Removal of Hypens From Urls

Awhile back someone suggested that the large number of hyphen in my urls may be penalizing my rankings. I’m launching a new version of my application and I’m considering removing all of the hyphens on the chance that my rankings could improve. Here is an example page.

If I decide to go this route, how do I ensure that google understands the new urls are really the old urls without hyphens? Is it as simple as doing a redirect from the old pages?


A few points:

  1. I’d like to see the research that shows hyphens in URLs to be a problem and cause for penalty. This person may have been referring to keyword stuffing your URLs but your URLs are actually quite descriptive of the page and aren’t stuffed with artificial keywords. I don’t see any problems with how you have it setup.

  2. You’re rankings will move very little (if at all) based on your URLs. Google is much more concerned with the content of your site than they are with the address of the page.

  3. If you do change your URLs, then you’ll want to do a 301 redirect from each old page to the new page. If you were on Apache you would use a .htaccess file. However, it appears that your web server is IIS so you need to install the module. That’s a conversation for the server forums. :slight_smile:

I think you’re on the right track. Try not to freak out about your URLs too much. If they’re descriptive and not artificial then you’ll be just fine.

Great info. I think I may take your advice and just ride it out then. Must easier too. :slight_smile:

Changing URL’s seems like a huge hassle.

What is the general rule for how long the 301 has to be in place? Also, at what point does Google un-index the old site?

It’s not that hard to implement and it should preserve your search engine rankings for that particular page. “A timeout of 0 seconds means an immediate redirect. Meta Refresh with a timeout of 0 seconds is accepted as an 301 permanent redirect by Google” - Wikipedia

IIS Redirect

* In internet services manager, right click on the file or folder you wish to redirect
* Select the radio titled "a redirection to a URL".
* Enter the redirection page
* Check "The exact url entered above" and the "A permanent redirection for this resource"
* Click on 'Apply'

Very well said Jeff!

To pinch: Jeff is right. You don’t have to worry so much regarding your URL. Anyway, URL has a less impact in rankings. Contents and quality inbound links are still the most important things to rank.

As far as we know, Google immediately will update the index upon finding a 301 redirect. This is assuming that the old content is the same as the new content. If there’s a difference in content you may find your old page un-indexed and the new one not indexed. Generally, this isn’t an issue though.

Ideally, it would be great if you could keep your 301’s out there indefinitely. If that’s not possible, keep them around as long as you can. Googlebot isn’t the only one who benefits from your 301 redirects. Other search engines along with human users will also benefit from the 301. Human users and other linking websites may never update their bookmarks. If that’s the case, as soon as you remove the 301 your backlinks will be useless.

I see Jeff has already given you excellent advice, but in answer to:

Ideally, you should leave the 301 in place forever. Although Google will in time update its index and replace the old pages with the new ones, it may take a while for this to be completed (could be months, depending on the crawl rate). And 301s aren’t just there to help search engines; they are also invaluable for people who have bookmarked the old pages or are following old links that haven’t been updated … and those can stay around for years.

If you are re-writing your URL structure and will be using new directories, I would put a separate .htaccess file in each of the old directories with the 301s for files in that folder. The reason for that is that then when people are requesting pages with the new, correct URL, the server doesn’t have to look through all the 301s before sending the page because it’s got a shorter .htaccess file to read.

An http-equiv refresh with a timeout of 0 is a fallback option if you can’t modify the .htaccess file - but it should only ever be a fallback option. Even though it has a timeout of 0, there is still usually a noticeable lag when the old page appears then the http request for the new page is sent and then the new page appears - it looks unprofessional, and can be disorientating for users, and in some browsers breaks the function of the Back button. If you can set a 301, that’s a much better way to do it.

highphens can be good and bad, but you want to make sure your site is rememberable. Do what you think is right and your rank will follow