I wanted to start by giving a shout out to Nathan for his blog post on our sister site Casino Affiliate Programs regarding using hyphens in domain names. This is one of my favorite topics and it also fits in very well with where we are at in terms of this series, so I want to say a few words on this. Nathan’s post can be found at http://www.casinoaffiliateprograms.com/blog/domain-name-hyphens-and-their-effects-on-seo-and-branding/?utm_source=icontact&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter
I agree that there really isn’t an issue here with the hyphens SEO wise, and it seems that this is starting to become more of a consensus, although in the world of SEO there’s always a variety of opinions and people often disagree. There’s no reason why search engines would penalize hyphens in domains though, regardless of how many there are. In fact, this levels the playing field, which is something they would tend to prefer as well.
Now a non-hyphenated domain is a tad better due to the level of saturation that’s present. There’s one or more extra characters in hyphenated domains, for instance with pokerbonus.com and poker-bonus.com. Search engines do treat keywords in domains in terms of density, and the non hyphenated version is one character denser.
This isn’t a big deal at all though and is more than offset by the ability to get the keywords that you want in the domain. It’s actually a moot point in almost all cases since the non hyphenated form of the domain you seek isn’t available, which is generally why people go after the hyphenated one.
That assumes that the hyphenated one is inferior though and Nathan brings up a couple of points that are worth discussing which tend to lead people into believing that they are. The first is the claim that people will be typing in the url a lot and may forget to include the hyphen.
Now this may be true in some cases, with very large sites, where first time visitors may get the url of your site from other media, such as print or television, or perhaps word of mouth, and have to remember it. This doesn’t concern new sites or anything we as poker affiliates could even dream of.
Since we get our traffic from web searches or links, there’s no need for typing in url’s anyway, and once someone has visited us, they will either bookmark our site or have the suggested sites in their web browser assist them, which auto completes url’s based upon browsing history.
Morever, as hyphens become more popular, which they certainly will, not only will people pay more attention to them, but they also make the name of the site stand out more. This is expecially true if there are more than two terms in the domain name.
So the bottom line, for us at least, is that this really isn’t an issue, and especially when you compare the costs and benefits here. The costs are essentially zero, and the benefits are that you can get a very close facsimile of a domain that’s long been taken and one that people would pay obscene amounts of money for.
The second claim is that hyphenated domains are less brandable, which actually doesn’t make any sense. Now it’s true that pure keyword domains can be less brandable due to their generic structure, but that’ s got nothing to do with the hyphens themselves. There isn’t even any need to discuss this further in fact, other than to say this is simply due to confusion.
Finally, Nathan states that he’s concerned with domains that target keywords as risking a penalty in the future for ”gaming” the search engines. If this did actually happen, and I’d say that it’s pretty much unimaginable in my opinion anyway, the worst that would happen is that keywords in domains would be discredited. They aren’t now though. It wouldn’t make sense to not include information in the domain name as contributing to SEO, and there are a lot bigger concerns here than keyword targetting, for instance this would prevent site specific searches.
So you want to buy a Ford but the search engine can’t count the fact your site is ford.com. That’s just totally out there and will never happen. To suggest that we’d penalize Ford for having their product in their domain name, well, I don’t think we need to be thinking about this any more.
Moreover, this has nothing to do with hyphens by the way and once again addresses the use of keywords in domains, whether hyphenated or not. The bottom line here in my view anyway is use them all you want, even two back to back if there’s a combination you really want, like for instance poker–bonus.com. Once again it’s all about the costs versus benefits and the benefits here can be pretty significant.
There’s other ways to accomplish this though without even using hyphens and with this technique you can also make it much more brandable. I’ll talk about that in the next blog post.