Can hyphens really hurt?

Should you consider choosing a domain name with hyphens in it or is this really going to hurt your search engine results?

The reason many SEOers looked at using hyphenated domain names was that the primary keyword phrases, without spaces, had all but disappeared. For example, may have gone but may not have been taken. The hyphenated version was still very keyword loaded, so many SEOers saw it as a good option.

In my opinion, the use of hyphens can make the domain name look more spammy, so from a branding point of view, the domain name without the hyphens is a lot stronger. That said, I believe it’s a misconception that domain names with hyphens won’t rank as well as those without.

Here are two websites under our control: and – notice both use hyphens and both rank extremely well. The primary keyword phrase isn’t even in there! It just goes to show that as long as you have enough links pointing to a page, with the appropriate anchor text, you can still rank.

As I said, I don’t believe that hyphens affect your ranking but from a branding point of view, you’re better off if you choose a domain name with the straight keyword phrase with .com, .net or .org.

Who knows, perhaps there’s a second order impact on the rankings for domain names with hyphens? Because they don’t look like authority websites, perhaps they might get fewer inbound links from people referencing the website? Who knows for sure?

As with many things in Google, this is something that is hard to test. All too often SEOers jump to the wrong conclusions after they’ve run just a small test. The fact is, there are many different causes for why one website comes up over another and sadly this makes it notoriously difficult to isolate.

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