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Underscores - How Exactly Do They "join" Words?

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#1 mrprocess


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Posted 27 April 2015 - 11:49 AM

While researching "underscores vs hyphens," I found three contradictory explanations re: how google interprets underscores. I would really like to know the answer before I make a final decision about whether to change several URL's on our company site...
For example, does a page named chicken_plucking_service get indexed by google as:
1) chickenpluckingservice   (one long word, no spaces nor underscores)
2) chicken_plucking_service  (a single string of text, including underscores)
3) "chicken plucking service"  (a single string of text, including spaces)
A couple SEO blog sites were explicit that it's like example #1. One blog insisted it's #2 (and that NO ONE would ever find this page without typing out "chicken_plucking_service" complete with underscores!) Our SEO advisor says it's #3. Most blog articles I've seen were vague about it, something to the effect that "hyphens are word separators, and underscores are word joiners." That's not helpful - as it doesn't disambiguate between any of the above options. In fact, if #3 is the correct interpretation, it would seem that purposeful use of underscores might be beneficial in specific cases, such as if you want to perform extremely well on SERPs for the entire string, but don't care much about showing up well for the various other keyword combinations like "plucking chickens."
Can you help clarify?

#2 chrishirst


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Posted 27 April 2015 - 04:50 PM



3) "chicken plucking service"  (a single string of text, including spaces)

Otherwise known as a phrase



Actually they are ALL wrong, because "key" words in a URL, especially one that is an "exact match" for a search phrase are more likely to be treated as 'spam' by search engines than anything else.


But if you really must stuff 'key' words into the document URLs ... Use hyphens and  NEVER, EVER use spaces:


They convert to entities (%20) in browser navigation fields

They look weird when copy and pasted

They 'break' when pasted into emails

#3 qwerty


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Posted 28 April 2015 - 05:11 AM

Matt Cutts published a blog post about how Google treats underscores, but that was about ten years ago. He saw it as a strength (if you happened to be searching on a string of text that included an underscore), but for most people at the time, it meant that words that are separated by underscores would not be parsed by Google as separate words.


But like I said, that was ten years ago. I don't think it's still true, although I wouldn't recommend using underscores to separate words.

#4 torka


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Posted 28 April 2015 - 09:05 AM

Does your "SEO advisor" seriously think that having keywords in the URL is a significant factor in rankings? (Are they focused entirely -- or even primarily -- on "rankings" in the first place?) Are they the ones who said you could perform "extremely well in the SERPs" if you pick the right configuration of underscores or hyphens in your file names?


Because if they were the ones who started you down this line of thinking -- or if they so far haven't tried hard to educate you as to what SEO is about nowadays -- I'm thinking you might benefit from having a more knowledgeable, up-to-date SEO advisor... :whistle:


My :02:


--Torka :oldfogey:

#5 Jill


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Posted 28 April 2015 - 12:28 PM

Never use underscores in URLs--EVER!

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