Hyphens in Domain Names (To Use or Not To Use)

Have you ever wondered if using a hyphen in your domain name would be beneficial or detrimental to your online presence?

I did a survey on various hyphen domain websites and based on that I can attest that the decision to include a hyphen in a domain name is not one to be taken lightly and requires careful consideration of the potential effects on branding.

Hyphens in domain names are simply recognized as separators or spaces by search engines and are allowed to be used. Hyphens will not harm your website, but it is generally recommended to avoid them if you have the option to choose a domain name without a hyphen. This is because hyphens can make it harder for people to remember your website's address, and may negatively impact branding efforts.

When it comes to using hyphens in domain names, I would suggest you consider both the potential benefits and drawbacks before reaching any final decision.

Ultimately, whether or not to use hyphens in your domain name will depend on your specific situation and goals.

Let’s dive in deep to understand the ifs and buts of hyphens in the domain name.

What Are Hyphens in Domain Names?

Hyphens in domain names refer to the use of a hyphen (-) character in the domain name, such as “www.example-site.com”. It is used to separate words in a domain name.

They are often used to make a domain name more readable or to make it clear what words the domain name is composed of.

For example, in the domain name “best-coffee-shop.com,” the hyphens indicate that the name is made up of “best,” “coffee,” and “shop.”

Search engines recognize hyphens as separators and can help to clearly identify the keywords in your domain name for SEO purposes.

Why Are Hyphens Used in Domain Names?

Hyphens are used in domain names to separate words and make them more readable and easy to remember.

They can also be used to create unique and catchy domain names that are easier to remember than a string of unseparated words.

Hyphens can be used to purchase domain names that are already taken by another person or company, by adding a hyphen to create a new and unique version of the desired domain name.

I strongly recommend that do not register a domain name that is already taken by other websites or businesses simply by putting a hyphen in it. For example: if you register a domain like Face-book or Amaz–On thinking that it’s unique then you will be in trouble.

Are Hyphens in Domain Names Allowed?

Hyphens in domain names are used as a separator or space in search engine eyes, and they are allowed to be used. They do not harm your website but it is important to consider the potential drawbacks before using them.

For example, hyphens can make it harder for people to remember your domain name and may negatively impact your search engine optimization efforts.

The main reason to use hyphens is to separate words in a domain name that might be difficult to read or understand when written together. However, it can be confusing for people and difficult to remember where the hyphen was placed.

Does a Hyphen in the Domain Name Affect SEO?

A hyphen in a domain name does not have a significant impact on SEO. Search engines recognize hyphens as separators or spaces, and they do not affect the way a website is indexed or ranked.

One potential issue with using hyphens in domain names is that search engines may have difficulty properly interpreting a domain name that contains a hyphen.

This could result in a lower search engine ranking for a website with a domain name that includes a hyphen. This is because search engines may interpret the hyphen as a space and therefore consider each word as separate keywords, which can affect the website ranking.

Having a domain name that is easy to read and remember can help with SEO, as users are more likely to remember the domain name and visit the website again in the future. If a domain name is difficult to read or remember, it may be less likely that users will return to the website, which can negatively impact SEO.

Having a domain name without a hyphen would be a best practice for SEO, but if using a hyphen is important for branding or readability, it may not have a significant negative impact on SEO.

Video Source: Google Search Central, YouTube

Examples of Domain Names With Hyphens

Here are some lists of websites that have domain names with hyphens:

  1. https://www.chick-fil-a.com/
  2. https://www.t-mobile.com/
  3. http://www.auto-insurance.com (Now it is transferred to)-   https://www.progressive.com/
  4. http://www.business-sales-sarasota.com/
  5. https://www.merriam-webster.com/

Whether the above domains are active or not is subject to their renewals by their respective owners.

Disadvantages of Using Hyphens in Domain Names

Using hyphens in domain names can have several disadvantages.

One major disadvantage is that it can be more difficult for people to remember the domain name and type it correctly. This can lead to fewer visitors to your website.

Hyphens can make the domain name look less professional and less credible. Some people may also mistakenly assume that the domain name is spam or a phishing attempt because of the hyphens.

It can be difficult for people to recognize the brand and remember the name if it contains hyphens, which can negatively impact the website’s SEO. Using hyphens in a domain name can make it more difficult for people to recognize and remember your brand.

Hyphenated domain names are often considered less valuable than non-hyphenated domain names and thus may be harder to sell in the future.

Reduced click-through rate: Studies have shown that domain names with hyphens tend to have lower click-through rates, meaning fewer people will visit your site.

Alternatives to Using Hyphens in Domain Names

An alternative to using hyphens is to use a domain name that is different but still closely related to the desired keywords.

One option is to use a different TLD (top-level domain) such as .net or .info instead of .com.

Another option is to use underscores (_) instead of hyphens.

You can also use different spellings or variations of keywords in your domain name.

You can use domain name generators or domain name suggestion tools to come up with alternative options for your domain name.

How Search Engines Interpret Hyphens in Domain Names

When it comes to search engines, a hyphen in a domain name is simply interpreted as a separator or space. It is used to separate words within a domain name to make it more readable and memorable for users.

However, from a technical standpoint, a hyphen does not carry any special significance to search engines, it is treated in the same way as any other character. While hyphens are allowed to use in domain names and they will not harm your website.

A hyphen, as per search engines, is a punctuation mark used to separate words in a domain name. It is often used to separate words in a phrase or to make a domain name more readable.

In terms of SEO, hyphens do not typically have a significant impact on search engine rankings, but they can make it more difficult for users to remember the domain name and type it correctly. Hyphens in domain names can also make it harder for users to find your website by accident.

Video Source: Nick Butcher, YouTube

Guidelines for Using Hyphens in Domain Names

As per the guidelines set by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which oversees domain name registration, there are certain restrictions on the use of hyphens in domain names. One of the restrictions is that a domain name cannot begin or end with a hyphen. This is to prevent confusion with subdomains and to ensure that domain names are easily readable.

Google also follows these guidelines, so it's important to ensure that any domain name that you register does not begin or end with a hyphen. Doing so may result in the domain name being rejected or may cause problems when attempting to access the website.

Domain names must not contain consecutive hyphens, such as “–” and they should not be too long either.

Please note that these are just guidelines and not rules, but it’s a good idea to follow them to ensure that your domain name is easily readable and does not cause any confusion.

Which Type of Website Can Go With Hyphens in Domain Names

Some experts recommend against using hyphens in domain names for business websites, as they can be seen as less professional or credible. This is because business websites are often expected to have a professional image, and a domain name with a hyphen may not convey that image as well as a domain name without a hyphen.

In some cases having a domain name with a hyphen may not always be a deal breaker. For example, if the domain name you want without a hyphen is already taken, using a hyphen may be the only way to make the domain name unique. If the domain name is composed of multiple words, using a hyphen to separate those words can make it more readable.

Informational websites may be less affected by a hyphen in the domain name as they are not necessarily trying to convey a professional image. It may also be easier to find a memorable and easy-to-read domain name without a hyphen for informational websites.

Even though hyphens are allowed in domain names, I would recommend avoiding using them for business websites as they can be seen as less professional and credible, while it is considered an option for informational websites

Video Source: Michelle Brubaker, YouTube

Conclusion: Should You Use Hyphens in Your Domain Name?

Using hyphens in domain names can be beneficial for certain types of websites, such as affiliate sites or those targeting specific keywords. However, for branding purposes, I would recommend avoiding using hyphens. 

Ultimately, the decision of whether to use hyphens in a domain name should be based on the specific goals and needs of your website and your audience.

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