When creating web page titles, is there any difference between using the word 'and' in the title compared to using an ampersand?
& (ampersand) and the word 'and' are treated similar but can yield different search results (although often, very similar). The two might result in the same verbal sound 'and' but they do represent different contexts.
If I were to use the following page title:-
We have the best socks on the planet and they're colourful!
It wouldn't make sense to convert 'and' to '&' like:-
We have the best socks on the planet & they're colourful!
That isn't correct use of the English language.
An '&' represents a joining in a heading/category/title for example...
Health & Beauty Bed & Breakfast
Granted however, these would still work as:-
Health and Beauty Bed and Breakfast
Really, you need to be conducting your own tests and research because how these will be treated in organic search will largely depend upon the context and topic/words in use.
Search engines are going to know that
and are synonymous, so there is certainly going to be some overlap in the results.
However, searching for
hello & welcome verses
hello and welcome in Google does return different results (which also differs from
hello welcome) - so yes, it does affect SEO.
As already mentioned the two are recognized as the same word by the search engines but actual search results will vary.
Both the word and the ampersand symbol have a place in web copy from an SEO perspective.
I would suggest using the word "and" in your body text. This is how most people will search and you have a highly likelihood of connecting on an exact match search phrase in doing so.
Using the full word in your copy is also the proper use of the English word which would be deemed as "higher quality". Proper grammar and spelling is thought to be factored into the Google algorithm by many in the industry. Matt Cutts discusses it here. Notice he mentions bad grammer in comments will not have an impact. The emphasis here is "in comments", he does not mention the author's copy and sugggests it should be "high quality".
The full word can be used in a title but there can be some advantages of using the ampersand instead.
The use of an ampersand is something I would recommend using in the meta title tag and content headlines.
With regards to the meta title tag, using an ampersand can be helpful from an SEO aspect because it is shorter than the full word and can be used to create a higher response title.
The meta title tag is typically limited to 70 characters before it is cut off or truncated by search engines. Advice will vary on best practices but I have found it best to keep my meta title tags as short as possible while clearly conveying the topic in a natural sounding phrase. While I can not be certain that shorter meta title tags are rewarded, the shorter (precise) title does give the searcher a clear, fast and easy to discern topic for the page.
The use of the ampersand to make a meta title or content title more attractive can also have merits for SEO through user engagement. The job of a search engine is to offer the most relevant results which is best measured with metrics such as search click through rate, bounce back rate, time on site and pages per visit. These metrics matter and are all part of the Google Panda quality algorithm in some fashion.
The search click through rate is influenced by copy in the meta title tag. Page views per user can also be impacted by related or additional content headlines used on-site. As the ampersand (and other symbols) are commonplace in direct response and news copy headlines (both used to get response) it would make sense that it could be helpful in the same application for SEO through user engagement metrics.