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Is it bad to have spaces (%20) in your URLs?

Is it bad to have spaces (%20) in your URLs?

     
1:35 pm on Jul 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Hi

I have a few URLS with %20 or spaces in, I have heard google and other search engines don't like symbols, should I take them out?

The urls of my pages relate to the content on the page, but I add 1 keyword after the name.

For example say my keywords were:

Dog and cat and one of my pages was called dogcat.html and I wanted the page to rank high for the search phrase: dog cat

What would be the best url?

Dog%20Cat.html
Dog_Cat.html
Dog-cat.html

The reason I am taking time over keywords in urls is because not every one will use my requested linking code, they will just link to the page without using my keywords, but if I have my most popular keyword in the url than they can't not use a keyword to link.

Thanks in advance for your help!
Regards...
Mike

3:36 pm on July 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

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I used to have page names with spaces, as these were there when I stepped into the fray. After receiving some advice from folks smarter than moi, I decided to ditch the spaces in favor of hyphens.

I would suggest a fourth example though, specifically:
dog-cat.html
as I don't see any reason to use capital letters to name new files (though I concede I'm a tad slow in eradicating the last of the files I have with came to me with caps in the filename.)

1:29 am on July 31, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Search engines aren't too fussed about 20% - but visitors think there's something wrong.

Don't use dogcat.html - no-one searches for dog cat!
Don't use dog_cat.html - SEs see that as dogcat.

Use dog-cat.html or dog.cat.html - that will catch dog searchers, cat searchers and 'dog cat' searchers.

2:11 pm on July 31, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Thank you! =)
3:00 pm on July 31, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Don't use dog_cat.html - SEs see that as dogcat

Not really.

Google treats this as one token that includes the underscore, [dog_cat].

Yahoo does the same for the SERPs, but parses the token into separate terms [dog cat] in its PPC ads.

MSN and Ask parse it for the SERPs, but apparently not for PPC.

As for using the period, Google does not parse [dog.cat] into separate terms. Yahoo, MSN and Ask do, with some differences here and there on exactly what is returned in SERPs and PPC.

Best bet is probably the hyphen, though there are still differences in SERPs returned between [dog-cat] and [dog cat]. Ask appears to do the best job of treating both the as the same.

4:44 pm on July 31, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Apologies; dog_cat will be seen as dog_cat, not dogcat

I was sloppy in making the point that SEs will not see 'dog' or 'cat' within that term.

On dog.cat.html, however, I have a very reliable source who uses this, and states that it is as useful as dog-cat; I regret I know no way of testing it. Either way, I personally feel that dots in file names are rare enough to be a potential source of user confusion, so I'd not use them.

I'm interested to read that dog-cat may be parsed in a different way than dog cat; I've never heard that before, and I'm unclear how significant that might be. There is no doubt that two hyphenated terms are seen as separate; are you suggesting that SE behaviour could be 'different enough' to make dog%20cat a prefered option?

[edited by: Quadrille at 4:45 pm (utc) on July 31, 2006]

5:07 pm on July 31, 2006 (gmt 0)

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The only insight we have to how SEs might parse different formats is by testing them in a search. Whether what we see on this end is what they do on the back end, well, we'll never know. But I do think that a Google search for [dog.cat [google.com]] that produces such different results than [dog cat [google.com]] should tell us something. Exactly what, I wish I knew.

Even though it appears that spaces in a URL might be beneficial, I think there's too many chances for URL munging, mistyping, etc., to really make a good argument for using spaces.

5:24 pm on July 31, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for that :)
8:36 pm on July 31, 2006 (gmt 0)

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It also raises a duplicate issue - is
dog%20cat
the same as
dog cat
?
No, so somewhere there you are risking a dup penalty.
9:18 pm on July 31, 2006 (gmt 0)

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There could also be negative consequences if someone published the URL in a book or magazine, as the space would likely be mishandled.
9:32 pm on July 31, 2006 (gmt 0)

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somewhere there you are risking a dup penalty

In which way? Since we're talking about file naming here, I'm not quite sure where a dupe penalty of some sort would come into play.

11:04 pm on July 31, 2006 (gmt 0)

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Dupe problems (not yet penalties) can arise if Google THINKS there is a duplicate.

For example, if people link to yourdomain.com and others to your www.domain.com, then Google may see two sites.

For most purposes, there is no confusion between 'your file.html' and your%20file.html - but it is conceivable that different format links could lead to a 'ghost' file being called into existence, with a subsequent risk of dupe issues.

I don't know if it's a 'real' risk - but it's one more reason to use your-file.html, if not plain old fashioned file.html

Remember the often-quoted Quadrille's Law of Hyphenating Domain Names:

"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'"

3:45 pm on Aug 1, 2006 (gmt 0)

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He, he, he.

Gotcha'.

6:54 pm on Aug 1, 2006 (gmt 0)

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We ran tests on this very topic.

Key word 1 vs. Key-word-1

With an exact copy & paste page for each, after 6 months, the Key-word-1 page out performed the other by 17% (click thrus) and in all cases, placed higher in Google and Yahoo. MSN it made no difference.

As for the underscore(_), we never use it for design reasons.

Jim Catanich

7:00 pm on Aug 1, 2006 (gmt 0)

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You also brought up a good question. Does it make any difference between upper case and lower case?

Jim Catanich