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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105 Free SEO Resources

toolkitIf you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of time-saving tools and short cuts that can make life easier for digital marketers.

On a recent trip down the rabbit hole of online marketing blogs, I came across the a tidy collection of SEO resources collated by Amar Hussain of website broking company FE International.

Pitched as the ultimate toolkit for digital marketers, the collection is unique in that all of the resources are free. This is great news for marketers on a budget and ideal for my SEO students, many of whom are still in college or on low incomes.

Each of the resources are categorized along the following themes:

  • A/B Testing
  • Analytics
  • Competitor Analysis
  • Content
  • Diagnostic
  • Email
  • Infographics
  • Keyword Research
  • Link Research  / Link Building
  • Local SEO
  • Resources
  • SERP Tracking
  • Speed
  • Technical
  • Toolbars / Extensions
  • WordPress Plugins

While there are many tools in the list that I know well, I was pleasantly surprised to see a large number that I haven’t seen before and can add to my own toolkit. Of these, Optimizely, WordSmith and Five Second Test were the most exciting finds.


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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.


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The 2015 Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors

Table of SEO Success FactorsEarlier this month, the team over at Search Engine Land updated their brilliant Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors.

Now in it’s 3rd edition, the table is a fantastic SEO resource and one of the few items on my Ubuntu desktop that gets regular eyeball attention. Content is divided between on-page and off-page factors and clearly color-coded to make it visually intuitive, with relevancy weight ranging from -3 to +3.

The new edition references new factors of SEO importance including vertical search, Direct Answers and HTTPS, with mobile friendliness and structured data acquiring a relevancy weight increase in line with recent Google updates.

The idea behind the table is to highlight tasks within the SEO process and to act as a visual reminder about what is most important and what areas to focus on for clients.

Danny Sullivan describes the goal and philosophy of the table:

“Our goal with the Periodic Table Of SEO is to help publishers focus on the fundamentals needed to achieve success with search engine optimization. This means it’s not about trying to list all 200 Google ranking factors or detail Google’s 10,000 sub-factors. It’s not about trying to advise if keywords you want to rank for should go at the beginning of an HTML title tag or the end. It’s not about whether or not Facebook Likes are counted for ranking boosts.

Instead, the table is designed to broadly guide those new to or experienced with SEO into general areas of importance. Title tags are generally important. Think about making sure they’re descriptive. Social sharing is often generally seen as good for SEO. Aim for social shares, without worrying about the specific network.”

While not exactly a cheat-sheet, my SEO students at Search Engine College tell me it is their favorite resource for assignment preparation, so that’s a pretty good endorsement.

The Table can be downloaded as a PDF in large or condensed format, or you can grab the code to embed the infographic directly into your web site.

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Q and A: How should I manage the client expectations of my SEO efforts?

QuestionHello Kalena

I saw your recent post about how SEO freelancers can generate new business for themselves and I wondered if you could answer a related question please.

I am currently the in-house SEO for a real estate chain, but I am quite keen to start my own consulting business part time. The major reason I haven’t done so already is that I wouldn’t know what to tell clients to expect when it comes to the projected results of my optimization efforts. I mean I know how long it took me to optimize these sites for my boss and it was many weeks before they even started to show up in the first few pages of Google.

But isn’t every site different? Doesn’t it depend entirely on what Google thinks of each site and the indexed content? How can I get potential SEO clients interested in my services if I don’t know what type of results they can expect and when? How do you handle this type of situation and what advice can you give me?

Thanks so much Kalena



Hi Kelly

Thanks for reaching out – and your question is a good one. Search engine optimization is a unique service in that you rarely see the results of your efforts right away. It can take days, weeks or even months for Google and the other search engines to index and re-rank your newly optimized pages. It’s vital that you explain this to your clients up front. Most of your clients will be expecting results quickly and it’s your job to extinguish that myth.

The key to managing client expectations is to be as transparent as possible about your process and educate them in the process. [My Udemy course – How to Earn a Full Time Income as a Part Time SEO Consultant – can give you more tips about this]

It always astounds me when I hear about SEO companies who don’t actually explain to clients what they do. Some SEOs don’t even inform the clients what changes they are going to make to their web sites! Sometimes I’ll take on a new client who has worked with another SEO in the past and when I ask them “what changes did the SEO make to your site? What SEO tasks did they perform?” they will have NO CLUE. Or they’ve been told that the process is “secret” or “proprietory”. What a load of bollocks. How can a client possibly understand the value of what you do if you don’t explain to them what you actually do?

You want to know why some SEOs refuse to reveal their process to clients? Because they don’t actually know how to optimize a web site. It’s true. Many of the large so called *SEO* firms you see advertising and cold calling these days claim to be selling SEO services, but they DON’T PERFORM ANY SEO WHATSOEVER. What they are actually selling is Google AdWords. They make grand claims to help customers get their sites ranking high in Google using *proprietory SEO methods*, when what they’re actually doing is buying up masses of cheap keywords on AdWords via bulk accounts and displaying ads pointing to their customer sites. Yes, the ads might appear above the organic search results from time to time and deliver traffic, but the click costs usually increase month on month. As soon as that customer stops paying, the traffic stops coming. And what are the clients left with? The same unoptimized site they started with, no more traffic and the opinion that SEO simply doesn’t work.

No wonder SEO has such a bad name!

Some SEOs I’ve talked to are afraid that the client will take that knowledge and use it to perform their own SEO or to train staff in-house to take over the SEO process, putting them out of a job. You know what I say to that? Fantastic. The best SEOs work themselves out of a role, in my opinion.

If you can educate your client to the point where they understand the importance of SEO and the value to their business, you have done the very best job possible and I guarantee you they will be singing your praises for life. Because you will have turned them from a customer into a fan, you will probably get more business from an ex-client you’ve educated than you would have from that same client if you had kept them as a long term customer. How? Via referrals and word of mouth. A passionate testimonial from a happy customer can win many, many clients. You can use that testimonial on your web site, business cards and marketing material. You can use that client as a verbal referee if future clients want to talk to a previous customer.

So don’t be afraid to educate your clients during every single step of the SEO process. Make sure they track their own progress via Google Analytics. Show them what you’re doing and manage their expectations by explaining to them that you don’t know exactly when their site rankings and traffic will start to climb and you may have to tweak things along the way.

Simply be honest with them and they will ultimately respect you more and thank you for it.


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