7

Other than esthetics, are there any valid reasons to choose pipes vs colons in an HTML <title> tag, or vice-versa? Usability? SEO?

Example:

<title>Example.com | Top 10 list of stuff</title>

or

<title>Example.com: Top 10 list of stuff</title>
6

If it’s only colon vs. pipe: Use the pipe.

1. The colon might (more) often be part of the page title.

It might be confusing to have two colons. Example for an article called "Top 10: Songs":

Example.com: Top 10: Songs

It seems as if "Top 10" would be some kind of second-level category here.

2. The site title should come after the page title. The colon wouldn’t make sense anymore.

As often only the first part of the title is shown to users (e.g., as part of the tab label in browsers) or users only read the first part (e.g., in search result lists), it’s more useful to see the beginning of the article/page than the site. Otherwise users wouldn’t be able to find the page they are looking for when they have several pages of your site open:

[Exampl…] [Exampl…] [Exampl…] [Exampl…] [Exampl…]

So if you agree to switch the positions, then it wouldn’t make sense anymore to use a colon:

Top 10 list of stuff: Example.com

So it should be:

Top 10 list of stuff | Example.com

  • 1
    That first point is a really good point, particularly from a usability standpoint. – Dan Gayle Mar 25 '14 at 23:41
10

I would think neither would make a difference except for preference. Search engines are looking at word boundries (programming term) when parsing a string and would not recognize these characters as either a word nor a part of an HTML tag and likely will ignore them completely. From an SEO perspective, they would likely be totally ignored.

[Update]

It seems that Google is taking title tags with pipes [|] and taking it as a keyword list. This is a fairly new development likely in response to the use of pipes [|] and how they are used. It is not clear if this happens every time however. If you put your domain name (with or without a TLD) as the last element, Google will brand the title with your domain name and a colon [:] in the beginning of the title and remove it as the last element. For example: a title tag of cakes | chocolate | bunt | example should appear as example.com: cakes | chocolate | bunt. You will need to experiment with this. I have an experiment going on now and it is too early to post the results here. But this is well known so far. This does not seem to apply to colons [:] and commas [,].

  • 1
    My guess is that it's most likely a click through thing on SERPs, I swear I've seen google re-arrange title tags to the colon format, even if I used pipes in the actual title tag. – Dan Gayle Mar 24 '14 at 18:57
  • 1
    It may be that a Google programmer decided that pipes are just another condition that he did not want to write much code for and therefore just did a regular expression substitute substituting a pipe for a colon. There may actually be a good reason for this that you and I are unaware of. Who knows. Sometimes the answer is as simple as that. – closetnoc Mar 24 '14 at 19:03
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    @DanGayle: The title that appears in the SERPs is not necessarily related to the title element of your page. Google is likely to change the title that appears in the SERPs to more closely reflect what the user is searching for. – MrWhite Mar 24 '14 at 22:03
  • 1
    Yes of course, however, I noticed that Google will most likely use the title if it is not too long and not too short, and not just a list of keywords. It has been my experience that this will more than likely always happen if the title is an honest one. – closetnoc Mar 24 '14 at 22:50
  • That's a very interesting new find there, and it makes a lot of sense. – Dan Gayle Jan 9 '15 at 5:14

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