HubPages 101: Using or NOT Using Special Characters for Search Engine Optimization - Better Titles - Better Writing

As writers, we all know we must write to our target market. Each piece of writing online is critical. What was hard for me to understand as a new writer here on HubPages and on the internet, is the fact that my title can be different from my URL. My title can readily change, my URL can be changed but I must recreate the post entirely. One of the most critical pieces that we must fine tune as writers is the crafting of the URL. Our URL needs to be written to the target audience of the search engine. Newsflash, the search engine does not like special characters in the URL.

Writing online demands like all things, that you must know your environment and your readers. One of the biggest mistakes many of us make is not to see what others see. Take a step back and review your work in the eyes of the readers and you might find some surprises. I most certainly did. For you see, the first thing, I didn't realize was the fact that when I crafted my title I was creating the URL. The second thing I didn't realize is the search engines do not like special characters in the URL. What happens is the URL is not "cleanly" translated when the computer promotes the URL. In some cases, the special characters actually translated to garbage or the appearance of swear words such as "%?&@#$".

Learning how to write online is a skill that one can develop and learn. Starting with understanding how the computer handles special characters in your URL or titles is critical. Learning where special characters are loved and where they are scorned is an essential chore. Let's make that chore easy and learn to analyze how our URL, how our title will look on a web link.

Steer Clear of These Obstacles When Naming The Title of Your blog

special characters to steer clear of in blog titles in colorful poster form with steering wheel
special characters to steer clear of in blog titles in colorful poster form with steering wheel | Source

Tips From Ezine Video

Quick Tips from Ezine Articles

-Title is the first impression your reader sees

-Special to the point and relevant

-Some special characters are allowed

-Editorial Guidelines - Special Characters Allowed:

,? $ {} + - :/\

-Periods only allowed in product name

-Asterisks are only allowed when preserving a brand name such as E*Trade

Special Characters in the Blog Titles

What I Have Learned About Special Characters In Blog Titles

I have learned the hard way about special characters. Special characters generally will distort our links IF we include special characters in our blog titles and web links. What happens to our url link from the creation of our title IF we use special characters in the title of our blogs? We end up swearing on the world wide web. Yes, swearing. The translation often looks like this:

#???###?

For HubPages, the team at HubPages has taken care of this for you. You see when you use special characters in the title of the Hub, somehow they have programed it to remove those characters. It hasn't always been that efficient but leave it to the team at HubPages to work overtime for us.

Go ahead and try, just try getting a special character to show up in your HubPages title. It won't happen. Isn't it cool that HubPages has done the work for you and I? This computer coding problem is simply eliminated (except perhaps for older Hubs). Kudos once again is owed to the hard work and forward thinking team at HubPages.

As writers, we often use Hub Pages as our central core of writing and write on many other platforms. It is for the other platforms that we must fully understand what happens with the coding in titles and headings. Journey with us as we see links that end up swearing, urls that confuse the reader and learn that special characters have no meaning to the search engine. Lastly, we will see a several different special characters and learn what platforms love special characters along with what software programs code the special characters very readily. Understanding the coding currently doesn't work across all platforms for special characters is a skill that bloggers, writers and communication specialists need to know.

It is all about the opening paragraph. I suggest you warn your audience about the importance of special characters. For example, "When you prepare a URL, keep it as simple as possible. Get in a key word (in the title), but do not get fancy. The simpler the URL, the more likely it is to be found.

— Larry Wall from HubPages

Great Blogs - Great Content and Great Opening Pharagraph

It is all about the opening paragraph. I suggest you warn your audience about the importance of special characters. For example, "When you prepare a URL, keep it as simple as possible. Get in a key word, but do not get fancy. The simpler the URL, the more likely it is to be found.

However, as with most things, there are some variations and tricks you can do to improve your visibility.It is all about the opening paragraph. I suggest you warn your audience about the importance of special characters. For example, "When you prepare a URL, keep it as simple as possible. Get in a keyword, but do not get fancy. The simpler the URL, the more likely it is to be found.
However, as with most things, there are some variations and tricks you can do to improve your visibility.

Special Characters - Where And When

The more special characters out on Twitter the better - Twitter loves special characters, headings and titles do not.

  • Titles - Doesn't Help or Hinder SEO
  • Headings - Doesn't Help SEO
  • Twitter - As Much as Possible

Navigating the Coding of Special Characters

While HubPages has taken care of the coding needs for special characters, be aware that other platforms may need some hand holding. If you run your own website, if you publish on Wordpress or Blogger, be technically savvy and be aware of what your title really tells the search engines. Learn how to review your work and see firsthand what your readers will see - special characters or jumbled characters.

Having stated this, I must also advise that there is an important website that loves and encourages special characters. Yes, you guessed it Twitter. The "king of social media" and proponent of short notes WANTS to see special characters. The more special characters out on Twitter the better - Twitter loves special characters, headings and titles do not.

Google Doesn't Index Punctuation and Mathematical Symbols

As a general note, Google does not index punctuation and mathematical symbols.

Why We Care About Special Symbols

We care because the search engines don't care. They simply take up space and confuse our target audience - humans.

Current experts agree that Googledoesn't index special characters. In a query, the results are not part of the algorithm.

Overuse of Trademark Hinders Keyword Quality

Establishing the trademark within your content once is enough. If you are consistent with the TM symbol in your online text, you run a high risk of hindering your keyword quality. Remember you are always writing for the reader. When writing on the Internet, you are writing for the search engine. The search engine doesn't need the trademark symbol, it doesn't apply or offer any relevancy.

Who Needs To Know - Business Owners

Owners, entrepreneurs, marketing professionals love the TM and Register TM symbols. Theses are important special characters but out on the world wide web, a little goes a long way. Repeating your special characters is simply not needed. Take a tip from a pro and be sure to include the appropriate registration first and foremost and then consistently drop it from the story thereafter.

Remember, content is the key. We don't need to muddy the waters with repeating ourselves. We want to deliver a message concisely for the reader to quickly grasp the concepts not be overwhelmed with special characters.

Special Characters Names

| Vertical Bar

? Question Mark

# number sign

$ dollar sign

: Semi Colon

∫ Integral

] Left Right square bracket

@ At sign

© (c) Copyright

™ Trademark

µ Micro Sign

§ Section Sign

^ Caret

~ Tilde

% Percent

# Pound aka number

The Five Most Common Special Characters That Are Often Mis-used

  • Ampersand signs &
  • Apostrophes '
  • Percentage %
  • Trademarks ™
  • Copyrights ©

Special Characters Have Names

While we don't necessarily need to espouse the names of the special characters, a list is provided at the right for your quick reference. It is rather interesting how many special characters there are. Many are obscure and used only in special industries and special circumstances. Remember using special characters in your content is fine, just the headings and the titles need to exclude the special characters.

What is hard for me is the & - love this symbol and I would use it all the time in a heading. On a written document it works, on the world wide web - use the full word -"and" - simple and straightforward rule of thumb.

Why Must We Know About Special Characters?

As writers, as marketers as members of the world wide web, we must always know who our target audience is and write great content for the viewers. How that information is viewed by the search engines and by the viewer is critical. Remember the mantra of a good writer and marketer is "know your audience". This is a fundamental skill. Even the tiny special characters play an important role in your professional communication.

Source

Sample of a Hot Link with Special Characters

"Understanding Google’s New Page Layout Algorithm - Entrepreneur (blog)"

The Importance of Character Encoding
The Importance of Character Encoding | Source

What a Special Character Mis-Use Looks Like

So what you ask if I mis-use a special character in a heading or a title, what difference does it make? Check out this example - see how ugly it looks. To most, we know it is a "system thing" but to the knowledgeable, we know it is a lack of understanding of the environment that we are communicating in. Take the time to do it right and keep the special characters in sentences, embedded in paragraphs and out on Twitter. Place the special characters in the appropriate context and you will elevate your professional communication skills.

I especially like this example because it showcases how the TM is translated but the apostrophe is not.

Can you try it and check it out? Most certainly. Reviewing your work is the best way to test drive your knowledge base.

All too often we write, we publish and the most critical item is the review and all our hard work is lost upon a special character or a typo.

Moral of the story - ALWAYS review your work for what the exact way the reader will view your work.

Sample of a Title Gone Wrong - the Ampersand

"Welcome to Hacker-Craft, Builders of fine Mahogany Runabouts, Sportboats and Racers » Hacker Boat Company, Inc. | 8 Delaware Ave. Silver Bay, NY 12874"

Absolutely No Ampersands in Link Titles

If you link to your website and that is typically one of the many goals of search engine optimization, NEVER, ABSOLUTELY NEVER put an ampersand in the link title. Why? You will be swearing every time.

Link from www.hackercraft.com - "Welcome to Hacker-Craft, Builders of fine Mahogany Runabouts, Sportboats and Racers » Hacker Boat Company, Inc. | 8 Delaware Ave. Silver Bay, NY 12874"

Look at the "»" garbage that is translated. This is pulled from the "&" used in the link title.

Great website but very poor use of the link title. To get your message across cleanly, avoid the special character "&" and all special characters in link titles. You can use them (& and (c) © and (r) ® in the body of your work. Note the "vertical bar" works (|) in the translation from the website over to the back link brought into this article.

Sample of Unprofessional Link - Link with An Ampersand

Welcome to Hacker-Craft, Builders of fine Mahogany Runabouts, Sportboats and Racers » Hack

Sample - A Clean Link without Special Characters

The Double H Ranch - A Lake George Residential Summer Camp And So Much More

Creating Quickly with Key Strokes

Creating special characters quickly with key strokes
Creating special characters quickly with key strokes | Source

Quick Key Strokes for Creating Special Characters

OK, I am done with special character bashing - special characters are sometimes helpful and they are NEEDED sometimes.

So how can we create special characters with the use of quick key strokes? Here is a helpful guide for those who use special characters within sentences and paragraphs on a regular basis. Of course the point and click is always available for the occasional use and for the visual method. But if you are a tactile person such as me who learn how to type commands with the full keyboard rather than the mouse, there remains a more expedient method to create these special characters. Remember, to be professional in your communications, use them only in the appropriate locations in your content.

Twitter Symbols

Twitter Symbols
Twitter Symbols | Source
Source

Where on the World Web Can We Use Special Characters?

  • Twitter - Tweeting
  • Twitter - Direct Messages
  • # in Twitter is a key term to follow
  • $ in Twitter is a dollar sign of importance
  • Excel Footers love Ampersands &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&
  • Instant Messaging Loves Special Characters

NOTE: Twitter loves all special characters - the more the better. Do search for the airplane and the heart and so on. Make your tweets come alive with great visuals courtesy of special characters.

Where on the World Web NOT to Use Special Characters?

  • Blog URL - Remember it may not code correctly
  • Blog Titles - Remember it may not code correctly
  • Link Headings - You Will Be Swearing (Remember - NO Ampersands "&")

Twitter Loves Special Characters

It gets confusing in the world wide web. You are switching from writing, commenting to promoting. Often you will be on several different websites all at the same time with different windows open. If you are not, you may not be using your time most efficiency.

Likewise, when you use words and symbols, you want them to mean something and to communicate with your reader.

Since special characters can literally generate swearing words to your readers, here is a summary of generally when and where to use them. Remember technology is changing all the time and some of the websites that you use such as HubPages may have dummy proofed and eliminated the use of these special characters for you. Yet as a communications writer, you should still be aware of the rules and avoid inadvertently swearing at your readers.

Excel Footer Likes Special Characters Such as Ampersands

Source

Concise Communication

"Twitter is concise communication at its finest - only 140 characters per message."

American Choices

"Twitter is the SMS of the Internet"

SMS - Short Messaging Sending

Twitter - Microblogging and Social Networking Website

Twitter is a micro-blogging and social networking website. It is built upon 140 characters which have been labelled "tweets". It was created by a genius by the name of Jack Dorsey and launched in July 2006. In 2011, it boasted over 300 million users. What you need to know, is Twitter is more than just tweets, it is about Twitter's interaction with the search engine. You see Twitter is also processing 1.6 billion search queries per day.

Some have labelled Twitter the "SMS of the Internet". With SMS meaning "short message sending", a new form of communication another form of texting, a more efficient method of emailing or messaging.

Twitter Hash Tags - Origin and Function

The hash mark (#) before a word in a post allows you to tag that post for that word. However, in order to get tracked via a hash tag, you need to opt-in and follow http://twitter.com/hashtags.

The geeky explanation of hash tags is in wonderful world of Twitter, the hash tags are a "community-driven convention" for adding metadata to your tweets. They were originally developed to create groups on Twitter for tracking a topic." {source Read Write Web}

Search Favorites of Twitter

# - pound denoting key terms to search upon

$ - dollar sign denoting prices and amounts

Twitter Loves Special Characters - Two Twitter Favorites

Special characters are friends of Twitter. Learn how to use them and you will have your Tweets quickly found on Google.

Two of Twitter's Search Favorites - Special Characters That Truly Mean Something


$ - the dollar sign

# - the hash tag - the follow symbol somewhat similar to key terms

Obtaining followers that are pertinent to your words is key out on Twitter. The # sign allows you to quickly gather more followers and expand the reach of your marketing effort. Remember Twitter is a billboard, you want more traffic past your free billboard.

Never Use Special Characters in Your Blog's Title


WARNING: DO NOT USE special characters ( @ # % & ; ) in titles or headings.

When it comes to your web content - getting crawled by the search engines, getting indexed, and ultimately getting ranked properly, using special symbols correctly can mean allot to your readers.

Special Characters - Hyphens and Underscore

While we are on the subject of special characters, I didn't wish to leave any special character out.

The hyphen and the underscore, I have little experience with. But one expert does and I wanted to share their opinion, in case you were wondering...

Hyphens Preferred Over Underscores

"If you are seeking to maximize your web exposure, hyphens are preferred over underscores. Trim excess hyphens. Stick with lower case."

http://stackoverflow.com/

Reserved and Unsafe Characters

"There are two sets of characters you need to watch out for - Reserved and Unsafe.

The reserved characters are: ampersand ("&") dollar ("$") plus sign ("+") comma (",") forward slash ("/") colon (":") semi-colon (";") equals ("=") question mark ("?") 'At' symbol ("@").

The characters generally considered unsafe are: space, question mark ("?"), less than and greater than ("<>") open and close brackets ("[]") open and close braces ("{}") pipe ("|") backslash ("\") caret ("^") tilde ("~") percent ("%") and pound ("#").

I may have forgotten one or more, which leads to me echoing Carl V's answer. In the long run you are probably better off using a white list of allowed characters and then encoding the string than trying to say abreast of characters that are disallowed by servers and systems." source:

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/695438/safe-characters-for-friendly-url

Terms for Types of Special Characters

The information provided to the right is more guidance and simply breaks down the special characters into categories of "reserved" and "unsafe". What this means in programming terms, I am not certain. My needs are simple - to deliver professional content to my readers. In programming, these categories have a special meaning. I do my best to stay of Drupal and HTML coding so I share this information simply for those who have more experience in these fields.

Staying Abreast of Changes

This one is key. For many sites, they are upgrading as HubPages has done and I expect very shortly other sites will follow HubPages lead and simply do the work of removing the special characters in the very places they should not be. Yet, as a writer who loves knowledge, I enjoy seeing the evolution and knowing the old fashion manual method. Knowledge is power and perhaps this will help me with the next new software trend.

Not Equal To Symbol

Turned Question Mark

¿

Registered Trademark Symbol

®

Trademark Symbol

Amost Equal To Symbol

Infiniti Symbol

Heart Symbol

URL and Encoding and Blog Titles

URL Coding DeCoded Information to Help Bloggers with Blog Titles
URL Coding DeCoded Information to Help Bloggers with Blog Titles | Source

Blog Title URL Driving Destination

colorful poster of driving destination for designing the url of your blog title
colorful poster of driving destination for designing the url of your blog title | Source

Take Our Poll

Have You Used Special Characters Inappropriately?

  • Yes
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See results without voting

Communicating out on the world wide web is a little bit like learning a new language. Mastering the terms, understanding your target market, knowing what your readers will actually see is a critical element in your professional communication skills.

Social networking founds fun but it is work and it does have a skill set that we must learn. Learn the correct words and symbols and use them appropriately to communicate with your audience.

© 2012 American_Choices

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Comments 15 comments

Hawkesdream profile image

Hawkesdream 4 years ago from Cornwall

This is a comprehensive and useful study of 'special characters' I have bookmarked and voted up. I know that I will return here often. Thank you.


American_Choices profile image

American_Choices 4 years ago from USA Author

Hawkesdream,

Thank you so much for stopping by and for voting my hard work up - that means allot.

I was surprised to learn that coding doesn't automatically translate for special characters - amazing we must be smarter than the computer - go figure!


Hawkesdream profile image

Hawkesdream 4 years ago from Cornwall

AH Ha, but then computers are programmed by humans, and sometimes we miss the obvious. If we were not smarter than computers, then, there would be no computers.


Dina Blaszczak profile image

Dina Blaszczak 4 years ago from Poland

Very informative hub, I never thought about all these characters, but seems to be I have been lucky to avoid those mistakes. Voted up and useful.


American_Choices profile image

American_Choices 4 years ago from USA Author

I started this because I made the mistake and then I noticed others making the mistakes. Interestingly, HubPages noted the mistake and changed their coding to help us. So perhaps my title is not the best because it now applies the world beyond HubPages.


barbiedoll89 profile image

barbiedoll89 4 years ago

This Is COOL....GREAT JOB....LIKE LIKE LIKE :)


American_Choices profile image

American_Choices 4 years ago from USA Author

Special characters have a place in our work - sadly the one place is NOT in titles or urls.


medula 4 years ago

www.eczecz.com

AH Ha, but then computers are programmed by humans, and sometimes we miss the obvious. If we were not smarter than computers, then, there would be no computers.


American_Choices profile image

American_Choices 4 years ago from USA Author

You are right - we must learn to be smarter than the computers. Knowing how the computer reacts is key.


Brite-Ideas profile image

Brite-Ideas 2 years ago from Toronto, Canada

fabulous page, very helpful, thank you! glad I found it


bettyshares profile image

bettyshares 2 years ago from Lighthearted Musings

I saw this shared in my feed, I will have to bookmark and save this one.


WannaB Writer profile image

WannaB Writer 2 years ago from Templeton, CA

I'm afraid I've already made mistakes by ending blog titles with question marks or using colons. What about the apostrophe? Can't blog titles be questions? I love question titles.


American_Choices profile image

American_Choices 2 years ago from USA Author

Brite-ideas,

Thank you so much for stopping by. I am passionate about writing and anything that helps I wish to share with my fellow Hubbers.


American_Choices profile image

American_Choices 2 years ago from USA Author

Betty Shares,

Thank you so much for bookmarking this and sharing in your feed. The special characters are something only the technical people, not the writers think about in crafting a title.


American_Choices profile image

American_Choices 2 years ago from USA Author

WannaB Writer,

I believe you hit upon perhaps one of the exceptions to the broad rule. Everyone loves questions and yet I challenge you before you finalize that blog to check the characters and see how it the search engine will view the title.

As a writer, we are all too anxious to publish but first we must put our best foot forward and not just spell check, not just review for grammar but review how we present the title to the search engine.

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