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Hyphenate or not Keyword Domain Names?

     
8:28 pm on Jan 2, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Anyone have opinions on whether to hyphenate keywords or not in domain names?

I am thinking of a a domain name like:

keyword verb keyword dot com

For seo purposes (as well as increasing clickthrough rates as a secondary concern), your thoughts on:

keyword-verb-keyword.com

and

keywordverbkeyword.com

Noe that the keyword that appears both before and after the "verb" are the same keyword.

That may be spammy, however it makes more sense gramttically (and mnemonically) to use "keyword verb keyword" as opposed to just "kyword verb" or "verb keyword"

Thanks in advance.
9:09 pm on Jan 2, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Buy both..redirect the hyphenated version to the non hyphenated version..
Reason ?..try explaining a hyphenated version over the phone..
What would you say? ..hyphen ? minus ? dash ? short dash ? etc ..
And that is just in English, it's worse in other languages..
9:18 pm on Jan 2, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@ Leosghost

Thanks for your input.

I was actually thinking of doing it the other way around: Buy both, redirect NON-hypehnated to the hyphenated domain.

This is more of a passive seo-only type of affiliate site. I certainly HOPE I won't be getting phone calls about it.

So I am guessing that I am looking at it from a purely SEO standboint with CTR being only a secondary consideration.

Thanks.
9:37 pm on Jan 2, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Since you generally can't get keyword oriented link anchors for SEO purposes, it is pointless to purchase any domain name for SEO purposes.
12:17 am on Jan 3, 2016 (gmt 0)

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"For seo purposes (as well as increasing clickthrough rates as a secondary concern)" -

SEO - makes zero difference.
For CTR - possibly, but imho long hyphenated names look more dodgy. imho choose a short, catchy brand name instead of KW focus name.
3:21 am on Jan 3, 2016 (gmt 0)

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widget-buy-widget might be clever... it also looks and sounds a bit odd. Surely there is a better keyword (if you are looking for a keyword domain instead of making a brand).

As for hyphens if they make sense use them. When sharing voice (or on air with radio or tv) widget dash buy dash widget works perfectly well.
3:36 am on Jan 3, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@ dipper:

"SEO - makes zero difference."


How certain of this are you? Because if it makes zero difference, then I will go without the hyphens.

But I just want to be sure it makes zero difference.

@ tangor:

"widget-buy-widget might be clever... it also looks and sounds a bit odd."


Agreed, however it is a pun, so in the proper context, it makes a bit more sense...
3:58 am on Jan 3, 2016 (gmt 0)

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The beauty of the web is we are not locked into anything. Go for it. After all, it's just a domain registration and most of us spend that much or more for a cup of coffee these days. As for the host, you can change that hosted content to anything you like at any time!
7:02 am on Jan 3, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Planet13 - it is my opinion that the domain name itself, and alone, makes zero difference in terms of ranking content. imho your focus should be on brand not on cramming keywords into the domain name. I would completely ignore the keyword for the domain name. Pick a brand name.
8:03 am on Jan 3, 2016 (gmt 0)

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"SEO - makes zero difference."

I do not think this is true. I have a small EMD (5 pages) that ranks on the first page for EMD keywords that gets around 1000 searches per month. It absolutely does not deserve to be on the first page.

It does not rank as good as before (was #1 for two years until around 18 months ago), now it is #7. But it would not be there without EMD.

It may be harder starting with EMD now but in medium to low competitive niches and also in foreign languages there is still an advantage.
8:46 am on Jan 3, 2016 (gmt 0)

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^ all true.

Just wondering what traction there might be 18 months from now.
12:32 pm on Jan 3, 2016 (gmt 0)

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SEO - makes zero difference

it is pointless to purchase any domain name for SEO purposes

I'd have to disagree, based on personal experience from more than one occasion. I've seen the (sometimes very marked) difference a keyword domain made when it was THE ONLY thing that changed. Most recently observed within the past 18 months. Note also bsand715's recent tests here: [webmasterworld.com...]

Re: hyphenated or not
I have had the opportunity to observe a switch from hyphenated to non-hyphenated, although this was years ago. Based on that experience I would always use non-hyphenated if possible (unless it reads really badly). Only one circumstance, and not very recent though, if anyone has done a switch in isolation recently would be interested in hearing about it.

Domain extension a factor?
FWIW, I think it possible (based on other sites I was involved with about 2-3 years ago) that certain extensions may sometimes be weighted more than others - for instance in the UK an exact match .co.uk seems to have more power than the same domain with a .net or .biz extension. No evidence at all for this, just a feeling based on comparison of two sites I worked on in the same niche.
1:15 pm on Jan 3, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I have had good luck with the non hyphenated versions and not so good with hyphenated.
5:52 pm on Jan 3, 2016 (gmt 0)

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This isn't a debate to keyword or not, this is about whether a hyphen will make an ounce bit of difference. The suggestion that a word separator will makes any difference to ranks if you have to anchor with keyword1-keyword2-keyword3.com as oppose to Keyword Keyword Keyword (the latter being rather risky) to become PENGUIN FOOD.

The URL has limited value... the link anchors have all the value.

If you want to take the risk Keyword Keyword Keyword as an anchor is just as good for non-keyword domain name, or a keyword domain or a hyphenated keyword domain.

The old school of thought was hyphenated domains afforded a natural way to trick website owners to use keywords as the links to the domain.

Suggesting the hyphens adds keyword value is ridiculous.

Just bad advice in a PENGUIN world.
6:16 pm on Jan 3, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@ fathom

Just bad advice in a PENGUIN world.


could you explain why you think it is bad for a Penguin world?

Are you saying that having keywords (or keywords separated by hyphens) in the URL will make someone more prone to being a victim of Penguin?

I don't plan on doing any artificial link building. so whatever link building happens would be organic.

thanks in advance for elaborating on this.
6:40 pm on Jan 3, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@fathom

The URL has limited value... the link anchors have all the value.

I understand this, but what about URL as link anchors? Would that have value?
7:42 pm on Jan 3, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@Planet13 & frankleeceo there is nothing wrong with owning a keyword domain or even a hyphenate keywordy one. However, believing you can earn ranks due to any SEO potential from the domain name is a pre-April 24, 2012 thing.

When one says "I'm doing something for SEO value" that doesn't sound like "I'm not doing it to game the system". IMHO

You can certainly develop link anchors as http://example-keyword.com but you'll most certainly be ranked #1 for your domain name without any real need to do anything... To say that will have a major or even a minor impact on results without the http:// or hyphens or dot.com is wishful thinking.

You can certainly trick some webmasters into developing "keyword keyword keyword" but this is where lots of folks state "I didn't build any artifical links, those are natural UNNATURAL links"... Bait others to build things unnaturally... They will - but at your loss.

PENGUIN 4.0 is due to launch... That isn't just to release past offenders from being devalued, that will also be to capture new ones!

[edited by: aakk9999 at 6:45 pm (utc) on Jan 11, 2016]
[edit reason] Unlinked example domain name [/edit]

2:13 pm on Jan 4, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Pretty good stuff both pro and con. Both sides make compelling arguments. I'm pleasantly surprised there's still enough fumes to keep this debate going. :)

Hyphenated domains inspire skepticism or wariness. So if you're depending on visitors performing an action you're starting with a disadvantage. First and last this is about conversions. Virtually everything depends on converting visitors but if you start out scaring people that maybe you're a Trojan laden domain, what advantage is that? You can buy/arrange links to it and make it rank but that hyphen is going to be a wind blowing against you every step of the way from converting people to stop scoffing and click your SERP to converting visitors to trust you click your affiliate links.
4:46 pm on Jan 4, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I agree with what MB said. But I think you can probably get away with one hyphen; but the more hyphens I see in a domain, the more my own level of trust plummets.

I'm not sure how much EMD helps nowadays. There's some pretty big businesses that just use made up words (what's a zappo or a zillow? - I got it; you need to start with Z!) and as someone who uses a made up word as a brand herself, I can see how that can work too. I guess it depends on what your overall marketing plan is going to be, whether you want to go with something memorable or something utilitarian.
5:42 pm on Jan 4, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I feel twice blessed this morning that two of my favorite peoples in the SEO world chimed in on this. Now if only I could get Robert Charlton to contribute, I would have the trifecta!

I have decided to go without the hyphen for a couple of reasons, mostly those noted by Leosghost, MartiniBuster, and netmeg, who would probably make a pretty good therapist.

I would also mention that while the domain name does have keywords in it, I am also attempting it to be memorable (it's a pun, so think of the old "spy versus spy" comics from mad magazine, so hopefully that will make it a LITTLE memorable).

As for marketing, mostly some youtube videos trying to drive people to the site.
7:02 pm on Jan 4, 2016 (gmt 0)

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(I would be the WORST therapist in the galaxy)

In 2016, I would probably think about other marketing channels first, and using those to help build the organic traffic (rather than the other way around) I think it's a safer and quicker bet.
9:59 pm on Jan 4, 2016 (gmt 0)

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@netmeg

In 2016, I would probably think about other marketing channels first, and using those to help build the organic traffic (rather than the other way around) I think it's a safer and quicker bet.


Could you elaborate a bit on other marketing channels? (And also why you think that youtube wouldn't not be an optimum channel?)

Thanks in advance for any further elaboration you can provide.
10:27 pm on Jan 4, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Buy both, redirect NON-hypehnated to the hyphenated domain.


I've done that for years, since the 90s, with some domains and they work perfectly well, whether that's because they're old or not I have no idea however they do work and they are actually easier to read as a name in the SERPs and, being honest, that was the reason I did it in the first place.

Since you'll already own both it is the quality and unique information on the site that will have the most influence.
2:16 am on Jan 5, 2016 (gmt 0)

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I have elaborated over and over and over on other marketing channels, Planet13. What works depends on your niche and your audience, and you shouldn't settle on a niche unless you have a pretty good idea in advance how and in what order you will be able to market it, and where exactly you need to be to capture your audience. YouTube is fine, but something has to get them to YouTube to see the videos - they're not just going to stumble onto them, specially not when there are eleventy billion other videos vying for their attention.
9:02 am on Jan 5, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Along the same lines as fathom mentioned - Penguin focusses on many things (probably) but the main parts are inbound links, and more specifically the anchor, the linked URL, and if they are nofollow/dofollow. Penguin looks at the over-optimisation of those links in terms of keywords.

With this in mind, one of the biggest problems I see with keyword domain names is that trying to lower the amount of keyword dependant link texts pointing to your website is hard when using the URL as the actual link anchor as it is actually all keywords. So, if you choose a non-related brand, then that word and domain serves to dilute, and thereby reduce the risk of a penguin style penalty. just my $0.02.
9:12 am on Jan 9, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Should stay out that (posts and likes)... but I have no idea where votes for me come from! (numbers off the charts so to speak) But if the kiddies want to click the like button I have no problems, then again, I don't think the "votes" mean a hill of beans one way or the other. :)

The hyphenate or not question comes around every year or so, this time no different than previous years. Most would domain both versions and 301 one to the desired... but that's just me. Problem solved.
12:42 pm on Jan 9, 2016 (gmt 0)

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Planet13... I'm honored that I made your list and sorry not to get to this sooner, but you've gotten lots of good advice. I think the answer may depend on your long term aspirations.

Long term... I would avoid hyphens in domain names whenever possible, largely for reasons martinibuster describes, and also for the usability issues. I'm actually surprised that at this stage in the game anyone would consider a domain with two hyphens as anything but obviously spammy, and even a single hyphen has big limitations.

In general, I would not rely on hyphens to help me rank. Once upon a time, hyphens did effectively add keyword value, as the hyphens were treated as delimiters, whereas keyword1keyword2keyword3 was a text string, not parsed by the engines. The anchor text value came from the anchor text suggested by these domains.

The keywords in exact match domains and partial match domains can help rank for those keywords. They're also limiting, and I think it's extremely likely that their effects will diminish. Building a brand name without keywords is an ideal long term goal... but you really do have to market that name and associate the name with the market area. It helps if there's an existing business.

If you're selling cheap widgets and can develop a great site around this name, having cheapwidgets.tld as a domain name is likely to help significantly and might possibly become a major brand. By contrast, cheap-widgets.tld isn't going to look or sound major.

The branding potential of three keywords strung together depends in large part, I feel, on how they sound when read aloud. If there's a lilt, there might be possibilities.

If I were going for a keyword1keyword2keyword3 strategy, I would go for, say, an exact match unhyphenated .net over a hyphenated .com. If you use the .net, definitely check out what kind of competition the .com might eventually offer.

If I were building a catchy brand name type site, without keywords, I'd want the .com (and the .net etc for brand protection). Ending with a .me or a .it or some ccTLD that spells something cute can get tricky, as Google, I feel, would like to geo-locate ccTLDs.

It's often the case, I've noticed, that hyphenated keyword .coms are cheaper... maybe the only affordable emd .coms available. I feel that the liability of the hyphen is essentially why.

If I owned both hyphenated and unhyphenated, I'd use the unhyphenated and 301 the hyphenated version (for brand protection)... but I would would definitely not promote the hyphenated version to get the separated keywords in the anchor text and then redirect it to the unhyphenated version.

I think that dipper nails one of the big liabilities of a hyphenated anchor text domain, btw, which is that lowering the anchor text repetition in domain name links to hyphenated domains is in fact difficult.

I've seen some single word domains absolutely trashed because of overlinking. I'd keep in mind that Google is increasingly going to value brand recognition over opportunistic keywords, and that there really isn't a short term strategy any more, so you'd best keep the long term in mind.
3:34 pm on Jan 9, 2016 (gmt 0)

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As others have suggested, you'll want to have both and redirect one (I'd redirect the hyphenated domain) to the other. People who type in the domain often won't remember whether there is or isn't a hyphen, so you might as well have your bases covered.

(I know of a fairly big-name blogger who owns the hyphenated version of [word][word] but not the non-hyphenated version. I'm sure he loses a lot of potential traffic as a result.)