I have noticed a few oddities recently with the titles of web pages in search engine results pages (SERPs). I started using some special characters in my page titles in order to make them look slightly more appealing in SERPs and perhaps stand out a bit more:

‘Item name’ widget • Site Name
(( Item name )) widget • Site Name
  • In Google and Yahoo, the curly quotes (8216/8217) are converted to straight quotes.
  • In Bing and Yahoo, all special characters at the front of the title are removed, i.e. the above shows as Item name’ ...etc or Item name )) ...etc

The bullet point (8226) displays fine in all three, as do various other Unicode characters (I've seen music notes in SERPs before now).

My questions:

  1. Does anyone know if there any particular characters that are safe/unsafe?
  2. Is it possible to get search engines to show the characters as I code them, and include the ones at the front of the title?
  3. Is there any data on what title formats garner a higher click-through rate?

Also, just to be clear, I'm not trying to "trick" search engines or be "sneaky", I'm just interested if it's possible to increase CTR when a page is not #1 in the results.


2 Answers 2


There have been a variety of attempts to be sneaky with titles and snippets by using special characters, so search engines have generally worked to sanitize what they show there. Sometimes this results in characters being removed (eg stars, arrows, etc), sometimes it can even result in search engines creating a title of their own (Google sometimes does that when the given title appears to be bad). My recommendation would be to stick to the normal characters from the language you're writing in and focus on the content.

Titles and descriptions / snippets are very important when users see your page listed in the search results -- so don't forget to test them: try different kinds of titles, different kinds of descriptions and see how users respond to them. Search engines are generally fairly quick in updating the listings when they're recrawled, so you could for instance track this over a period of a few weeks, with different settings (or use different pages / sites to test it).

Regarding descriptions / snippets, keep in mind that they can be different depending on the query that the user makes. Check your logs and try the queries that users are making to see the snippets that are shown. If the query is not in the description meta tag at all, it might even be that content from the page is shown directly.


I wouldn't rely too much on special characters in my title or meta description. It might work in the short term and it might even improve your click-through-rate (CTR) for a while, but IMO it's the type of thing that Google and other search engines could phase out over time if they see it getting abused.

However, as far as a format for a higher CTR goes, there are some things you can do to improve it.

The first is to avoid an ellipsis (...) in both your title and meta description. Search engines will add an ellipsis for both if they exceed a certain length. 65 characters for the title, 150 for the meta description will cover you for the big 3 search engines. Avoiding the ellipsis will give your listing a more authoritative presence because it will be a complete thought and not drift off into the unknown.

The second thing is to view your title and meta description as an advertisement. It should be useful, descriptive, and succinct. The purpose of your title should be to get the user to go through and read the page. The purpose of the description should be to get the user to click on the title. Everything that would apply to creating an ad on Google AdWords should apply to your title and description.

A third thing you can do to improve your CTR, and you'll have to search around for how to do it, is to get an indented listing (one listing indented beneath a first, both from your site). Again, it makes the listings more authoritative.

Another upside of keeping your titles and meta descriptions short, interesting, and to the point is that many social media websites also utilize them for when pages are submitted or bookmarked. If it works well in the search engines, it has a chance of doing well in social media, and vice versa.

Finally, if you're not sure about what will convert, test it out. Social media is a great way to do it for free and, if you have the budget, Google AdWords is an even better choice.

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