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.

Facebook Page as White Pages Listing

Note: This is the required reading for Facebook 221, part of the Facebook major track for Social Media University, Global (SMUG). More information about SMUG and the homework assignments for this course are at the bottom of this post.


I have written previously about Facebook Pages being like a free multi-media Yellow Pages listing.

I got my dead-tree phone directory analogy wrong.

In reality, with some relatively recent changes in how Facebook manages its URLs for Pages and people, and the fact that profiles and pages can now be found by Google searchers who aren’t Facebook members, a Facebook page can be a great White Pages listing.

Before Facebook launched its Pages program for organizations, I had recommended that organizations and businesses and other organizations should develop Facebook Groups. One of the key reasons was because anyone can form a group with any name, and if they mention your business name in their group description, people will find that group when they search for your business in Facebook. By creating a group and getting lots of members, your “official” group would come up highest in the Facebook search results.

But now, with Pages having been established as the way for organizations to have “official” Facebook presence, they are great tools for searching both inside Facebook and in the wider Web via Google. They’re much better than groups.

Here’s why:

  1. Facebook groups cannot be found through Google.
  2. Because of the URL structure, a Facebook page shows up high in the Google rankings when people search for your organization or business name.

A Facebook group has a nondescript URL, as is demonstrated by this group I formed in the pre-Pages days for Aase Wedding Photography and Video, a moonlighting business my brother and I have been exploring. Here’s the URL from that group:


Even if Facebook groups were available to be found by Google, their URLs aren’t optimized for search.

In Facebook Pages, on the other hand, the URLs have been search optimized. Here’s the URL for the Facebook Page I developed for our fledgling wedding photo and video business (click the graphic to view at full size):


But more importantly, look closely at the Google results (and the URLs in green) when you search for Aase wedding video


Note that my Facebook page shows up first in the Google results. It doesn’t show up high if you are searching for wedding video or wedding photography. Those categories are a lot more crowded (7.4 and 7.6 million), so it’s much harder to make the first page of Google, and I don’t have many inbound links to that page.

So that’s why I say a Facebook Page can be a great online equivalent of a White Pages listing. Your business or organization’s name is in the URL, which is major cue for Google. And maybe over time a Facebook page could become an effective Yellow Pages listing, if it attracts inbound links and if its content is optimized for relevant keywords.

Homework Assignments:

  1. Go to Facebook and search for Mayo Clinic. Note how many groups you find, but also that the official Mayo Clinic Page shows up at the top of the search results.
  2. Try the same Mayo Clinic search in Google. Note that the Facebook page doesn’t show up anywhere in the first several pages of results. For organizations that already have lots of web presence, a Facebook page will not immediately come up high in the Google rankings. But then again, people will be able to find contact information for those organizations through conventional Google results.
  3. Search in Facebook for your business or organization. You’ll see how many groups have been formed that mention your organization. If an official Page doesn’t come up first, you may want to consider developing a page. And if someone not affiliated with your organization has created a Page for you, you can seek to have it removed. This will be covered in more detail in Facebook 310.

To enroll in Social Media University, Global (SMUG), join this group in Facebook. Read more about SMUG and our Curriculum.

Netflix on Facebook

Netflix Facebook

The posts have been sparse for the last couple of weeks for three main reasons:

  1. Life isn’t blogging. This will surprise some of my co-workers. I had 11 days off from work, during which time we had about 35 extended family members celebrating Christmas in our home and had our college students home. When you’ve got all that real life happening, virtual connections via social networks take a back seat.
  2. I’ve been switching computers, from a Macintosh PowerBook G4 to a MacBook Pro. I expect to be writing about that soon (the process has been great, and I love the new laptop), but it’s taken some time to be sure I have all of the files synchronized. It’s been a good chance to do some digital file hygiene, and get rid of files that had built up over the last three years or so.
  3. Netflix. While we also patronized our local cinema, including 10 of us catching the Enchanted matinee on Christmas Eve (I also took my bride to National Treasure: Book of Secrets and my youngest to Alvin and the Chipmunks), by far the biggest consumer of our family leisure time was Netflix, both in the DVD methodology and through the “Watch Instantly” feature.

That’s why I was excited to see the development of a Netflix Application for Facebook (hat tip: Anthony LaFauce) that puts the movies you’re watching and the movies in your queue on your Facebook profile.

Read Anthony’s review for fuller details, but I installed it and it’s pretty nifty. It’s one more example of Facebook being a platform that can integrate feeds from your various web activities in one place.

Some people complain about Facebook being a walled garden, and that you can get data in but can’t export it.  Some kinds of export and feeds have happened, but mainly Facebook is taking the Apple approach: engineer such a great experience that people will want to use it as the integration point (like iTunes and the iPod) because it’s so easy.

Compared to the vaporware of Google’s OpenSocial, I think it’s a winning strategy for social networking.