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To dash or not to dash for SEO

Posted on 2015-02-11
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Last Modified: 2015-02-14
I am choosing a domain name.  When selecting one for best SEO purposes, does have a "-" in the name make difference?

For example, if a person was searching for experts-exchange, would it be better to have a dash between the words or would a complete word expertsexchange be better.  Or does it make no difference between the two whether there is a dash or not.
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Question by:al4629740
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Jeffrey Dake earned 100 total points
ID: 40604983
Honestly, if possible I would go after both. Mainly for if people mistype your domain they would get redirected to the right place.  The way search engines are so smart now a days, I would say the dash doesn't really matter.
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by:Lucas Bishop
Lucas Bishop earned 300 total points
ID: 40604997
If you are choosing a domain for SEO purposes, then I assume the branding aspects of it are less important. Experts-Exchange.com is an example of a domain name that is brand focused, since the phrase "experts exchange" (or facebook, gmail, etc.) would have almost no search volume if the brand didn't exist. An SEO focused domain for Experts Exchange would be more along the lines of technicalsupport.com or technical-support.com, where the focus of the domain name is to acquire visitors from search traffic.

With SEO as a focus, you'll want to get as close as possible to an exact match keyword/phrase. At the same time, I'd recommend not using more than one dash in a domain, as it just has a kind of spammy feel (imo).  To quote Matt Cutts (circa 2005):

To answer a common question, Google doesn’t algorithmically penalize for dashes in the url. Of course I can only speak for Google, not other search engines. And bear in mind that if your domain looks like www.buy-cheap-viagra-online-while-consolidating-your-debt-so-you-can-play-texas-holdem-while-watching-porn.com, that may still attract attention for other reasons.

In any event, I always prefer a shorter domain where possible. My preferences ranked:

keyword.com
keywordphrase.com
keywordphrase.[net, co, etc]
keyword-phrase.com

When you really spend time optimizing the content of your site and building back-links, the exact match domain is helpful because the anchor text on the back-links will generally match your url and content. This helps get you ranked faster for "keyword phrase" when you own keywordphrase.com (high relevance), as opposed to trying to rank "keyword phrase" for your branded domain xyz.com (lower relevance).

If you're willing to invest the time though, ranking a branded domain will often reap greater rewards in the long run, because you start to acquire  visitors for your brand name searches + keyword phrases, instead of keyword phrases alone.
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Expert Comment

by:Chris Stanyon
ID: 40605341
Experts Exchange's domain didn't used to have a dash in it, but read it carefully - Adults only!!

expertsexchange.com

A dash can make a huge difference, not just for Search Engines :)
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by:al4629740
ID: 40605400
Yea I noticed it.  Hilarious
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by:COBOLdinosaur
COBOLdinosaur earned 100 total points
ID: 40606392
I prefer a short single name without hyphens when possible.  Make it easy to remember.  Make it unique for branding, and to eliminate SE competition. Keep it all lower case.  Acquire additional domains with names for mispelled version of the name so you can redirect.  Acquire and park (or re-direct) the same name for additional TLDs (.net, .org, and country specific in countries where success is critical).

Cd&
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