Should you use dashes or underscores in URLs? The age old question has a new answer. Over the weekend at WorldCamp 2007 Matt Cutts broke the news that Google would soon be treating underscores as word separators, much the way they already treat dashes. That should be welcome news to anyone currently using underscores. In spite of the good news you’re still better off using dashes.
The good news comes via cnet News Blog writer Stephen Spencer who also shares some other goodies from Matt such as your file extension doesn’t affect ranking. You can use .php, .htm, .html, .asp, and it doesn’t matter. We already knew that, but confirmation is always nice. Matt also revealed that if you want your blog to get into Google News it needs to have multiple authors.
Back to the question of underscores vs dashes. I still think dashes are best for one very simple reason. Dashes are more readable to human beings, especially in URLs. Underscores are a little more difficult to read in general, but they can completely disappear when the text is underlined.
Which text has the underscores?
The observant among you will notice the second line above is longer than the first. It’s longer because it has the underscores and underscores are wider than a space, but you shouldn’t be able to see the underscores themselves. You can see them if you make your text bigger of if you overwrite the font, but both lines are 12px Verdana, which is the most common body font you’ll come across. Even with bigger text or a different font it’s not too hard to miss the underscores. Most will see the underscore as a space.
The potential is there for someone to mistakenly think your URL has spaces in it. It won’t happen a lot, but why let it happen at all.
If you’re currently using underscores in your URLs don’t worry. Just enjoy the good news that it will now or soon count as a word separator. In the future think twice about using dashes instead.
For a little more coverage of Matt Cutts goodies from the weekend have a look at
- Search Engine Optimization Tricks for WordPress
- Whitehat SEO Tips for Bloggers
- WordCamp 2007: Matt Cutts, Whitehat SEO Tips for Bloggers
And while we’re talking about Matt Cutts he asked earlier in the week what you wanted to see implemented in Webmaster Central. Tell Matt what you want to see or just check out what everyone else wants. At the moment the leader is ‘more information about penalties or other scoring issues’
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