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.


Like to learn SEO? Access your Free SEO Lessons. No catch!


Spread the joy!

Q and A: Should we bid on our own brand name in Google AdWords?

QuestionHey Kalena

Can you please settle an argument we are having in the office?

My boss is suggesting that we should bid on our brand name in AdWords to make sure we come up at the top of Google searches. I don’t think we need to because we are already coming up high in the organic search results for our brand keywords.

Wouldn’t it just be a waste of money to pay for an ad?



Hi Kate

Sorry, but in this case, I agree with your boss :-) .  I think it’s good practice to bid on your own brand with pay per click advertising, for a variety of reasons:

1) Studies have shown that brands that rank high in both organic results AND paid ads receive more conversions than brands that just use one or the other, due to the saturation factor and extra brand exposure gained.

2) Unless you use paid search ads, you cannot guarantee that your brand will show up in the top search results for brand or product related searches. Organic search results will look different for everyone, based on their location, search terms used, their search history and personal preferences. The only way to guarantee a top spot is to pay for it. Also, ads will usually gain more clicks than organic results, depending on their location on the page, so you want to make sure you grab that brand click, no matter what prompts it.

3) You cannot control HOW your site will be shown in the search results unless you use paid advertising. Organic results may display the content of your page title, or a random snippet of text from your page, depending on the assumed context and what the search engine deems to be the most relevant. The organic click may also take visitors to a landing page you didn’t expect. Whereas your paid ad will show your brand in exactly the context you choose and take clickers to your preferred landing page.

4) If you have distributors or affiliates for your brand, it is possible that they may out-rank you in the organic search results for your brand-related keywords, therefore grabbing the click and making the sale, resulting in some loss of $ via commission. Making sure your ads out-rank them means you retain the full $ for any conversions.

If you are still sceptical, may I suggest reading Brad Geddes’ excellent article Should You Bid On A Keyword If You Rank Organically For That Term? where he shares the results of several detailed experiments to debunk the myth of PPC cannibalization.


Like to teach yourself AdWords? Start here.


Spread the joy!

Q and A: Is it good SEO practice to have navigation menus in both header and footer?

QuestionHello Kalena

May I ask you about navigation menus on a site?

Imagine that a web site has two navigation menu blocks – on the header and on the footer of the site. Some buttons/links are doubled (or even all the links).

On one hand, it’s good for site’s visitors. When they reach the bottom of each page, there is no need to scroll up it to find and click on the necessary navigation button.

On the other hand, we all know that doubled links to the same page are not good. Bots can consider such practice as an attempt to give more additional weight to the page. Moreover, doubled navigation links together with the all other page links may exceed the number of 100.

However, if it stands for usability, site design should give visitors an opportunity to find the necessary buttons in a quick way.

My question is “Is it good to add doubled navigation menu to header and footer of any web site?”

What is your opinion on this topic? I’d highly appreciate your answer.

Thank you in advance!



Hi Maksim

The answer depends on a few factors:

1) Is your main navigation menu built with Javascript (e.g. drop-down menu) or other functionality that search engines may have difficulty indexing? If the answer is yes, then it might be a good idea to include a plain text navigation menu in your footer to ensure that search robots can index the links.

If the answer is no, the main navigation is already search engine friendly, then there is no need to duplicate it, in my opinion. Keep in mind that the more links you have per page, the less PageRank value each link passes to the linked page. So you can dilute the value of each page on your site if you’re not careful. Also, Google recommends you keep the number of links per page to a maximum of 100 or they may not all be indexed.

2) Does the addition of another menu help the usability of the site? i.e. is the page content so complex that visitors may require the second navigation menu to help them navigate around? If yes, then include the extra menu. If no, then… well you know the answer.

I guess the important thing is to make the decision with visitors in mind foremost and search engines as a secondary consideration.


Like to learn SEO? Access your Free SEO Lessons. No catch!


Spread the joy!

Q and A: What’s the difference between calls to action and action phrases in Google AdWords?

QuestionHey Kalena

I’m creating my own ads in Google Adwords at the moment.  When reviewing what I’ve learnt in your Pay Per Click lessons, it says under the Appropriate Language section:  “Must not feature call to action phrases (Eg click here, visit this site)”.

Yet, when I visit the Google AdWords Help Centre, it encourages the use of Calls to Action – Under the heading “Empower customers to take action”.

Have I got this twisted? Which is right? Is there a difference between Calls to Action and Action Phrases?




Hi Stephanie

The editorial rules and recommendations for Google AdWords can be confusing at times, with some advice seemingly in direct conflict with recommendations found elsewhere.

In terms of call-to-action phrases – there are very specific rules regarding the use of particular phrases within your AdWords ads. For example, you can’t use “click here” in the ad text, but you are encouraged to use other call-to-action phrases such as “learn more about” or “download your lesson”.

So the advice under the *Appropriate Language* section relates specifically to editorial guidelines, while the advice in the AdWords Help Centre relates to recommended tactics you can use, rather than specific wording.

Hope that makes sense :-)

I recommend reviewing the more specific editorial guidelines for AdWords ads as well.


Like to teach yourself SEO? Access your Free SEO Lessons.


Spread the joy!

Q and A: Is this black hat SEO / link farming?

QuestionHello Kalena

In doing my research for Assignment 4 for your Advanced SEO course, I came across something I think is pretty spammy and crosses the line into black hat SEO.

A supposedly respectable design firm has done a number of websites and lists all their client’s website URLs on their site.  They appear to try to have all their clients link back to them.  That much I can understand from a business point of view although the latter is not the best practice.  But – they appear to have set it up so all their clients link to all the other clients of this design firm, even though they are unrelated businesses and not relevant.  The links are presented as this design firm’s clients and not the site owner’s.

So links from the design firm to clients, most clients to design firm, many clients linking to all the others.  Their list is about 187 or so sites.  Does this count as as link farming if the scale is fairly small?  Would Google or Bing notice?



Hi Dolores

Without being able to see the sites in question, I can’t confirm (feel free to message me with a couple of URLs if you’d like me to verify), but it sounds exactly like a 3 way link scheme.

This tactic is definitely dodgy but something that web design firms and ad agencies persist in thinking is a good idea. It’s also something that Google has warned against time and time again. You can see the very scenario you describe listed in Google’s definition of link schemes in their Webmaster Guidelines as follows:

“…links that weren’t editorially placed or vouched for by the site’s owner on a page, otherwise known as unnatural links, can be considered a violation of our guidelines. Here are a few common examples of unnatural links that may violate our guidelines: …Widely distributed links in the footers or templates of various sites”

So you can bet your bottom dollar that Google will notice this and devalue those links, if they haven’t done so already. Bing has a similar stance on 3 way link schemes, so the sites won’t fare well in Bing either:

“Abusive tactics that aim to inflate the number and nature of inbound links such as links buying, participating in link schemes (link farms, link spamming and excessive link manipulation) can lead to your site being de-listed from the Bing index.”

The fact that you’ve spotted this link scheme signals that the SEO lessons are sinking in, so well done :-)


Like to learn SEO with a view to starting your own business? Access your Free SEO Lessons. No catch!


Spread the joy!