Should I Hyphenate the Domain for My Real Estate Website?

To hyphenate or not to hyphenate? That is the question!

I work with real estate agents, and they all seem to want to hyphenate their domain. They want keyword-rich domains to improve their rankings in the search engine results in their local community. Since a lot of short domains were already snatched up, they want to throw a hyphen, or two or three, into the domain so they can get the keywords they want. But names like are not as great as one may think.

Don't go for the hyphen. Exception: the people who had the domain preferred, as they preferred to be read as Experts Exchange, not as Expert Sex Change. In that case, maybe hyphens weren't such a bad idea. Now that I have entertained all the Beavis and Buttheads of the world, let's move on.

Here are 5 reasons not to hyphenate your domain name:

1. You will lose to the guy who beat you to the punch.

Chances are, the hyphen was not your first choice. Chances are, you loved your domain name without the hyphen, but somebody else already got it, so you are trying to improvise. Be aware that if you do, you will be sending visitors to the non-hyphenated domain very quickly. For example, if you are selling real estate in Tucson and you want the name, and you instead use the domain, the real estate agent who has will love you. Because no matter how many times you remind people about the hyphen, I promise you they will go to the non-hyphenated domain name first.

2. Nobody is going to remember the hyphen.

Think logically. Every time you tell your buyers or sellers about your domain, you are going to have to follow it up with a, "Yeah, there is a dash there, don't forget about the dash, OK?" or, better yet, "No no, that is somebody else, mine has a dash in it." People forget about hyphens in domain names. I do not care if it is a bunch of words or just two words: nobody remembers it. I know I would not. It's inevitable that people will forget and visit the non-hyphenated version. Here is a challenge for you: name as many websites as you can. Now tell me how many of them have hyphens. You get the idea.

3. Don't forget about your email.

If you are going to have clients, you are going to be sending emails. If you are marketing a domain, you're going to want your email to carry that same domain. If you want buyers and sellers to contact you, then your email should not be hard to remember. Makes sense right? If your domain has a hyphen, then so will your email. People will end up sending mail to the wrong address. Score another one for the real estate agent who got your domain name without the dashes.

4. Spam websites have hyphens in them.

This is not always the case, and everybody wearing a straitjacket is not mentally ill. Sure, some people wearing straitjackets are magicians or going to a costume party, but for the most part, it is what it looks like. The same applies to the dashes on your domain. People will think you are a spammer, even if there is a chance you are not.

5. SEO benefits? Not so fast.

It is a Search Engine Optimization tactic, but there is a lot more to SEO than keywords in the primary domain. If you feel like you need keywords in your domain to rank well, you may be doing something wrong. I understand that people may want to get every SEO benefit they can, but that doesn't change the fact that people view hyphens in domains as an indication of a low-quality site. What is more is that this tactic is dated. In 2012, Google launched an algorithm that made exact-match domain names less important. Therefore there is less incentive to get a keyword-rich domain using hyphens. For my next challenge, try this: search as many things as you can. How many times did you see a hyphenated domain name come up on the first page of the search results?

In summary, much like everything else, simplicity is bliss. You do not need to be an expert to understand this concept. Keep domain names short and simple. If the domain is not there, hyphenating it may not be the answer. It may be time to go back to the drawing board and look for a new idea for a domain name.