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Is that still okay or is it best to NOT use dashes anymore?
Why should it be best not to use dashes anymore?
Unless you can register a highly natural type-in name without dashes, those hyphens could only help with regard to search engines.
So, all the things being equal - hyphens bring a small advantage as enabling words recognition by the search engines, especially if you have a phrase consisted of more than two words.
No search engine is able (yet) to recognize more than two words run together.
The domain name market tends to value nonhyphenated names more.
The benefit I can see is regarding SE rankings, it may help a little and having keywords in the URL would mean a searcher is more inclined to click. For any new marketing site I nearly always go for dashes (2 max).
The downside to dashes is you will get virtually no type-in traffic and there's a higher chance previous visitors will forget the actual URL and go elsewhere (possibly by accident). It'll basically become a SE domain only. So they're worth far, far less.
I keep hearing about type-in traffic regarding hyphenated domains and I feel obliged to always react on this.
As I already said, only NATURAL type-ins are affected in this way, e.g. very generic words and trademarks.
For the rest, you hugely depend on bookmarks, links and search engines, where the look of any decent domain does not play any role.
The number of people coming back trying type-in for such domains is extremely small.
Of course, this is about using a domain for its own need, not about (re)selling the domain.
www.the-domain-name.com or www.thedomainname.com?
The total characters in the domain name is 12 (minus the two hyphens if I go that route)
Which one would YOU go for?
or use "CNAME" record and point to the other name;
b) put the first, non-used name on the server too and make 301 redirection to the other, working one.
I would first check which, if any of the names has existing links, traffic, type-ins or SE position and make the main one out of it.
When I look for reviews, I go to Amazon.com, not Best-Place-Too-Buy-Books.com.
When I look for php problems, I go to Webmasterworld.com, not Web-master-forum-4-all.com.
You get the idea...
It's probably just me though...
Regardless of that, if the undashed version is parked or owned by ultsearch or someone who know it will never be sell, then you'll be fine with the dashed version.
Respecting SE, it really does not represent advantage if the keyword composed are dictionary or well known words, since most search engines will find the words (don't ask me how).
Also, if the nondashed domain is up and have already a site on it, have for sure that many of the people trying to reach your domain will endup in the other site : most people forget the dashes at the first type.
I don't regret getting the dashed version (not like I had a choice) and it certainly hasn't hurt my site. Of course, I'm actually doing something with my site, while the most of the non-dahsed domains are doing nothing.