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How does Google treat hyphens?

Posted on March 26, 2021

 

How to use hyphens in words is a contentious issue, with many writers disagreeing about how and when they should be used.

For example, a look at Google News this morning shows that most news sources prefer to write “email” without a hyphen, but “e-mail” is nonetheless cropping up among many smaller local news sites. Conversely, “Wi-Fi” usually seems to be hyphenated, especially among tech websites, but other sites omit the hyphen.

That leads us to wonder how Google sees it all. If you sell Wi-Fi or email services and want to rank for keywords related to them, is there a chance you could be ranking well for a keyword with a hyphen, but poorly for one without?

In a tweet earlier this week, Google’s John Mueller confirmed that Google doesn’t ignore hyphens in search:

However, when it comes to how much difference there can be in a search query with or without a hyphen, there’s no clear answer, as is often the case with Google. Mueller notes that sometimes Google will learn that a phrase with or without a hyphen means the same thing, but other times it will detect a difference.

That might leave website owners asking whether in order to rank for both “email” and “e-mail”, they should be using both terms frequently throughout their website. However, in an article on his website Search Engine Roundtable, Barry Schwartz notes that Google has enough data to be intuitive about this and urges:

“Write your content as you how you want your readers to read it.”

With that in mind, most readers would prefer to see consistency and would rather not see a hyphen in a word that was unhyphenated a couple of pages ago, so it seems the best advice is to pick one variant and stick with it throughout your site.

For further advice on content and keywords, why not contact us at Engage Web?

John Murray
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