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Let's consider a hypothetical web platform provider, operating under the domain name "dashwidget.com". It would provide the platform to be used in child sites, such as "catswidget.com", or "blahwidget.com". The actual name of the company, for stylistic reasons, would be "-widget"; the hyphen indicates flexibility about what the prefix for it could be, as it is a platform that can be adapted for a variety of things, e.g. "catswidget.com", "blahwidget.com", etc.

Google seems to strip away non alpha numeric characters from its searches. So, a search for "-widget" could reveal no results, or just return results for "widget".

Is there a way to retain a company name with the "-" in it, (so "-widgets"), and have this brand be search engine friendly? Or should it be marketed under the actual name "dashwidget", with "-widget" simply being the stylistic company logo?

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If you type “-widget” into Google, that means “show me pages that don’t include the word widget.” The hyphen is interpreted as a minus sign.

I would suggest this:

  • company name: Widget
  • domain name: widget.com
  • subdomains: dash.widget.com, cats.widget.com, blah.widget.com, etc.

… because it gives you only one domain name to manage, and no matter what topic you want to create — e.g. dogs — you can always create dogs.widget.com where you may not be able to get the name dogwidget.com. And when you promote the website, you can choose to promote the top-level widget.com or you can choose to promote cats.widget.com, which also promotes widget.com by its very nature.

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The reason why special characters in domain names are ignored is simple. They have no value in search.

Google is a semantics based search engine. It is based upon language and understanding language. Punctuation is a major part of semantics in understanding sentence structure, however, adds no value for a domain name. Instead, what happens is that terms are recognized and weighted as they are found trying to establish as much semantic meaning out of the domain name as possible. Since domain names are short, semantic value is hard to determine. Terms carry weight in semantics while punctuation adds to understanding. However, since domain names are not sentences, punctuation have no value since there is no structure to analyze.

So, to sum up, quit-smoking-now is seen exactly the same as quitsmokingnow when it comes to domain names.

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