Got Hyphens?

Got Hyphens?

The timing of things is funny.  I recently did a couple of interviews (to be posted over the next couple of weeks) with owners of hyphenated domain names.  On, Thursday, Owen Frager posted an article on his blog entitled Rob Grant: “It’s interesting. I just deleted hundreds and hundreds of hyphens.” You can read the article for more details, but the combination got me thinking about the under appreciated value of hyphenated domain names.

I own only a couple of hyphenated names, one being the name of my home town.  The value of a hyphenated name really lies in the end use.  If you are buying a domain for investment purposes or a quick flip, then a hyphenated name probably isn’t your best option, although I imagine there have been some great sales in this area.  But if you are looking to monetize a name based on SEO and search results, then hyphens are a fabulous option.

Sure, you won’t grab the type-in traffic that the non-hyphenated domain has, but is that your goal?  Isn’t the actual search volume much higher than type-in results?  If Google doesn’t penalize for hyphens, you have an even playing field with the non-hyphenated domain equivalent.   I’m not an SEO expert, but I have heard others claim that the hyphen may even play an advantage for search purposes.

While I’m not promoting hyphenated names as the best route to take, I am saying “don’t discount them too much.”  They can have value and produce significant traffic.

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Comments (19)

  • Art Reply

    Google does penalize for hyphens. I have seen it with a few website i have developed, none hyphenated always do at least alright, hyphenated do badly. I do good share of SEO, and i think as of past 2 years Google has been punishing hyphenated names.

    September 25, 2010 at 9:06 pm
    • Mike Sullivan Reply

      Really. That’s an interesting perspective. If you have any examples, let me know. I’d like to dig into it a bit more.

      September 26, 2010 at 7:01 am
  • James Reply

    Good post – i also believe hyphens are undervalued.
    Art – I have it on good authority that hyphens aren’t penalized – why would google’s algo punish a hyphenated domain?? They wouldn’t – the algo is all about bringing back relevant results and the domain name is only a part of that factor – how can you be sure that – is more or less relevant than – you can’t and neither can the search engines “yet” – it’s all about content, links and a few other bits. The hyphen i not penailzed.

    September 25, 2010 at 10:37 pm
    • Mike Sullivan Reply

      Good points, and ultimately, you’re right with “it’s all about content…”

      September 26, 2010 at 7:03 am
  • Rob Monster - Epik Reply

    See this post:

    I will happily take hyphenated names with Domain Quality Index of 1000+ for .com and 3,000+ for .net.

    We buy them for peanuts and turn them into useful, income-generating properties.

    Mike is right though that they do take longer to index and rank. Also, the after-market for them is not as good.

    So, bottom line, if you are buying them, plan to develop them since that is a reasonably proven way to get return on capital from a hyphenated name.

    September 25, 2010 at 11:06 pm
    • Mike Sullivan Reply

      @Rob, some good examples at the link you provided. I’ve seen other hyphenated domains on your platform that also seem to be doing well.

      September 26, 2010 at 7:12 am
  • Rich Reply

    I noticed my self that when i write eflowers over at google i get 206,000results and when i write e-flowers i get 75,200,000results and when i write e–flowers i get 75,300,000 .Who knows maybe my intuition will come thru.I got e–

    September 26, 2010 at 12:22 am
    • Mike Sullivan Reply

      @Rich, let me know how you do with e-flowers. I’d like to follow up at some point and see how your traffic looks if you develop it.

      September 26, 2010 at 7:14 am
  • Attila Reply

    While you might be shooting for search engine traffic. The end game is having repeat visitors, to keep having them come back. To get them to remember the hyphen in your domain is not as easy as you think.

    Therefore the non hyphen version will get the visitor and ultimately get them confused why the site is different, perhaps re-search on google and or think your site dropped off the face of the planet like many do these days.

    A non hyphen dot com version is the best if you’re trying to build loyal visitor base. However I love using hyphen domains as portal sites to get them to my main sites.

    September 26, 2010 at 5:19 am
    • Mike Sullivan Reply

      @Attila, there can be some confusion, agreed. Don’t under estimate search value. There are some sites I search for and use only once, and that’s still valued traffic. There are others I use on a regular basis and still rely on Google to locate them if they are not memorable domains.

      September 26, 2010 at 7:17 am
      • Attila Reply

        I guess it just depends on if you’re trying to build a brand name or selling a product, that a non hyphen dot com would be best.

        However if you only looking for someone to click through on an Adsense banner or build traffic to resell advertisement space, then I can see your meaning of one time visitor being ok.

        September 26, 2010 at 7:24 am
  • alex Reply

    hmm.. i really dont understand the problem with hyphens.

    in germany its totaly normal to use them. they are the prefered and most common version of a domain. also when you have both version.

    i think the reasons a simple: a hyphenated domain is much better to read and to remember. specially in software (and e.g. sedo), where domains show up only in small letters, which is technically the correct form. is string that nobody cant rember if he see`s it on a driving car or a commercial for a few seconds. by the way is fast to read and also to remember.

    a domain is more then type-in traffic. a domain, specially a slogan domain or are brand shut also be good for commercials and advertising. they should be simple to remember and to read. like i said before… if you make car-advertising or a tv commercial, customers have only seconds…

    imo the best think is to have both versions of a domain, but for daily use the hyphenated version.

    September 26, 2010 at 8:28 am
  • Art Reply

    Here is a post i remember about Hyphens, guy is Aron wall , one of the top SEO guys in the world.

    For me it is also about anecdotal exeprience, at some point i was looking into hyphenated domains and saw some great availables, so i started reading up on it. From all the SEO forums and posts, i have yet find anything positive, yet there are plenty of negative stories. For one google, yahoo or bing doesn’t treat it as exact match. I know because i have great local exact match with 2 hyphens, i never seen it on search engine and i owned it for 4 years and website has been up for over a year. It even has few small links, and a lot of relevant content. I never cared to develop it enough ,but the case and point, with exact match i wouldn’t need too.
    Just think, how many hyphenated names do you see on google? i for one next to never.

    Next problem is linking, webmasters will treat is as spammy website, even if your content is good, perception is everything. Arron talks more about it bellow.

    Epik, sorry but you make money on it and you don’t really brand them, therefore hyphens for you not big deal, since some of your customers (late comers in domains) only have generics that are hyphenated. The people who own none hyphenated version, probably do their own development with much larger budget.

    Now on to the post of Aron:
    ” I’d avoid such names like the plague.


    They have no branding value. They have limited SEO value. Even if you do manage to get such a domain top ten, you’re probably going to need to sell on the first visit, as few people are going to remember it once they leave. It is too generic, and it lacks credibility.

    In a crowded market, brand offers a point of distinction.

    It is easier to build links to branded domain names. People take these name more seriously that, which looks spammy and isn’t fooling anyone. Would you link to such a name? By doing so, it devalues your own content .

    It can even difficult to get such domain names linked to when you pay for the privilege! Directory editors often reject these names on sight, because such names are often associated with low-quality content. Imagine how many free links you might be losing by choosing such a name.

    Is there a downside to us

    September 26, 2010 at 9:07 am
  • Art Reply

    James, hyphens are crap. Maybe for domainer they seem fine, i look at it from SEO prospective, and they are crap. Yes it wasn’t penalized in 2005 (when Matt cuts said that it wasn’t), but this is 2010. Google doesn’t trust hyphenated domain names, so yes has much more value then , mainly because hyphen name was gotten much later and could be used for spam. Is it fair? no, but who said domaing and seo was fair.

    Sorry, i dont agree with content part, since no hyphen domain name will out rank by far hyphenated domain name with same content. I will even go as far as say, it will out rank with less content. Morale of a story, if you planing to build a lot of content, invest into none hyphenated domain name even if you can hand register hyphen of it with a .com for reg fee.

    September 26, 2010 at 9:19 am
  • Rob Monster - Epik Reply


    Do me a favor. Google the term “oil prices”:

    What you will find is that (a hyphenated .net) outranks (an epik-powered site). The hyphenated .net is #2 and the non-hyphenated .com is #3.

    Many domainers would love to believe that non-hyphenated .com is gold and the rest is crap. Unfortunately, Google disagrees with that world view.

    Anyway, do yourself a favor and steer clear of absolute statements that are speculative and not based on fact. You are mostly right but not *completely* right, and that renders your comment meaningless.

    September 26, 2010 at 9:28 am
  • Art Reply has 10 times back links of

    i am pretty sure even .mobi would rank for that.

    Anything can muscled by sheer of force of back links, but they probably kicking them self for not acquiring oil

    September 26, 2010 at 9:35 am
  • Rob Monster - Epik Reply

    @Art – My comment stands. With development, you can out-rank a non-hyphenated .com. That’s exactly the point. I would still prefer to develop the non-hyphenated .com but it not a requirement.

    In a world where domains get developed, the undeveloped non-hyphenated .com is a sitting duck to get out-ranked. Once Google has ranked an exact match name, the .com has to fight the uphill battle.

    The implication is clear: if you have a valuable .com name, develop it sooner rather than later since otherwise the economics will cause people to develop alternative forms of the exact match name.

    September 26, 2010 at 9:45 am
  • Jeff Reply

    The only thing I can say is that hyphenated .fr and .com French domains appear to sell as good or even better than non-hyphenated versions. This is particularly true for longtail domains (3 or more words).

    French end-users usually perceive a higher value in hyphenated domains because words are easier to visually catch and remember. IMO, this comes from the fact that hyphens are common in French language and that french words are usually longuer and more complex than English words, which makes them difficult to intuitively parse in non-hyphenated domain names.

    I wanted to share this perspective just to suggest that the hyphenated vs non-hyphenated value debate is probably mostly a cultural/habits thing.

    September 26, 2010 at 11:43 am
  • alex Reply

    @Jeff: I agree!

    It depents all on the country where you life. As i said in my post before…. In Germany hyphens are normal and the prefered version.

    For example: One of the biggest Hotel Reservation Service with a very aggressive marketing strategy is “” (Start the In every Commercial Block you see their Commercial (incl. Michael Ballack – TeamLeader of the German Soccer National Team). You will also notice that they have THREE! hyphens in it.

    No one cares, because here it is really normal an in a non-hyphanted version, you are able to make other words out of it…

    for example: could also read as…

    abinden(typo of “abbinden”)
    abi(Graduation from high school)…nde…nur(only)…laub(Leaves).de

    and so on…

    Everything depends on country and content… same like with IDNs. We write daily with “Umlauten” (ä,ö,ü), so why not in domain names? The world is more than the US and you always have to look at the special requirements and needs of a country/market.

    ah, by the way: sorry for my bad english. as you may have noticed, i am from germany 🙂

    September 26, 2010 at 2:02 pm

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