Q and A: Should we use commas and full stops to separate keywords in the title tag?

QuestionHi Kalena

I’ve read that Google ignores them, but I’ve seen commas as well as full stops (periods) used in title tags as a way to separate keywords for Google and not just visually.

For example:

< title > Acme Company. SEO service in New York, SEO audit New York.< /title >

Here we have two different and distinct keyword phrases: “SEO service in New York” and “SEO audit New York”. It is clear enough.

If Google ignores full stops and commas, there are many more keywords: “SEO service”, “New York”, “SEO in New York”, “SEO New York”, “audit in New York”, “SEO” and so on…

I know that the best practice is to optimize each page for 1 or 2 keywords, certainly not more than 3 keywords. So what is your opinion on the use of commas and full stops to separate keywords in the title tag?

Thank you in advance!



Hi Max

First up, the impact on search results of using punctuation in title tags is minimal. Google usually ignores commas and separation symbols. You should use punctuation primarily to write grammatically correct titles that make sense to humans.

Commas (,) should be used as commas, not separators. Full stops should be used to end a logical sentence. However, pipes (|) and hyphens (-) can be used as separators. Colons (:) aren’t ignored and imply to search engines that what follows is a subtitle or explanation / elaboration.  Hyphens can also sometimes be interpreted as colons. As a separator, the pipe is usually preferable to use because of its small pixel width.

Having said all that, the best option is to use as little keyword real estate as possible in your title tag, so that means combining your keywords into phrases that cover several individual keywords / phrases and not repeating keywords unnecessarily.

So, for example, if you are targeting the 2 phrases: “SEO service in New York” and “SEO audit New York”, then I would create the title tag as follows:

1) < title > SEO services and audits in New York City | Acme Company < /title >

instead of the longer:

2) < title > Acme Company: SEO service in New York and SEO audit New York < /title >

Notice that my version takes up less space, but now has no keyword repetition and includes the plurals *services* and *audits* as well as the longer *New York City* instead of the shortened version. This means that my title tag is optimized for a wider range of search terms, even though it is shorter in character length. It also includes the company name at the end of the tag, separated by a pipe.

In fact, a better version might be:

< title > Search engine optimization services and SEO audits in New York City | Acme Company < /title >

Although longer, this still falls within the accepted character count for the title and would be a relevant match for search queries by persons using the long form *search engine optimization* as well as the shortened version *SEO*.

Hope this helps.


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Yes Virginia, Bing DOES use the Meta Keywords Tag

Not sure how this escaped my attention until now, but late last year, Bing apparently publicly acknowledged that they still support the META Keywords tag.Bing and meta keywords tag

Here we all were thinking that the tag had quietly died in it’s sleep after a prolonged illness. After all, the last remaining engines it was hooked up to had gradually switched off support, Danny Sullivan had publicly declared the tag dead and spammy meta tag content had become the subject of myth and legend, mentioned only in humorous anecdotes shared over drinks at search industry conferences.

But despite what we all thought, Bing has indeed been indexing the content of the META Keywords tag, but as a signal for detecting low quality sites, rather than influencing page rank. What has caused all the renewed interest and kerfuffle? Duane Forrester, Senior Product Manager for Bing, kicked off the confusion when he said this about the tag on Webmaster World last year:

Meta keywords is a signal. One of roughly a thousand we analyze… Abusing meta keywords can hurt you.

Then followed a cloud of webmaster confusion and forum banter about whether SEO’s should resurrect the tag on their client sites or not.

As far as I know, Bing is the only remaining major search engine putting their hand up to claim they index the META Keywords tag. According to Forrester’s recent discussions with Danny Sullivan, they use it as one of their page quality signals, so it doesn’t contribute to page ranking as such.

So here’s the deal: the content of the tag may help Bing understand the context of your page, but it won’t impact where your page ranks on Bing. In fact, if it is stuffed with too many keywords or repetitions, the tag may send a *low quality* signal to Bing about your site, so it is best created very carefully or not used at all.

For educational purposes, we are still asking Search Engine College students to create a META Keywords tag as part of their assessment items. However, this is to ensure that students know how to craft the tag correctly, in case they decide to use it or are required to craft one in the future for employers or client sites.

If you are still using the META Keywords tag and it looks like an endless keyword repository, I’d suggest changing the content to focus on keyword variations that are still related to your page content, but that you’re unlikely to use in the visible content on the page. Things like synonyms, plurals, jargon, regional variations, related terms and word stemming.

If you don’t currently use a Meta Keywords tag, don’t automatically assume you need to create one just for Bing. If you get it wrong, it will likely do your site more harm than good.


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Q and A: Should my meta description tags just duplicate my title tags?

QuestionHi Everyone

From early days learning SEO, I went ahead and did all my meta descriptions with a bit of blurb about the page but my *Guru* has told me this is incorrect and I should include only the title of the page in the meta description, eg “Antique Dining Chairs” whereas I had put in “Antique Dining Chairs – over 500 chairs on display at the Glebe Antique Centre. Dining chairs to match your table, occasional chairs for that special place in your home”.

Any thoughts before I go and change everything yet again?



Hi Christine

From where I’m sitting, your *guru* is wrong. Remember, your meta description tag is often used as the snippet on the search results pages to describe your site.

So apart from including keywords, it has to do the job of convincing people to click on it. A nonsensical list of keywords is not going to convince people to click so you have to balance it out with an appealing sentence, preferably including a call-to-action or reason to click.

Yes, it’s important to put your keywords at the start of the tag if you can, but you have up to 160 characters in that tag indexed by search engines, so you should use the space to your advantage. Having a short, unimaginative meta description or simply copying your title tag is not going to make any difference to your overall rankings and is more likely to turn your potential visitors off.

Google admitted that it no longer considers the meta description tag in their ranking algorithm anyway, so, other search engines aside, the main job of the tag in Google SERPs is to convince people to click on the link and visit your site.

Put it this way: if you were in the market for an antique chair and you saw the following two listings in Google, which one would you click on?

  • Site1.com – “Antique Dining Chairs.”
  • Site2.com – “Antique Dining Chairs – over 500 chairs on display at the Glebe Antique Centre. Dining chairs to match your table, occasional chairs for that special place in your home.

I’m thinking Site2.com – am I right? And – oh look! The longer tag managed to include *dining chairs* twice and a whole bunch of other keyword phrases as well: *dining chairs Glebe*, *chairs Glebe*, *occasional chairs*, *Antique(s) Glebe*.

Case closed.


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Q and A: Do you need to use consistent title tag format on each web page?

Hi KalenaQuestion

I’m just reading over Rand Fishkin’s article Title Tag SEO Best Practices referenced in SEO 101 and I have a quick question regarding the bit below:

“Many SEO firms recommend using the brand name at the end of a title tag instead, and there are times when this can be a better approach. The differentiating factor is the strength and awareness of the brand in the target market. If it is a well known brand, and it can make a difference in click-through rates in search results, the brand name should be first. If this is not the case, the keyword should be first.”

Do you need to be consistent with the format you use on each page of the site? That is to say if one page would benefit from having the Brand Name first while other pages would have more strength using the Primary and Secondary Keywords first is that okay from a design/authoring point of view?



Hi Tiffeny

Great question! Every SEO will probably have a different answer to this, but I’m a strong believer in optimizing on a page-by-page basis.

Using the reverse pyramid analogy, every page on your site is a potential doorway, with your home page at the very bottom of the pyramid.

You might assume visitors all come via the home page, but if your site is well optimized, they rarely do. They will arrive via the page that best matched their search query. So you need to optimize each page as though it alone can be found in the search engines.

So you should optimize your title and other tags accordingly, to match the content on each individual page and the keywords you are targeting. If that means putting the keywords at the start of the tag, so be it.

Hope this helps!


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Q and A: Which search engines still support the META keywords tag?

Hi KalenaQuestion

In one of your previous posts, you said to include the META keywords tag to provide those search engines that DO support it with as much information as possible about site content so they can index it correctly.

My question is: Which search engines still support the META keywords tag? I know there is the experiment conducted by Danny Sullivan to refer to, but that was posted in 2007. Just want to know what is the latest on this.



Hi Stephanie

Here’s a link to the What is SEO? Beginners Guide published by SEOmoz.

According to Chapter Nine of that document, Yahoo! is the only major search engine that still supports the Meta Keywords tag and they claim not to use the content for ranking, but merely for content discovery.

Hope this clarifies things!




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