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Beat this dead horse: dashes or underscores in page names?
ichthyous




msg:3027410
 7:40 pm on Jul 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

I am putting up a new site to replace my old site and in the past I alwyas used underscores in my html pages. My new site is dynamic but has a URL rewrite module that allows you to set the page name to something "pretty." I havse set them all to use underscores, but before I go live with the site I wanted opinions about which is performing best these days. I have read that Google can't separate the words in a page name if an underscore is used, and that Yahoo doesn't like dashes in page names. Is this still the case? Also, what about using dots? Thanks

 

GrapefruiTgirl




msg:3027459
 8:28 pm on Jul 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

Not sure this will help you decide, but I have not had good success uploading pages to my hosting server(s) when names have contained more than one period (.) . I cannot comment on using dashes, as I have not used them, BUT I had no problem submitting my site to google while pages were using underscores. My two cents is to stick with the underscores.
:)
Sasha

EricOlthwaite




msg:3031098
 6:27 am on Aug 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

Google won't see the individual words if you use underscores. So you need to change them.
I've not heard of nor seen any evidence of Yahoo having a problem with hyphens.
Dots or hyphens will do fine.

Quadrille




msg:3031180
 9:06 am on Aug 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

No-one (except webmasters) ever searches for red_widgets
No-one (except webmasters) ever searches for redwidgets

But they do search for red widgets, and the only way to take advantage of that is to use red-widgets.

caveman




msg:3031717
 4:33 pm on Aug 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

Here's an idea: Run some tests by conducting various searches on the major search engines, see how the results vary using different connector options between words, and draw your own conclusions. That is the best way to get better at SEO too, BTW. ;-)

jimbeetle




msg:3031748
 4:52 pm on Aug 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

Run some tests

Novel idea ;-)

One thing for folks who do test is to keep an eye out for the different ways the SEs parse different formats between the organic and PPC results.

georgeek




msg:3031791
 5:22 pm on Aug 2, 2006 (gmt 0)


Run some tests

Novel idea ;-)

Michael Duz did some tests recently and he concluded that Google indexes on keywords in hyphenated urls but not on keywords in underscored or conjoined urls. Yahoo indexes on keywords in hyphenated and underscored urls but not keywords in conjoined urls. MSN indexes on some keywords in hyphenated, underscored and conjoined urls but the exact circumstances are unclear. He wrote up the test in his blog a few months ago. Interesting reading...

Quadrille




msg:3032143
 10:12 pm on Aug 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

Here's an idea: Run some tests by conducting various searches on the major search engines, see how the results vary using different connector options between words, and draw your own conclusions. That is the best way to get better at SEO too, BTW. ;-)

No point in re-inventing the wheel - the tests have been done, the results are clear (see above).

caveman




msg:3032248
 11:22 pm on Aug 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

I'll have to respectfully disagree with you on this one Quadrille. There was a lively discussion on this in Supporters not long ago - Dash vs Hyphen vs Space vs Underline [webmasterworld.com] - and it was started by Brett.

It's also a source of bewilderment to me that way too many people want to just be told the answers to everything, without going out and getting confirmation themselves. This is NOT intended as a barb to the original poster in this tread. If people don't ask and get discussions going, they don't get input, information, and things to think about.

But lots of so-called experts give info from time to time, here and elsewhere, that I either don't instinctively agree wtih, or know for a fact to be off-base, because of all the testing we do with our sites. It's not always easy to see what is in play in the algos, but it's not that hard to disprove some theories.

There aren't that many things in SEO for which there is universal agreement when it gets down to the detail of implementation. This is a good case in point. I'm firmly in the dashes camp, but others smarter than me disagree.

AFAIK, if I'm going to live and die by my SEO and PPC efforts, in most cases, I'm not going to rely on what others say. I'll start there, but then go off and see for myself.

BTW, anyone been paying attention to how our NEW URL's are organized here at WebmasterWorld? ;-)

Woz




msg:3032264
 11:37 pm on Aug 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

I am firmly in the hyphen camp.

Point in case, Adsense used to (in my experience) show only PSAs when pages were displayed on production servers/local IPs, to which they had no access. Some time ago they started showing ads when they could discern some (any) information about the page, which usually means whatever they can parse from the URL.

So,

- when Adsense finds keywords in the URL they will display related ads, however, when there are no discernable keywords they display PSA or guesses.

- when there are keywords in the URL seperated by underscore, they display PSAs/guesses.

- where there are keywords in the URL seperated by hyphens, they serve focussed ads based on the seperate keywords.

What was the icing on the cake for me was the situation where the keywords in the URL made up a phrase that was not of itself related to the individual keywords. Here, Adsense served ads based on the individual keywords, not the combined phrase. As an example, "bread-winner" is a phrase that has a distinct meaning, he who provides, that whilst historicaly related to the individual words, does not pertain to those individual words. When one is talking about a bread winner one is usually not specifically talking about bread. However, given that these keywords were the only clues Adsense had from the production URL, they served ads for the likes of "bread recipes" and "self improvement", side by side. Kinda makes you go Hmmmm...

So for me, the hyphen/underscore debate is clearly settled by the delivery of Adsense ads, and I believe that hyphens can only increase the focusing of pages.

Besides, as Quadrille says, no-one searches for fluffy underscore blue underscore widgets!

Onya
Woz

caveman




msg:3032299
 12:18 am on Aug 3, 2006 (gmt 0)

Hehe, no one searches on "fluffy hyphen blue hyphen widgets" either. ;-)

Still, as I said, I'm firmly with the hyphens crowd and believe there is ample evidence to support it.

The fact remains though, that WebmasterWorld just went with underscores and that outta at least give people pause, if for no other reason than to wonder why.

More importantly, look at the hard evidence after hearing the points of view, and decide for yourself. That, as a general principle, is the only way to get really on top of all the choices available when SEO'ing a site, IMHO, anyway. That, or just trust whatever you read (in which case, I hope you're one of my competitors). :P

Going on heresay is a good way to git yursef kilt.

georgeek




msg:3032493
 5:27 am on Aug 3, 2006 (gmt 0)

The fact remains though, that WebmasterWorld just went with underscores and that outta at least give people pause, if for no other reason than to wonder why.

Not really, because for WW, provided the urls are easily crawlable, it doesn't make any practical difference what the url looks like.

However for a new site in a competitive sector it may make a (very small) difference and that is incentive enough for some to follow Matt Cutts advice and "go with hyphens".

opifex




msg:3032516
 5:55 am on Aug 3, 2006 (gmt 0)

seems like most people forget the human factor ....
look at your own key word results and see what key words actually find you ...
and i bet redwidgets (red_widgets) ain't there.
red widgets and red wigdets probably show up!
hmmmm

caveman




msg:3032531
 6:20 am on Aug 3, 2006 (gmt 0)

> for WW ... it doesn't make any practical difference what the url looks like.

wh...wh...wh...what? Search results and narrow margins don't matter to WW? Terms related to the Webmastering are not very competitive? Hmmm. Webmastering and Web dev and SEO terms may not be the biggest money terms on the Web I grant you, but ... think for a moment about who is competing for those term. Hehe.

Here's a better idea than the first one I offered up. Don't just study the URL's of this site. Study this site. In detail. If there are things about it that from an SEO perspective are not clear, or that you are tempted to write off as not having been thought through, or that you suppose were not important enough to care about ... do yourself a favor and rethink that POV. ;-)

If you disagree with some tactic you see here, based on your own experience, or a different judgement or perception of the environment, fair enough. (Right now, most of my sites still use hyphens, for example and as already implied.) But don't assume that some things you see here just didn't matter much. I doubt that there is ANY executional detail of this site that has not been considered from every possible angle. And that includes not only the present environment, but the likely future environment. :o

georgeek




msg:3032563
 7:01 am on Aug 3, 2006 (gmt 0)

> for WW ... it doesn't make any practical difference what the url looks like.

wh...wh...wh...what? Search results and narrow margins don't matter to WW?

I didn't say that. What I said was that for WW there is no practical difference between /search_engine_promotion/ and /search-engine-promotion/ but for other less authoritative sites there might be.

caveman




msg:3032590
 7:40 am on Aug 3, 2006 (gmt 0)

Hehe. I have to admit I'm playing devil's advocate a bit. So for the sake of clarity, I'll say one last time that I'm happy my sites have -- up to now -- employed (mainly) hyphens. Now I'll put my devil's hat back on and say that honestly, I'm rethinking that POV for new sites. And most of 'em won't have much authority right out of the gate. ;-)

The issue is how the SE's treat the various seperators. Whatever differences there are apply to all sites. I think I get what you were getting at georgeek: Sites that have less authority or power need every little lift.

What I'm saying is this: We just changed over to new URL structures (for those who've not yet noticed). They include underscores. I can't speak for BT, but I'm reasonably sure that this was not a casual decision. Not to mention that it would be most out of character for BT to choose a less effective approach over a more effective one, even if the difference was very minor ... unless he had a good reason. Every little bit helps (as long as it's clean), even if your are an authority site. There is always another SERP where you rank #5 and you'd like to rank #2. Don't forget that there must be tens of thousands of searches that WebmasterWorld ranks for.

WebmasterWorld now features underscores. Hmmm, I'm still thinking about that one... :-)

SEOcritique




msg:3033662
 12:40 am on Aug 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

Since Matt Cutts is a recognized expert source and this statement is often referred to I shall boldly post it: [mattcutts.com...]

The above link is the most definitive statement you will find on the subject of hyphens versus underscores. Because of the use of underscores in computer programming languages words joined by underscores are perceived as being one word only. Therefore hyphens are the way to go.

Unlike this forum, that particular piece of advice is Google specific, however it is important enough to influence you decision.

From a human perspective you might be better-off to have www.myweirdurl.com than www.my-normal-url.com. Real (non-tech) people are not used to including hyphens. (This is doubly true when it comes to underscores) I have a non-tech related URL with one hyphen in it. I originally registered it in 1997 and people who have used this domain for nearly a decade still have trouble accessing it because they have a mental block concerning that hyphen.

Quadrille




msg:3033725
 1:54 am on Aug 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

I'll stick with hyphens, thanks. :)

But it's worth stressing that the difference is very small; it's one of over 200 factors (we are told) and you can bet your sweet bippy that it's not a major one.

So it really does not matter that much.

Arguably, what matters more is what the URL lloks like, and if it's memorable and not confusing for visitors. That still (for me) rules out thisisagreatfile.html, but some would prefer so_is_this_one.html to not-another-hyphen-please.html

Either way, ignore Quadrille's law of Hyphenation at your peril ;)

"More than one hyphen is the international shorthand for idiot webmaster; More than two hyphens is the Galaxy-wide shorthand for "I'd be a spammer if only I knew how"

buckworks




msg:3033749
 2:39 am on Aug 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

I have more than one site that uses underscores in the file names simply because that's what the software that runs the site can deliver.

I just checked some searches to see how Google was treating those file names, and in a URL like

three-blind-mice.com/products/mouse_traps/

both "mouse" and "traps" were bolded in the results of a search that included those words.

They were also bolded similar searches in Yahoo, and in MSN.

In my experience, the major search engines seem have no trouble identifying individual words in file names with underscores. I don't think the possible difference between hyphens vs underscores is a big enough deal to worry about these days.

My advice: Go with whatever is easiest to execute and focus the energy you save on promotion or content development.

buckworks




msg:3033756
 2:44 am on Aug 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

BTW, Quadrille, by your definition I'm an idiot webmaster, for one site anyhow (two hyphens in the domain)

I'll just smile and say that the site does well enough I'm happy to continue in that bit of idiocy for a while yet.

Quadrille




msg:3034046
 9:44 am on Aug 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

Don't take it personally ;)

I was inspired by: my-wonderful-domain.info/my-supa-folda/And-another-supa-folda/and-a-boring-file.com
They know who they are :)

moishe




msg:3034908
 11:42 pm on Aug 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

Michael Duz did some tests recently and he concluded that Google indexes on keywords in hyphenated urls but not on keywords in underscored or conjoined urls.

That is just wrong.

I can search for a word on Google and the results show it in bold, in the URL, in the results, IE:
I search for big widgets and a resulting site is---http:/-/www.bigredwidgets.com

Google handles conjoined words well.

My experience has been that if you use _'s, G conjoins the words, big_red_widgets becomes bigredwidgets.

Dashes seem to work best, and for sure MSN LOVES dashes....

Yahoo, I don't know.

georgeek




msg:3035242
 11:00 am on Aug 5, 2006 (gmt 0)

Michael Duz did some tests recently and he concluded that Google indexes on keywords in hyphenated urls but not on keywords in underscored or conjoined urls.

That is just wrong.


I think you should read through what he says before jumping to incorrect conclusions.

I can search for a word on Google and the results show it in bold, in the URL, in the results, IE:
I search for big widgets and a resulting site is---http:/-/www.bigredwidgets.com

As he says (paraphrased) - Google in the SERPs is highlighting the keywords in the url but this does not mean that Google is indexing keywords in the url.

This is the mistake you are making, highlighting text on the fly has nothing to do with indexing, as he demonstrates so clearly. Read it and learn.


moishe




msg:3035310
 1:29 pm on Aug 5, 2006 (gmt 0)

I stand corrected until I have done experiments of my own, his research seems quite sound.

M

Tastatura




msg:3038001
 12:32 am on Aug 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

"More than one hyphen is the international shorthand for idiot webmaster; More than two hyphens is the Galaxy-wide shorthand for "I'd be a spammer if only I knew how"

so is this spammy then:

bluewidget.com/my-blue-widget-repair-page.html

I wouldn't think so (but then again I know I am not an expert on the issue). Maybe above is a bad example but sometimes it's just not possible to name the page with one or two words and keep desired relevance.

Quadrille




msg:3038250
 7:39 am on Aug 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

Sorry, maybe I didn't make the point well ... the trick is to look at that URL through the eyes of a potential customer.

I believe that for many people, it looks like spam - and for the tiny SEO advantage it brings (if any!), it really isn't worth it.

If file-names count for anything in Google, they are just one of over 200 things that count - and I've seen nothing, anywhere, to suggest that they are much above #200.

All we know for sure is that Google can read red-widgets, whereas many believe Google cannot (usefully) read redwidgets or red%20widgets or red_widgets.

But it is rarely wise to do things that are a turn-off to customers.

Marcia




msg:3038258
 7:53 am on Aug 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

I believe that for many people, it looks like spam - and for the tiny SEO advantage it brings (if any!), it really isn't worth it.

Yeah, well some people are just FIXATED on spam but not so with the average surfer who hasn't been subjected to hard-core white hat evangelism.

If the people who use uber-hyphenated domains and/or URLs didn't get clickthroughs and traffic and make money with them, they wouldn't keep using them.

I still don't like hyphenated domains or ultra-hyphenated URLs for my personal sites because if it looks spammy to me I won't enjoy working on it. But that still doesn't make it my place to judge others, since I don't sit on the "throne" of the universe.

caveman




msg:3039058
 7:17 pm on Aug 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

"More than one hyphen is the international shorthand for idiot webmaster; More than two hyphens is the Galaxy-wide shorthand for "I'd be a spammer if only I knew how"

Just a cursory glance around a handful of SERP's at the three major SE's, including G, shows that that is simply not true. What one thinks of it, and how it performs from an SEO point of view are two different things.

Tastatura, I like your example. Aside from all the evidence collectable from doing research on the Web, the SE's have at various times both on boards and at conferences suggested that three or more hyphens in the domain name might not be a good idea. So for example, if one thinks of algo's are point accumulation systems, with plus points and minus points, three hyphens might be a slight negative, four might be a considerably more significant negative, etc.

As for hyphens in filenames, there are millions of example of highly ranking pages with four, five or six hyphens in the filenames. People sometimes confuse those two things. FWIW.

Quadrille




msg:3039204
 8:41 pm on Aug 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

Yeah, well some people are just FIXATED on spam but not so with the average surfer who hasn't been subjected to hard-core white hat evangelism.

If the people who use uber-hyphenated domains and/or URLs didn't get clickthroughs and traffic and make money with them, they wouldn't keep using them.

I still don't like hyphenated domains or ultra-hyphenated URLs for my personal sites because if it looks spammy to me I won't enjoy working on it. But that still doesn't make it my place to judge others, since I don't sit on the "throne" of the universe.

Oh dear. That breaks two more of Quadrille's Laws:

Quadrille's First Law: Never assume visitors are stupid.

The 'average surfer' does not have all the inside info that many folk here might have - but they are not stupid, and certain site behaviours often raise suspicions; uber-long file names, just like pages of waffle and stuffed keywords are increasingly recognised; inded, any 'trick' that's been around a while will show diminishing returns. respecting your reader's intelligence, plus plain old fashioned honesty never quite goes out of fashion, IMNSHO

Quadrille's 42nd Law: Maintain a sense of humour at all times. :)

Even in this thread ;)

fischermx




msg:3039234
 9:11 pm on Aug 8, 2006 (gmt 0)

I use commas.
It works great.

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