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Let's say I have an online database. The domain names somethingdatabase.* are taken.

seomoz says that

Hyphens detract from credibility and can act as a spam indicator

and also says that

Ideally, webmasters should strike a balance between finding a catchy, unique, brand friendly domain name with having a domain that contains keywords that they are trying to target

In this situation, which domain name would be better, something-database.* (which has the keyword, but also has a hyphen), or somethingelse.* (which doesn't have the hypen, but neither the keyword)?

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5 Answers 5

To have one hyphen is no spam indicator. Some years ago, spammers would used keyord stuffed domain names with 3 or more hyphens a lot, but that is no reason to generalize about one or two hyphens. Don't worry about it.

Keywords in the domain name can be good, because when you get links from forums they will print out the first x letters of the URL, as link text, so you'd get the link and the linktext includes your keyword. That is what you want.

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From my perspective, I recommend using an underscore (_) character for word separation in URLs and avoiding the use of a hyphen (-) character completely. Yes, a hyphen is a valid character, but I have a bias against the ambiguous nature of hyphens in the gray area between humans and computers.

  • A hyphen character is a punctuation mark that can change meaning. However, there can be no confusion whether an underscore in a URL should be retained or not for semantic reasons when it is solely intended as a separator.
  • A hyphen is often substituted for / confused with various dash characters ( ‒, –, —, ― )
  • A hyphen character can have a reserved meaning in scripting or coding languages (command-line options, decrement, subtraction, even as I compose this reply where a hyphen is used to build a bullet list), and therefore, its use in URLs (paths, directory or folder names, file names, etc) can create significant complications when it comes to building regular expressions for bulk processing scripts.

In electronic communications, I prefer clarity of intent.

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-1 The question isn't really about (debatable) clarity of intent but search engines. Your recommendation directly contradicts the known behavior of the leading engine. To your points: 1> In a URL, a dash is a character, not punctuation. 2> This makes no sense. When have you ever seen a dash replace a directory separator, unless intended to specify an entirely different URL? 3> Hyphens are perfectly valid in URLs; handling that with a proper regex is the implementor's responsibility. –  Su' Mar 16 '12 at 18:36
    
It's also worth noting against point #2 that the question is particularly about a domain name, where a / wouldn't even be valid. –  Su' Mar 16 '12 at 18:36

From an SEO I think it maybe slightly better without hyphens, but very little and very hard to prove.

I will say however its harder to describe someone 'something database with a hyphen in the middle' rather than 'something databse dot co dot uk'.

Also it maybe wise to use hyphens if the domain is tricky to read when put together e.g mnnmnwvvw.com

Either way I would buy both domains and point one to the other, especially if you go with the hyphen one (make sure you set this up correctly so google doesn't think you have two sites)

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Really? It doesn't matter. If the site is designed for the end user, and not a dumping ground for spammy sales junk, then it doesn't matter.

Stop fretting about SEOmoz say, they have a 'whitehat' persona to maintain, and will always recite what Matt Cutts will say. If Matt Cutts recommended that Google now favours domains starting with 'lolcats' then so would SEOmoz.

I'm in the SEO industry, and its based on smoke and mirrors to say the least. Heres what works: Content & Links.

Decent content + Natural Looking links. End of.

Decent content will get shared on social sites, which is another 'signal' Google use. SEO is not rocket science, in fact its mostly introspective, speculative B.S.

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The domain name is one small part of the whole SEO pie. Personally I'd go for the hyphen and just work on your page markup, content, keywords etc etc.

SEOMOZ only says that it may act as a spam indicator. If your content isn't spam, then you've nothing to worry about.

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Hyphens are harder for users though, personally I'd go for something more brandable. –  DisgruntledGoat Mar 17 '12 at 17:34
    
@DisgruntledGoat - in what way are hyphens "harder for users"? I really do not understand that comment... –  Captain Toad Mar 18 '12 at 1:00
    
Harder for users to remember, I mean. Most people are used to domain names that are all one word. –  DisgruntledGoat Mar 18 '12 at 10:41

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