Never Use Capital Letters in URLs

Writing a Web URL

Lately we’ve noticed some older websites on the internet that use capital letters in their URLs.  What do we mean by this?  We mean that instead of a web address as “http://www.example.com/about”, the address is “http://www.example.com/About”.  It’s always good practice to avoid using capital letters in your URLs.  Here’s why.

Servers Handle Capitalization Differently

If your website is on a Windows server, then www.example.com/about will be handled exactly the same as www.example.com/About.  The Windows server is case insensitive.  If your website is hosted on Linux, then those two addresses will be seen as two different pages.  That means that one will return the correct page, and the other will return a dead 404 page not found.  So, if you originally host on a Windows server and move to a Linux server, you could be in for mass confusion and a lot of page errors for your users.  Further, if you use capital letters for your URLs on a Linux server, users will get a dead page if they attempt to use all lowercase letters to access a page.

Having Two URLs Lead to the Same Page is No Good for Search Rankings

As we mentioned before a Windows server will treat www.example.com/about the same as www.example.com/About.  This means that while the URLs are different, they lead to the same content.  Search engines call this duplicate content and recommend you avoid it where possible.  The biggest drawback is that places like Google will view the two URLs as separate pages and divide the link juice between them.  This causes your page to potentially be ranked lower than it could be.

What’s the most appropriate way to handle this?  Use 301 redirects to make sure the user can see each page through only one URL.

The best way to avoid the issues above is to use lowercase letters throughout your website.  People have come to expect web addresses as lowercase letters and the URLs won’t hurt your search rankings.

Related Reads

4 Things You Wish You Knew About Google

5 Tips for Choosing Keywords for Your Nonprofit Website

Writing Copy for Humans and Robots

Resources

URL Capitalization and SEO: How Much Does It Matter?

Jonathan Goldford is Wired Impact’s resident programmer and usability chap. He spends most of his time hunkered down with code working to make websites load faster and work more simply.

53 Comments on “Never Use Capital Letters in URLs

  1. 1 Danavel June 25, 2012

    Absolutly. . !

    1. 2 Matt January 1, 2016

      I disagree, there’s a company in golf Dave Pelz “THE_PUTTING_TUTOR”.., That company gets a lot of traffic and he’s all caps. So I disagree with your theory of not using caps. I tried to get my name in some capitals, but it wouldnt let me.

  2. 3 Anonymous November 20, 2012

    Thank you, good to know.

  3. 4 G Cox February 3, 2013

    What about caps in email addresses . Do they confuse Linux servers.

    1. 5 Jonathan Goldford February 4, 2013

      I’m not 100% sure about whether caps matter specifically on Linux servers running Apache, but almost all systems that handle email are case insensitive and allow you to type the email address as EXAMPLE@gmail.com or example@gmail.com. The local part of the email address (before the @ symbol) is supposed to be case sensitive, but email providers realized quickly that there was too much confusion and frustration, so they switched to case insensitive.

      There is a great article with more details about this at http://email.about.com/od/emailbehindthescenes/f/email_case_sens.htm.

      Feel free to let me know if you have any other questions.

  4. 6 Kasper June 19, 2013

    As an advertiser, I feel that when I write the URL in my print ads and posters with the first letter of every word capitalize, then it’s easier for the eye to read and the brain to retain. Isn’t it more important that the viewer (potential client) can easily read the URL and remember it? For example, recently I saw this on a poster: loveourlakeday.com. Seems to me like more people would remember this easier, and therefore actually check out the website when they got home if the URL on the poster read LoveOurLakeDay.com?

    thanks!
    -kasper

    1. 7 Jonathan Goldford June 19, 2013

      Great point Kasper and one I really haven’t thought about a lot. I agree that using capital letters for URLs on posters or print ads can make them easier to read. I would probably recommend using uppercase letters on posters and print ads, but keeping the actual website URLs all lowercase. Then work with a developer to redirect all uppercase URLs to the lowercase version. This would ensure you don’t split your page’s value on search engines and that visitors don’t end up landing on a dead 404 page. Here is a good article I found that talks about how to do this: http://www.seoverflow.com/redirect-uppercase-urls-to-lowercase/

      Thanks for the comment and let me know what you think.

    2. 8 Nick March 6, 2014

      What if I want uppercase in my URL for design reasons? Wouldn’t I be able to do the opposite and redirect to the uppercase URL from lowercase?

    3. 9 Jonathan Goldford March 6, 2014

      I’m not sure what you mean by design reasons, but if you want to put a URL with capital letters on a flyer or ad such as “awesome.com/TotallyCool”, then I would encourage you to simply redirect to the all lowercase URL. It could potentially hurt you in the eyes of search engines if some folks start linking to your site using capital letters, while others don’t. Since the standard on the web is to use lowercase letters, I think most people won’t use capital letters when linking to your site. That said, I’d encourage you to redirect to all lowercase URLs where possible.

  5. 10 ANON December 27, 2013

    Or… let people type iN CAPS or lowercase or camelCase or HoWeVER tHEY want

    RewriteEngine On
    RewriteMap lc int:tolower
    RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} [A-Z]
    RewriteRule (.*) ${lc:$1} [R=301,L]

  6. 11 Matthew Daniels February 18, 2014

    I don’t understand. So I need to make two pages for every single page on my site? One with the actual content, and the other to redirect the 404 to the right page?

    1. 12 Jonathan Goldford February 19, 2014

      Not exactly. Basically, any page on your site that currently uses a capital in the URL, should be changed to use only lowercase letters in the URL. Then you’ll need to create 301 redirects from the old URLs (the ones using capital letters), to the new URLs that only use lowercase letters. This ensures that even if people use the old URLs they’ll still get to the correct pages. Let me know if that’s unclear or your need more information. Thanks a lot for the comment.

  7. 13 Johnn March 4, 2014

    If my site’s internal page like this http://www.abc.com/my-name.html but when we type change url like this http://www.abc.com/My-Name.html or http://www.abc.com/My-name.html then the same page and content open it then it’ll also called duplicate url or it’s OK to rank in search engine?

    1. 14 Jonathan Goldford March 6, 2014

      Hi John. If each one of those pages has the exact same content, but the URLs are different (even if it’s just letter capitalization), then it could be considered duplicate content by search engines. I would encourage you to use 301 redirects so each of those three URLs all lead to the same final URL. For example, you could redirect http://www.abc.com/My-name.html and http://www.abc.com/My-Name.html to http://www.abc.com/my-name.html.

    2. 15 Johnn March 6, 2014

      Thanks Jonathan, I just want to confirm 1 thing more that we should use CAPITAL letters in URLs or should I use small letter, which is good for SEO point of views, if I am getting rank from CAPITAL letters URLs so it’s good to redirect it to small letter urls ?

    3. 16 Jonathan Goldford March 7, 2014

      Hi John. It’s recommended to use lowercase letters in URLs if possible. That’s the standard on the web and will usually lead to fewer SEO and server issues.

  8. 17 jamesmichaeele April 14, 2014

    thanks for the tips. we should use lowercase characters in url structure. make sure that two same pages e.g.
    http:/abc.com/xyz.com and other http://abc.com/x-y-z.com. google takes it two url. in that option one can redirect the url which you prefer.

  9. 18 Michael Foote July 28, 2014

    Hi Jonathan,

    Thanks for this article – I just noticed that we had an issue with urls and came up with a solution for it to be fixed – your article has put my mind at rest that it is the correct solution!

    Michael

  10. 19 web design in noida January 30, 2015

    Hi Dear,

    It’s absolutely true and i have never used Capital in URL, though you can use in promotion and redirect at the same.

  11. 20 Chris Smith-Hill May 11, 2015

    Caps have also become problematic in URLs that contain tokens.
    For example-
    http://www.signup.com/?token=SomeTOKEnwithCAPSensitivitY

    Chrome in some regions has been lowercasing the URL and making the Token invalid.

    https://code.google.com/p/chromium/issues/detail?id=464700

    1. 21 Jonathan Goldford May 11, 2015

      Thanks for noting that Chris. We really appreciate it.

  12. 22 Sandeep S. June 1, 2015

    I have urls containing “@” and “=” which are dynamically created in the background. There are around 17 millions pages. Is it advisable to carry with these symbols in urls as google has not index urls even after 2 weeks of sitemap submission?

    Thanking you in anticipation for your kind support

    1. 23 Jonathan Goldford June 1, 2015

      I’m not sure if the URLs are related to the issue you’re having with Google indexing your pages, but any time you have special characters it’s best to make sure they are URL encoded (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Percent-encoding). If your website is programmed in a language such as PHP, you’d want to run the URLs through a function like urlencode() to make the URLs work in as many instances as possible (see http://php.net/manual/en/function.urlencode.php). I hope that’s helpful. Good luck.

  13. 24 Dubby July 15, 2015

    You got some good points here mate. Thanks for the tips.

    Cheerio!

    1. 25 Jonathan Goldford July 15, 2015

      No problem. I’m happy to hear it was helpful.

  14. 26 Henk August 1, 2015

    And what about URLs of social network pages such as a company’s Facebook page, Twitter account, etc.? In this case, are small letters still preferred over capitals? Thank you in advance for your reply.

    1. 27 Jonathan Goldford August 2, 2015

      This is a great question Henk. I would also recommend using lowercase letters for social networks. While I would guess most social networks will automatically redirect to the lowercase version of the URL, that will take some time which could slow down the page load. If the social network doesn’t automatically redirect it’s possible the page won’t load at all. If it does load you’ll have the same content from two different URLs. This is called duplicate content and can hurt your search engine rankings.

  15. 28 Dave September 1, 2015

    What about just the domain names? Will OVERTHESEA.com – overthesea.com – OverTheSea.com and OVERthesea.com be ok? Will users be able to reach the site in either cases? I read that whatever capitalization before the .com/.net etc doesnt matter. It is only what follow the domain extension that matters for capitalization.

    1. 29 Jonathan Goldford September 1, 2015

      This is a great question Dave. After doing a little research it does seem that even the domain name matters and should always be lowercase to avoid issues. Check out http://english.stackexchange.com/a/41791 for some more technical details on this.

  16. 30 michigancreative November 17, 2015

    i agree your concern only small letter are used in link.
    http://www.abc.com……

  17. 31 Abie March 8, 2016

    Hello,
    I beleive the url should be lower case. You can check out website http://www.signsny.com. This site is ranking on the top and all the urls are lower case. I don’t think Linux cannot read upper case.

    Thanks
    Abie

    1. 32 Jonathan Goldford March 23, 2016

      Thanks a ton for the input Abie!

  18. 33 jayanti solanki April 16, 2016

    thanks Jonathan for sharing such a great information

  19. 34 Luis July 8, 2016

    Hi,
    At this very moment I have a dilemma. My 16 years old site has lots of URL’s in upper-lower case plus hyphens and underscores. The new software I uploaded automatically replaced all URL’s to lowercase and hyphens. Grrrrr. It took me a week to fix thousands of URL’s and make them sticky. Actually the site has some 8000 URL’s and some 3000 using the old style..

    I wish to modify all the URL’s to lowercase and hyphens in order to avoid the same ordeal again, but what about almighty Google? According to this page:

    https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/6065812?hl=en

    it is possible to ask them for recrawl up to 500 URL’s in a 30 days period. And it should be asked one by one.

    The last sentence in the Google’s page reads: “Once you submit your URL, you might need to wait some time for Google to process your request as well as crawl and index the page. Also, understand that we can’t guarantee that Google will index all your changes as Google relies on a complex algorithm to update indexed materials.”

    So I think it is better to make no changes at all. What do you think?

    1. 35 Jonathan Goldford July 15, 2016

      These are all good questions Luis. The best approach for handling any permanently changing URL is to use a 301 redirect as outlined at https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/93633?hl=en. 301 redirects allow you to change the URLs without losing a lot of search engine value. The beauty is that visitors are also redirected to the new URLs automatically, so there is no need to ask Google to recrawl all of the pages. It will happen automatically when the 301 redirects are in place. How you set this up will vary depending on how your server is set up, but your hosting company should be able to provide some direction. Good luck and let us know if you have any other questions.

  20. 36 alehandro alberta October 2, 2016

    I used to have similar problems too, but after using
    “long path tool” everything was solved.

    1. 37 Jonathan Goldford October 4, 2016

      Thanks for sharing Alehandro. Did the “long path tool” you referenced help with website URLs or was that more useful on your computer?

  21. 38 Andy Clark October 27, 2016

    We recently had a question relating to download pdf’s.

    There seems a good case to want a pdf to save to the file system preserving capitalisation, as this enhances the readability for file system storage.

    Indeed wiredimpact.com has several pdf links that include capitalisation, including this one to a google site.

    http://think.withgoogle.com/databoard/media/pdfs/US_OurMobilePlanet_Research_English_2013_2.pdf

    Do you think that a pdf for download is an exception to the all lower case rule.

  22. 39 Andy Clark October 28, 2016

    Hi,

    Do you think links to pdfs for download should also be in all lower case.

    The capitalisation in these cases is perhaps nice to preserve, so the downloaded file is saved to the local disk with capitalisation intact.

    This is a practice google seems to currently follow.

    https://books.google.be/books/download/ACCA_F2_FMA_Study_Text_PDF_Full_View_Dow.pdf?id=-v6wfZ-TXjsC&output=pdf&sig=ACfU3U1HXTaKlT-U0wCDajy6jbLrDRS0PQ

    They also evidently still use upper case for tokens.

    They also seem to stick with upper case where capitalisation brings clarity of readability to the final linked page.

    https://play.google.com/store/books/details/J_K_Rowling_Harry_Potter_and_the_Cursed_Child_Part?id=2sSMCwAAQBAJ

    Do you think something will change for google / wikipedia, etc, and other major sites who use capitalised final page URLs, and if so in what way.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camel_case

    1. 40 Jonathan Goldford October 31, 2016

      Thanks for sharing Andy and I really appreciate all the examples you provided. I agree that with PDFs it can be helpful for usability to keep capitalization in place. If possible, it would be great to ensure that lowercase versions of the PDF redirect back to the uppercase one. That way you avoid duplicate content with search engines will still providing the best experience for users. Again, great points Andy. Thanks for sharing.

  23. 41 Niki November 21, 2016

    Hello there! Quick question that’s entirely off topic. Do
    you know how to make your site mobile friendly?

    My website looks weird when viewing from my iphone.
    I’m trying to find a theme or plugin that might be able to fix this issue.
    If you have any recommendations, please share. Cheers!

    1. 42 Jonathan Goldford November 23, 2016

      Like you said, this isn’t really the best place to talk through this, but if you’re using WordPress most new and updated themes will be mobile-friendly. I wouldn’t recommend using a plugin, since that usually functions more like a patch for an old theme.

      If you have more questions about this I’d suggest going to the WordPress Support Forums. There are plenty of people there that can help you. Good luck!

  24. 43 Chris November 21, 2016

    Apache is case sensitive, Microsoft server is not. Nothing wrong with case sensitive URLs it seems to me, if your server supports them.

    1. 44 Jonathan Goldford November 23, 2016

      Thanks for the note Chris. You make a good point, but it’s worth remembering that if you ever move from a Microsoft server to an Apache server you’ll want to create redirects from all the uppercase URLs to lowercase. Both to make sure that the URLs work, but also to retain any search engine value.

      With many servers it is possible to use uppercase URLs and have the pages load, but for long term sustainability and simplicity, it’s almost always better to use lowercase letters in URLs.

  25. 45 lewellyn January 19, 2017

    saying my website uses capital letters and is causing your system problems and should be changed to lower case throughout, because it may cause problems elsewhere.
    WELL!! my websites have capital letters(Upper case) in some places and in 25years of doing my own websites I have never known it to cause a problem.
    My website above is listed in lots of places and to change one letter to lower case would cause so many problems with page not found errors. I think it is very arrogant of your organisation to expect me to change, when really it is you who are at fault here, because you cannot handle any upper case letters.
    Anyway I have found a way round the problem (DO not use your service, use another) they do not appear to have a problem with upper case characters.
    NUff said Bi Bi

    1. 46 Jonathan Goldford January 23, 2017

      I’m sorry you feel that way Lewellyn. It’s actually worth noting that it’s not us in particular who can or can’t handle uppercase letters in URLs. We’re referring to different server configurations, many of which view upper and lowercase letters in URLs as two different pages entirely. It’s great that you’ve been able to use uppercase letters on your sites. You’ll just need to be careful if you ever migrate your sites to a new server that it doesn’t cause issues. Good luck and thanks for the feedback.

  26. 47 Llewellyn January 31, 2017

    After sending my post (Llewellyn), I decided to change the upper case characters to Lower case in my shopping cart. Within hours we were inundated with emails from customers about “page not found” errors. Also the 404 errors in Google analytics shot up. All in all this caused so many problems I changes it back to upper case and all the problems went away. If I need to change hosting server (highly unlikely) I will choose one that can handle both upper and lower case characters. I would think it is in the hosting company’s interest not to limit their service to lower case only, it does not make business sense to me to do this. Sorry Jonathan but I must disagree with you in this case. Long live common sense in business.

    1. 48 Jonathan Goldford February 1, 2017

      Thanks for your response Llewellyn. It’s great to hear about your experience so others can learn from it. I wanted to make sure to clarify a few items from your comment. First, if anyone decides to adjust their existing site to use lowercase letters instead of uppercase letters in their URLs, we definitely recommend using 301 redirects to ensure users don’t end up with a bunch of 404 errors like you mentioned. Second, unfortunately, the hosting company doesn’t really choose whether to support upper or lowercase letters. This actually has to do with the server’s operating system. Windows servers are case insensitive while Linux servers are case sensitive. Since it sounds like you’re on a Linux server, it would likely break your site you move to a Windows server given how different the code and server configuration typically is.

      I think your situation illustrates an excellent point though. If you already have a site that uses uppercase letters in URLs, it’s never as simple as just changing each page to use lowercase URLs. You’ll always want to consult with someone who has significant technical knowledge to make sure the transition is done correctly and that the costs are worth the benefit.

      Thanks for your feedback and good luck with your site.

    1. 50 Jonathan Goldford March 9, 2017

      Of course, I’m glad we could be helpful.

  27. 51 Elizabeth June 5, 2017

    How do I attain the same outcome in google search as Chanel for example? Like the one on the top of the page where you have the name in uppercase but the url stays in lowercase? https://www.google.com.au/search?q=chanel&oq=chanel&aqs=chrome.0.69i59j69i60j0l4.2311j0j7&{google:bookmarkBarPinned}sourceid=chrome&{google:omniboxStartMarginParameter}ie=UTF-8

    1. 52 Jonathan Goldford June 7, 2017

      Thanks for reaching out Elizabeth. The link text used on Google is actually unrelated to the URL listed below it. In order to set the link text, you typically would do that by setting your title tag within your content management system or the HTML of the page. For the URL, Google uses the actual URL of the page. If the same content can be accessed from multiple URLs, it’s best to set rel=”canonical” within your site’s code for each page to send a signal to Google of which URL to use. You can read more about this by visiting https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/139066?hl=en.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *