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Optimizing For Hyphenated Words – What to Expect?

Like plural/ singular word forms, hyphenated terms also often pose a difficult SEO issues for us to solve – which version to use and optimize for: two-word, one-word or hyphenated one?

That question would be much easier to answer if Google demonstrated any definitive behavior when treating hyphenated terms; instead when using a hyphen in a search term, you will most likely see the mixture of hyphenated, single-word and two-word spelling variations. Thus I attempted to single out any types of patterns and ask you to also share your experience.

While the usage of a hyphen in compound words vary, grammatical rules that dictate the usage of the hyphen include:

  • Differentiation between one-word, two-word or hyphenated variants is most often dictated by convention rather than fixed rules;
  • Some prefixes (co-, pre-, mid-, de-, non-, anti-, etc.) are often hyphenated in British English and are often spelled as one word in American English;
  • Compound verbs are usually hyphenated.

A few consistent search patterns I managed to sort out:

  • hyphenated words are (generally) closer to two-word variant (Google just ignores the hyphen);
  • hyphen doesn’t effect search results if one of the variant is grammatically correct (e.g. when hyphen means it’s a verb, search for hyphenated variant won’t return more verbal variants than for non-hyphenated ones);
  • hyphenated words return all three variants: one-word, two-word and hyphenated ones;
  • search results hyphenated words do not use bolding for stemming results (compare: [air-condition] and [air condition] and [aircondition]);
  • two-word variants (or more correct per Google’s opinion) are more likely to be proceeded and followed by related terms suggested by Google;
  • two-word and hyphenated variants tend to return more results even if one-word variant is considered to be proper use;
  • top result is usually the same for all three variants.

Other points to note:

A few sample searches I analyzed:

  one word two words hyphenated words


(hyphenated variant is considered to be "proper use" but two-word spelling is also correct)

grammatically incorrect (Google suggests two-word variant) first page results are almost identical
~12,300,000 results ~7,670,000 results
includes "related searches" doesn’t bold stemming results (‘case sensitivity‘)


(two-word variant is traditionally the correct one; though neither of them can be considered gramatically incorrect)

first result is the same
results include both one-word and two-word versions. more emphasis on the word ‘web‘. results include both one-word and two-word versions.
  includes "related searches"  
~ 39,000,000 results ~ 278,000,000 results ~ 112,000,000 results


(British English tends towards hyphenation while American English tends towards single-word spelling)

~ 2,790,000 results grammatically incorrect (Google suggests one-word variant) ~ 36,400,000 results
includes "related searches"  


(hyphenated variant is proper use but all three variants are correct)

~ 7,910 results ~ 198,000 results ~ 200,000 results
returns both single-word and hyphenated variants but bolds only single-word spelling returns only few two-word results, most of the results list hyphenated words returns almost identical results to two-word variants


(verbs use hyphenated variant, nouns generally consist of two words though single-word variant is also correct)

~ 2,340,000 results ~ 6,980,000 results ~ 3,390,000 results
  includes "related searches"  
shopping results at #11 shopping results at #1 shopping results at #11
Category SEO
Ann Smarty Brand amd Community Manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas

Ann Smarty is the blogger and community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas. Ann’s expertise in blogging and tools serve as ...

Optimizing For Hyphenated Words – What to Expect?

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