1. Advertising
    y u no do it?

    Advertising (learn more)

    Advertise virtually anything here, with CPM banner ads, CPM email ads and CPC contextual links. You can target relevant areas of the site and show ads based on geographical location of the user if you wish.

    Starts at just $1 per CPM or $0.10 per CPC.

Domain Name Dilemma: Do Dashes or Underscores Goose Google Rankings More?

Discussion in 'Search Engine Optimization' started by mddv, Jul 19, 2004.

  1. #1
    Written by John Gergye
    It's a fact. When it comes to Google ranking you don't have to
    be a lot better to beat out the competition.

    So let's take another dip into the "every little bit helps"
    pool.

    Now believe it or not there are those who like to debate the
    merits of using dashes or underscores in domain names.

    Some assert dashes are better.

    Some have an ongoing love affair with underscores.

    Others are certain there is no difference.

    I agree you do get a bit of a bounce in Google if you do this
    right. But it's only marginal.
    Still let's end this debate once and for all and PROVE which is
    better.

    To sort this out we need to conduct a study. Using the Google
    search results to test if Google treats dashes or underscores
    the same or differently.

    The guinea pig search term I picked is "affordable search
    engine placement".

    There's nothing special about it. It's more or less your
    run-of-the-mill multi-word search term.

    So let's get searching.

    First, to set a benchmark I cast the broadest net possible by
    doing a simple search using

    affordable search engine placement

    Google returned these results:

    Searched the web for affordable search engine placement.
    Results 1 - 10 of about 78,600

    That simply says there were 78,600 pages indexed by Google for
    ANY of those keywords.

    Next I searched on the same phrase only this time I separated
    the words by dashes like this:

    affordable-search-engine-placement

    Google turned up these results:

    Searched the web for affordable-search-engine-placement.
    Results 1 - 10 of about 1,160.

    As you can see our term with dashes gave considerably fewer
    results than the one without.

    Then I searched on the same words separated by underscores:

    affordable_search_engine_placement

    For this one Google didn't find much:

    Searched the web for affordable_search_engine_placement.
    Results 1 - 4 of about 6.

    Whoa! Next to no pages with underscores, right?

    Finally I searched for

    "affordable search engine placement"

    Note the quotes. Using quotes limits the search results to one
    specific phrase. Just like you were doing an advanced search
    for that exact phrase.

    In this case Google returned these results:

    Searched the web for "affordable search engine placement".
    Results 1 - 10 of about 1,160.

    Huh, exactly the same number of pages as with the keyword
    phrase with dashes.

    Okay so what do we got?
    SEMrush
    Let's see. The first search returns what you could say is a
    free for all of listings with any of the words in the keyword
    phrase. That's why there are so many search results.

    SIDEBAR: Reality check time. This is how most search. In
    fact I saw a stat the said only 3% use the advanced search
    feature provided by Google. Yet the dramatically bigger number
    of resulting SERPS explains why it is harder to rank high
    sometimes. Reason being you are going up against a whole bunch
    more pages - some unrelated to what is being searched for. So
    it's takes more juice, ie on-page optimization, internal links
    and maybe even in bound links to come out on top.

    Now our study also showed the phrase with underscores (which
    Google treats as any other CHARACTER) produced negligible
    results. As in next to none.

    While the keyword phrase with dashes and the exact phrase
    search turned up the same number of listings.

    At this point you should be wondering "Why is that?"

    Glad you asked. Even if you didn't let me explain. Oh and
    since this is important engage your brain NOW.

    The reason for this apparent match of search results is Google
    uses the dash to separate the words in the phrase. Programmers
    call this a "delimiter". In essence Google sees it as a space
    or separator between the words. Or in other words Google
    treats the dash as a spacer.

    Yet Google does NOT treat the underscore as a delimiter. Again
    to Google it's just another character.

    Which is proven by the search results. Had Google treated the
    dash and underscore alike the number of SERPs returned for

    affordable_search_engine_placement

    or

    affordable-search-engine-placement

    would be identical. But as you saw they are not. Not even
    close.

    So to answer the original question of which is better dashes or
    underscores is obvious isn't it? You want to go with dashes in
    your domain names, folder names, files names etc.

    That's because using dashes to separate the words will give you
    the biggest Google impact -whatever that impact may be. Since
    Google can parse the different words. While using underscores
    won't help one iota.

    Look. This isn't theory or speculation. It's fact. And you
    can repeat the same searches with any keyword phrase you want
    and you'll get the same results.

    In any case let's be real. Don't expect some kind of massive
    boost from this dash trick. Sure it can help at tad as part of
    an over all optimization scheme. But whether or not you use
    dashes in a domain, folder or file name is not going to be what
    gets you top Google listings. Content and links are.

    Still this study settles the debate about dashes and
    underscores. Giving you yet another little thing you can do to
    rank well.

    How much is more traffic worth to your business? Take John Gergye’s Search Engine Quiz and get a special report "Coming Out On Top" with 49 tools that make it easy to get more traffic. http://www.traffic-test-tube.com/search-engine-quiz.shtml

    This article is provided By Webmaster Global
     
    mddv, Jul 19, 2004 IP
    Nintendo likes this.
    SEMrush
  2. leo

    leo Peon

    Messages:
    174
    Likes Received:
    2
    Best Answers:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    #2
    Congratulations to this most illuminating treatment of the subject. Which, by the way, supports everything I can observe so far.
     
    leo, Jul 19, 2004 IP
  3. johnedgley

    johnedgley Guest

    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    0
    Best Answers:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    #3
    I am a bit new to all this, so please bear with me, but doesn't that assume that the rules when searching on Google are the same as the algorithm the spiders use?

    I.e. Isn't it possible that, when searching, underscores equate to exact match whereas dashes equate to phrase match. When using a broad search Google even returns instrings in onelongdomainname, so how can one be sure it won't do that with underscores and/or dashes?
     
    johnedgley, Jul 29, 2004 IP
  4. john_loch

    john_loch Rodent Slayer

    Messages:
    1,294
    Likes Received:
    66
    Best Answers:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    138
    #4
    Interesting. Except for one thing. Your statement is about the use of dashes/underscores in domain names. Your search had nothing to do with domain names. You're right (as Google staff themselves have stated in posts elsewhere) if paths are your question.

    In terms of domain names though, search terms are highlighted equally in domain names both with and without underscores when examining results. :)
     
    john_loch, Jul 29, 2004 IP
  5. seadragon

    seadragon Peon

    Messages:
    25
    Likes Received:
    0
    Best Answers:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    #5
    Okay, underscores bad. But if I am considering a domain name for my site about, say, lint for sale, am I better off going with lintforsale.com or lint-for-sale.com?
     
    seadragon, Aug 25, 2004 IP
  6. Owlcroft

    Owlcroft Peon

    Messages:
    645
    Likes Received:
    34
    Best Answers:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    #6
    Rule #1: If it can't hurt, but might possibly--even remotely possibly--help, do it.

    Can using hyphens in a domain name help? Maybe, just maybe. That G highlights elements within compounded terms (that is, can highlight search in searchengine) on foundpages does not prove that it can see that as a distinct word in the finding process--it only proves that, mechanically, it can match it when given the whole term.

    Can using hyphens in a domain name hurt? I have yet to see even an out-of-left-field theory that suggests any way in which it could.

    Take it from there.
     
    Owlcroft, Aug 26, 2004 IP
  7. PR Weaver

    PR Weaver Peon

    Messages:
    33
    Likes Received:
    0
    Best Answers:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    #7
    Great post, mddv!

    This article confirms my tests: Google doesn't consider underscore as a word delimiter.

    I didn't tested the weight of keywords in URL as a criteria in Google's algorithm, but I know that we should use hyphen instead of underscores.

    Best regards,
    PR Weaver
     
    PR Weaver, Aug 26, 2004 IP
  8. Weirfire

    Weirfire Language Translation Company

    Messages:
    6,979
    Likes Received:
    365
    Best Answers:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    280
    #8
    Very interesting thread. Good work!
     
    Weirfire, Aug 26, 2004 IP
  9. Redleg

    Redleg Raider

    Messages:
    360
    Likes Received:
    5
    Best Answers:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    #9
    Get both.. ;)

    use lint-for-sale.com on your site (since it MAY help with the SERPs)
    and forward linforsale.com to the site, since it's most likely that people will type in (and remember) that one....
    Hyphenated domains usually gets very few type-ins compared to the non-hyphenated ones..


    Just my $.02... :)
     
    Redleg, Aug 26, 2004 IP
  10. seadragon

    seadragon Peon

    Messages:
    25
    Likes Received:
    0
    Best Answers:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    #10
    Great idea. However, if I already own the unhyphenated domain and acquire and move my site to the hyphenated domain, I should have all my incoming links changed to point to the hyphenated domain too, right? Incoming links pointing to a forwarded domain are worthless, aren't they? That could be a lot of work.
     
    seadragon, Aug 26, 2004 IP
  11. mopacfan

    mopacfan Peon

    Messages:
    3,273
    Likes Received:
    164
    Best Answers:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    #11
    Excellent article. And as far as I know, you cannot have underscores in a domain name anyway. Only in the file names. Has this changed?
     
    mopacfan, Aug 26, 2004 IP
  12. hulkster

    hulkster Peon

    Messages:
    1,705
    Likes Received:
    93
    Best Answers:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    #12
    I was just going to say that mopacfan - underscores are NOT legit in domain names per the RFC's - it is a common misconception that you can use them.

    You can, of course, use them in the pathname component.
     
    hulkster, Aug 26, 2004 IP
  13. Owlcroft

    Owlcroft Peon

    Messages:
    645
    Likes Received:
    34
    Best Answers:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    #13
    No.

    You don't need to do anything about the incoming links save to establish a 301-Redirect from the old site to the new, which can be accomplished with a line or two in the .htaccess file in the root directory that the old URL points to. The whole rest of that URL is immaterial.

    RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} unhyphenatedname.com [NC]
    RewriteRule ^(.*) http://www.hyphenated-name.com/$1 [L,R=301]
    (You can play with the permutations of the with/without www to your heart's content.)

    With that done, any link to the old, unhyphenated domain will be seen by the 'bots as "translated" to a link to the new, hyphenated domain. The only caveat is the standard one for 301 redirects: G and the rest take their bloody sweet time about the whole thing--it's like establishing a new site. But, in the fullness of time, it all comes round.
     
    Owlcroft, Aug 26, 2004 IP
  14. cdx

    cdx Peon

    Messages:
    364
    Likes Received:
    8
    Best Answers:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    #14
    I think it's more about your optimazation and not just "to dash" or "not to dash" .

    But. If your company name CanBeLikeThat.Com it maybe even better than Can-Be-Like-That.com .
    This is my epinion, and I am sure there will be some that will urge that I am wrong, my 2cents, concetrate more on optimazation and don't waste too much time on Domain picking, I know, it can be a real headace...

    Good luck.
     
    cdx, Nov 26, 2004 IP
  15. my44

    my44 Peon

    Messages:
    722
    Likes Received:
    24
    Best Answers:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    #15
    Well, I use a hypen in my website, not too bad actually. Better avoid the underscore because it's even harder to type in.
     
    my44, Sep 17, 2005 IP
  16. hulkster

    hulkster Peon

    Messages:
    1,705
    Likes Received:
    93
    Best Answers:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    #16
    This is kind of an old thread, but as mentioned above, you don't need to "worry" about using underscores in your domain name ... because you can't! ;-)
     
    hulkster, Sep 17, 2005 IP
  17. Dread

    Dread Peon

    Messages:
    323
    Likes Received:
    17
    Best Answers:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    #17
    Im glad this got bumped, i was wondering about whether to use hyphens or underscores on my filenames. seems hyphens are the way to go. :)
     
    Dread, Sep 17, 2005 IP
  18. aeiouy

    aeiouy Peon

    Messages:
    2,876
    Likes Received:
    275
    Best Answers:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    #18
    Yeah i have been annoyed by some of the recent bumps but this one gave me some good information.. so I guess I need to calm down. :)
     
    aeiouy, Sep 19, 2005 IP
  19. yeahyeahyeah

    yeahyeahyeah Peon

    Messages:
    16
    Likes Received:
    0
    Best Answers:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    #19
    domain names without dashes will always be superior
     
    yeahyeahyeah, May 1, 2006 IP
  20. wll6568

    wll6568 Member

    Messages:
    42
    Likes Received:
    0
    Best Answers:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    41
    #20
    Not anymore, that I know.
     
    wll6568, Jul 15, 2006 IP