Underscores vs. Dashes

Sinoun Chea

Particular search engines handle certain symbols differently. For instance, one of the most debated topics in web design is whether webmasters should use dashes or underscores in their URLs. This debate is fueled by the fact that Google and Bing handle these marks differently. The search engine Bing does not care whether a URL has an underscore or a dash because they handle both marks the same way. However, Google prefers dashes over underscores. Keep reading below for information about whether you should use dashes or underscores in your website.

What is an Underscore?

The underscore was first used on the typewriter. This symbol was used so someone who was typing could underline a word. Here is an example:


What is a Dash?

A dash is a punctuation mark. It is often confused as a hyphen or minus mark, but it is fundamentally different from either of those things. When writing, a dash is used to demonstrate a break in a sentence. Here is an example.


How Google Handles Dashes and Underscores

When it comes to dashes and underscores, Google does take notice of which mark is used in a URL. With Google, URLs that use underscores in their URL will have the keywords in their URL joined together. If a webmaster uses dashes in the URL instead, each word will be separated on the dash. What this means is with Google URLs that use dashes can have an advantage over pages that use underscores.

The Advantages of Dashes Over Underscores

When some webmasters learn that dashes can earn them an advantage in Google page ranking, they may be tempted to rewrite some of their URLs. However, according to Google’s Matt Cutts, the advantage is so small that it may not make sense for webmasters to rewrite URLs. In fact, Cutts actually warns against changing URLs because it can cause more problems than it does advantages.

In conclusion, if webmasters have web pages that are doing well, and are indexed, they should just leave them alone. However, when writing new pages, it is advisable to use dashes rather than underscores because of the advantage Google offers for the use of dashes.


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Sinoun Chea

I help small businesses Do Better Online™. When businesses thrive, people also thrive. #morethanjustbusiness

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