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Hyphens in Domain Names

Updated on November 22, 2010

Hyphens in Domain Names

This hub explores the pros and cons of using hyphens in domain names.

Any internet marketer will tell you that the first step to setting up an internet business is to get hold of a domain name. An experienced internet marketer will tell you not to acquire just any domain name but a high quality generic domain name. In reality, it is not easy to find a high quality unregistered generic domain name. However, it is much easier to find a domain name with hyphens. The question is, is it recommended at all and what are the implications?

To answer this question, a quick recap of the qualities of an excellent domain name is necessary. Your preferred domain name should be related to your business. It should be easy to remember and ideally contain one or two of the keywords in your niche. It should also not be in dispute. This is to say that it should not be infringing on anyone’s trademark. Hence, you cannot register “Microsofft.com,” despite the misspelling. Your domain should also be a maximum of seven characters long. However, given the scarcity of available unregistered domain names you may eventually settle to a longer generic domain name or buy one off the secondary market.

Having realized that the ideal generic domain name in your niche is unavailable, do you then register a hyphenated version? For example if “golfequipment.com” is taken, do you register “golf-equipment.com”? The answer is an emphatic no; avoid hyphens in domain names for the main reason that visitors to your website tend to make errors while typing your website address in the URL bar. Potential site visitors have to pause as they type to figure out where the hyphen should be. Many times, they end up at your competitor’s site and you loose. Only amateurs register hyphenated domains. A professional, anyone who is serious with their online business, should keep away from hyphenated domains. If you cannot find an unregistered high quality generic domain, which is usually the case, find out if your preferred domain is in use. If it is not, you can search the Whois database to find out who the owner is and make them an offer to buy the domain. If it is not for sale look for an alternative high quality generic domain from the numerous domain marketplaces on the Internet. You are sure to get an excellent name.

However, there are some extremely rare cases when hyphens in domain names may actually add value. This is mainly in a situation where the name may unintentionally appear to be a pun. For example, therapistonline.com could be punned to “the rapist online” yet the intention is “therapist online”. Another good example would be “therapistfinder.com”, with the same results. These are exceptional cases, and very rare at that, where adding a hyphen may actually add value. Otherwise, hyphens in domain names should never be an option.

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    Christopher  7 years ago

    I agree that you are better off without a hyphen in your main domain name. However, I believe they are helpful if your site name is for traffic building" only. For instance, if I have a site named AtlantaRealEstate.com as my main site and I built additional domains for traffic building based on keyword research, such as Buying-A-Home-In-Atlanta is a great method (provided this is a highly searched phrase). I am not using it for my main site, but to capture people who are searching for buying a home in Atlanta. I could easily put up a 1 page website, with a video and drive traffic back to my main site.

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