The discussion over URL format has been raging in the SEO industry for quite some time. The issue has been whether to use underscores or dashes. We conducted some research to assist you in making an informed decision. Continue reading to find out more!
What is a URL?
URL is an abbreviation for Uniform Resource Locator, a unique address for a given resource on the internet. URLs are human-readable text that replaces IP addresses and is kept in the DNS (Domain Name System) database. When you enter a URL into a search bar, a request is sent to the DNS server to determine the IP address of the URL.
The URL link can be found in your web browser’s address bar. You can also find a link’s URL by right-clicking it and copying the link.
What is a hyphen (-)?
The hyphen is a punctuation mark that connects two words or parts of words. It is important to note, however, that a hyphen and a dash are not interchangeable.
What is an underscore (_)?
An underscore (_), sometimes known as an underline, low dash, resembles an elongated hyphen under the dash or low line. It has the same keyboard button as the hyphen.
It is important to remember that underscores should only be used in subfolders or filenames.
Should I use underscores or hyphens in URLs?
In your URLs, we suggest that you use hyphens instead of underscores. Overly complicated URLs, particularly those with many parameters, might give crawlers trouble by generating an overly large number of URLs that redirect to same or comparable content on your site.
What does Google say about hyphens or underscores?
In URLs, Google highly recommends using hyphens rather than underscores as a word separator. Hyphens assist Google in determining the purpose of your pages and producing consistent results. URLs with underscores will not be recognized. For instance, the phrase “how_to_internal_linking” would be interpreted as “howtointernallinking” rather than “How to internal linking.”
When using hyphens “How-to-internal-linking” is more readable to Google’s robots. In turn, this clarity can assist Google’s robots in providing results for a variety of word and phrase combinations.
In short, the easier your URLs are for Google to understand and analyze, the higher your site will rank in relevant search queries. Furthermore, the easier it is for humans to read your URL, the higher your website will rank in search engines. That is a significant advantage in your SEO efforts.
How do I structure a URL for SEO? 7 Tips & Best Practices
Having a good URL structure for SEO is critical and should be taken very seriously. But how can you ensure that the structure is correct? Here are some tried-and-true methods for making good use of URLs. [ctablock title=Free SiteGuru trial subtitle=Perform a comprehensive SEO evaluation on your website]
1. Use a standard URL structure
When it relates to URL structure, adhering to the acknowledged norm is critical. Avoid going too far when adding categories and subcategories in URLs, for instance. Consider the following examples:
www.example.com/women/shoes/blue-high-heels is a straightforward URL structure.
Take note! Remember to be as uniform as possible in the URL structure you deploy across the site and include the primary categories to make your site’s organization more apparent.
2. Always edit the URL of a page to make it more relevant.
Surprisingly, there are still websites that employ gibberish-looking automatically generated URLs. Such URLs are not SEO-friendly and provide a more perplexing experience for visitors. To prevent all of this, stay committed to personalizing each URL based on the web page’s content.
3. Keep it short and simple
Avoid inserting extraneous words in your URL. Just make it brief, straightforward, consistent, and also to the point. Avoid using the same keyword in your URL, for example.
Would be preferred choice.
A bad example would be:
4. Delete stop words.
If you use stop words such as a the, or, but, of, and so on, it will be unfeasible to keep your URL short and simple. So, get rid of them.
5. Use your primary keyword.
The primary keywords are the ones for which you wish to rank. This implies that you must keep these terms in mind. They are keywords that reflect what is on the web page and contain terms that are often used (or are prone to be used) by individuals searching for the information on the page. The URL of the page must include a primary keyword. Consider the following example:
Consider a blog post titled “11 best hazelnut coffee” published on a website for blog articles. If the goal keyword is “best hazelnut coffee,” the URL could look like this:
You might have 11 best right now, but what if you want to add or remove one of the product from your list? You will have to redirect the old URL to the new one.
6. To separate words, use hyphens.
To separate two or more words, the best SEO strategy is to use a hyphen. Google can index all keywords/terms individually, thanks to hyphens. In a moment, we’ll go through how to use hyphens in URLs in depth.
7. Use canonical tags wherever possible
You would not want search engines to categorize various versions of the same webpage as separate pages. Hence, if you have the same web page linked to multiple URLs for any reason, you are undermining its SEO value. Consider the following example:
In Google’s opinion, consolidating each URL for the same webpage such that a link back to one of them passes for all versions is the right approach. You can assist Google in understanding this by including the canonical tag on each variation of the page, which specifies which URL symbolizes all versions.
What if you’re already using underscores in your URLs?
Punctuation in URLs assists search engine robots in reading and interpreting URLs when indexing. They are not ranking indicators. That is, if you are currently utilizing underscores in URLs and obtaining the desired results, there is no need to delete or change them. If you make a change, Google may penalize you as this could result in a short-term ranking loss since it’ll have to recrawl, reindex, and interpret the updated URL structure.
Are you still not convinced?
Then consider how Wikipedia, which utilizes underscores in all of its URLs, continues to top SERPs for information searches. Check out this page for The Best FIFA Wonen’s Player, for instance. The webpage’s URL is https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Best_FIFA_Women%27s_Player, and not The-Best-FIFA-Womens-Player.
What if I don’t get the desired results?
If you’re using underscores in your URLs and aren’t getting the desired results, you can utilize the 301 redirect to switch to a new URL format (the one using hyphens). All crawlers and users are sent to the new URL by the 301 redirects.
Domain names with dashes?
While including dashes or even hyphens in domain names may seem elaborate, it is not advised because some people may have difficulty remembering your domain name. Imagine trying to recall the punctuation in a domain name! Isn’t that tedious? Imagine how many individuals searching for your website will try to remember a hyphen or dash in your domain name. They are unlikely to find you and will instead browse other sites.
Furthermore, hyphens and dashes make it difficult to advertise by word-of-mouth or radio. So, if you want to keep your audience, avoid utilizing these two punctuation marks in your domain names.
How to fix URL structure problems
- Using a robots.txt file, you can prevent the Google bot from accessing problematic URLs. You should concentrate on barring dynamic URLs, such as URLs that potentially generate endless spaces or URLs that yield search results. Employing common expressions in your robots.txt file allows you to block a huge number of URLs easily.
- Check your website for broken relative links.
- Shorten URLs: Consider removing any extraneous parameters from your URLs.