Hyphen Vs Underscore in URLs: Why Does it Matter?

April 30, 2024

Hyphen Vs Underscore in URLs: Why Does it Matter? | AIA Book in a free 30 minute strategy session

Short Answer: Google, in particular, sees hyphens as word separators in URLs, enabling it to better understand and index the individual words within the address. So, it is recommended to use hyphens instead of underscores in URLs wherever applicable.

You would not believe it if I told you that something as small as a hyphen or an underscore in URL structure can make a huge difference when it comes to your organic traffic.

Let’s find out why hyphens in URLs matter and what to do if you have other separators such as underscores in your URL structure.

Hyphens vs Underscores in SEO

When it comes to URL structure, the choice between hyphens and underscores can significantly impact your site’s SEO. While both characters can technically be used to separate words in a URL, Google treats them differently. Hyphens are recognised as word separators, whereas underscores are not. 

Why Do Hyphens in URLs Matter?

URLs, or Uniform Resource Locators, serve as the web addresses that users enter into their browsers to access specific web pages. They play a crucial role in guiding both search engines and users to your content. Google, in particular, sees hyphens as word separators in URLs, enabling it to better understand and index the individual words within the address.

For example; “www.aiad.com.au/enterprise-seo-guide/” & “www.aiad.com.au/enterprise_seo_guide/” may look the same to humans, but Google and many other search engines read it differently. Google can understand the one with hyphens better.

Here is what Google write in their Google Search Documentation; “Consider using hyphens to separate words in your URLs, as it helps users and search engines identify concepts in the URL more easily. We recommend that you use hyphens (-) instead of underscores (_) in your URLs.”

Google Search hyphens or underscore

How Do Dashes or Underscores Play a Role in Your SEO?

The use of hyphens in URLs can have a direct impact on your site’s SEO performance. Here’s how:

  • Readability: Hyphens make URLs more readable for both search engines and users. They provide clarity and help to distinguish between individual words within the address.
  • Keyword Recognition: Search engines rely on keywords to understand the content and relevance of a web page. Hyphens make it easier for search engines to recognise and interpret the keywords within a URL.
  • Avoiding Broken Links: Hyphens reduce the likelihood of broken links, particularly when URLs are copied and pasted or shared across different platforms. Underscores, on the other hand, can be mistaken for spaces, leading to broken links and errors.
  • User Experience: URLs with hyphens are more user-friendly and intuitive. They provide a clear indication of the page’s content and structure, enhancing the overall user experience.

What to Do If You Are Already Using URL Structure with Underscore?

If your site currently uses underscores in its URL structure, don’t panic. As Matt Cutt explains in this video from 2011, “If it already works the way you want, don’t go back and rewrite every single URL”.

If you happen to develop a new website to find that your URL structure is problematic or if your website is not performing as per your expectations then, here are some steps you can take:

  1. Audit Your URLs: Conduct a thorough audit of your site’s URLs to identify any instances of underscores.
  2. Update URLs: Wherever possible, replace underscores with hyphens in your URLs.
  3. 301 Redirects: Implement 301 redirects from the old underscored URLs to the new hyphenated URLs to ensure seamless redirection and avoid broken links.
  4. Update Internal Links: Update any internal links within your site to reflect the new URL structure.

Get in Touch with Australian Internet Advertising Today

For expert guidance on optimising your website’s URL structure and enhancing its SEO performance, get in touch with Australian Internet Advertising today. Our team of experienced SEO professionals can provide tailored solutions to help you improve your site’s visibility, attract more traffic, and achieve your business goals.

The choice between hyphens and underscores in URLs may seem insignificant, but it can have a significant impact on your site’s SEO and user experience. By opting for hyphens over underscores, you can make your URLs more readable, improve search engine visibility, and enhance overall user satisfaction. So, make the switch today and reap the benefits of a well-optimised URL structure.

Billy P.

About The Author

William Polson founded Australian Internet Advertising in 2013 and has over 12 years of experience immersed in Digital Marketing.

With an in-depth level of digital marketing knowledge, William has been sort after by and worked for, many large national brands including Subaru, Blooms The Chemist, and Nova 96.9.

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