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In my experience it makes no difference whatsoever.
Are you suggesting either of the following:
1) Google can split "bluewidget" into separate words "blue and widget" so that if someone searches for "blue widget" they will have a match (ranking is secondary issue)?
2) Ranking of domain matches is so low these days that it does not matter if there is a match in the first place?
In practice I prefer to hyphenatize things like file names and linked images. Does it make a difference? I have no proof, only suspicions and advice from other WMs.
With domain names I prefer no hyphens, because then I have to explain how it's spelled. How often have you said "the-dash-big-dash-happy-dash-web-dash-site-dot-com"?
It's easy to prove. Search Google for big money term and I find following:
This from 37,900,000 results for popular search word (it's the plural of where you might stay on vacation or while away on business if you're interested).
both bluewidget.com and blue-widget.com will be seen as Google as relevant (how relevant depends on many other factors too).
Yes but those bluewidget.com's can appear not because there was a match in domain name (I got an impression that Google goes for exact match), but some naturally occuring "blue widget" keywords for both domains.
The question is therefore: if Google can't match those words in domains name, would that lose some brownie points that could have improved rankings?
Same with file names. Underscores help readers see the words in the file name, but a crawler merely concatenates the separated words.
That said, I tend to use a dash in my domain names, as I'm primarily interested in SEO, not branding.
As long as you're focusing more on gaining quality links and developing quality content, you can really go either way.
Think about it. There are way too many high quality entities - commercial and non-commercial - that do not include their most important kw's in their name (and domain name). Counting the presence of a kw in a domain would be essentially penalizing all those who don't have kw-in-domain, which would artificially skew the SERP's to sites that use kw's in domain (as an SEO tactic) ... and that's exactly what they don't want.
One has a hyphen between the two words that comprise our site name, the other all one word - these being our product, so to speak.
The hyphenated domain always comes out of Google before the other when searching for the product by name.
For example (I have changed the names to examples for illustation only)
oak-tree.com and oaktree.com
Caveman, I agree that site's don't NEED the kw in their domain to dominate the serps (just look at Amazon), but noone can state with 100% certainty that it won't help in some instances, all things being equal. It may only count for 1/10 of 1%, but that may be the difference between being #10 and being #11.
It's certainly not a magic bullet. And if that's the only thing you're doing to SEO your site...it ain't gonna help a bit.
If all your links are from link trades where you get to choose your anchor text, then I suspect that it will make little difference if your domain is bluewidgets.com, blue-wigets.com, or mamas-army-boots.com.
On the other hand, if many of your links use the domain name in the anchor text, then the hyphen is going to help you on the anchor text.
It probably helps some, but I would not concern myself if I could not get the ideal domain name, as that minor advantage could easily be overcome iin other ways.
It makes a big difference with Google, and an enormous difference with Yahoo and MSN
Anyway, to say that it makes a 'big difference' in G is simply not true. No, wait. I can't say that because as BigDave points out, none of us reallly knows. What I think I can say that it's a 'big exageration.'
If it does make any difference at all in G, the difference is so minimal that across the many sites we manage, some of which contain hyphens-kw's and some of which do not, there is no visible correlation between the two sets. (Meaning, the many other SEO and site marketing factors involved are of such greater importance that it's not worth naming sites with hyphens anymore.)
Certainly it has always made a difference in Y!, but this is a G forum, and the question posed was specific to G. With Y!, while I'd agree kw-in-domain matters to an extent, the days of spamming Y! with "kw-kw2-kw3-kw4.net" domain to get high rankings stopped about two years ago.
Don't get me wrong, we have those kw-in-domain.com's. We just don't place much value on them as SEO tools anymore, since SEO is only part of site marketing, and in the context of site marketing, having more professional looking names, and preferably brandable domains, makes more sense.
Gee, I wonder if it would help WebmasterWorld.com to rename itself with a hyphen in between the two words. Nah. Too many good inbounds to the current version at this point. Plus there are all those redirect issues. ;-)
[edited by: caveman at 8:43 pm (utc) on Feb. 3, 2005]