Dash Or Underscore In URL For SEO

Want to know how using a dash or underscore in URL impacts your SEO ranking? Read our guide to learn more. We used data and facts to outline the best answer to the question.

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Kristi Ray

With everyone jostling for space on the internet, developing a proper SEO (search engine optimisation) strategy will help you stay relevant.

The nitty-gritty of SEO is ever-changing, and something seemingly inconsequential as using dashes instead of an underscore can have a significant impact. It’s, in fact, extremely important to give meaning to your words and help people find the right answer.

Dash Or Underscore In Url For Seo

So, the next time you’re setting up an URL structure, take time to ponder over what sign to use. But you must also realise that other factors like developing suitable domain names, links, and keywords contribute towards making your SEO strategy a success.

URLs occupy a small part of your SEO architecture, while signs are an even smaller part. However, each of these components functions as a network, guaranteeing that your website is a success.

Today we’ll discuss how to use dashes, hyphens, and underscores for your benefit.

Basics Of URL Structure

In technical terms, URL refers to Uniform Resource Locator, which allows the search engine to find relevant content quickly. When it comes to website ranking, having a proper URL structure is of utmost importance as even slight differences can impact the order of search results.

For instance, something as simple as using dashes or hyphens can change how search engines interpret the website content. If you use proper punctuation, the URL structure improves readability for the search engine and the user.

Understanding Url Structure

How URL Works For Search Engine Optimisation?

After creating a relevant URL structure, you’ll find it in the Domain Name System (DNS). Every URL has a unique IP address, allowing search engines to relate your query to a suitable website.

Long story short, when a user types a URL in Google’s search bar, the Domain Name System receives a request to find the relevant IP address. So, it would help if you used the right punctuation in URLs, which we’ll discuss next.

Different Types Of Punctuation

There are four types of punctuation, each having a specific role in search engine optimisation. So, you can note how they work to understand their impact on website ranking.

Email Internet Vocabulary

1. Hyphen

In everyday speech, a hyphen helps connect two parts of the same word. While this is true for web pages, hyphens join two different words to benefit the search engine. That said, users should have a clear idea about using hyphens since they can’t replace other types of dashes.

2. Underscore

Underscore is a kind of long hyphen placed between two words. Apart from URLs, the use of underscores is common in email addresses and domain names.

3. Em Dash

Em dash is the longest form of a dash, commonly used while referring to a break in a sentence. It’s also the perfect alternative for commas, parenthesis, question marks, and quotation marks in URLs.

4. En Dash

In terms of length, en dash occupies the spot between a hyphen and the em dash. It’s longer than the former but shorter than the latter, proving useful when you need to create a date or number range. Other than that, it provides clarity to the user when writing an article or a blog post.

Why Your Url Matters

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Domain Names

Irrespective of creating a domain name or URL, it would be best to focus on simplicity. The goal should be to use a domain name that professionally reflects the content of the web page.

Domain Name Characters

The main question that needs answering is the importance of using dashes and underscores while choosing domain names. However, we must mention that using hyphens adds unnecessary characters, making it challenging for users to recall the name.

Using underscores isn’t allowed while developing a domain name. Not to mention that your SEO strategy will take a hit, even if you use hyphens instead of underscores. This is because it becomes difficult to spread the domain name by word-of-mouth.

So, it would help to avoid using underscores, dashes, or hyphens, ensuring that the domain name is readable.

Using Hyphens

The best URLs keep things simple, helping Google’s web crawlers find the right file for the search query. On the other hand, using unnecessary characters complicates the URL structure and confuses the search engine.

Using a sign like an underscore, hyphen, letter, or number allows you to assign simple file names. This improves the experience of both search engines and users while searching for the most relevant answer to a conducted search query.

Thanks to the content management system, special characters, like space ensure that you can encode the file name better. For example, if humans use space in the name, the encoding system changes it to ‘%20space’ for convenience.

Should You Use Hyphens Instead Of Underscores In Your URLs?

To get a better idea about URLs and how they operate, you can watch the Google Helpmaster video by Matt Cutts. In the video, he explains how dashes act as word separators while underscores help join two words.

Matt goes on to argue that Google prefers hyphens instead of underscores since the latter doesn’t improve URLs. For example, if your URL has the term “my page”, Google will interpret it as “mypage”, which is detrimental to the website ranking. But more on that in the following section.

To settle the debate about using hyphens or underscores in your URLs, we need to look at another example. In the previous section, you’ve already seen why an underscore might pose problems for Google in finding an adequate answer for your query.

When you use hyphens in URLs, like “my-page”, Google reads it as “my page”. Hence, it becomes easier for Google to rank your web page, article, and blog post higher in relation to the “my page” query.

Understandably, the point in favour of using a hyphen is that it’s computer-friendly and therefore, user-friendly. But this doesn’t mean that sites currently using underscores need to change to hyphens or dashes.

There’s no guarantee that changing URLs will work, as it takes time for Google to register the change. It’s important to note that the sudden switch to word separators could affect your SEO strategy, impacting SEO rankings.

Long story short, the easier it is for Google to understand a URL, the more convenient it is for a human to find a relevant answer.

URL Tips

As mentioned, URLs help rank your site higher compared to other pages, provided that you’ve used a hyphen. While this allows Google to judge the relevance of your web page or blog posts, there is another advantage, as explained by Matt Cutts.

He says that when people use hyphens rather than underscores in their URLs, it would also help if they use the URL to create links. Doing so ensures that Google interprets the links as keywords while reading the anchor text.

This makes it easy for a Google user to remember the URL structure, as underscores are often confused for spaces. Needless to say, using spaces prevents you from visiting the desired site.

Parameters For Change

If your site is doing well despite underscores in your URLs, there’s no need to change it. However, site designers who feel that their SEO strategy will get a boost by using a word separator must be aware of the changes.

The website’s rank will drop briefly while Google takes time to recrawl, reindex, and reinterpret. So, any variation in URLs will have a domino effect on the rest of your SEO strategy.

How Your Website Gets Crawled

Underscore Tips

The foremost example of a successful website that uses underscores is Wikipedia. You may have seen that any Wikipedia page refrains from using a word separator but still appears at the top of the results.

This is because the site does well in other areas, like choosing appropriate domain names for greater authority, along with off-page signals and on-page optimisation. Not to mention it uses keywords, making a post more relevant.

Top Seo Tips For Url Optimisations

Changing The URL

It would help if you considered changing URL’s only when using an underscore between words fails to have the desired impact. When you feel that the relevancy of a post or the website rank won’t be affected, we suggest using 301 redirects. This will help you alter URLs by adding a hyphen.

So, if your original website was “”, removing the underscore with a hyphen makes it “good-food.” Then with 301 redirects, you can ensure that a Google user arrives at the new website to view the post.

Solving URL Issues

No SEO strategy is full-proof, and it’s important to keep improving. So, one of the areas to focus on should be fixing the URL structure.

Firstly, use the robots.txt file, preventing Google from interfering with problematic URLs. It will help you keep dynamic URLs in check, which are notorious for generating web results and infinite spaces. All you need to do is use words or common signs like dashes in the robots.txt file for keeping several URLs at bay.

Another successful SEO strategy is to focus on cookies rather than session ID’s while checking the web page for broken links. Finally, you can trim a URL by reducing irrelevant words, ensuring that it’s crisp and appealing to Google.

Summing Up URL’s In SEO

That’s all there is to know about the relevance of an underscore or hyphen in URLs.

Hopefully, you’ve understood how to use dashes and the impact various signs have on words. Work on your SEO strategy every day and look at the best websites to see what they are doing better.

Photo of Kristi Ray

Kristi Ray

Kristi is head of content production and editing at sitecentre and joined the team in early 2021 based out of our Sunshine Coast office to deliver higher-quality content to our partners. Kristi has a vast knowledge of copywriting styles and experience to accelerate the production of SEO friendly content at the highest levels.

Find them on their website: sitecentre and LinkedIn.

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