Guest Post: Why Domain Names with Hyphens Are (Possibly) Undervalued

This is a guest post written by a reader of my blog who would prefer to remain anonymous. What are your thoughts?

Most likely you have shyed away from investing in domain names with hyphens in, they have traditionally been seen as barely worth the reg fee. Im finding this may be grossly undervaluing what is essentially a slightly different class of domain asset. Of course many domains with – in are indeed worthless, just like their big brother non hyphen names.

Take the case of a product/service type ‘does what it says on the tin’ exact match domain name – eg UsefulWidgets .com

This domain name is almost certainly not available for casual sale, if at all. may well be for sale at reg fee, in lots of cases Im finding – it is.

Your’e probably saying yes, its available to hand reg because its *worthless*. Perhaps not, it all comes down to the competition. If the owner of nonhyphen simply has the page parked, or worse – badly forwarded with url masking on amazon type affiliate links, then its game on!

Most often this domain IS NOT EVEN INDEXED IN GOOGLE! ‘beating’ it,  to top spot in G’s index will be a pushover, especially for the owner of hand reg If they do it right they will have first dibs on world online sales of useful widgets, at least the ones who googled ‘useful widgets’.

Of course its probably only a matter of time until the nonhypen domain is developed, but in the meantime  the way is clear. Theres no telling when this may happen 1, 2, 5, 10+ years – some domains have asking prices that dramatically lower their chances of imminent development. By that time, you may well have a thriving business on that the new nonhyphen owners have no choice but to fight or buy,  for probably a lot more than reg fee and your time/outlay in development.

Elliot Silver
Elliot Silver
About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and publisher of Elliot is also the founder and President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a company that has closed eight figures in deals. Please read the Terms of Use page for additional information about the publisher, website comment policy, disclosures, and conflicts of interest. Reach out to Elliot: Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn


  1. I think that hyphen domains are undervalued, you can buy great names with huge search numbers and cpc for a fraction of the price and ever week there are decent hyphen names on dnjournal’s lists

  2. It all depends on how you want to use the name. If your goal is to make money online, a hyphenated domain name is a solid option. However, if you have a brick and mortar business, it will be awkward sharing your domain name with potential clients.

  3. It’s 100% true. I learned that the moment I started using blogger which is Google and where the SEO is built in. The first thing they do is hyphenate the headline. A trick is to (oops I can’t tell this part but Brian can call me and we’ll discuss).

  4. In a country like Germany, people prefer having a hyphen because it makes the keywords clearer. You will see a lot of hyphenated names being sold to Germans in the future.

  5. This is the kind of thing that rocks the boat a little I think. Im thinking if people with large hoardings of good (not great) domain names start seeing their nonhyphen counterparts taking a chunk of the action then they may be more inclined to sell or develop. This strategy possibly does have additional legal risk I feel too, re the potential of perceived trademark abuse by the nonhyphen owner, however frivolous.

  6. I am a huge fan of hyphen domains, have been for a long time. I think they are one of the most undervalued classes of domains.

    I have sold 2 hyphen domains in the last 6 months for 5 figures.

    However, there are certain verticals and keywords which are so competitive, that it may be that the hyphen domain is at a disadvantage. But in the case of those verticals and keywords it’s likely that every extension is developed and competing for those top 3 spots.

    In many cases, I think the hyphen version of a 2 word domain is more attractive in print media and often more legible on billboards, etc…

  7. I hope you’re right. I’ve registered a few of these lately that include terms that normally are hyphenated like pre-paid and pre-approval. Not sure if that will make any difference, but I hope it makes them favorable to the engines.

  8. Hyphens are definitely undervalued. Germans love them, partially because their words are longer and the hyphens between terms make them easier to read. I’m surprised by some of the great hyphen sales that have been listed this year.

  9. I must disagree.
    If you are talking SEO, then a hyphenated domain name has no stronger boost in ranking for those keywords than a non-hyphenated domain with the same keywords plus a modifier ie. has no advantage over as far as search is concerned, and it looks a lot less professional. If the dot com is taken, then would be the next best alternatives as far as SEO is concerned.
    One area where the hyphenated domain name may prove advantageous is with Adwords, where may seem more relevant to the searcher than and attract a higher CTR, thus lowering your CPC.

  10. Hyphen names are most definitely under-valued. I blogged about it a while back:

    Search engines like hyphens just fine. They like .net too which is another thing the old guard does not get. If you are developing, not parking, it means there is an abundance of cheap land on which to build is available every day.

    In fact, we just picked these up on the drop today:

    In addition, we tried to catch this one: but missed it. That is just one normal day on the drop.

  11. I don’t own the name, but is on page 1 of Google, Bing and Yahoo for the term, with quotes.

    As Rob just pointed out, hyphens, and .net.

    Developed name; nicely done.

    Value? I think so.

  12. To the extent that domainers often consider hyphenated domains worthless, then hyphenated .com/.net domains for search terms may have some value for SEO purposes. So yes, a hyphenated domain can be developed and monetized via Adsense, affiliates, etc. However, for branding purposes, hyphenated domains are a poor choice. A hyphen really hurts the perception of the site to visitors as it appears spammy, non-trustworthy and of course losing potential visitors or causing them to be skeptical about your site’s trustworthiness is going to hurt a site’s monetization potential.

  13. @Leonard — Well, I will say this. At least you are CONSISTENT! You made an almost identical comment back in April.

    Two reactions:

    1. Google is increasingly the true arbiter of what is “spammy”. Google cares about keywords, content and authority. Contrary to domainer myth, Google likes hyphens just fine. If 50-60% of clicks go to the #1 slot on Google, then increasingly what matters more is “what does Google trust?”. And you know what? Google doesn’t care if you have a hyphen or two. Consumers trust Google to determine whether or not a site should be trusted. I am not saying I agree with this, but that is the reality for a growing percentage of web users.

    2. There is an opportunity cost. Right now you can get a hyphenated name for about 5% of the non-hyphenated name. So, in other words, for the same capital employed, you can own 20 domains instead of a single name. This now means you have 20 times more chances of being right about a value proposition that Google will rank, and consumers will find valuable.

    There is one downside to owning a hyphen name. I would NOT buy a hyphen name and squat on it. Why? The after-market for hyphen names is weak. It is possible to buy hyphen names in bulk for even less than Estibot wholesale. And because most hyphen names have never been developed, they get almost no organic traffic which means they usually have no parking value.

    The old guard is slow to adapt. Take the example of, acquired today for reg-fee. It will now compete with, which is parked. Our good friend Ian Andrew owns it. And you know what? We’ll never buy the non-hyphenated dot-com. I can pretty much guarantee it. That same money would be better spent on content and social media that can create virality.

    Net, all things being equal, a developer will prefer a non-hyphen name. There is not really a debate there — with German .DE names being the possible exception. Where there IS a debate is on relative return on capital employed. And right now, my money is on what I call “one block from the beach”. In other words, if beachfront costs 100, and a block off beachfront costs 5, I will take the latter and buy the whole neighborhood!

  14. Most non-hyphen domain names are owned by the old guard of the domain industry. I really respect those guys…they saw an opportunity and got in early and made very good money. Kudos!

    How could anyone begrudge that? It’s the American dream.

    The issue is not what happened before when parking revenue and type-in traffic was king. Rather, it is what the new reality of domaining is…what happens now that parking revenue is dwindling and those business models along with it?

    The name of the game now must necessarily focus on developing. What confuses me is that there are people who want to tear down those who look to buy and build on anything other than a pure dotcom.


    The name of the new game is the same as the old game, except tje game is now being played on a different playing board…that of development.

    Hyphen domains are not penalized by Google…and development is the name of the game.

    If you own a pure dotcom and you want 50k for it…and I can buy the hyphen for reg fee…no contest…

    A business can be built on the hyphen…there are no trademark issues…it comes down to where Google ranks you…

    …and I get the headstart…

    on what you consider an inferior domain…

    I will take my chances.

  15. @Rob, Anthony – you pretty much articulated what I believe to be the case with hyphen domains.

    I own a few of these, and in my experience they are not mistreated by google at all, and ive found in my experience also that useful-widgets. com is *definitely* better than myusefulwidgets. com.

    As for perceived spamminess, i think the reality is that the only people who see hyphened domains as innately spammy are old skool domainers. I respect your opinion but I put it to you that the market, and google, does not care. Most dont even notice, if 1) the page is top of G, 2) The page looks professional and has real world credentials and 3) The customer gets what they want – Im telling you, they DO NOT CARE theres a hyphen in the domain.
    I agree you might not always get that person’s friend as a customer from a type-in referral – but if they google ‘useful widgets’ (far more likely) then theyre yours, since the domain isnt even competing.
    Google, and people, *hate* parked pages. Even the more stealthy parks are obvious to most surfers – I’d say 99% prefer a developed hyphen than a parked million buck name. my 2c.

  16. I love hyphenated domains it was only a matter of time ,supply and demand you know.
    It is an old school fear of being spammy ,i have some great domains with hyphens in .com .ca tlds ect probably have a hundred+ own almost every news domain hyphenated actually making it the largest group of top search news domains in one group, ie local national international financial investment tech
    My only problem is most are .ca and Canada has not yet joined the internet,”slight joke” have a hard time selling even high search one word domains up here in the web frozen north.

  17. Rob,i can’t belive you would pick up over my or me it just doesn’t make sense.I think LindaM is right about people who see hyphened domains at no value are old skool domainers.If i put the E bebore or after carinsurance i still gets 83,400,000 searches,and since Google doesn’t mind…why does it work? why there is no value in it? In my own opinion , it’s just a matter of time.

  18. @Rob Yes, because domainers don’t aggressively pursue hyphenated domains, they are easier to obtain reg fee and could potentially be plugged into a monetization platform such as EPIK’s. However, as you state, the aftermarket for hyphenated domains is poor. While we all prefer to sell to end users I often see my sales, .nets for $250-$299, .Coms for $799 even a recent .TV for $XXXX being bought by domainers or developers. Of course the market values Google’s opinion over mine 🙂 But if the only value (currently) in hyphenated domains is for development purposes, then the ROI has to be there to spend X on development & to know with confidence that the site can be expected to generate a handsome return. If that hyphenated domain doesn’t make it to page one, then you not only wasted the domain acquisition cost but all the money and time poured into development and SEO. It could work because the domain acquisition cost is lower but I have enough domains that I don’t need to pursue acquiring more domains which would be difficult to sell.

  19. Hyphens come into their element with long multi tier names. I’d personally like to reg something like rather than

    as it allows the reader to clearly understand it’s name and define it’s genre in coherent and meaningful manner. are they over thought of and under appreciated? you bet ya!

    I’ve sold many of these gems in forums, though in the $xxx range as say compared to their unhyphenated brothers. The good news is a lot of quality multi tiered names in the dot com name space are taken but the hyphen counterparts are not.

    One of my hyphened fav’s I’m sitting on (in the insurance genre) I reged about two years ago and since then it’s dot net and dot co uk cousins have been reged by insurance agencies.

    For me this is great news for I’m quite confident that one day either one of these agencies will email me an offer of my dot com version. Under valued and over thought of U BET YA~!! 😉

  20. Hyphenated domain names rank just as well as non-hyphenated domain names in the search engines, if properly optimized. I just put up two legal domain names that rank on the first page of Google. If the website ranks on the first page of the major search engines, searchers believe that it is a premier website whether it is hyphenated or not.

  21. I agree with the comments above re: perception of hyphens as “spammy”.

    This is the rhetoric and group-think of domainers, a very small population of internet users.

    I think if you were to do a focus group with your typical internet users/consumers the very first “authority signal” would be a site’s *placement* in Google for their given keyword search. I’d make a large wager that for most of these users the domain name plays a very peripheral role in a decision to click on a search result. There is a reason why Google renders the page title first and largest in the SERPS. Next comes the meta description with the searched keywords in bold. Last comes the URL.

    The next step in perceived spamminess is the site itself. If a user clicks through to your site and finds a clean design, with relevant content, I think the last thing on their mind is whether there is a hyphen in the URL.

  22. IMHO, it breaks down like this…

    Pure domainers abhor the hyphenated names because virtually no one will type-in a hyphen (although Rick Schwartz owns and Frank Schilling owns, LOL).

    Site builders love ’em because Google and the other search engines could care less.

  23. @ Rob & @ patrick, Nice names! 🙂

    May I venture a suggestion? What Pat said. @ Elliot, as a reseller, your name and reputation are about great, non-hyphenated domains. You have a talent for discerning good dot coms, to buy at a price which makes them profitable to resell.

    But if you want to develop one with the idea of passive income, go for it! Check ==> #1 on Google! Mike S. interviewed the owner, he gets 50,00 uniques per month! See:

    50,000 Unique Visitors a Month on a Hyphenated Domain

  24. @ BFitz There has been “a fair few” sales ranging all the way up to around $90K – I also saw sahar mention in a blog that he had sold a for just over 100K, the highest reported hyphen sale on DNJournal so far was sold by sedo (it was owned by their subsiduary company Domcollect) for a whopping $209,916.

    Even Oversee just picked one of mine up that did’nt have any traffic at all.

    At the end of the day they are a cheaper (usable) option for people that don’t want to pay (or can’t pay) hundreds of thousands for a STRONG two word non hyphen domain. eg –,,, etc etc

    I do have a couple of pre 2000 strong hyphen domains that I will try and get high xx,xxx to low xxx,xxx for but that does’nt mean it will ever happen LOL 🙂

    …a big dollop of luck and loads of patience and It “may” happen ??? – If not they will be developed one day.

  25. A simple supply and demand situation , once the non hyphen is gone if you want a dot com then there is no other choice ……..this was always going to happen

  26. @Gazzip
    Interesting, I have a with 100k search that I have tried to sell for the low xxxx without success. It’s a top US destination too. I’ll hold out. Thanks.

  27. I will not usually buy a hypenated name to go head on combat with a non hypenated domain but when the pure .com is used for a different purpose than I intend to use mine or market the name as then I usually will buy it. I picked up Micro-gig and Micro-gigs dot com recently.
    Believe me when it comes to google, content is king. Google will lead the searcher to whoever has the answer to the question. However mind you when the answer is not unique, most of the time the true blood .com will have a better shot.

  28. JJ above is 100% correct. For ppc i have run against many and the has a 50-100% greater click-thru every time. Seo for ppc is growing fast.

  29. Still some great hyphenated domains out there, just hand reg’d two legal domains with one hyphen one dot com anybody know some lawyers.

  30. just scored 145,000 exact searches on Google .Second highest search term under stock market two great keywords.Google insight loves this term good gamble for the reg fee.

  31. The term litigation is used in Australia.
    The word Attorney is not.
    I am called a Solicitor. A Canadian Internet Marketer didn’t understand that Solicitors don’t usually appear in Court unless they are Barristers, at least higher Courts when he asked me for advice on cross-border (online defamation)
    The term Barrister is used.
    Are you guys picking up these hyphenated names from the dropped domain list or using search tools?
    You don’t have to disclose your trade secrets; just curious

  32. Im glad someone else said that. As the original post points out, many hyphened domain names ARE worthless. Those domain names that were quoted in the comments list earlier I personally would not have touched. The reason behind possible undervaluations is not so much the name itself, as of course SINCE IT HAS A HYPHEN IN – IT IS WORTH LESS – the point is the competition. If theres no competition then you can do great things with the name. If the non-hyphen version is already top and staying there then forget it, even highly searched hyphened domains are imo not worth much.

  33. I think there is a difference from the point of view of the SEO value and the use of the domain for a brick and mortar business. It is a contextual thing, contingent on industry and image. Maybe if you had an American Attorney who spend a bit on offline advertising to associate the word in the minds of the consuming public with a litigation attorney then maybe consumers would go online where they might have previously relied on the usual referral method of doing business.

    The generic terms just reminded me of a SHOCKING trademark domain name Federal Court battle in Australia over generics like Architects Australia and “Architects Australia”. The plaintiff brought proceedings a company operating an internet directory for advertising the services of Australian architects throughout the world. The domain name was “”. How pathetic is that.

    The other one that sticks out in my mind is Sydney Flower Markets.

    Atrocious, but just goes to show that nothing is impossible in intellectual property land, even with highly generic names.

  34. Most of the hyphen domains which are being shown as examples here in the comments are absolute garbage and only support the idea that hyphen domains are worthless.

    However, in fact, there are lots of super premium examples of good hyphen domains out there with real transactions taking place in the aftermarket. I can almost guarantee you (because I search frequently) that there are very few GOOD hyphen domains left to be registered. And if you find one, double check it’s not a typo.

    Here are a few examples of names which I own which I would consider VALUABLE Hyphen Domains:

    What makes these domains valuable is the amount of EXACT MATCH SEARCH VOLUME for these exact keywords. Nothing extra (like an “e-” or “i-” in front) and nothing missing either.

    Also, since hyphenated domains are seen as a “handicap” anyhow, I almost never buy or use a hyphenated domain names with any other extension than .COM.

    THIS IS NOT SELF PROMOTION OF MY DOMAINS. I just can’t stand to see so many bad examples of how to use a hyphen in a domain name!

    As I mentoned before, I believe a hyphen is very intelligent for the purposes of print media and also on billboards. When people are flipping through a magazine/newspaper or driving by a billboard at 70 mph – it is easier to read a hyphenated domain if it involves 2 words or more.

    Also, I spend at least 2 – 3 months per year in Germany. And in Germany something like 80% of all domains used in commerce contain at least 1 hyphen!!! Considering Germany is one of the largest and most active markets for domain names, that is a pretty daunting figure.

  35. Bfitz,have checked epiks for sale domains not much there for good hyphenated,i know rob has a lot of astounding -domains though there just not for sale, the reason i usually purchase a hyphenated domain is because i also own the all one word domain and when i offer it for sale i include the hyphenated version so they own that term. And traffic is not everything if you sell aircraft 10 hits a month could be quite lucrative point is if it can bring extra customers and the domain cost is low ,why not websites can be built for next to nothing these days,PS,andrew has some great names but i would take classaction-attorney over pizza-dough.

  36. @Bfitz the reason this post is up is because we are discussing if hyphens are valuable there have been some great examples of these domains doing well so i will not buy a starbucks or a lotto ticket for the next 3 days and save my reg fee but maybe just maybe someone will like these names and purchase one so i am ahead.PS. class action and litigation attorneys make millions.

  37. “Interesting, I have a with 100k search that I have tried to sell for the low xxxx without success. It’s a top US destination too. I’ll hold out. Thanks.”


    You could try selling it to someone like (check out all thier hotel domains on the right hand side…eeek)

    or perhaps

    Waiting for a local tourism authority to realize the benefits of owning their city hotels domain will likely be a very long and painfull wait, they really don’t get it 🙂

    Good luck

  38. Great thread here.

    On Epik’s hyphen names, they are available for anyone who wants to develop them. We prefer that you develop them on Epik but don’t require it. We do own many, and buy more almost every day.

    Most of our hyphen names are available for just $249 for the domain with a developed portal. I would not suggest to buy a hyphen name without a development plan for it. Some of the developed hyphen names are visible here:

    We do also have a large inventory of undeveloped names, including hyphen names. To request access to that list, email me at

    We are also an active buyer of names, including hyphen names and picked up about 500 names in the last week. For hyphenated .com we are looking for names with 1500+ exact searches.

    And yes, Andrew Rosener has a few nice ones. Those are the kind of hyphen names that we like to buy and develop. We also help develop hyphen names for others and have a few cost-effective solutions for that.

  39. Patrick’s purchases bring up a good question. Is it or I own both for cities like NY and SF and have wondered which is “better.” For 3 word domains is it 1 or 2 dashes?

    @Patrick. Ps- lighten up, I found Andrew’s post educational and wish I had read it before buying piles of dash crap years ago. Nobody likes a and an answer to my question here about three word domains will tell us both if we wasted money or not.

  40. Rob Monster – Epik

    Rob guess i started at the wrong end of your domains for sale page started at the back and saw some great hyphen domains 368 pages “whew” you also help prove a point here that they can be valuable,i think most people here are looking for good ppc domains as that is where the money is and hyphenated domains are doing well. I buy for end users who will look for a good memorable keyword domain to use and that is were i think hyphenated domains can do well in future sales.

  41. @Bfitz Trying to be light just don’t like that crap word. Most people would say all hyphen domains are crap as some here have said.Personally i think the two hyphen in class action attorney is better visually and for search, but it was taken and Google knows what classaction is but there is and that is three .com domains for everybody.we all know the one we would like to own as for me maybe i am old school but i just don’t go past one hyphen unless it was for something like class action or stockmarket-today two hyhpen was taken but i do own the all one word .ca version and no hyphenated .ca version.NO hard feelings just different visions.

  42. @Bfitz
    You make an interesting point that has bugged me for awhile if Google takes the all one word domain and parses the terms it knows what you are trying to say.and will give the all one word exact match domain a high ranking because they know to put in the spaces .
    a hyphen is the only way to get that space in a domain so if the user types in the search term usually with spaces should Google give the domain with the spaces the exact match boost to the hyphenated domain because they know that hyphen just means space because that is truly the exact match even if the user does not use the hyphens and Bfitz your domain would win. I find it strange that Google finds the all one word domains to be exact match but if you type in search they correct you, “didn’t you mean”they don’t accept the all one word search so how a hyphen truly effects a set of words still seems voodoo to me.Maybe someone out there knows something more about this

  43. #1 on Google, 50,000 uniques/month!!! #1 on Google . . . .TV extension, no less!

    Of five hyphen domains making $$ at Epik, one of them : is the break-out star, with $10.73 in earnings last week – yay! 🙂 Thank you, Rob, Luke & them!

    Hope I can last, with all the domains I registered since last November set to start dropping this month . . . 🙁


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