Avoid Special Character Use in Titles and Tags

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If you have an inclination to cutesy up your site title,  post titles and tags with special characters like Ampersands (&), Greater than/Less than Symbols (< and >), the Pound Sign or Hash tag (#) the “At” Symbol (@) – think again. A special character may draw the scanning eye of the reader, but using special characters may attract the kind of attention you don’t want.

special characters“Title tags are definitely one of the “big three” as far as the algorithmic weight given to them by search engines; they are equally as important as your visible text copy and the links pointing to your pages – perhaps even more so.” – All About Title Tags

Some characters are reserved in HTML and XHTML and using them in site and post titles, text or tags means browsers can mistake them for markup. In 5 Tips To Writing Irresistibly Clickable Blog Titles you will discover using any special characters not found in good writing in your post titles will slaughter your chances of getting your blog post translated properly by web browsers.

Related posts found in this blog:
Targeted Blog Post Titles Draw Traffic
Writing effective blog headlines
Top 5 Site Title Tag Tips

39 thoughts on “Avoid Special Character Use in Titles and Tags

  1. I wonder if you can help again?
    Would using HTML in the title to create italic font be an awful thing to do regarding the slaughtering of posts? Had a look at the links and can’t find this unless my eyes are groggy!) Would you know perhaps?
    Having a wonderful time on your site – should be sleeping though!!)

      1. For the title – for some reason I want italic titles for my poems – just tried it – not working for titles :( Am i just thick? Sorry I believe this is another forum thingy.

        1. Posts titles are a no go when it comes to changing font style, color,size, etc. by that method. They are defined by your underlying theme template. Only Staff can access and edit the template on this multiuser blogging platform as all blogs wearing the same theme are using it. Your only means of proceeding is to purchase an annually renewable custom deign upgrade and doing the required CSS editing.

          These are 3 ways to change fonts on WordPress.com blogs.

          (1) Changing font families, colors and size in text in posts or pages either post by post or page by page by coding into the Text HTML editor. http://wpbtips.wordpress.com/2009/07/11/formatting-text-pt-5/

          (2) Changing font colors in text in posts or pages either post by post or page by page using the #4 icon (Select text color – change the text color) in Row 2 the Visual editor. http://en.support.wordpress.com/visual-editor/#row-2

          (3) Changing all font families, colors and sizes throughout the whole blog by purchasing an annually renewable Custom Design upgrade and using Typekit Fonts with Staff support.

          My advice it to blog rather than fiddling with themes.

          1. I decided after reading your article – just to leave out the in the title (which works – but am NOW worried about the cost) My teen was so happy to do it for me I did not question it till reading your post. (foolish)
            Seems WAY more trouble then it’s worth right!
            My titles shall be left WELL alone hence forth.
            BUT – it is fun playing with themes sadly…perhaps the arty side kicking in in the wrong places…LOL!
            Thanks AGAIN for your input.

  2. timethief,
    The tagline on my blog is “Traversing the Border between Butch and Trans*”
    Do you think the asterisk * is a problem? The word Trans* is used as a catchall for all sorts of people who identify as Transgendger – and is common usage in the community.

    Not that my SEO is critical, but I would hate to accidentally mess it up with something minor, and the Trans* could be replaced by Transgender without changing the meaning of the tag line. Thanks for another interesting and useful post.

    1. I do hear you when you say that it’s in common use in the transgender community. It is a special character and it’s not a conventional English punctuation usage so I wouldn’t mess around. I would replace the asterisk with the word Transgender. Having said that, I have no source I can point to that deals with the asterisk specifically so if Google is choosing to display it in search results then leave it.

  3. Hi timethief,
    Thanks, I didn’t know about the character @. I used it sometimes in the past but not for important things. Btw, it’s always good to know. :)

  4. Hmmm …. that’s all very well if you are blogging in English, but if like me, you sometimes have to add the name/word in Spanish, then accents may be necessary :(

  5. In some languages, character like Ç, à or á or similar ones aren’t an option, they’re a part of our alphabet and used very often in a large amount of common words. Not using them where needed either changes the meaning of the word, makes it misspelled (down goes blog credibility with readers) or we’re simply not able to say (write) what we want to convey. How do you suggest we go about that? Avoid using words that are written like so, with “special characters” that aren’t so special after all? That would pose a huge problem for most Roman-based languages, such as Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian…

    Thanks for the great post :)

  6. Hi tt,

    I’ve noticed this tendency on Twitter, too (why waste characters on something that won’t display as intended?). Very strange.

    1. Hi Ron
      I think this is primarily be done by younger folks who are into texting. We even get bloggers posting in the support forums who think that Twitter hashtags like #blogging ought to be used in Tags on their posts.

    1. Hi Jennifer,
      I’m glad you think this tip is helpful. Please do pass it on. I hope you are enjoying your summer as much as I am enjoying mine.

  7. Good reminder of best practices. If you work with Microsoft Office much, you have the same problems. Actually, most any database program will reject the special characters. In the end, WordPress and the other social media are just gigantic databases no matter how nice they look.

    You explained it very well!


    1. Hi there Nancy,
      It’s important not to follow silly trends online as they can have negative consequences. Lately I have been noticing some bloggers are injecting special characters into their site and post titles and even into Tags to get attention. The result is browser confusion and none of us want or need that.

    1. Hi Daniela,
      I don’t know much about special characters either as I don’t frequently use them. When I do use them I have never used them in an inappropriate way and that’s what some bloggers are doing.

  8. This is great information. I didn’t know special characters could be a problem. Tells you how much I still need to learn!

    I tried to post a similar comment a minute ago and was told it could not be posted, but not why. Hope you get this one.

    Hugs from Ecuador,

    1. Hi Kathy,
      It’s always good to hear from you. There’s a special character trendiness happening that’s best avoided. I hope no one else experiences difficulty commenting (fingers crossed).

      Love and peace

  9. *sigh* Hi, Timethief! I just tried to *like* your post, but I just got a flash of a blank pop up window. Ironically, you were very generous with your time helping me this morning regarding this very problem and were kind to alert the support staff to look into it further.

    I just wanted to let you know that I liked what you wrote. Thank you!

Comments are closed.