Google On Hyphenated Words For Search Rankings

The topic of hyphens between words is a classic old time SEO question, something we’ve covered here many times. Recently, John Mueller of Google was asked about how Google treats words with hyphenation. For example, is WiFi the same as Wi-Fi to Google. Does Google always ignore the hyphen between words and so on.

The answer is, it depends. The truth is, Google learns how to treat different words in different ways, with or without hyphens. While maybe WiFi and Wi-Fi mean exactly the same thing to Google for ranking purposes, maybe another word with a hyphen may mean something else without a hyphen to Google. Maybe it is for brand ranking purposes or maybe something else.

John Mueller of Google said on Twitter “No, by default we don’t ignore hyphens in words. Sometimes we learn they’re synonyms, sometimes we learn that they’re not.”

He then shared this outstanding presentation from Paul Haahr of Google that explains some of how this works today versus the old days at Google Search:

John did say in 2017 that hyphens in your queries can change the meaning and that is easy to test. Go to Google and do some searches to see how Google ranks phrases with or without hyphens. You may see a difference for some of those queries.

Also did you know that back in 2007, Google changed how it treats underscores and hyphens in URLs and they wanted to change it again?

But this is all in the weeds. Google should figure it out, they have enough data and should be able to figure it out. Write your content as you how you want your readers to read it.

Here are John’s tweets:

Forum discussion at Twitter.