BLOG REVISITED: Dash (-) or underscore (_) in your URLs?
Being 4 years since we published this blog regarding the use of a dash or underscore in URLs, we thought it wise to revisit and update with some current SEO information…
Since the date of original publishing (31 Jan 2012), Google have confirmed in their Webmaster support guidelines that “we recommend that you use hyphens (-) instead of underscores (_) in your URLs”. Google has also confirmed that hyphens should be used to separate words in your URL, stating for example that the URL http://www.example.com/green-dress.html is much more useful to us than http://www.example.com/greendress.html.
For a URL / website address, having dash (or sometimes referred as hyphen) works better than underscore. There are two main reasons as to why dash is more preferred. Firstly, Google has stated in its Webmaster Central that it recognises dash/hyphen as a word separator. On the contrary two words joined by underscore are viewed as a combined word. Therefore from Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) point of view, it is recommended to use dash or hyphen over underscore for your URL if need be.
For Example: if a URL includes /best_new_car_cleaning_products, Google reads that URL as “/bestnewcarcleaningproducts” which is gibberish to Google’s robots that crawl your site.
If instead, a URL includes /best-new-car-cleaning-products, Google reads that URL as “best new car cleaning products” which is much more legible to Google’s robots. As a result of this legibility, Google’s robots can return results for a range of word and phrase combinations such as:
- Best New Car Cleaning Products
- Best Car Cleaning Products
- New Car Cleaning Products
- Car Cleaning Products
- New Car Cleaning
- Car Cleaning
The use of hyphens allows Google to get a clearer understanding of what the website is about, as well as improving your website’s chances of appearing higher on Google search.
Another reason to use dash/hyphens is that dashes also hold the advantage from a user-experience point of view. In a standard link, dash can be easily identified as a separator between words because of its position whereas underscore could easily blend with underline and being mistaken as just a normal space especially due to the fact that it usually sits just above the underline.
Have a look at these two URLs:
As you can see, the URL with the dash is much easier to read and is more user friendly. Moreover Google does not have any guidelines regarding the use of underscore in URLs so why would you want to use it over the dash.
Of course, if your current URL uses underscores and ranks well on SERPs, we wouldn’t recommend changing your URL or redirecting to a URL including hyphens, as you may lose the linking networks you’ve built that are working well for you.
Have all these acronyms had you reaching for the dictionary? Fear not – we’ve got a roundup of common SEO terms here.
If you’re struggling with deciding what is the best URL for your new website, or think your current URL might be holding you back, contact one of our digital marketing experts at Webfirm today for URL advice and assistance.