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Is It OK To Use An Underscore In File Names Yet?

   
4:19 pm on Jan 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member planet13 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time Top Contributors Of The Month



Anyone using underscores (the _ character) in their file names without problems?

I remember Matt Cutts saying it would be his preference to use a - instead of an _ when separating two words in a file name.

Just wonderinf if blue_widgets.html is going to be ok as a file name.

Thanks in advance.
4:31 pm on Jan 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member g1smd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



Is It OK To Use An Underscore In File Names Yet?

No. It's still not treated as a proper word separator, and it visually disappears in underlined links.

Use hyphen, period, comma or plus sign, but not spaces or underscores.
4:35 pm on Jan 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator goodroi is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



I doubt underscores will ever be preferred over hyphens due to the usability issue. Hotlinks are underlined by default and that can make an underscore not as visible to users.

From an SEO ranking point of view, last year Matt Cutts did say that Google handles underscores and hypens differently so it could have a slight impact. He was clear that the impact would be minimal and there are bigger issues for most webmasters to work on.
5:47 pm on Jan 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member g1smd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



Indeed, if you're starting a new site go with hyphens.

If you're looking at an old site and thinking about ripping it apart merely to change the underscores to hyphens, then you have your priorities wrong.

If you have a site where you're going to be redesigning a lot of things, including the URL structure, then it would be a good time to also change the URL format.
5:51 pm on Jan 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

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from support dot google dot com:
Consider using punctuation in your URLs. The URL http://www.example.com/green-dress.html is much more useful to us than http://www.example.com/greendress.html. We recommend that you use hyphens (-) instead of underscores (_) in your URLs.

Several years ago I read in G support that they consider a hyphen (but not underscores) as a space when looking at links and URLs.
6:00 pm on Jan 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member themadscientist is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



Emphasis Mine
The URL http://www.example.com/green-dress.html is much more useful to us than http://www.example.com/greendress.html

LMAO At 'build your site for visitors not search engines' then having the preceding in the support docs.
6:12 pm on Jan 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member lucy24 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time Top Contributors Of The Month



Use ... period, comma or plus sign

In the body of the URL? (Yes, I know it's technically possible. Most of apache's pages have a . in the middle. But ouch, the extra attention that requires!)

OK, so I just like lowlines because in Regular Expressions they count as \w while hyphens require extra attention ;)

What I really like is MixedCase but it just isn't kind to type-ins. And we do want people to have our addresses memorized don't we.
9:26 pm on Jan 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member planet13 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time Top Contributors Of The Month



@ g1smd

"If you're looking at an old site and thinking about ripping it apart merely to change the underscores to hyphens, then you have your priorities wrong."


Well, I would be looking to do it to just ONE page on an approximately 200 page site.

That page was a victim of Penguin (as far as I can tell)and everything else I have done to that page has failed to work.

I am kind of at wit's end here...
11:18 pm on Jan 5, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member lucy24 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time Top Contributors Of The Month



One page?! Isn't it time for the www equivalent of putting a match to it?
11:55 pm on Jan 5, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member play_bach is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member



WW uses underscores
webmasterworld.com/google_adsense/
11:57 pm on Jan 5, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jimbeetle is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



WW uses underscores

So do most sites that were around before Google.
12:11 am on Jan 6, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member lame_wolf is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



WW uses underscores


So do most sites that were around before Google.


Yes, but the example given was.../google_adsense/ which happened after Google existed :P
12:46 am on Jan 6, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I have used underscores for years without a problem, though I have to admit that new URL's I create use hyphens. Honestly, I have not seen a difference in page ranking, as far as my sites are concerned.

Marshall
11:09 pm on Jan 6, 2013 (gmt 0)

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no effect here - as per @Marshall
don't micro-manage - look at the larger picture
11:32 pm on Jan 6, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jimbeetle is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



Yes, but the example given was.../google_adsense/ which happened after Google existed

Yeah, right, you expected Brett change the naming convention of quite a large site in mid-stream?
11:34 pm on Jan 6, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I think its just another google myth
1:52 am on Jan 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member lame_wolf is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



Yeah, right, you expected Brett change the naming convention of quite a large site in mid-stream?
No, but the example given was created after Google was created. Your comment of "So do most sites that were around before Google." gave the impression that the WebmasterWorld Adsense page was created before Google was around.

I have underscores on my site,(with no problems) but they were made years ago. Now, I create pages using hyhens instead.
2:00 am on Jan 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator brotherhood_of_lan is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



The only reason I can think of this even mattering is that underscores are usually treated as a 'word character' in regular expressions. That and perhaps usernames tend to have underscores too, which are fairly prevalent entities online....

Can't help but smile a little, after all the web's technological advancement, this question is still one that matters. fwiw I don't think it's a big deal anymore but maybe it's one of those tiny edges that you can gain on competition.
5:05 am on Jan 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

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One of my top pages uses an underscore, but it's been around for about 8 or 9 years.

I don't use underscores anymore though, I use hyphens instead. If you're moving forward, use hyphens. If it's an existing page, don't worry about it. Or change it and 301 to the new URL, no big deal.
5:14 am on Jan 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member themadscientist is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



I think swanny's advice is great ... To 'rephrase', I would say:

If you use an underscore currently, remember 'Cool URLs Don't Change', so it's likely best to leave it the way it is ... Moving forward, to create a new page, a hyphen is almost always better, so just use one.

The difference between the two, in my opinion, is really not worth a debate, because they're about the same either way as far as search engine treatment goes from what I've seen, so let's not make a big deal about what's essentially nothing ... If you're building a page on a new URL, use a hyphen. If you've built a page on a URL, leave it the way it is ... There's some things that are best kept simple, and this is one of them, in my opinion.
8:06 am on Jan 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I going to show my age here.... but if I remember correctly, the underscore dates back to the old DOS operating system which did not accept hyphens or spaces as valid characters.... hence the use of an underscore to connect separate words in a file name.

When search engines started collecting data into their databases, its logical to assume that there would have been old DOS era documents somewhere in the mix so underscores would have made their way into the internet era. Devaluing a document/page simply because it has an old style file name seems a bit over the top.

I'd put this in the myth category.
1:37 pm on Jan 7, 2013 (gmt 0)



Wikipedia uses underscores, they seemingly do not have any problems:-)
3:33 pm on Jan 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jimbeetle is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



No, but the example given was created after Google was created.

But it's still a bad example. Why on earth would somebody with an established naming convention change it midstream and have to contend with different conventions on the same site? It makes absolutely no sense.
4:14 pm on Jan 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member lame_wolf is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



But it's still a bad example.

It wasn't my example. I am just the message.

[...]It makes absolutely no sense.
Which is why I have left my old ones as they are. My early pages are a mix of:
Urls-Like-This.html
urls-like-this.html
urls_like_this.html
urlslikethis.html
UrlsLikeThis.html
and-a-few-like-(this).html

Then again, I was self-taught and didn't have anyone to ask if I ran into problems, nor was I told not to do certain things.
4:17 pm on Jan 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member lucy24 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time Top Contributors Of The Month



Come to think of it: What's the significance of "yet" in the thread title? I thought it was the other way around: underscores used to be SOP and now they're viewed with disapproval.
5:46 pm on Jan 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

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We have a big site that does fine with underscores. What is more important based on Cutts comments IMO is that you are consistent (go all dashes or underscores).
6:09 pm on Jan 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator engine is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



I agree with others that have said is works fine. I'd also agree, stay consitent. One thing not to do is to use a space. Why do I still see sites using spaces!
9:49 pm on Jan 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member planet13 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time Top Contributors Of The Month



"I'd also agree, stay consistent."


Unfortunately for me, that isn't an option.

I use hyphens through the site.

However, this one page (which currently has a hyphen between words) became Penguin fodder. Haven't been able to get it back onto page one no matter what I have tried.

So was thinking of changing the hyphen to an underscore FOR THIS ONE PAGE and then NOT doing a 301 redirect.

Still thinking about it...
10:03 pm on Jan 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member themadscientist is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



If it was me on a site of mine (not someone else's since this is 'a bit questionable' as an approach) ... If I still wanted the page, personally, I think I'd change the extension of the page (.htm, .php, .SomethingDifferentThanItIs), update the internal links and redirect everyone, except GoogleBot, which I would serve a 410 to since Google's seeming to be the only one having some type of issue with the page.

Basically, I'd 'cloak' the redirect for 'regular visitor' convenience and let gBot find the new location on it's own, because it's sounding like Google is the only visitor to the page that has an issue with it.
 

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