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Hyphens in long URLs

     
8:49 am on Jun 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I am creating a new section on a website, and I can't decide whether it's better to create long urls using hyphens or just run all of the words together.

For example, would it be better to have http://www.example.com/3-inch-widgets.php or http://www.example.com/3inchwidgets.php?

If I was really creative, I could do http://www.example.com/3inch-widgets.com, but I think that's confusing- isn't it?

Which is better for SEO? I think the hyphenated version is much easier to read, but I've heard that too many hyphens isn't good SEO practice.

All advice is appreciated.

[edited by: encyclo at 12:10 am (utc) on June 18, 2008]
[edit reason] switched to example.com [/edit]

8:50 pm on June 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Hi lionstail,

I've favoured hyphens separating words for many years now without any problem. I think the rule of thumb should be: keep it as short as possible. I certainly don't think example.com/3-inch-widgets.php is excessive.

My personal preference is to also drop the file extensions, e.g.:

example.com/3-inch-widgets (for a single file)

example.com/3-inch-widgets/ (for a directory containing multiple files about 3 inch widgets)

What may be excessive (although I would doubt you'd see noticeable difference in serps) would be example.com/three-inch-widgets-with-green-and-yellow-knobs-on.

However, many of the popular blogging/CMS platforms auto-create URLs like this, so what is 'excessive' is not a static thing, and likely requires a combination of other factors to be of any genuine concern.

I'd also add that IMO URLs should simply be a by-product of good information hierarchy. I.e. just apply 'URL logic' to the way you have organised and planned your website's content. For instance, example.com/widgets/3-inch might be suitable ;)

9:23 pm on June 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Give also a look to this PDF paper "Do Not Crawl in the DUST: Different URLs with Similar Text". One author is a Google engineer in Israel.
9:48 pm on June 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I like using dots between words, but you must have a file extension (for files) or a trailing slash (for folder names) on the end of the URL.
9:54 pm on June 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

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But you must have a file extension (for files) or a trailing slash (for folder names) on the end of the URL.

Hehehe, you caught that 2.0 thing, huh? ;)

10:12 pm on June 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I haven't, but it is a known factor that you have to think about now.
10:15 pm on June 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

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To answer a common question, Google doesn’t algorithmically penalize for dashes in the url. Of course I can only speak for Google, not other search engines. And bear in mind that if your domain looks like www.buy-cheap-viagra-online-while-consolidating-your-debt-so-you-can-play-texas-holdem-while-watching-porn.com, that may still attract attention for other reasons. :)
Matt Cutts: Gadgets, Google, and SEO \ Dashes vs. underscores \ August 25, 2005 @ 12:29 am · Filed under Google/SEO [mattcutts.com]
5:39 am on June 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

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thanks for the advice, and lavazza, thanks also for the laugh.

for seo purposes, is widgets/3-inch better than 3-inch-widgets? or just a comparable alternative?

6:11 am on June 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

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My guess is that 3-inch-widgets would be better than widgets/3-inch

We know that filenames are indexed

Are directories indexed?
If so, how?
How (and where, other than in a sitemap.xml kinda file) can you declare meta data for a directory? ? ?

7:50 am on June 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Many people get confused about the different comments they read from search engine representatives in this area. There's a difference between 1) domain names that contain many hyphens, and 2) urls that contain many hyphens in the filepath.

Domain names with multiple hyphens can be seen as "throw-aways" and a possible spam signal. (This is more true for Yahoo than for Google.)

But hyphens in the filepath, in the rest of the url beyond the domain name, are quite common in rewrite technologies today. They're not a problem in themselves. Stuffing lots of keywords in between the hyphens however? That can cause the occasional problem.

The main point is that keyword-in-the-filepath is just one relevance signal out of a big pile, and it's a relatively small one. Those keywords can help to confirm relevance of a given page for a given search. But it's not worth enough juice on its own to get obsessed about.

1:04 pm on June 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

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for seo purposes, is widgets/3-inch better than 3-inch-widgets?

My point was that URLs are merely a visible reflection of site hierarchy, and it can be a good idea to view them as such: URLs can reflect hierarchy, but never define it. Once you have your hierarchy and structure sorted, URLs are easy.

So, if we assume a good hierarchy of information, I'd make the following assumptions purely based on a URL:

example.com/3-inch-widgets

A single page about 3 inch widgets, less likely to be categorised, less likely to be a large volume of widget information on the same theme.

example.com/widgets/3-inch

A site with a collection of information about widgets, this particular file being about 3 inch ones. Likely to be other widgets on this theme. There may even be other collections such as /gadgets/.

To echo tedster's comments: don't get preoccupied with URLs. Instead, get preoccupied about ensuring your site has a logical hierarchy of information and a good system of categorisation, which is reflected by the URLs you eventually use.

 

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