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Hyphens or Underscores?

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Feb2010 10

One of the things I do on an ongoing basis is to read books, blogs, magazines … really anything I can get my hands of to stay on top of current website design trends.  This past week I read an excellent book by Aaron Walter titled, Building Findable Websites.  And I wanted to share with you a little tidbit I learned from this book.

Use hypens, not underscores in your website addresses

I will admit (though I’m somewhat embarrassed to do so) that I didn’t realize what a difference hyphens made in the eyes of search engines.  Consider the following:

Example 1: http://www.domain.com/look_how_smart_i_am

Example 2: http://www.domain.com/look-how-smart-i-am

Now to you (and to me until last week) these two website addresses looked pretty much the same.  In fact in my mind it really came down to a matter of style.  However, that is not the case.  Here is how search engines see the directory path for these two examples:

Example 1: lookhowsmartiam

Example 2: look how smart i am

Now that’s a big difference (and certainly not a matter of style).  Example one translates to jibberish while example two offers unique keywords to be indexed by search engines and a clear benefit in search engine rankings.  Example one is the winner here and going forward I will be using the hyphen instead of the underscore.

Is it a subtle difference?  It sure is but now that you know why would you ever go back to the underscore?

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