundreds of clients with SEO and have helped a large number of them choose their domain name. For these clients that have traditional business models, we 99.9% of the time recommend going with their company’s name in the URL. However, I’ve also managed several blogs that were monetized for affiliate marketing and with these we would often choose a keyword phrase for the domain name with dashes.
Picking a domain name can be a challenge. With so many domains already taken, finding one can be really hard. This makes it so you often have to add an inc. or some other word at the beginning or end of the word or words you want in your domain name. You may also have to use a dash oh hyphen (-) in your domain name too. This raises a popular debate in many SEO circles. Does having a dash in the domain name hurt with SEO?
Rand Fishkin of SEOMoz suggest the following taken from this post, (How to Choose the Right Domain Name):
Don’t Follow the Latest Trends
Website names that rely on odd mis-spellings (like many Web 2.0 style sites), multiple hyphens (like the SEO-optimized domains of the early 2000′s), or uninspiring short adjectives (like “top…x,” “best…x,” “hot…x”) aren’t always the best choice. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but in the world of naming conventions in general, if everyone else is doing it, that doesn’t mean it’s a surefire strategy. Just look at all the people who named their businesses “AAA… x” over the last 50 years to be first in the phone book; how many Fortune 2000′s are named “AAA company?”
Matt Cutts, the head of Web spam at Google also has weighed in on the subject. In his post Dashes vs. Underscores, Matt says the following:
Google doesn’t algorithmically penalize for dashes in the url.
My take on the matter is this:
Dashes not hurt the SEO of your website. However, only use a dash in the URL if you have to. Try to use your company or brand name in the URL instead. I don’t think a dash will hurt your ranking. However, a dash does make it harder to remember. We have clients who are constantly having problems with customers having problems sending them emails because they forget to put the dash in their email address. Or, you may be accidentally sending traffic to another website when someone directly types in your URL with the dash.
For more info on the subject, Here is a video from Matt cuts explaining how Google interprets underscores vs. dashes in URLs.