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Colons in Page Titles: A new ranking factor?

What are these changes you speak of?

It appears that Google are either running a test or have recently made a change on how they present page titles and are now using colons as page title separators. Everyone SEO is aware that Google treat hyphens and pipes as keyword separators, and it now appears that they may want us to start using colons.

Here is an example…

This below search is for site:gordoncampbell.co.uk , as you will see Google is presenting the page title as ‘Gordon Campbell: Glasgow SEO, PPC & Social Media Consultant’ but the page title I have set is ‘Glasgow SEO, PPC & Social Media Consultant – Gordon Campbell’ so it appears that Google is re-jigging my page title to present it better on the SERPs.

Gordon Campbell Search

Here is another example so you know it’s now just my site…

The following search is for weights York Fitness, Google has presented us with the page title ‘York Fitness: Gym Equipment & Machines | Weights | Boxing’ but the page title that York Fitness has set is ‘Gym Equipment & Machines | Weights | Boxing Equipment | York Fitness’ and truth be told, Google’s version of the page title looks far better.

Search Result

Do the SEOs at Amazon know something we don’t know?

Do a search for the keyword weights and you will find that Amazon already create page titles in this format and have done for some time. Have they done tests on this at some point and discovered that page titles have a higher CTR in this format? Have they discovered that page titles like this tend to rank better? Who knows but I wouldn’t be surprised.

Amazon search result

Anyone else noticed this? More examples would be appreciated.

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Gordon Campbell

Gordon is an SEO, PPC and Social Media Consultant based in Glasgow, Scotland.

31 Comments

  1. Your correct, I noticed this some time ago, it seams that Google has decided to use colons
    to do a better separation for the titles.Although we have not noticed a greater CTR.

  2. I think the title and gist of your article a little misleading, as the addition of a colon highly unlikely to suddenly increase your site’s ranking. (Of course, if we could run some causative tests on a number of sites that showed an improvement after the use of a colon in title then we might have something).

    I am more interested to see if there are examples of Google adding a brand name and then a color in it’s title re-writing SERP mechanism. BTW, Those examples are different because they both actually use the colon in there title unlike in your site’s case.

  3. Thanks for the feedback Jeremy.

    I’m not saying that using colons will definitely increase your rankings, this is why I’ve asked a question rather than have a title that says ‘colons increase your search rankings.’ I put the article together to bring it to the attention of SEOs for them to go away and test things for themselves.

    Google are clearly telling us that they like information to be presented in a certain way to their user and perhaps if we give them what they want in the first place so they don’t need to be changed dynamically, it may have a positive impact on your search engine ranking.

    As you know, the use of hyphens and pipes can have a positive, or negative impact on your search engine ranking depending on how they are used. This could also be the case when it comes to colons but it would be great to get some testing done..

    York Fitness don’t have the colon in their title tag Google has generated this, Amazon do but I’ve pointed that out in my article…

    Thanks again for your comment :)

  4. Thanks Gordon for sharing this changes.. i just checked the same with my client sites and all the sites which are having “-” in title in the end is coming in the same way you’ve said in article. This may be a sign that google wants us to be more brand specific rather than keyword specific. If google puts brand name/company name in front then we should start optimizing in that way.. have to do some research in that though.

    Thanks again for something new :)

  5. This is interesting as am seeing it on our site and others on page 1 for our most competitive term – however, only for some, and not for all – so I am interested in what the criteria is for displaying the brand – could it be from Google Plus or similar? (i.e. if you have a G+ Business Page) – there must be a reason for those that display and those that don’t, am going to look into this further…

  6. I’m also seeing the same thing with some of the websites I manage. It looks though that if the title tags have a pattern of adding the brand name in the end, Google moves it to the forefront.

    Title 1 – Company ABC, Title 2 – Company ABC

    becomes

    Company ABC: Title 1, Company ABC: Title 2

    If your title says “The Amazing Things About Company ABC”, it stays the same.

  7. True Paul, this has been happening for a while but just not in this format. Thanks for sharing your post mate.

  8. Well this result is for those titles which have company/brand name. But what about those titles which do not include company name? Will Google do the same, if so on which word/words. Will have to test and see..

  9. Yet another change to SERP, boy, it’s getting harder and harder to keep up with them. Frederik maybe correct about space efficiency, seeing that the results favor title pixel width over character number.

  10. Hello, yes i noticed this a couple of weeks ago when search for near and far removals. This appears with Near & Far Removals: Removals Nottingham

  11. I notices this a couple of days ago in my search result. It is showing colon “:” instead of pipe “|”, like: “Company Name : Keywords in title tag”. I am trying to check, will it effect on keywords ranking.

  12. The question is, how does Google chose to display the Brand name in their result when you haven’t got it in your source code…?
    Google can read the title in the source code and therefore doesn’t need the brand name in the title to determine who you are, what are you talking about on your page or site etc… So it’s obvious that it’s only a choice of re organising results for relevancy.
    Surely, Google finds easier to rank a site when the brand is named first thanks to Co-Citation and keyword association?

  13. I have an ecommerce website and I’m only seeing this for one “product page” and it’s showing like this, product item – Name of Company . The name of my company was not moved to the beginning, no colon added and my title description was re-written. I think it may have something to do with either having a Google+ Business account and also wondering if it makes a difference when Rich Snippet Coding is included on a website using “author” versus “publisher”?

  14. The same thing is happening on my website to, as well as from this change i think i got a major change on my website ranking.

  15. thanks for heads up on this, it’s happening with one of the sites i look after, started to drive me nuts thinking there had been a source code change somewhere by the developers.

  16. Hello.
    It’s over a month since anyone posted about this issue so any updates a month on? Having paid my web designer a fair bit to change my title tags in late Jan/early Feb with pipes as separators, it had initially improved search results and then dropped like a stone a few weeks later which would coincide with this article stating the changes google have made!

    For the record my title tags are written as

    Cheap B&B | Bed And Breakfast Blackpool | Free Parking | Accommodation | Guest House | Lynmoore

    Could anyone advise how would be best to write the title tags now. My Business name is Lynmoore Guest House which is in Blackpool UK. Thanks in advance for your help.

  17. It may be related to changes that Google have made but there are also so many factors that could have influenced it.

    I had a quick look at your Title Tags and they look ok now so don’t worry about it.

    Make sure you ask every customer that visits your hotel to leave a review on Trip Advisor, not via your internet connection though. Another thing worth doing is making sure your Google+ Local page is as complete as it can be. Try adding some videos :)

  18. Hi Gordon,

    It is an interesting post and topic of discussions, having recently published a new site and noticed Google is actually appending the main keyword to the back end of the title which I find very strange, have you ever seen this before?

  19. Hi there

    I’m a photographer in the Cambridge area, in the UK.

    I have recently noticed that my website appears in Google results with a Google heading that is different to what my index page title says in the html source.

    I believe my website has dropped off Page 1 to page 2 because of one thing.

    My index title is:

    Wedding Photographer Cambridge – Jean-Luc Benazet Photography

    And for a search on “wedding photographer cambridge”, Google returns the following:

    Jean-Luc Benazet Photography: Wedding Photographer Cambridge
    http://www.jeanlucbenazet.com?
    Wedding photography in Cambridge from a highly recommended unobtrusive and friendly professional wedding photographer. Book now for 2013/2014!

    First the company name, then colon, then the keyword that is so important to me being found!

    The fact that my company name is placed in front of the keyword hinders my chances to be higher in the search results for any particular results.

    However, it only happens with Google! If you look at the same search results in Bing:

    Wedding Photographer Cambridge – Jean-Luc Benazet Photography
    http://www.jeanlucbenazet.com
    Wedding photography in Cambridge from a highly recommended unobtrusive and friendly professional wedding photographer. Book now for 2013/2014!

    And I am on Page 1 in Bing.

    I’d like to make an experiment and add colons to all my page titles, but so far what I have seen is it is actually worse than before for me.

  20. Hey Gordon,

    Great article! I was wondering if anyone has done testing on colons yet?

    To play it on the safe side, I wrote to some of my freelancers: “Question your colons: Google recognizes colons as separators which delineate keyword phrases. So if the title reads ‘Toronto: Food Tour, When Pigs Fry’, Google will read the keyword phrases as being ‘Toronto’ and ‘Food Tour When Pigs Fry’.” Is that the right advice to give?

    Thanks,
    Ailsa

  21. Sounds like decent advice, just keep them sounding as natural as possible. It’s also worth remember that Google you will be targeting keywords even though they are not in a specific order. For example, that title may also help you rank for ‘food tour pigs’, ‘pigs food tour’ and ‘tour food Toronto’ etc.

    They may also look at synonyms(they are doing this more) too.

    Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment.

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