The URL Debate: Underscore vs. Dash

August 19, 2011 | By

A common question in the SEO world has always been: What’s best to use in a URL, dashes or underscores? Do they make a difference to search engines and how do they affect your web site ranking?

Which is better for SEO? vs.

According to Search Engine Land, Google and Bing handle dashes and underscores in URLs differently.

Google’s Matt Cutts, recently released this YouTube video update on the Underscores vs. Dashes question.

“Join on the Underscore, Separate on the Dash.”

Google says it’s better to stick with the dash to separate keywords in a URL. If you’re starting a new website and its brand new, Google encourages you to use dashes. This will allow you to add more easily searchable keywords into your URL and may help improve rankings.

However, if you have a website that’s successful in page rankings and has been around for a while, don’t worry about it. Underscores are fine to use for established websites. Cutts says the amount of impact it has in Google rankings is “relatively low” and he does not recommend going back and rewriting every single URL to use dashes because it’s just not worth it and may cause problems.

Do Dashes vs. Underscores Make a Huge Difference in Google?

Cutts states, “It doesn’t make that much of a difference. It’s what we call a second-order effect. It’s not a primary thing that makes a huge difference.”

What About in Bing?

A Bing spokesperson responded to Search Engine Land by saying they do not differentiate at all between dash and underscore in their URL ranking features.

What Should Webmasters Do?

If you are launching a new site, then go ahead and use dashes in your URLs, in order to keep your keywords separate. According to Cutts, “when Google sees an underscore in a URL, it joins what’s before and after into one term.” However, if you have an existing site and using underscores in your URLs, don’t change them to dashes because it can cause technical problems and can impact your search rankings.



Filed in: Google, Keeping up with the Search Engines | Tags: , ,

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Comments (4)

  1. radames

    This is a great and informative post. I always wondered how Google dealt with this issue. Thanks for posting, Christine!

  2. In dash vs underscore in URLs, dash is the clear winner.

  3. If you have a URL like 'keyword1-keyword2', that page can be returned for the searches for 'keyword1', 'keyword2', and even 'keyword1 keyword2'.

  4. WELLl! It's a great post,when i saw this post before that i don't know use dashes or underscores in URLs will be affected page ranking. it's a great tips for set up URLs.
    Thanks very much!