Q and A : What is suggested SEO-friendly punctuation?

QuestionDear Kalena…

I was hoping that you could help me with the following debate.

What is suggested SEO-friendly punctuation for the following examples:

keyword/keyword or keyword / keyword (ie. using a space before and after the slash or using no space)

and

blah blah-blah blah … or blah blah — blah blah (ie. space or no space between — and the words)

Also, if you would recommend an article on the subject of punctuation for SEO, that would be great!

Thanks and best regards!

Laura

Dear Laura

Different types of punctuation and where/how it is used will have varying impacts on your SEO. Some punctuation is completely ignored, some should be avoided although doesn’t strictly have an impact on SEO and some can make minor differences when the search engines are indexing your content.

In the examples you’ve provided, it doesn’t make much difference at all. I personally would put spaces between the dash and slash, but that is purely to make the text more legible and doesn’t really impact on the indexing of the content.

When naming files, I tend to use hyphens instead of underscores and spaces. For instance I’d name the “Contact Us” page on a site: contact-us.htm instead of contact_us.htm or contact us.htm (as the later example would end-up looking like contact%20us.htm after it’s been parsed by the webserver/browser. The same applies to adding any other unnecessary punctuation (such as inverted commas, quotation marks, ampersands, exclamation marks, commas etc. etc.) as this can also create some funky looking page names.

If you were optimising a page for the keywords men’s hats vs mens hats – this slight variation (with or without the apostrophe) would have an impact on how Google indexes the content and while you’ll still rank for both terms, you’ll obviously rank better for the term that matches what you’ve used in your content.

As you’ll probably use your chosen keyword more than once on the page, you could choose to use punctuation most of the time, but “accidentally” leave it out on a couple of occasions to cover both bases.

Generally speaking, your best bet is to adhere to the standard grammatical rules for punctuation and when in doubt, err on the side of the reader and not the search engine as usability and readability far outweigh the very minor benefit that could potentially be gained otherwise.

If you’re looking for some good articles that pertain to punctuation and SEO, here’s a few to check-out:

How Google Treats Punctuation
How Punctuation in Keywords Affects Google Results
Does punctuation affect SEO?
Watch Your Punctuation Online

Hope this helps

Peter Newsome
SiteMost Search Engine Optimisation