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Hyphenated Domain Names
Whether or not to use hyphens in a domain name is a much-debated matter in the SEO community. Some experts say that Google and other main search engines don’t actually recognize the individual words within a domain unless there are hyphens or dots between each word. If this is true, the hyphenated domain www.SEO-Manchester.com would be seen as - www SEO Manchester com since the search engines treat the dots and hyphens as spaces. This means that choosing a one-word domain name or properly hyphenating the multiple words in your domain will have the greatest effect on your SEO.
Other SEO’ers have strong opposite opinions against hyphenated domains, claiming, "They have limited SEO value. Even if you do manage to get such a domain top ten, you're probably going to need to sell on the first visit, as few people are going to remember it once they leave. It is too generic, and it lacks credibility." They tend to argue that a more distinct brand name such as I-COM (www.i-com.net) offers a better point of distinction and therefore users will take this more seriously than a generic domain name such as www.we-do-awsome-seo.com which devalues any brand or quality you may have built up.
Building up directory listings could also prove a lot more difficult for long tail hyphenated domain names as directory editors will often reject these sites on sight as they associate them with low quality or spam. I guess the question you have to ask yourself is which would you rather link to?
There is a happy medium between brand and keyword rich domain names in any businesses SEO strategy but it can only be implemented if these potential issues are taken into account beforehand.
Verbalise Your Domain Name
Although not entirely SEO-related, any business wanting to be successful online should take into offline communication into account. For telling people about your business during any business networking or phone call, a hyphenated domain name is harder to say and take longer to verbalise. For example “www dot seo hyphen manchester dot com” is a fair mouthful. One solution to this issue would be to try and register the non hyphenated version of your domain name and then 301 redirect any traffic to your homepage.
The more relevant and authoritative domains tend to be pushed up by Google results and strong domains can be given Google Sitelinks (the sub links that can be found below your title and description in the results, see example) as a bonus which can push down competition domains which are showing for your brand/domain.
When approaching the creation of your business domain name, the general consensus in the SEO world is to combine a generic term with your service to create a unique brand that carries a certain weight for the search engines. For example SEOMoz, SoloSEO, SEOBook and SEOPositive. These terms give SEO value at the same time as retaining some unique branding and forcing people to use your keywords in a link. They contain enough to rank high for SEO service related searches yet remain memorable brands for visitors.
Top Level Domains
People continue to type in .com at the end of a domain presuming this will get them to the desired site even when it may be a .net domain. This shows that it is still a good idea to register the .com version of your brand's domain if possible and redirect visitors. There are still rumors that .com domain names carry more SEO weight in the search engines so registering one may be a good idea to keep you on the safe side.
As a loose rule of thumb, TLD’s have historically shown the type of organisation the site belongs to:
- .com = ‘commercial’
- .edu = ‘educational’
- .gov = ‘governmental’
- .mil = ‘military’
- .org = ‘(non-profit) organization’
- .name = ‘individuals, by name’
- .net = ‘network’
- .biz = ‘business’
Google does show some bias against .info domains as these are very cheap to purchase and frequently used by spammers. As a word of warning, MacAfee recently announced that the most dangerous domain names end in.hk (Hong Kong), .cn (China) and .ph. (Philippines).
If you are curious about Google’s most popular and least popular top level domains then check out this list compiled in 2006 by Bill Slawski.