I have been recommending affiliates to use keyword-rich domain names more aggressively, and I myself have been experimenting with different types of domains and how well they do with search engines. Today I would like to share with you my experience with hyphenated domain names.
Some are saying that hyphens in domain names are a “no-no” for SEO “because people won’t remember to put them in when they’re trying to remember how to access your site” (not sure where the connection with SEO is though), while others state that it isn’t bad for your SEO at all, and hyphenated domain names do well with narrow search engine searches.
A little over a year ago I registered two domain names: both in highly competitive niches, one – hyphenated, another one – not. The non-hyphenated one reached the #1 position on Google and MSN (it still keeps it with Bing, but dropped a bit in Google) about a month after its registration and loading content, whereas the hyphenated one did relatively well with other search engines, but wasn’t very successful with Google. Here are its current rankings across 6 different search engines:
- Google – not in the top 100
- Yahoo! – #3
- Bing – #8
- AOL – not in the top 100
- AltaVista – #3
- AllTheWeb – #3
Based on this experience, I would recommend looking for a non-hyphenated domain name over a hyphenated one.
If, however, you do decide to go with a domain name that contains separators (such as hyphens or underscores), you want to stay away from underscores. Earlier this year Matt Cutts of Google has strongly recommended hyphens over underscores because at this time, and in case with Google, “dashes or hyphens are treated a separators, and underscores are not.”
Finally, remember that while metatags no longer matter much, your page titles and inbound links still matter a lot.