From an SEO perspective, is it better to use hyphens or underscores to separate keywords in the names of web pages? Does it even make a difference which one you use? I want to use the one that will help my pages rank the highest on Google.
Submitted by Kristen H.
This is a source of endless debate among those of us involved with Search Engine Optimization (SEO). There is no real consensus even among SEO professionals, so I can see why it's confusing for you.
That being said, I can give you my opinion (and back it up using Google itself).
My SEO experience and testing indicate to me that hyphens are much better than underscores for separating keywords in page names.
Why? Because Google treats the search term
keyword1-keyword2-Keyword3 as three separate words, but keyword1_keyword2_keyword3 is treated as one word.
So if your web page is named small-green-widgets.html, it will come up in a Google search for any or all of those three keywords.
But if the page is named small_green_widgets.html, the page would only come up for a search on the exact page name of small_green_widgets (including the underscores).
Lets do a little SEO variety experiment:
1 - Go to Google.
2 - Do a search on the term web-hosting-seo.
3 - Write down the number of search results returned (it should be several hundred).
4 - Now repeat the search using the term web_hosting_seo.
There are probably no results returned at all, or at least very few.
You can see that using the hyphens in the search term returned much better results than the underscores. This should always be the case regardless of the actual keywords used. So the answer to your question is it's better to use hyphens instead of underscores in your page names!
Back to "SEO Questions and Answers" archive
Check out free 21 part online guide to SEO:
Webmaster SEO Toolkit and our SEO and webmaster articles.