Extra Characters in Title Meta Tags
July 16, 2008 8:07 AM   Subscribe

Does adding symbol characters to your title meta tags hurt your SEO? Our company has a title format of "-- Our Web Site : A Page --" and since we're going through a redesign I was wondering if it might be a good time to drop that convention.
posted by napdynmite to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Google, and I assume Yahoo as well, places little-to-no-emphasis on meta tags. And they'll sure as heck ignore symbols.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:10 AM on July 16, 2008

The ratio of "content" to "noise" (tags javascript etc) can have an effect, apparently. I doubt removing a couple of dashes is going to make more than a tiny difference, though.

SEO is black magic when you get down to this level. The real question is "will removing the symbols improve the site for visitors?". IMO, the answer's yes. SEO's just a convenient justification. If you speak in an authoritative voice, and say "Removing these symbols will improve our Google rank", everyone will believe you.
posted by Leon at 8:19 AM on July 16, 2008

From a user point of view, it screws up the ordering of their bookmarks-- that's reason enough not to use them in my opinion.

Google does pay attention to the title tag of a page, it's what they display as the link on their search results, they strip the --'s and :'s (and maybe others) from either side if that's how the link is padded.
I'm guessing if they automatically strip it, it's unlikely to change the page-rank, but SEO is generally all a bit voodoo and hand wavy, so who knows.
posted by Static Vagabond at 8:38 AM on July 16, 2008

Google assigns special weight to the text used to link to a page. For things like blogs and social bookmarking apps, the default link text is the page title. That said, I doubt some dashes make any real difference. I do prefer to put the most significant terms first in a title, so in your example I'd put the company name last rather than first.
posted by Good Brain at 9:04 AM on July 16, 2008

I wouldn't put any symbols at the start (as screwing up ordering could be irritating), and any unusual symbols may not show up correctly in some contexts, but otherwise it's fine.

For the structure of page titles, nowadays I'd generally recommend something like this for the home page:
Name of Site : short, keyword-rich description of site
and for other pages something like
Title of Page - Name of Site
so that the most relevant information is at the start.
posted by malevolent at 9:19 AM on July 16, 2008

What Leon said. SEO at that level of detail requires a pointy hat & bubbling cauldron IMHO, but making your titles look readable in a list of bookmarks is an excellent usability change!
posted by epersonae at 10:08 AM on July 16, 2008

Um, everyone is responding to META tags, which is the term the OP used, but from the example I think he actually means page TITLE tags.
posted by rokusan at 11:09 AM on July 16, 2008

And as a usability guy who hates SEO shenanigans myself, I second Leon/Malevolent's suggestion,
posted by rokusan at 11:12 AM on July 16, 2008

Response by poster: Rokusan, I believe the title tag falls under the larger umbrella of "meta tags. "

This is all terrific, usable advice. I especially agree with the comments about user bookmarks getting messed up, which I hadn't even thought of. I think I'm well-armed to make a change.
posted by napdynmite at 2:02 PM on July 16, 2008

I agree with malevolent. Go from specific to general, not general to specific. It works better in bookmarks and browser histories.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 6:04 PM on July 16, 2008

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