In a Google SEO office hours hangout, John Mueller answered whether it’s OK to choose a hyphenated domain name.
He said that it’s perfectly fine to choose a domain like that. But he also said that keywords in the domain name is overrated.
Keywords in Domain Names
There is an idea that having keywords in the domain name will help a site rank better.
In the early days of SEO there was some truth to the value of keywords in the domains. Parked domains (keyword rich domains with no 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 automatically detecting parked domains. Parked domains are placeholder sites with little unique content for our users and are often filled only with ads. In most cases, we prefer not to show them.”
Some say that when people link to the site that the anchor text in the domain will help. But that’s not really true. When someone links with a domain name that’s not counted as an anchor text link.
Google’s John Mueller said the following about URLs as anchor text in another hangout:
“…in that situation we treat that URL as the anchor text.
From what I understand, our systems do try to recognize this and say well, this is just a URL that is linked, it’s not that there’s a valuable anchor here.
So we can take this into account as a link but we can’t really use that anchor text for anything in particular.
So from that point of view it’s a normal link but we don’t have any context there.”
Is it OK to Use a Hyphenated Domain Name?
The person asking the question just wants to know if it’s OK to choose a hyphenated domain name.
They weren’t asking whether there’s a ranking advantage. But Google’s John Mueller discusses that as well.
“Is it OK to choose a domain name with two hyphens?
Or is one hyphen better or should hyphens be avoided completely?”
Google’s John Mueller answered:
“Up to you.
Whatever you think makes sense.
Some websites have hyphens, some don’t.”
Google’s Algorithm Doesn’t Look for Hyphens
Mueller next mentioned that as far as he knows, Google’s algorithm isn’t looking for whether a domain name has a hyphen in it or not.
Mueller commented on hyphens and the algorithm:
“I don’t think anything in our algorithms looks specifically for hyphens in domain names.”
Test Domain Names with Hyphens
Google’s John Mueller follows up by stating that the practice of adding keywords in domains is overrated.
That may be the case for ranking purposes.
But in terms of conversions, you may want to experiment a little to see if more people convert on a domain with keywords in them than a branded domain that does not contain the keyword.
As far as a domain name with hyphens in it, like anything else, test it with people likely to be interested in a specific kind of site to see what their perceptions are of hyphenated domain names.
Arguably, hyphens make a domain name look tacky and spammy. But that might not be the perception by site visitors across the board.
Keywords in Domains are Overrated
Here’s what John Mueller said:
“The aspect of just putting keywords into the domain name, I think that’s kind of overrated in the sense that… I don’t know… our search algorithms try to understand the quality and relevance of a website overall.
And the domain name is not really the strongest factor there.
So that’s something… If you’re trying to move to a domain and just add keywords in there, my guess is that the whole move to a new domain part will be much more complicated can cause more issues than any value you would get out of just having a keyword extra in the domain.
So I would try to avoid doing that.
But again it’s not related to hyphens or anything like that.
It’s really just like, should I add a keyword into my domain name or not?”
Should You Use Hyphenated Domain Names?
Hyphenated domain names was an old school tactic that fell out of favor many years ago because there wasn’t a ranking benefit from that and the perception that hyphens made a site look spammy.
But sometimes one must never overestimate how site visitors feel about something. Sometimes what people are OK with can be surprising.
Is there an advantage to hyphenated domain names? When was the last time you saw a hyphenated domain name rank?
Read Google article noting they downgraded parked domains:
Search Quality Highlights: New Monthly Series on Algorithm Changes
Should Hyphens Be Avoided in Domain Names?
Watch John Mueller answer the question at the 41:30 Minute Mark