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Which keyword separator is better in url - dash or underscore?
sunny_kat




msg:3213005
 8:00 am on Jan 9, 2007 (gmt 0)

Which parameter is better to differenciate url page names?
a) Hyphens (-)
b) Underscores (_)

Which is better and how?

www.bluewidgets.com/blue-widgets.html
or
www.bluewidgets.com/blue_widgets.html

 

tedster




msg:3213510
 4:53 pm on Jan 9, 2007 (gmt 0)

The hyphen is still better, as I see it, but by a slim margin.

Google has traditionally considered the underscore as a true character and not a separator. They did this so people can directly search on technical keywords that contain the underscore character, such as _borders or mod_rewrite.

Google has done some fancy dancing in more recent times, in order to use the relevance signals that are present in underscore separated file names. However the hyphen still seems to have a slight edge. It's not enough of a difference to bother changing established urls, but if you're creating a new file, I see hyphens as the way to go.

By the way, don't be misled by the way words are presented in bold on the final SERP. That's a simple character-match routine, run after the SERP is generated for a query. It does not indicate that the bolded word was actually used in the scoring.

sunny_kat




msg:3213538
 5:01 pm on Jan 9, 2007 (gmt 0)

I searched some competetive terms on google.com and saw underscores (_) domains ranking much better as compared to the one's with hyphens (-)

Thoughts

BillyS




msg:3213578
 5:22 pm on Jan 9, 2007 (gmt 0)

I must be hanging out here too long because I've seen this question asked several times now. If you're talking about Google, then I'd go with Matt Cutts advice on underscores and dashes [mattcutts.com].

With underscores, Google's programmer roots are showing. Lots of computer programming languages have stuff like _MAXINT, which may be different than MAXINT. So if you have a url like word1_word2, Google will only return that page if the user searches for word1_word2 (which almost never happens). If you have a url like word1-word2, that page can be returned for the searches word1, word2, and even "word1 word2".

sunny_kat




msg:3213590
 5:27 pm on Jan 9, 2007 (gmt 0)

The post by Matt Cutts you are mentioning belongs to
August 25, 2005 @ 12:29 am

I see some major sites related to my industry using underscores (_) and they rank very well.

Means the post by Matt Cutts is no more relevant

tedster




msg:3213592
 5:29 pm on Jan 9, 2007 (gmt 0)

The choice of separator is a very minute part of the scoring algo.

sandpetra




msg:3213604
 5:38 pm on Jan 9, 2007 (gmt 0)

[mattcutts.com...]

sandpetra




msg:3213695
 6:45 pm on Jan 9, 2007 (gmt 0)

After reading up on some threads like "why are underscores pages beating hyphens" in the serps and other such nonsense....

err... perhaps the content is better? Perhaps the better placed page is more semantically correct and optimised for long tail? Perhaps it is linked to from high pr sources? Perhaps it is because of more anchor phrase returns in links pointing to it?

The name of your file is virtually unimportant. Sure if you want to squeeze 100% out of your page, then consider looking at it.

But would you not be better off making the actual content better and getting links to this page (from both your own site and external)? Wouldnt it be better also to experiment with your title element and meta description?

I think your time is better served on the above rather than spend hours examining underscores etc.

Experience tells me they all work to some extent - so concentrate on your content.

BillyS




msg:3213957
 10:35 pm on Jan 9, 2007 (gmt 0)

I see some major sites related to my industry using underscores (_) and they rank very well.

Means the post by Matt Cutts is no more relevant

Please don't ask a question if you already know the answer. And I'd argue that your logic is a bit flawed... ;)

BigDave




msg:3213964
 10:44 pm on Jan 9, 2007 (gmt 0)

saw underscores (_) domains ranking much better

Last I checked, you can't use underscore in domain names.

I'm with tedster, it makes a very slight difference. I don't worry about it.

BillyS




msg:3214065
 12:22 am on Jan 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

sandpetra - the OP is not looking for advice from Google employees. They have witnessed otherwise.

Pirates




msg:3214070
 12:27 am on Jan 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

matt cutts has already cleared up this one.By the way its dashes.......

[mattcutts.com...]

I think that SE's crawl both now and the whole argument is some what historical. In todays SE's it simply doesn't matter which one you use.

By the way if you read what Matt wrote he does point out this is a historical argument. So no way do I think this is an outdated post.

[edited by: Pirates at 12:47 am (utc) on Jan. 10, 2007]

Lipik




msg:3214472
 10:17 am on Jan 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

Something practical :
A link is (mostly) underlined. An underlined underscore looks like it's a space, an underlined dash looks still like a dash...

g1smd




msg:3214668
 1:54 pm on Jan 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

Avoid underscores and spaces in URLs.

Use hyphens or dots between words.

Idris




msg:3214707
 2:49 pm on Jan 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

Would it be possible for someone to indicate how important it is to have such separators in things like directories within a domain (for example widgets.com/widget-information) - how much would a site suffer if it just used directories without such characters (widgets.com/WidgetInformation/)?

Miamacs




msg:3214744
 3:13 pm on Jan 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

While this could be against the charter, I'd like to think it demonstrates why you would NOT use _ in the URL, and to an extent people here might need to see. Furhtermore it doesn't propagate anything else than Wikipedia. And since we all love Wikipedia...

Do a search for the following ( enter them all at once ):
allinurl:widget allinurl:tv allinurl:series

Then do one for:
allinurl:widget_(TV_series)

Conclusion:
Use underscores if you'd like Google NOT to identify the strings as separate words in the filename. Which sometimes makes sense. But not for what most of you have been asking this for.

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