Hyphens Don’t Matter for Search, Except…

June 29, 2012

Almost a decade ago, I graduated with a Bachelor’s in English from Baldwin-Wallace College. So, you can imagine how pleased I was to receive an email this week regarding some major changes in Berea, Ohio. Effective July 1, 2012, my alma mater’s name will change to Baldwin Wallace University.

It’s exciting to read about how the number of graduate students and breadth of degrees makes the word “university” more appropriate than “college.” I loved reading about the history of the school and its plans for the future. Professionally, though, this little line stood out to me:

“In addition to the new university designation, B-W will drop the hyphen in its name in a nod to the importance of search engine optimization through third party search engines.”

So, that’s interesting: altering an institution’s name over search engine concerns. This launched me on some research on hyphens in your title tags and in customer’s search queries.

Long story short, if your company or organization or product has a hyphen in its name, nothing too dramatic will occur� except for one key thing.

Say, like me, you are a fast typist prone to errant spaces, and you search Baldwin -Wallace (note the space between Baldwin and the hyphen). That seems like a fairly reasonable thing to happen.

Instead of seeing this:

You’ll see this:

Your tiny little space just told the search engine to look up every instance of the word Baldwin excluding the word Wallace�not really the desired result for you or for the University.

No “Did you mean Baldwin-Wallace?” at the top, which mitigates a lot of spelling errors.

Just a mistyped search for a school’s website, and no results.


I’m interested to see how this change will affect the website’s traffic. In any case, it’s interesting to how Google affects even the names of universities, and how an extra space can mean a world of difference.

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