Do Keywords In Domain & File Names Affect Rankings?

Yes. Keywords in domain and file names can and do appear to help improve search engine and web directory rankings. To illustrate the point, conduct the following keyword searches (with or without quotation marks) on the Google search engine.

Search Query and Search Results URL

free stuff -

funny jokes -

online casino -

Notice how many of the top ranked listings have one or both searched keywords in the domain or file name? This is not to say you must include keywords in your domain name. But if your keywords are highly competitive, then it could give you a bit of an edge.

Does Separating Domain Name Keywords With Hyphens Affect Rankings?

Yes, in my opinion. If you searched for the keywords in the previous section, did you notice number of domain names that separate keywords with hyphens?

There are two schools of thought with hyphenated domain names.

  1. Some SEO experts say keywords in the domain name need not be separated by hyphens. In fact they go as far to say that the keywords are not important at all, as the search engines don't take them into account.
  2. I fall into the other school of thought. That is keywords in domain names "can" make a difference and that they should be separated by hyphens. For this reason you will notice that all of my domain names follow this principle.

Of course you could say that all of the top ranked sites listed in the search results above just happen to have hyphens in their domain names and that they would achieve the same positions without hyphens. We will never know and we could argue that all day.

I go by what I see. And I see that many top ranked sites have hyphen/s in their domain name.

I have been separating my domain name keywords with hyphens for quite a while now. Search engine experts are divided on whether separating domain name keywords with hyphens actually improve rankings. But I have my reasons for suspecting that it does.

I do suggest that you name your domain and file names with hyphens separating each keyword, just to be on the safe side. After all, you would not want a search engine to index the wrong words.

For example, what are the keywords in this domain name, ""? Are they "news," and "hut," or "new," and "shut"?

How about ''? Are the keywords 'sports' and 'exchange' or 'sport,' 'sex' and 'change'?

You can see how a search engine can easily index different keywords from those you had in mind. If the domain name is, "," it would be clear to a search engine exactly what the keywords are.

Case Study: Hyphenated Domains Out Pulls Unhyphenated Domains By Almost 3 To 1!

I came across a case study in the I-Domain Discussion List of someone who actually conducted tests on whether hyphenated domain names make any difference. You may be surprised by the results!

The site owner tested hyphenated domains vs. unhyphenated domains between July 2001 and June 2002.

He bought 52 domain names related to the jewelry business, 26 hyphenated with the corresponding 26 unhyphenated. He had 26 five-page websites designed, one for each set of domain names. The only difference between the hyphenated and unhyphenated design was the color scheme. The content was identical.

His sites were hosted on separate IP addresses for each of the domains. He ran the initial design for six months, and then he switched color schemes and ran them for another six months. The only promotion he did was to submit all 52 domains to search engines once per month. He did not advertise any of the domains. He did not link any of the domains to any external domain, each stood on its own.

And the result?

The hyphenated domains out pulled the unhyphenated domains by almost three to one!

The bottom-line is this...

It doesn't hurt to have the hyphen in there. And if any of the search engines do take into account of separated keywords in the domain name (like Yahoo! used to do) then we can only benefit from it, if we use hyphens in all our domain names.

Don't forget to register the unhyphenated version of the domain and forward the domain to the hyphenated version that is hosted on your server. That way, if the user forgets the hyphens they still end up on your site.

You may like to use a site I set up to register all my domains. (forwarded to the domain above)

The prices are extremely competitive and domain forwarding can be added on free of charge. I set this site up so that I can pay the lowest fees possible to register domains for myself. Of course you can use it too.

Those are the facts as I see it. It's up to you to make up your own mind which strategy to use.

Should You Use Every Keyword You Find?

I highly recommend that you do make use of every target keyword you find, no matter how few times it is searched on each month.

You may not be able to include them all in your webpages. But you can submit them all to pay per click search engines.

There are two main benefits to using less popular keywords:

  1. You can usually bid less to get the top positions in pay per click search engines.
  2. If you have enough keywords, it can add up to a decent number of searches. For example, 2 searches a day may not sound like much. But if you multiply that by 30, you get 60 searches a month. Now multiply that by let's say 100 keywords and you have got yourself 6,000 searches a month. Imagine all those potential customers you would have lost if you ignore keywords that only get a handful of searches a day.

It doesn't matter if some of the less popular keywords turn out to produce zero clicks. You simply remove them from your list of keywords. But do give them a chance to perform for you.