When creating a new site, it’s important to consider how your URLs will be structured. Making the right decision before your site is created means you won’t have to go back and implement a bunch of redirects to repair any dodgy URLs on the site.
The first step is to ensure you’re using descriptive URLs that relate to the content on the page. For example, using the URL /flowers is going to work a lot better from an SEO point of view than using something like /productID=4469.
Once you’ve got that in mind, the next step is to figure out how you’ll separate URLs with multiple keywords. Should your URLs be /red_dress_shoes (using underscores) or /red-dress-shoes (using dashes)? Any potential customer would have no problems identifying that the page contains information about red dress shoes – but how will search engines handle this difference?
Well the answer is…. they are actually treated quite differently! Let’s take a look at a video that Google recently released on the topic:
In the video, Matt Cutts explains that when Google sees an underscore in a URL, it joins what’s before and after into one term. This is different to dashes, which Google treats as a separator.
It means that,
/red_dress_shoes becomes “reddressshoes”
/red-dress-shoes becomes “red dress shoes”
As far as Google is concerned, it looks like using dashes in your URLs is going to be more beneficial than using underscores.
If you’re setting up a new website, use dashes in your URLs. If you have an existing site that already has pages indexed, just stick with what you’ve got and focus on the other 200+ ranking factors.
Matt is a marketing professional at ineedhits.com, an international search marketing firm. Matt's passion for online marketing began at university and has proved invaluable in steering product development and marketing initiatives at the company. Matt is a regular contributor to the ineedhits search marketing blog.