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When viewing a topic on my blog it has a title like:

<title>Topic : CakePHP &bull; Blog &bull; driz - Cameron Drysdale</title>

Which produces:

Topic : CakePHP • Blog • driz - Cameron Drysdale

I use a bullet point to separate the sections of the site, so the topic, notebook, and the sitename, and then a colon to separate the topic itself from the topic prefix. You'll also notice that the sitename is split in two using a dash, as the sitename itself is driz, but it's a personal site so I have also included my name into the title.

Now the question is... how will my use of seperators affect SEO? I've followed the advice of making sure the most relevant part of the title is first e.g. the topic section (although perhaps the topic itself cakephp should be first?) but wondered if search engines like Google or Bing had preferences when it comes to dashes vs colons vs bullets...

Any advice? suggestions?

Some examples of other titles in the site:

A blog post called Animate Location hash:

Animate Location Hash • Blog • driz - Cameron Drysdale

The about me page:

About Cameron Drysdale • driz - Cameron Drysdale

Or does the separators not affect things at all?

  • The only real "effect" I believe seperators will have is the characters pixel-width. Google (not sure about Bing) limits the title's it displays to 512px, so using "thinner" characters may allow you to display an extra character or two. – nathangiesbrecht Oct 17 '14 at 17:35
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As a programmer I can tell you this. Programmers parse text using word boundaries and checking that a word is really a word. In other words, the non-word characters will be completely ignored from a search perspective but not from the SERP link. This is because Google, Bing, and all search engines are not concerned with formatting characters but words, word order, word proximity, and so on. The title is read for word style structures from left to right with the order of importance being left to right. This is because, for most of us, we learned to read left to right and our brain orders things in a Freudian way from left to right. We search that way too. Of course there are exceptions of other languages and cultures. This is compensated for of course but something anyone should remember. There are cases where word phrases and previous search history will reorganize the level of search word importance, but that is beyond your control except to recognize the effect and to use it to your advantage.

The remark about 512 characters applies to the SERP links and it is very much accurate. If you do not want trouble with your title being used as a SERP link, you may have to experiment with your title length. Generally, depending upon how many wide characters you use, the title length will be between 45-50 characters and in some cases as much as 55 characters. If your title varies, you may have to experiment with the formatting of your title so that it never exceeds the limit. Otherwise you run the risk of Google making up a SERP link for you.

That being what it is, branding is a good idea. But so is keyword placement. Do not forsake keyword usage for branding. This is because the keywords in your title are so important for search. But I also like to recommend using titles for humans that are conversational and evoke an emotion to motivate the user to click your link. The format you described does not seem to fit this notion. I suggest tweaking it a bit to make it more compelling especially if they are automatically generated. That way, your click through rate (CTR) will be appropriate and not in the dumpers.

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Using hyphens (-) and pipes (|) are always beneficial from SEO point of view instead of Bullets and Underscores. They should be clean, simple and understandable. Using Bullets affect SEO in the terms of non-understanding and dirty URLs. Adding, You do not need to include Topic in the Title. It gives a very unprofessional look.

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I use

primarykeyword, secondarykeyword, tertiarykeyword - mybranding

Using a comma is good. it is a continuation.

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