Are hyphens in domains okay with Google?
In a Google SEO office hours hangout, John Mueller responded if it was okay to choose a hyphenated domain name. He replied that it was perfectly fine to choose such a domain. But he also said that keywords are overrated in domain names.
Keywords in domain names
There is an idea that using keywords in the domain name will help a website rank better.
In the early days of SEO, the value of keywords in the domains was true. Parked domains (keyword-rich domains without content and only ads) were allowed to rank in the search results.
But Google changed that in 2011.
According to a Google blog post that mentioned parked keyword domains:
“This is a new algorithm for the automatic detection of parked domains. Parked domains are placeholder pages with little unique content for our users and are often only filled with ads. In most cases we prefer not to show them. “
Some say the anchor text in the domain helps when people link to the site. But that’s not really true. If someone links to a domain name, it doesn’t count as an anchor text link.
Google’s John Mueller said the following about URLs as anchor text in another hangout:
“… in this situation we treat this URL as anchor text.
As far as I know, our systems are trying to detect this and say this is just a Linked URL, it’s not that there is any valuable anchor here.
So we can consider this as a link, but we can’t really use this anchor text for anything in particular.
From this point of view, it’s a normal link, but we have no context there. “
Is it okay to use a hyphenated domain name?
The person asking the question just wants to know if it is okay to choose a hyphenated domain name.
They did not ask if there was a rank advantage. But John Mueller from Google also talks about this.
“Is it okay to choose a domain name with two hyphens?
Or is a hyphen better or should hyphens be dispensed with entirely? “
Google’s John Mueller replied:
“Up to you.
Whatever you think makes sense.
Some websites have hyphens, others don’t. “
Google’s algorithm doesn’t look for hyphens
Next, Mueller mentioned that, to the best of his knowledge, Google’s algorithm doesn’t look for whether a domain name contains a hyphen or not.
Mueller commented on hyphens and the algorithm:
“I don’t think anything in our algorithms specifically looks for hyphens in domain names.”
Test domain names with dashes
Google’s John Mueller suggests that the practice of adding keywords to domains is overrated.
This can be the case for ranking purposes.
When it comes to conversions, however, you should experiment a little to see if more users convert on a domain with keywords than on a branded domain that doesn’t contain the keyword.
As for a hyphenated domain name, like anything else, test it with people likely to be interested in a particular type of site to see what their perception of hyphenated domain names is like.
No doubt, hyphens make a domain name look cheesy and spammy. But that may not be the perception of website visitors across the board.
Keywords in domains are overrated
This is what John Mueller said:
“The aspect of just adding keywords to the domain name is overrated in my opinion in the sense that… I don’t know… our search algorithms try to understand the overall quality and relevance of a website.
And the domain name isn’t really the strongest factor here.
So this is something … if you are trying to switch to a domain and just add keywords there, my guess is that the whole move to a new domain will be a lot more complicated and cause more problems than any value you would get from it just with an additional keyword in the domain.
So I would try to avoid that.
But here, too, it has nothing to do with hyphens or the like.
It’s really just, should I add a keyword to my domain name or not? “
Should you use hyphenated domain names?
Hyphenated domain names were an old school tactic that fell out of favor many years ago due to lack of ranking benefit and the perception that hyphens made a site appear spam.
But sometimes you should never overestimate how visitors to a site think about something. Sometimes it can be surprising what people are okay with.
Is there an advantage to hyphenated domain names? When was the last time you saw the rank of a hyphenated domain name?
Check out the Google article that noted that parked domains have been demoted:
Search quality highlights: New monthly series on algorithm changes
Should hyphens be avoided in domain names?
See John Mueller answer the question at the 41:30 minute mark