When planning a website, the choice of a domain name is crucial. But what if the domain you want is taken or you wish to separate words for clarity? This brings us to the debate surrounding hyphenated domain names and their implications, especially in terms of SEO.

The History of Hyphens in Domain Names

Domain names have been around since the inception of the World Wide Web. Originally, domain names were limited in length and character set. As the internet evolved, domain registrars expanded the characters allowed. This included the hyphen, leading to its use for varied reasons.

Advantages of Hyphenated Domain Names

There are several arguments in favor of using hyphens in domain names:

  • Clarity: Hyphens can distinguish individual words, making domain names more readable. For example, 'expertsexchange.com' could be misread, but 'experts-exchange.com' is clear.
  • Availability: Many of the 'good' domain names are taken. Adding hyphens increases the options available.
  • SEO Match: For certain keyword-rich domain names, a hyphen might make the domain more relevant for search engine queries, potentially improving organic search results.

Disadvantages of Hyphenated Domain Names

Despite some advantages, there are also downsides to consider:

  • Typing Errors: Users might forget to add the hyphen when typing the URL or add it in the wrong place.
  • Word of Mouth: Communicating a hyphenated domain verbally can be problematic. It's easier to tell someone to visit 'exampledomain.com' than 'example-domain.com'.
  • SEO Misconceptions: While hyphens may provide clarity, they don’t necessarily offer an SEO advantage. Google's algorithms have become adept at reading unhyphenated domain names and discerning separate words within them.
  • Perception: Some users perceive hyphenated domains as less professional or trustworthy.

SEO Implications of Hyphenated Domains

The biggest concern for many when considering a hyphenated domain is its potential impact on search engine optimization. Here's what's known:

  • No Direct SEO Penalty: Search engines like Google do not penalize sites just because their domain name has a hyphen.
  • Exact Match Domains (EMD): In the past, having a keyword-rich domain, even if hyphenated, might have given a slight ranking boost. But Google's EMD update diminished the power of such domains. Now, the content and user experience play a more significant role in rankings.
  • Brand Recognition: Unhyphenated domains are often more brandable, which can lead to improved user trust and better click-through rates from search results.


While there's no definitive answer as to whether you should use a hyphen in your domain name, the decision largely hinges on your specific needs and circumstances. If clarity and domain availability are paramount, a hyphenated domain could be beneficial. However, if brand recognition and ease of communication are more critical, it's often best to avoid hyphens.

From an SEO standpoint, remember that while domain names play a role, it's the quality of your content, user experience, and backlink profile that will have the most significant impact on your rankings. Choose a domain that aligns with your brand and audience, hyphenated or not, and focus on delivering a top-notch user experience.