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Is There Any Disadvantage in Using Hyphens in Domain Names?

SEO results I am asked this question from time to time. Here is my response:

You realize, of course, that what is deemed good or "best practice" today may not be the case tomorrow and may not have been the case yesterday. SEO continues to be as much art as science, which is wonderful if you appreciate the beauty of art. There may not be a definitive answer to your question (much in line with many SEO related questions).

There once was a time when SEO's argued vehemently against the use of hyphenated domain names. At another time it was generally agreed that one hyphen was okay but not two or more. Later on, two hyphens became acceptable but not three or more. The same kind of changing consensus applies to file names. Related to domain names, the rational for penalizing hyphens seems to relate to the same rational behind penalizing .info domains — since all the "best" names were already registered, a flood of alternative cheap variations could now be used by spammers.

If advice is to be taken seriously from the official emissaries of the Great God Google, this is probably a moot point and the true measure of a domain name's worth (from an SEO perspective, at least) has little or nothing to do with whether or not it is hyphenated. There are a lot of things that determine the value of a page when it comes to ranking for a keyword phrase — more than 100 variables measured by Google at last count. When all is said and done, relevant content and bona fide link share count for more than all the other variables combined.

I think its a safe bet to say that hyphenated URLs with good, relevant content will outrank their non-hyphenated counterparts devoid of content every time. The same applies to the comparison of domain names regarding link share. Think about it. If you own and have 10 links from your mother-in-laws site about pet boarding and has 10 links from various well-established and high-traffic recipe sites, how do you think Google will compare the two? My money is on the hyphens.