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How Does Punctuation Effect SEO?

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#1 Thejspot


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Posted 15 September 2007 - 05:38 PM

I read this forum everyday but havenít become a member till now. You guys are fantastic.

I just wanted to know what difference punctuation makes in SEO, with particular reference to page titles (I know these rules might apply to other situations where you would be describing the page content - which I would be happy for you guys to point out).

For example, is there much difference between...

Page Title; Keyword 1; Keyword 2; Keyword 3

Page Title :: Keyword 1 :: Keyword 2 :: Keyword 3

Page Title, Keyword 2, Keyword 2, Keyword 3

Page Title Keyword 1 Keyword 2 Keyword 3

Page Title Ė Keyword 1 Ė Keyword 2 Ė Keyword 3

While I appreciate that ultimately when deciding, I should be looking at producing the clearest title, but in most of examples above, there isnít much difference for a user.

Any thoughts guys?

#2 Halfdeck


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Posted 15 September 2007 - 07:01 PM

Focus on your users when optimizing content. Punctuation really makes no difference.

#3 Ron Carnell

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Posted 15 September 2007 - 08:56 PM

Welcome to the forums, Thejspot (is that the J spot or the JS Pot? :) )

You don't really need us for this particular question; you can just ask the search engines directly. Go to Google and type in your three keywords separated by a space. Then type in the keywords separated by a comma and space (or any other punctuation). There's your answer!

(What you should discover, I think, is that you'll get back identical SERPs. With a few exceptions, the search engines purposely ignore all punctuation. This is a vital component in good copywriting because it makes it possible to create search phrases that wouldn't normally appear in "real" writing.

For example, people often search for keywords location, even though that's very unnatural. So there's a lot of searches for real estate california, but it's much more common for us to write "California real estate." Knowing that search engines ignore punctuation, the copywriter can end a sentence with the keywords and then start the next sentence with the location: "yada yada real estate. California yada yada" The SE will strip the period, leaving the unnatural phrase real estate california intact.)

#4 Thejspot


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Posted 15 September 2007 - 10:46 PM

Dear Ron,

Thank you so much for your answer. It's The 'J' Spot. But it's hard to know without the punctuation...

#5 BillSlawski


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Posted 15 September 2007 - 11:07 PM

When it comes to the indexing of terms, it is possible that the search engines ignore punctuation.

There may be some other areas where punctuation may not be ignored, and may be worth testing. For instance, in the creation of snippets for search results pages.

The patent application from Google on the creation of snippets to show in product reviews (taken from pages that have been crawled by the search engines) discusses how they might take factors like punctuation, readability, sentence length, and grammar into account in chosing what to show as a snippet.

I haven't seen a similar document from Google on selection of text for a snippet, when it comes to search results, but the thoughtful approach behind the product review snippets may carry over in some way to search result snippets.

Another area that might involve punctuation is in a phrase-based indexing and reranking of search results, as is described within the Anna Patterson patent applications assigned to Google. It's hard to tell if those patent applications have been implemented, or will be. But, punctuation could play a role in a reranking under the processes described there.

#6 Thejspot


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Posted 16 September 2007 - 05:23 PM

Thank everyone. I think I'll go and do some more testing on this one.

I also wanted to know if you think there is any difference between having an underscore or a '-' between the names of pages.

So if I have a site...




Does punctuation here get read any differently? I wondered if maybe a '-' says it's a new topic and '_' separates words that are still on the same topic? I'm clearly guessing here though.

#7 A.N.Onym


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Posted 16 September 2007 - 09:29 PM

Though now Google treats underscores the same way as it does hyphens, it is still a good idea to use hyphens to:
- keep things readable for the humans (browser bar and linked URLs, for example)
- appease other search engines, who treat word_word1 as one word.

#8 coolguy27


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Posted 17 September 2007 - 11:51 AM

Punctuations are being ignored by SEs considered as space between words... :disco2:

#9 kestrel


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Posted 21 September 2007 - 06:54 AM

What about superscripts like TM? Do these get ignored?


Edited by kestrel, 21 September 2007 - 06:54 AM.

#10 Respree


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Posted 23 September 2007 - 07:33 AM

If I were guess, I'd say yes.

However, I'm not aware of any 'definitive' list of stop words universal to all search engines. In fact, I'd be surprised if there were.

Essentially, the abbreviated trademark supersript is an ASCII character ("ô"). I've also commonly seen it notated as

Mybrand(tm) or Mybrand(TM)

I would imagine since the ASCII character is not actually a word, it would be ignored for ranking purposes, but who knows. I would recommend trying an experiment on one of your pages to see if there's any effect with or without it.

#11 KDye


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Posted 24 September 2007 - 07:45 AM

The important thing with HTML entities like &trade; is to make sure you use them, and don't use ( tm ) or <sup> tags or something similar, because of the way that spiders do treat punctuation mainly by stripping it out. You don't want to end up with a term that effectively has tm on the end of it - keywordtm is not going to score you anything in SEO!

(edited because the board interpreted the code I used!)

[moderator note: you can use the [code=auto:0] tag to prevent the forum software from interpreting the code.]

Edited by Respree, 24 September 2007 - 10:12 AM.

#12 kestrel


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Posted 24 September 2007 - 10:25 AM

Guilty as charged for speaking without thinking :wacko:

Code exists for the TM character: & #84 8 2 ; (without spaces). I'd imagine that this would be ignored... but as you say, still worth testing.


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