Using Hyphens in Domain Names, Good or Bad for SEO?

Doing a little research today for a new project for a photography website that I plan on doing via WordPress for a good friend. We’re at the early stages of planning so discussing all sorts of things including search engine optimisation, which led to the question – should the domain include hyphens?

As with much SEO, people are divided in opinion over this. (By quickly Googling the topic this is easy to see.) However, I’m going to argue that you shouldn’t bother – simply because the disadvantages outweigh the benefits.

Why should you include hyphens?

  • Allows Google to read your domain as separate words, rather than one big word. Theoretically, this would help improve your search engine optimisation.

Why should you not include hyphens?

  1. Not ideal for branding and harder to explain to people when giving them your address.
  2. Less trustworthy…. the average web user is not used to hyphenated URLs and won’t appreciate them. (Can you think of any major site with hyphens?)
  3. No real proof that it does help SEO. In fact, some people argue it has made their site less visible.

As a great believer in two things when it comes to SEO: simplicity and usability. Hyphens ultimately contradict both. One would certainly expect Google to cotton on to everyone picking overly obvious domains, and therefore place less emphasis on it as important to their search results. So any boost to SEO will be temporary.

URLs are of course a completely different story and it’s best you use hyphens (not underscores) to separate words to aid search engines. /social-media/ is far better than /socialmedia/ which Google will see as one word.

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