Blogging 304: Does Google Treat Hyphenated Domain Names as Spam?

A reader named Andy raises a point I hadn’t considered, and which I tend to doubt, but I’d like any feedback from someone who may know. And because Social Media University, Global is a research institution for social media higher education, in addition to offering practical, hands-on learning, I’ve devised a project in which we can all participate to test for ourselves whether what Andy said is correct. This post is added to the SMUG curriculum as Blogging 304: Hyphenated Domain Name Research Project.

Andy writes, in a comment in the About Me page:

I can say that domain names with dashes like your’s “social-media-university-global” treated by Google and others like spam domains…

The reason I doubt this is three-fold:

  1. When I Google social media university, this blog comes up in the first two positions in my search results, ahead of American University’s
  2. When I Google blue shirt nation, a post I wrote about Best Buy’s employee social networking site comes up #5 (see below), and if I search for best buy blue shirt nation it’s #3.
  3. What I know about Google bots is they can parse words in URLs better when you separate them with hyphens. So is easier than, because you’re coaching the bot as to where one word stops and the other starts. A URL like could mean mike is now here, mike is nowhere, or perhaps mikei could be an adjective modifying snow. For more discussion of this, see Blogging 201: Google Loves Blogs.

The results I get when I search (and the fact that I get traffic based on search terms like blue shirt nation) doesn’t sound to me like I’m being penalized in Google’s search results.

But who knows? Maybe Google adjusts the results when I’m searching because it associates my computer with my blog, and therefore considers my blog more relevant to me.

So here’s your SMUG assignment:

  1. Open click here to do a Google search for blue shirt nation, followed by a search for best buy blue shirt nation (no quotes around either phrase.) Note the highest position at which you see a search result.
  2. Enter your results in the comments on this post.

I’m looking forward to learning through this SMUG research project, and hope you’ll take a couple of minutes to participate.