Domainers who still avoid names with hyphens are stuck in what I call the “parking industry time warp”.  Search engines actually like hyphens.  Nevertheless, every day, great hyphen names are dropping.  Epik is picking them up by the dozens.  This post summarizes a few recent hyphen catches and why I like them.

Hyphens work — and I can prove it
Epik only recently became active in the drop-catch business.  One of the things we wanted to confirm early on was whether hyphenated names would receive equal ranking as non-hyphenated names in terms of their SEO potential. While the sample size is not large, the early indication is that hyphenated names perform just fine.  For the time being, these hyphenated names can be acquired and developed more cost effectively.  Here are a few recent builds that are performing well:

Now, keep in mind that every one of these names was a recent drop-catch and that these sites have been live for between 30 and 90 days.  You can track how any of these sites are doing by adding /stats at the end of the URL.  The bottom line is that there is nothing wrong with these domains.  They are development worthy!

And what about 2 hyphens?
The next obvious question is whether the above logic also applies to names with 2 hyphens.  Estibot significantly punishes these names in terms of valuation.  However, once again, I think Estibot has it wrong. Here are a couple of early examples:

Our experience with 2 hyphens is much more limited.  We don’t love them but if there is enough search volume for a term that deserves to be 3 words long, we’ll take them.  We have not exactly backed up the truck, but we are buying them.

And what about DOUBLE–hyphens
Double–hyphen names drop routinely. Many of them are not worth reg-fee even if they had one hyphen, not two.  The question we wanted to answer was whether a “”–” was the kiss of death in terms of indexing potential, or whether it made for a diamond in the rough. Our theory is that it is the latter.

Tony Lam is an Epik client who gets it.  Yesterday, Tony and I agreed to develop golf– and wedding– which Epik had recently picked up.  Also, this week, we picked up stock–, security– and espresso–

Although Tony is  a dentist by profession, he has become a talented domainer in his spare time.  If my theory is correct, those 2 names that we sold him for $249 — including a product portal — should do great for him.   We’ll know in a few months.

And what about domains with h-y-p-h-e-n-s
I have never been a  fan of such names. 

From a previous trial we learned that h-y-p-h-e-n names are not strong index candidates.   However, this particular trial was run for about 90 days and without the benefit of original content.  As such, I deem this prior trial as inconclusive.

Earlier today we picked up the domain name on the drop  The Estibot appraisal of this name is zero even though the term has tremendous search volumes. Tony Lam is stepping up to develop this one as well.

So why do Pro domainers drop these great names
Seasoned pros like Frank Schilling are routinely dropping hyphen names and .net names. Oftentimes they are holding on to the corresponding .com names.  My understanding is that they are hoping that some end-clients will acquire the name, invest hugely in them, and then come begging  for the non-hyphenated name that the Pro domainers have safely tucked away, all while accruing some modicum of type-in traffic.  The same logic applies to high quality .net names that routinely drop.

As the old saying goes: one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.  Epik acquires these names every day, and are completely delighted that the corresponding premium .com domains sit idle as parked sites.  As far as the search engines are concerned, the developed domain gets ranked, while the parked domain gets spanked!  Anyway, we’ll keep picking them up.  If you want a few bucks for them, drop me a note before you drop them.

Join the discussion 20 Comments

  • Yes, domainers mostly avoid hyphenated domains because they lose considerable value from a branding vantage point. Hey, I just dropped a couple recently with decent search volume (not .coms) so watch out for them 🙂 Yes, hyphenated domains can be developed and the search engines don’t seem to penalize such domains so from a pure development vantage point there is some potential opportunity. The problem though is that development is often a significant and ongoing undertaking and yet the developer is still left with a domain which is not very brandable if the desire is to eventually sell the project. Understandably new sites take a while to gain traction with the search engines but I would argue the appropriate valuation methodology would be to compare net earnings (future cash flow) against development cost (investment). However, given that hyphenated search phrase domains can be acquired as drops, it would be interesting to see more product portal examples (including alt TLD domains which don’t necessarily have hyphens) and their performance stats.

  • Hugh says:

    I think Epik only focuses on development so the – does not matter one bit. Secondly would still have brand ability. Anyone that thinks its not is probably a lazy domainer and nothing else.

  • Yaron says:

    I wanted to ask you how do you choose between singular/plural version of a domain.
    Many times the singular has more Google exact searches, but the plural “feels” like a better name for a developed website.

  • Mike Lee says:

    Makes a lot of sense!(Cents) also.

  • Kate says:

    No hyphenated domains are not evil.
    But there are a couple issues with hyphenated domains:
    – branding
    – type-in

    I would recommend to secure both hyphenated and non-hyphenated versions to cover bases.
    Personally I would be reluctant to use an hyphenated domain while the non-hyphenated version is in the hands of a competitor 😉
    For a serious project, that is. I own a few hyphenated domains and I reckon they have value when the combo is very strong.

  • Rob Monster says:

    @Yaron — For choosing between plural and singular, I look at the site stats and specifically look for the exact search volumes and compare them. You can do this with any domain on

    The syntax is name]

    So, an example from yesterday’s drop:

    We caught this one for a client who is developing it on Epik.

    The other point to note about plural vs. singular, is that you have to study the history of each name. Sometimes the one or the other has a history. It may have backlinks, traffic, be DMOZ listed, have page rank, etc. The appraised value captures some of these factors.

    And lastly you have to evaluate the human side. The word and are a good example. In the US, people buy the plural. In the UK, the single form is the trunk of a car. Logic says that the plural should be worth more. And it is.

  • Rob Monster says:

    @Leonard Britt

    Thanks for the thoughtful comment. You are a veteran with a very solid domain portfolio so people should take note of your comment.

    My response is that the key is being able to develop and operate sites cost effectively, so that your operating investment is right-sized with the domain value.

    In effect, this is what Epik has spent the last years planning and executing — how to produce high quality websites and operate them at a low cost so that the long tail can finally be developed!

  • Jay Lohmann says:

    Here lies the divergence between domains and developers. Neither is better than the other, they are simply two branches of the same tree.

    As with most investment vehicles (minus misprinted coins), purity is the key. Domainers like their names short, to end in .com and free of hyphens. They look good on paper and command high prices when sold. They earliest Domainers scored big sales and have the cash reserves to be long-term holders. However, most Domainers want to flip their investments quickly and move on to the next transaction.

    On the other hand, Developers tend to be in it for the long term. Their vision for the use and monetization for the property is much more thought out and they have the skills or funds to built it up, market it and either hold it as a source of sustained re-occurring income or sell it based on perceived /potential future income to other investors. This branch is not so quick to shy away from .NETs and DASHES because they understand the SEO value which, significantly reduces their marketing budget – resulting in a better chance of success and faster ROI.

    And I, for one, would MUCH rather depend on my SEO/SEM/SMM for traffic than simply rely on direct navigation.

    I roll my eyes when I hear non-SEO types argue the value of extensions in SEO. There are over 200 parts of the Google algo, and .com/.net/.us doesnt play a big enough part to worry about (.edu links, however, ARE very valuable). I’ve ranked very competitive keyword-rich domains with the .ws extension up to #1. Google cares more about KW than the extension. There’s just no good business decision for them to discremiate and has no baring on relevancy. Developers understand this (or pay experts who do) and take this into consideration when looking at property to buy.

    Rob knows, and is betting on them. I imagine they’ll be slated for mass-dev on his platform or sold to other developers… or packaged within the Epik offering. (Buy a domain and we’ll develop it for you.) Just guessing here.

    I doubt he’ll have many pure Domainers buying the hypen portion of his inventory, but Developers should be interested.

    Of course, if he does package the domain and development and gets it ranked….who needs a Developer? 🙂

    Jay Lohmann
    TagTeam Creative

    • Rob Monster says:

      @ Jay Lohmann – Good stuff. The good news is that development is increasingly within reach for even non-technical people who don’t want to master content development, SEO, social media, ad servers, affiliate programs, etc. This is about as easy as parking but sets the stage for a bigger outcome when a site gets ranked and as it grows in popularity over time.

      My one rebuttal is on the TLD. While it is possible to rank .ws, it does invite more confusion for the consumer. Ultimately, we want to make the web more intuitive so that repeat visits can also be accomplished with direct navigation, and so that there is a word-of-mouth effect from consumer to consumer. The simpler we make it to remember, the easier it is to effect the viral outcome we so cherish!

  • Yes, I will add that while it is useful to learn new things, sometimes one has to realize that utilizing skilled development professionals can be more cost effective and can produce better results than attempting development oneself.

  • Kotizo says:

    A lot of visits to my parked and They were a try….
    Thanks E-pik:) for your “epical infos”

  • very interesting post Rob. just wanted to add that I own if you’d like to give it a go for purposes of SEO experimentation let me know. i dont particularly want to drop any cash on deving it out, despite the guarantee, but maybe we could work something out. cheers – Mike

  • Hi Rob,

    You are right in your development arena about the value of hyphenated domains, but there is a bucketful of caveats involved that say “nope”:

    1) In certain cases when you buy a hyphenated domain that might fall into a “total value” appraisal of the domain, there should be no more than one hyphen (based on branding value only)

    2) Hyphenated domains are not good for domain flippers, because they are horrible brands, unless they’re two word power naturals (EX: Furniture – Store, Auto – Repair, etc.)

    3) If someone has the money and resources to research each and every dropping domain with hyphens, by all means, go in this direction if it’s paying off. However, many domainers don’t have the time to do the research. Also, regardless of the changes in the domain industry over the past decade, the “basics” in domain evaluation for overall value says “NO HYPHENS”. Unless it’s a “pointer” domain backing up a non-hyphen match and coming in with a lot of backlinks, a hyphenated domain will not match the non-hyphenated version of the domain, and lose lots of visitors to the non-hyphenated version of the domain.

    4) Be aware that dropping domains carry the “90 day curse”, which we call “temp links”. In other words, the original backlinks to the domain may be removed by the connecting sites for one reason or another, so having a domain that has 200 pages backlinks coming in, can lose over half of those backlinks in 90 days, leaving you with a — domain name that is quickly becoming irrelevant.

    Your “plus” is that you’re picking up drops/expired. However, if you’re getting them at drop lists that are auctioning them off (Snapnames), you’re probably going to be paying more than the OOTB price which can add up to a large investment when you get to 100 domains at $59 each (if you get them at that price or less).

    If you’re just buying dead domains in the wild at OOTB pricing, then it’s a gamble that doesn’t cost much. But for domainers looking for solid strength domains that cover value from all the branches of the fruit tree, avoid hyphens unless they fit the top trending words with one hyphen and end in .com.

    That said, I own about five hyphenated domains out of 3500. I’ll sell them all to you for $500, and I guarantee they’re top trending phrases, 2 words, one hyphen. 😉

    Interesting article tho… there’s always another path for domain monetization, and you’ve pointed that out very nicely!

    • Rob Monster says:

      Thanks Stephen – ever the source of opinion and insight. Send me your list of hyphenated names. I was not kidding. We are buying them. I much prefer to buy names before the drop. No question about it.

      As for drop-catch, we catch with our own platform. We pass the savings onto our customers, which is why we can bundle a domain name and a portal for $249. The value is pretty unbeatable if you think about it.

  • Todd says:

    Leornard, Rob: thanks for some great input on this issue. Todd

  • j says:

    what script are you using? How else did you customize it and how long did it take it to reach good positioning in google.

    • Rob Monster says:

      @J – Epik builds mainly on proprietary platforms that are built from the ground up to leverage the emerging semantic ecosystem that connects topics that are relevant to each other. Different sites get ranked at different rates. For example, the name is now #1 on Google after just a couple of months. We’ll be adding search ranking to the stats reports shortly since this is a very important valuation criteria for sites that get built on the Epik platform.

  • Silki Garg says:

    Wanna sale, a hyphen name.

    Anybody interested…?

  • Patrick Cowan says:

    I own many hyphenated domains.

    As for branding hyphens in a generic description are easier to trademark than non hyphenated generic terms.

    Some words naturally use hyphens in mainstream society (ie) Eco-Tour/s

    All my hyphenated domains have only one hyphen to separate the words making it helpful when people try to read some of these long domains,this is why domains in print media ect. that have more than one word(“the majority”)have taken to capitalization so the domain is readable, EnvironmentalAssessment versus Environmental-Assessment the hyphenated domain stands out, instant recognition.

    When we all bought domains we paid for the spelling if G and other search engines matched the sites to the actual search and spacing of those words then hyphenated domains would win hands down if they used the hyphen strictly as a space and not a possible spam threat.

    The Germans seem to know something about hyphenated domains so i will hold on to mine and hope for better days for the lowly hyphen.

    But most importantly they should be of good quality and interest as a good all one word domain should be.

  • David says:

    Personally I like hyphenated domains better for readability and think they stand out better in SERPs, plus I personally think google actually
    prefers them… based on links: syntax results anyway.

    The main issue I guess I have is branding, it just doesn’t seem quite as clean/ attractive somehow… perhaps it’s me!?!

    NB: Nevertheless I still recently invested in and for a couple of back-burner projects I’m planning.. I guess I just contradicted myself, but was amazed they were avilable even in little old England demand is high for good UK domains?!

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