The first thing to acknowledge in this blog post is that using a hyphen or not is rarely going to be a massive deciding factor in a website's performance. If your content is good enough you should rank for that. Google is trying to create a level playing field for its users.It has always been advised that hyphens should not be used in domain names, and this suggestion hasn’t just been pulled out of thin air. We have got some of the well-known Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) world leaders such as, Rand Fishkin of Seomoz, and Aaron Wall of SeoBook who advise against the use of hyphens.
Matt Cutts, a Google software engineer employee, recommends hyphens for specific page link urls, not the domain identifier. He discusses and clarifies the difference between underscores and hyphens in URLs in this video.
To clarify what Matt speaks about in the video is that Google reads the hyphen as a word separator. Hyphens should be used in instances where search engines may not correctly discriminate your keywords. In all other instances hyphens are unnecessary, as search engines will correctly parse out the keywords.
Search Engine Optimisation is not Exact Science
We gain insights from observed differences and changes. Even Google engineers state that no one fully knows the full Google algorithm or precisely how it arranges rankings. The rankings also change on a day-to-day basis.
Using a hyphen is not necessarily a bad idea or that Google will drop you automatically for it, it’s simply a case of suspicion by association. Keyword dashes and hyphens have always been linked to spammers, ”keyword-keyword-keyword.co.uk”. So when Google sees these patterns it may trigger a warning that you may be a spam website. Simply, “Avoid Hyphens. Hyphens detract from credibility and can act as a spam indicator”
David Ball of Silktide conducted an experiment, which was reported within this post “How one tiny hyphen destroyed our SEO efforts”. The report acknowledges the fact that this is one incident so it is not exact science and does not define the Google algorithm. David’s company swapped it’s quality content from “frictionlessowls.com” to “frictioless-owls.com” which was filled with machine generated spam content. The Googlebot noticed these changes, but very little changed in their rankings. The non-hyphened domain name with the spam filled content remained up top and didn’t plummet. The hyphened site now with the quality content, should have bounced up the rankings but it didn’t.
So although this is not quite proof that hyphens are bad for your domain names, it is an interesting example of how they can affect traffic to your site and guides us further in understanding how to get higher up on Google search and how to create better Search Engine Optimisation.
With many articles out there that say the use of a hyphen has little if any affect to a site, many of the SEO industry thought leaders advise against the use of the hyphen for various reasons. So if these thought leaders have these opinions then it is best that we take note.
If you have any other questions about domain names or website developmentand would like help with choosing one, please get in contact with us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or calling01702 410663, we will be happy to help!