dashes vs. underscores in filenames
In the old days of the web, file names usually didn't go out of their way to
convey information about their contents. If the page was about dogs, sure, it might
have been "dogs.html", but if it was "Care and feeding of poodles", it was
more likely to be "poodles.html" than anything else.
That's all changed. The conventional wisdom nowadays is that search engines
pay attention to file names as part of their analysis, so that poodle page is
probably "care-and-feeding-of-poodles.html" now.
That brings up a question, though: should it be "care-and-feeding-of-poodles.html"
(dashes) or "care_and_feeding_of_poodles.html" (underscores)? A Google search for
"dashes vs. underscores" will tell you that dashes are the smart choice, but I
didn't find any place that tells you why.
One hint might be found in Perl regular expressions. If you use "/w" in a
Perl expression, that matches alphanumeric characters plus "_". The "/w" is often
used to break up sentences into words. So "hello-there" is two words if "/w" is
used, but "hello_there" is only one. I'm not saying
Google or any other search engine uses Perl to parse your pages (though they
might), but Perl got the idea of "_" being part of a word from long established
practice. So, if you want search engines to "see" separate words, you should
probably use dashes.
There is another point to consider, though: "care-and-feeding-of-poodles.html" is
a lot of typing, and although most passing of links is down by cut and paste
rather than word of mouth, length and difficulty may be something to think about. I
think I'd probably make that "poodle-care.html". There is also speculation that
search engines may penalize you for too many dashes in a link because it starts
looking like spam: "lets-cram-every-keyword-we-can-into-this-link.html".
So, use dashes and keep it shorter rather than longer.
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© 2009-11-07 Tony Lawrence