Ask the Experts: Should I Have Dashes In My Domain Name?

by Gravity on April 9, 2008

Q: I noticed you don’t have dashes in your domain name (your-seo-plan.com). Why? Is there anything wrong with them?

A: There is no major problem with dashes in domain names. The main reason that we chose not to use one, and that we generally advise against dashes, is that hyphenated names don’t pass the “radio test.” The radio test is this: if you had to say your domain name on the radio, would people know how to spell it, or would you need to spell it out? So, names like “wherehouse.com” or “civil-litigation-firm.com” have a problem because every time you give out the URL in person or over the phone you will have to spell it out. That means it’s harder for people to remember and communicate to others!

It’s well-known in the SEO industry that search engines are aware of hyphens and perceive them as spaces (see Google’s Matt Cutts on the subject of dashes and underscores ). However, we generally advise against using too many words, as a Google engineer wrote: “you can have too much of a good thing. It also doesn’t take a special tool to know that this page name isn’t user-friendly:
african-elephants-and-their-habitats-and-diet-and-history-and-extinction-possibilities-and-this-page-is-really-great.htm”

While we generally avoid dashes in domain names, this advice does not apply to filenames. We do recommend that dashes be used in filenames to separate out keywords. For example, the file name: “seo-advice.html” is preferable to “seoadvice.html”. Similarly, it is a good idea to use a seperator in folder names. This not only helps search engines, it also helps your human audience understand what the page is about, as you can see when you compare these two examples:

  • without dashes: http://www.yourseoplan.com/seotips/googlelovesme.html
  • with dashes: http://www.yourseoplan.com/seo-tips/google-loves-me.html

If dashes don’t float your boat, you can choose another separator. We believe that underscores and tildes (_, ~ ) are also recognized by Google as word separators.

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