Hyphens & Underscores Are Now Treated Equally in Google.com

Jul 24, 2007 • 8:22 am | comments (8) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

Until today, Google treated dashes and underscores in the URL differently. A dash (hyphen) between two words in the URL (i.e. keyword-phrase) would tell Google that those are two different words (i.e. keyword +phrase). In the past, an underscore between two words in a URL (i.e. keyword_phrase) would tell Google that those words are a single word (i.e. keywordphrase). Now both underscores and hyphens in the URL are treated as word separators.

News.com reports this has now changed. They have coverage from Google's Matt Cutts at the World Camp conference saying, Google is now going to be treating underscores and dashes the same.

One key development that Matt shared with the audience was that underscores in URLs are now (or at least very soon to be) treated as word separators by Google. That's great news, because it historically hasn't been that way. Back in 2005, Matt stated that Google did not view underscores in URLs as word separators. That meant that in a URL like http://www.mysite.com/iphone_review.html Googlebot couldn't "see" the words iphone or review. Instead it read iphone_review as one word.

Yes, this appears to be a small change but this topic is one of those topics that are constantly coming up in search forums.

Again: dashes (i.e. hyphens) are now equal to underscores where both are now treated as word separators.

Forum discussion at Search Engine Roundtable Forums.

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David Eaves

07/24/2007 12:42 pm

Damm, I might loose a slight edge here, I have always been partial to the hyphens, even though some people have told me I should use underscores.


07/24/2007 12:50 pm

What about Yahoo, MSN, and Ask? Should we still keep using dashes in our URL's to accommodate them?


07/24/2007 01:01 pm

I'd expect some turbulence in the SERPs (serpulance) mostly coming from old underscore based sites suddenly getting and upword boost.


07/24/2007 02:21 pm

So will it still be possible to search for "iphone_review" if I so desire? I would hope so, or tech / programming searches will be tough.

Max Worton

02/18/2008 09:05 am

Thanks for that most of my clients have struggled to find a definitive answer to the question on hyphens and underscores. _____________________________ http://www.webefforts.co.uk

No Name

07/03/2008 06:36 am

i mostly use "-" with for my SEF links. and i guess - is better than _ for GG and Yahoo Serp results.


06/23/2009 12:13 pm

I'm not sure that I see any 'definitive answer' here - check out the screen shots in this research on <a href=http://www.pioneerwebsites.com.au/blog/2009/06/underscores-vs-hyphens-seo-conclusive.html rel="nofollow">underscores vs hyphens</a>. http://www.pioneerwebsites.com.au/blog/2009/06/underscores-vs-hyphens-seo-conclusive.html

Barry Schwartz

06/23/2009 12:23 pm

NOTE: See the update to this post at http://www.seroundtable.com/archives/014445.html

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