Dash or Underscore in URL? Here’s How It’s Affecting Your SEO

Technical SEO , Article

Dash or Underscore in URL? Here’s How It’s Affecting Your SEO

When it comes to making sure that your website is optimized for search engines, you may have wondered if a dash or an underscore in the URL of your website would have an effect on your site’s SEO. At the end of the day, you want to make sure that your website (and all of the pages) on your site are ranking as high as they possibly can.  Today, we’re going to dive into all of the details and learn if the structure of your URL has an effect on your website’s SEO ranking.

Does the use of dashes or an underscore in the URL play a detrimental role in your site’s SEO?

Keep reading to learn more!

A Closer Look The debate surrounding domain names that contain a dash or an underscore has been around for years. Before we delve into discussing whether Google likes or dislikes underscores and dashes, let’s take a look at what exactly an underscore and a dash are.

What is a URL? 

The term ‘URL’ stands for Uniform Resource Locator. This means that the URL shows you exactly where to find a specific piece of content on the Internet.  The DNS (Domain Name System) stores your URL in its database. When you type in a URL into a search bar, there’s a request that’s created to the DNS server to locate the IP address of the URL you’re searching.

What Is a Hyphen?

A hyphen is a type of punctuation mark that pairs two words together. It can also be used to join two parts of words together! However, keep in mind that hyphen is not an interchangeable punctuation mark that can replace other types of dashes.

What Is the En Dash?

The en dash is longer than a hyphen but is the shorter version of an em dash. In the majority of uses, the en dash is used to write dates and show any ranges in numbers. However, the en dash can also be used to provide clarity to a reader when a writer is developing complex compound adjectives.

What Is the Em Dash?

As the longest dash, the em dash can be used in replacements of commas, quotation marks, question marks, or parentheses in a sentence. It can also be used to signal interruption in a sentence.

What Is an Underscore?

Often referred to as a low dash, an underscore looks like an elongated hyphen. Underscores are typically found in domain names and in email addresses.

Does Google Have a Preference?

Yes, Google does have a preference! Google recommends using hyphens instead of underscores in your URLs. This is because using hyphens instead of underscores makes it easier for Google’s web crawler to compute the information that your website has and create consistent results. For you, this means that the easier your URL is to read for humans, the better your website is going to place on search engines.

Boosting Your Site’s SEO

Since Google prefers using hyphens instead of underscores in your URLs, does that mean you should avoid using dashes and underscores altogether? Here are a few tips to ensure that you’re boosting your site’s SEO.

Don’t Use Dashes in Domain Names

You want to make sure that when you’re choosing your domain name, you’re choosing a name that represents your business in a professional manner.


Domain names with hyphens or dashes add extra characters to the name. That means that some human users may have a difficult time recalling your domain name, especially because most people are used to domain names that don’t contain dashes. Plus, dashes and hyphen in a domain name are more difficult for people to advertise across the radio or by word-of-mouth. To maintain your audience retention, we recommend avoiding using dashes and hyphen in your domain name. Underscores can’t be used in domain names, as the underscore character isn’t permitted.

Hyphens Are for File Names

Google’s web crawlers don’t like complex URLs that are filled with unnecessary characters. If you aren’t careful to encode special characters, the content management system that you’re using will encode your file names for you. As an example, if you use a space while creating a file name, the encoding system will use %20 to replace the space. To keep things simple for humans (and web crawlers) to read, keep the names of your files simple.  Using letters, numbers, and hyphens to name your files will make sure that the files stored on your website are reported properly.

Hyphens vs Underscores

Your computer and web crawlers read hyphens a spacer, which-creates-something-that-looks-like-this. However, the use of an underscore acts as a concatenation signifier. This means that underscores allow humans to be able to space out the words used, but computers lack the ability to do so.

This means that computers read which-creates-something-that-looks-like-this as whichcreatessomethingthatlookslikethis.  Plus, underscores aren’t allowed to be used in domain names. Underscores are only able to be used in subfolders. Hyphens can be used in subdomains, subfolders, and domain names (although we don’t recommend using hyphens in domain names, as listed above).

Keep the use of underscores strictly to subfolders. However, hyphens are the way that technology reads spaces, which is why you should start replacing the use of your space bar with a hyphen when building content for your site.

Using a Dash or an Underscore in Urls: What You Need to Know 

Should you use an underscore in URLs? No, it’s not possible for you to do so. Using a hyphen in your URLs is recommended by Google, because it makes your website easy to read for humans. As an end result, this means that your site will place better on search engines.  Are you looking to learn more about how to improve the SEO of your blog? Click here to learn more!