Online Media Consultant and Web Publisher
Are Hyphens in Domain Names a Bad Idea?
Engineers from Yahoo have stated at previous search conferences that any URL with more than two hyphens runs the risk of being penalized. It's likely they were just spreading FUD (Fear, Uncertainly, and Doubt) amongst the webmasters in attendance, since I'm still seeing plenty of high-ranking pages with multiple hyphens in the URL.
What really matters is that your URLs are easy for search engines to crawl. That means fairly short URLs with a minimal number of dynamic characters (?, &, =) and no session IDs (even though Google's been accidentally indexing a lot of them lately). As Google says in their webmaster guidelines:
Don't use "&id=" as a parameter in your URLs, as we don't include these pages in our index.
In the long run, excessive use of hyphens in your URLs could possibly do more harm than good. Instead, focus on keeping your URLs simple, and reserve your energy for getting good links, since that's where the real ranking boost lies.
Important note: I'm not advocating that you go out and remove all the hyphens from your URLs. Far from it. Changing your URLs after your pages have already been indexed and ranked is one of the worst things you can do for your site. Rather, I'm just saying that if you're spending lots of time creating keyword-rich, hyphenated URLs, you're probably spending your energy in the wrong place.
If you are planning to change your URLs, you'll need to be sure to redirect the old URLs to their new location. You'll want to make sure to add a 301 redirect line to your .htaccess file so that visitors and search engines who are going to the old URL are automatically sent on the new URL, and aren't just given a server error. If you don't tell the search engine where to find the new location of the page, then the search engine will assume that the page has disappeared, and will drop you from its listings.
I've seen it happen before, so you've got to be careful. Careless changing of established URLs can sink a site's rankings, not to mention breaking all your user's bookmarks.
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