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Hyphenated domain vs non: Switch back?

5:28 pm on Oct 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

When I redeveloped my client's site two years ago, we switched to the hyphenated version of the domain name, thinking that it would be better for SEO. It has two hyphens.

We redirected everything the right way, and the site is ranking okay but not great.

Now, I am thinking: Should we switch back?
- The original domain is 9 years old vs. 2 years old
- There are residual good links out there to the old name
- To what extent does not having the hyphens make it rank "better" for search positioning?

BUT: Would it screw up our rankings to switch--Would Google get confused even if we did the redirects correctly?

Of course, I am reluctant to tell my client it was a bad idea to use a new domain :)

6:30 pm on Oct 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

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

Hey jprickitt, welcome to WebmasterWorld!

So, the bad news is, you made that switch around the time many were deciding to move in the other direction. Oh well, stuff happens. ;-)

One question: What's the original domain name been up to since the switchover? Dark? Redirecting to the newer domain? Other?

11:14 pm on Oct 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Personally, I would stick with the hyphenated version. They are always easier on the eye for a human visitor, and I am of the opinion that is is better for SEO too (if the domain name is also a keyphrase obviously)

Search engines need something to break up a phrase or they will just see it as one word. If you have a site such as 'searchenginepromotion.com', then a search engine will see it as one word, and not related to search engine promotion.

The only thing I would do is to use underscores in the domain extension names as I find this is better.


3:02 pm on Oct 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

>> What's the original domain name been up to since the switchover? Dark? Redirecting to the newer domain? Other?

I redirected the pages from the original to the hyphen domain right from the beginning, with 301s. I think the transition was bumpy though because we were in the sandbox for several months. I don't think we should have been because I think I redirected it properly, but...

7:22 pm on Oct 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

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

Man, I think this is a tough one.

Personally, I strongly favor non-hyphenated domains for established/well-known/wannabe brands. They look more professional for one thing, and they get the type in traffic.

I also no longer believe that kw-in-domain means much at all in terms of SEO; in fact it tends to be associated with some overly SEO'd kinds of sites. Although, I don't think it's an "SEO negative" either until you hit at least two or possibly three hyphens.

What's saving you is that anyone typing in the original domain is being redirected to the live site. So that's great.

Because you have those great old backlinks the biggest question is how much pain you'd suffer if you 301'd everything back to the original. For less well aged sites I think the risk is much greater short term. In this case, it's almost a coin toss.

If it were my business, I'd gulp and revert. But, it's a very close call. And advising a client to do it means advising them to take a risk of really unknown magnitude.

Have I completely confused you? ;-)

8:41 pm on Oct 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I know what you're saying, it's basically where I am-- On the fence-- if it were mine i'd do it--But advising a client... The reputation gets dinged either way... :)
9:00 pm on Oct 26, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I would go back to the other one cause the domain is so much more mature. From what I've been seeing this year, that's a big factor when other things are close.
1:24 pm on Oct 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Why can't you run both side by side?

You could tell your client that it is a new marketing strategy, not a complete u-turn.

You would need to make the sites a bit different so as not to get caught out with duplicate content, but at least you keep all your options open.

Might even work out better to have two sites working for your client.

Just a thought


3:09 pm on Oct 27, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

That's an interesting idea. Almost like A/B testing of two sites. The primary site has info on consulting, speaking, as well as 50+ original articles and tools.

What to do with alternate site?
- Just a one-page or five-page site focused directly on getting the visitor to contact

- Put up a "glossary" type site to pull for specific keyword phrases
(do these look like spam to Google?)

Would the sites link to each other or is it better to keep them completely exclusive? If links, would the links go in one direction only, new to old or old to new?

9:43 am on Oct 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Personally, I would just put the links in one direction, from this second site back to the one that you have running now, and just build the second version as an information portal to attract more visitors, then taking them into the main hyphenated site once they are warmed up.

This way it would look like you are leveraging an existing asset (the old domain name) as an additional and very clever marketing tool. Your client will be impressed rather than confused.

Also think how you would look if you decide to change the entire site back over to the old name, and it doesn't work as well as you had hoped?

Keep your options open.


8:22 pm on Oct 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

If I put 25% of the same articles on this second site, do you think I'd get a duplicate content penalty?
10:23 pm on Oct 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Depends whether you are talking about building 25% of the second site with duplicate pages from the first, or whether you want to build 25% of each individual page with copy from the first.

Difficult to know for sure, but it's a possibility that you might get pulled up on it at some stage if you are copying any page word for word.

I have a few sites where the content is very similar, but I just played about with the structure so that articles were not presented in exactly the same way on all sites (add/remove/alter the order of words/paragraphs/links) and never had any problems.

I would recommend that you alter at least 10% of the layout, but that's just a gut feeling I have based on experience.


10:35 pm on Oct 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

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

jprickitt, you're dealing with a client's site here. If I were a competitor to that client, and saw the client actually go through with a plan like you're disccussing here, I imagine it would take a matter of hours, ummm, well, nah, let's say days, to get both sites toasted.

Putting up a nearly indentical site, or a site with substantially duplicated content, on a domain only differentiated from the home domain with hyphens between the kw's, is a very, very bad idea IMO, and the sort of thing that gives SEO consultants a bad name.

I've seen plenty of instances and variations of what Gary_Numan is referencing. But know that near duplicate content on affiliated sites is relatively high risk.

10:48 pm on Oct 28, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Oh I absolutely wouldn't dupe the site, I agree... My thinking was a different structure, layout, but having 15 out of the 50 existing articles on the new site.

Alternatively, it would mean rewriting them, which is more work...

Or get new ones of course...

6:21 am on Nov 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I think hyphens are great for SEO but bad for visitors who type in your address

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