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Is it time to kill the dashes / hyphens in my domain name?

They were a good idea 7 years ago; not so good now?

     
11:16 pm on Dec 30, 2007 (gmt 0)

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For almost 7 years, I have had a site with a url similar to my-own-very-green-widgets.com, where green and widgets are the main keywords. That site is in quite a competitive niche, but is not spammy and offers unique content and products. During the first years of its existence, it was consistently #1, 2 or 3, or at least on the first page of Google for "green widgets". About 2 years ago, it was pushed down by increasing competition and maybe a filter for too many dashes (?). Despite my efforts and 8,000 inbound quality links, it still does not rank on page 1 for "green widgets"; the best I can achieve is #15.

I have always also owned the domain myownverygreenwidgets.com (without dashes), with a 301 to the main domain. Is it now time to make myownverygreenwidgets.com the main domain, and has anyone experienced improved Google results when switching a hyphenated domain to a non-hyphenated?

6:11 am on Dec 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member quadrille is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



The domain name is just one of over 200 factors - and a minor one at that.

For a new site, there's still no disadvantage - and possibly a very small advantage to a hyphenated name. And there's no reason at all why it should harm an existing site.

However, do not forget Quadrille's Oft-Quoted 14th Law:

"More than one hyphen is international shorthand for idiot webmaster; More than two hyphens is Galaxy-wide shorthand for "I'd be a spammer if only I knew how"

I'm not suggesting anything rude about you - it's just the look of the thing.

On the other hand, changing a site's URL is usually the single worst thing you can do for a site. So even if your premise was correct - and it's most unlikely to have been involved in any way - changing the domain name will do 100 times as much damage as you hoped to repair. Maybe 200x.

The problem is elsewhere - and so is the solution.

6:21 am on Dec 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator incredibill is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



I would examine the 14 sites ahead of yours and see what they did that you didn't.

Most people miss basic SEO stuff that is easily fixed and you float right back to the top 10, especially with 8K IBLs unless someone is playing dirty. If they're playing dirty pop into the Google Webmaster Central and file a spam report and see if they do anything about it.

7:57 am on Dec 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



I would examine the 14 sites ahead of yours and see what they did that you didn't.
Well, to start with, they don't have as many hyphens in their domains :)

But 2 very valuable opinions against the change from hyphenated to non-hyphenated will certainly make me study my competitors' advantage more in depth. Thanks and have a good year!

1:35 pm on Dec 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



England/Europe loves hyphens. America, not so much.

p/g

1:57 pm on Dec 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



as many

... as many? *blink*

*reads OP again*

Ah... I see.
Well, good luck.

...

If your site doesn't attract links that use the URLs ie. the domain name as the anchor text, there's no point in having-such-a-domain-name anymore. And even then you could use directory names/filenames the same way ( like every blog on planet Earth does by now ).

But if you're a firm believer of following up on all hints, consider which is better for you, if you get 1 extra ( 1 UP ) credit for

havingsuchadomainname

or

having such a domain name

...while trying to weigh in the ever changing 'we know it's SEO' parameter at Google.

I, for one, have never used more than a single hyphen, and such decisions were usually made for the sake of clarity - where there were more than one readings to the same domain name *smirk*

...

3:05 pm on Dec 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member topr8 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



>>More than one hyphen is international shorthand for idiot webmaster;

i make a nice living from a website with 2 hyphens in the domain name, it's been live since about 1999.
i don't mind if other people think i'm an idiot

4:02 pm on Dec 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member quadrille is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



" England/Europe loves hyphens. America, not so much."

I don't think that's so, and anyway, uncool or not, what matters is what search engines do - and they have expressed a slight preference for domain names they can read easily, over those that they have potential parsing problems with.

But it's only a slight preference, not one that makes a significant difference.

As for people, there are those that argue that people 'prefer' nonhyphenatednamesandwhoamitoargue - but there are also those who believe that visitors really don't mind much (unless they are seos), but with hyphens, they-are-less-likely-to-make-simple-spelling-errors.

4:09 pm on Dec 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member pageoneresults is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



No hyphens, it is a branding nightmare unless of course you have the non-hyphenated version. The SEs can read words from continuous strings so the hyphens are not needed.

The only way I would use a hyphenated domain is if it were naturally hyphenated in written form. And even then, I'm going to have the non-hyphenated version 301'ing to the hyphenated or vice versa.

And, this whole excuse of "the non-hypehnated version was taken" is something to give serious consideration to. There may be legal issues to contend with in this instance. If you don't have both versions, don't do it.

8:11 pm on Dec 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member bwnbwn is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member



[mattcutts.com...]

Hope this is a good link to remain but the dashes is not causing the site to be in a filter. If you don't have a kazillon of them you are fine I have just started buing domains with them in mine I am only using 2 dashes

my-domain-here.com keyworded and feel it is fine and won't be an issue. You are not showing for other causes not the dashes...

8:54 pm on Dec 31, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



Just to be clear, there could be a difference between dashes in the domain name and dashes in the rest of the file path. Matt's post is mostly about dashes in the rest of the file path, but he does give us one very clear sentence about domain names.

To answer a common question, Google doesn’t algorithmically penalize for dashes in the url. Of course I can only speak for Google, not other search engines.

Not too long ago Yahoo was looking at multiple dashes in the domain name as a negative factor - and that could have a cascading effect, making it slightly harder for some people who might link to your site to find it.

12:42 am on Jan 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member quadrille is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



I agree with page one - unusually ;) - it really is important to have both and 301 from one to the other based on your target audience's likely preference - to some extent we're all guessing!

Using a name the same as someone else's, bar adding or subtracting hyphens is a potential copyright / tm issue; but it's also a straight gamble; who will be seen as the 'me too site'; you or them?

If you DON'T have both, if your site has any success at all, you can bet the farm that some creep will set up an MFA site (or worse) on the other.

1:29 pm on Jan 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



doesn’t algorithmically penalize

My emphasis.

Google doesn't algorithmically penalize for hidden text either. Nor for jumpy placement of AdSense units.

...

There's a pretty good reason for this thread having been started I guess... the public and SE opinion is in the air. One can of course ignore it, but as long as people's minds associate such domain names with SPAM ( something never meant to be typed in ), you're better off not using it, am I right?

There are these little signals that any USER / Webmaster ( who would otherwise link to you ) / Google website evaluator will look for to go by when trying to guess the credibility of a source.

And when-a-site-aims-for-this-bit-of-extra-because-it-knows-it-wont-get-natural-legit-links is one of them.

I, for one, would never link to you.
Many directories / webmasters have guidelines forbidding linking to you.
Domain price is decimated by adding more than a single hyphen. Adding more than 2 makes it worthless.
And not because it's algorithmically penalized, but because its ugly, uselsess, speaks volumes of your marketing/intent, somewhat parallel to using aaa111-the-best-example.com

It's a telltale tactic that people who do QC at Google might be trigger happy about. So, does it worth it? That's your call...

2:58 pm on Jan 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



hyphenated or long keyword domains are probably hard to market, repeat customers are going to be hard pressed to remember the name
3:24 pm on Jan 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



"..the best I can achieve is #15."

How does that compare to the allinanchor:KWs position?

7:51 pm on Jan 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



How does that compare to the allinanchor:KWs position?
In my case allinanchor:KW1 KW2 gives almost exactly the same set of results as KW1 KW2.
8:09 pm on Jan 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



miamacs wrote:
as long as people's minds associate such domain names with SPAM ( something never meant to be typed in ), you're better off not using it, am I right?
There are many domain names which are difficult to be typed in, yet are not spammy at all.

In my case, I have a company called My Own Very Green Widgets Ltd, my website's title is My Own Very Green Widgets, my main url is logically my-own-very-green-widgets.com and my spare url is myownverygreenwidgets.com. It is debatable which of my 2 urls is easier to type in.

miamacs wrote:

I, for one, would never link to you.
Many directories / webmasters have guidelines forbidding linking to you.
You are actually part of a minority. Only 3 or 4 very minor directories have algorithms that block hyphenated domain. My site has been accepted without problems on DMOZ, Yahoo, about.com, Joeant, BOTW and other reference directories. I do value your opinion, but both in this thread and in general linking policy, it is part of a minority. Just what I wanted to confirm when starting this thread.
10:16 pm on Jan 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

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as a matter of interest, do you get a lot of repeat business
10:38 pm on Jan 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



as a matter of interest, do you get a lot of repeat business
The products / services I offer through that company are very high ticket items (average sale $60,000) and I actually do not expect repeat customers... although I already had 3 or 4. Anyway, a returning customer would email me - not order via the website.
1:22 am on Jan 2, 2008 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member



Google learned from experience that spammy sites carry hyphens. Check old, banned viagra sites. I would bet hyphens may cause some trouble.
But increasing competition is also a factor. You don't think you was gonna roam your serps forever :)
It's time to put up a fight...
3:16 am on Jan 2, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member quadrille is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



"Google learned from experience that spammy sites carry hyphens. Check old, banned viagra sites. I would bet hyphens may cause some trouble."

There's zero evidence that Google would ever generalise in such a way, zero evidence that Google has any 'general' problem with hyphenated sites, and some evidence that Google actually finds it easier to parse hyphenated than (some) non-hyphenated domain names (though the difference is largely moot!).

It's human beings who make such genralizations,and that can be the difference between a successful site and a failure. It doesn't mean that hyphenated stes canot succeed; but there's always the question "if it wasn't hyphenated, could it have done even better?"

Who can tell!

And finally ... I'm quite sure that one hyphen never hurt anybody (unless it's one hyphen and a REALLY spammy name!).

2:15 pm on Jan 2, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



Yeah, if your site has 100 great links from other authority sites, Google's not going to go, "Ah, but it has three hyphens! E-v-i-l! Kill!"

I hope to test a double-hyphenated domain soon. I hate hyphens, but I like keywords. keyword1--keyword2.com. lol. Seriously, gonna give it a go, just out of curiosity.

Google made me do it--bashed my other nice dn to -950 oblivion!

p/g

4:33 pm on Jan 2, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member quadrille is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



Good Luck - but one page of Good Unique content will bring your site 100x the benefit of that keyword-based.com.

But everything counts, so I don't knock it.

But build the new site in addition to the old, not instead - or the damage will far, far outweigh that small advantage.

5:00 pm on Jan 2, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member sem4u is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



Your domain has a lot of hyphens. Has Google slightly devalued it because of that? Maybe, but it is probably more likely that your competitors have acquired more links than you.

I wouldn't risk a 301 to the non-hypenated domain as I know what damage it can cause to rankings in the short to medium term. Your site may not be hit too hard due to the number of backlinks.

7:57 pm on Jan 2, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



Gee folks, but <cough> as far as the search engines are concerned, opinions on this kind of thing are meaningless.

As far as search goes, try it with and without if you can & then go with whatever works. Probably both. Whatever.

Now, as far as how PEOPLE view dashes/hyphens in the domain name...people like employees, vendors, customers, lovers, family, users, bankers, investors... I will refer you back to the first reply to this post from Q.

Can someone point to me a respected, well-known domain that uses a dash or hyphen in the name? I'm not saying it makes sense, but that's what the world sees.

8:16 pm on Jan 2, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



Can someone point to me a respected, well-known domain that uses a dash or hyphen in the name?

The obvious one is experts-exchange - they chose the hyphenated version because the concatenated verion of their name produces the word "sex" by accident.

8:54 pm on Jan 2, 2008 (gmt 0)



kill it and leave the body out; it doesn't even deserve a funeral (a 301, yes :))

It smacks of a scam-my site, at least to me. Just as good generics names signify seriourness ---- names convey the opposite.

9:15 pm on Jan 2, 2008 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



if your site has 100 great links from other authority sites, Google's not going to go, "Ah, but it has three hyphens! E-v-i-l! Kill!"
To believe that would be pure Google-anxiety. But instead of killing, Google could put a question mark on it - that seems possible, and that's why my domain might be #15, not #950.

Your domain has a lot of hyphens. Has Google slightly devalued it because of that? Maybe, but it is probably more likely that your competitors have acquired more links than you.
I believe that. That is why I have been acquiring links for the past 12 months and have been quite successful at that. Maybe simply my problem is that my links are younger than my competitors'... so there is nothing much I can do, except wait.

More importantly, although my domain has a lot of dashes, it contains only 2 keywords (my-own-very-green-widgets.com - my, very and own are unimportant words; green and widgets are keywords), and the whole expression (and my company name) actually make sense, unlike i.e. free-cheap-best-green-widgets.com.

It smacks of a scam-my site, at least to me.
That website is aimed at mature or retired folks, and is not about technology in any way, so does not attract scam-sniffing webmasters. It is very unlikely that its target audience perceives its domain as spammy. In 7 years, none of my clients mentioned it to me anyway.

Anyway, thanks for the input. The majority so far seem to think that killing dashes would do more harm than keeping them - so I will enjoy some more free time and do nothing :)

9:29 pm on Jan 2, 2008 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member bwnbwn is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member



We have a site like this us-give-me-break.com and it does very well in the serps in Google yahoo and msn.

Kinda really hard to remember but not a site for return traffic as it host schools once you have selected the shool to go to no need to go back to the site..

Been around for 5 years now got some good links been worked so it ain't the dashes causing the problem, at least that is my opinion...

9:33 pm on Jan 2, 2008 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



I have a double hyphenated site(kw-kw-kw.com) that is a phrase. It's been active for a little over 2 years and was steadily climbing the rankings til mid Dec.(different thread). It is an ecommerce site that had its best month in Dec. I chose the domain b/c the non hyphen version was gone. I think that if you prove to G you're not spam you won't have any problems--same with any site. I do feel, however, it may have taken longer to climb the rankings b/c of the name but who knows. One thing for sure is it ranked well in MSN and Y almost immediately so while I was waiting for G to come around it at least got some free traffic.
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