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Navigational structure and site/page theme are way more important though.
However, if folder and file names compliment, reflect a strong theme they can only be helpful.
It should be your better business concern anyway to build sites that way as opposed to a rather undefined and unclear structure and non-existent naming convention.
GoogleGuy said this on the Brandy update part2 thread yesterday.
"The example I like is [cert advisory]. We can give more weight to www.cert.org/advisories/ because the page has both "advisory" and "advisories" on the page, and "advisories" in the url."
I've also found that using the Adsense preview tool I can get relevant ads to apge if the URL has relevant terms in it. I'm told by those who know much more than me about this that once the adsens robot has spidered your site this is less important. I'm pretty sure that it will continue to have some influence but how much, who knows. On balance I think that it is better to have meaningful URLs if you can.
Should you use synonyms or stems of your target words though? I don't know but I think that its worth researching and testing.
if a page was:
which is more likely to get a click.
Of course description / title tags matter in this instance but you should aim to provide as much of an indication to the spider and the searcher about the page content.
I consider the fact GoogleGuy stated that hyphens are better to be material. When in doubt, choose the alternative that seems best.
And, something else occurs to me. If someone were to show me conclusive evidence that Google treated the hyphen and underscore the same, there is still the issue of other search engines. Google ain't the only game in town. If Google treats hyphens and underscores the same, I wouldn't want to use underscores and cross my fingers that in the forthcoming new msn.com search engine, this won't treat hyphens favorably. Good SEO involves designing for a wide number of search engines. Hyphens are clearly the safer choice.
>can I just use space? For example domain.com/Amazon widgets/
That URL is in invalid syntax. A space not encoded is NOT valid for use in URLs.
If you are using a visula design package some of them encode the space. I have seen these in the index but clearly its not good practice.
There is some evidence that google is able to separate the tokens in a URL so bluewidgets may be nearly as good as blue-widgets. I always think its best to hold Googles hand and make the words separate with the hyphen though.
Not the most important thing in the world but it does make a lot of difference. 43298.html is just a waste. The page can still rank well due to other algorithm ingredients, but why intentionally hurt yourself. If a page is about widgets, name it widgets.html
Agree on that one! But I think we all forget the branding part of it and the CTR/conversion. If I have to choose between '43298' or 'widgets' when looking for widgets gues my first option... ;)
Don't make me think! (like Steve Krug said in his great book...)
the underscore is highlighted as part of the "word", the rest are treated as non-word characters (i.e. a space)
// Though on a second inspection, & seems to be treated the same, but I doubt you can put that in a URL path anyway :)
First of all, the site looks awful.
Secondly, they created over 100 domains all with this formula. They rank higher for my geographic-specific keyword than my site. Due to the fact that they spammed and cloaked and took advantage, they are being rewarded for their efforts.
You need two examples -- one of these that uses underscores and another that uses hyphens. You will discover that you can hit on the hyphen link by searching with spaces between your search terms. But the only way to hit on the underscore link is to use underscores in your search -- which no one ever uses.
Let me put it this way. Can anyone argue, based on actual evidence, that using anything other than hyphens is *superior* for search engine purposes than using hyphens? I always use hyphens. I see no good reason to change that policy.