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To Comma, or not to comma - it can affect the SERPs
stinkfoot




msg:3575861
 3:50 pm on Feb 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

Hi All,
We all speak English. In English punctuation there is something called, a comma. A comma is there to indicate a pause, time to breath before the next part of a sentence is spoken. It is used to separate elements of a sentence.

I as a writer use commas but, it would appear people searching for things don't. Fair enough, it is not often you will be searching for more than one thing at a time. I mean no one would search for "a hotel in London with a swimming pool, restaurant, sauna and en-suite bathroom" would they.

Now Google keeps on going on about how one should write for humans and not for search engines. Well, if we did that, we wouldn't get anywhere in SERPs would we.

A silly thing I noted, which puts paid again to their hypocrisy is, the comma. I was searching, as I usually do, for some unique text. I do this to check if my pages have been indexed or not. The text I looked for was "boing bang blah slip, bang splat", as this was on one of my pages.

To my horror, I found that it was not in the index. I freaked. Not another penalty surely. Then, I removed the comma. Searching for "boing bang blah slip" "bang splat", Guess what? Yup ... my page showed.

The point I am trying to make is: if we are supposed to be writing good, well punctuate English, why do we get penalised for it?

[edited by: tedster at 4:00 pm (utc) on Feb. 15, 2008]

 

europeforvisitors




msg:3575901
 4:27 pm on Feb 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

As long as we're relying on anecdotal evidence, I'll just mention that I have high-ranking pages for any number of phrases where I use commas ("Widgetville, Elbonia") and searchers and search indexes don't. The same is true of apostrophes and periods ("St. Widget's Basin" vs. "St Widgets Basin.")

If you want something to worry about, try spellings, such as "traveler" vs. "traveller," "color" vs. "colour," or "gray" vs. "grey."

tedster




msg:3575902
 4:27 pm on Feb 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

Well, it's not really being "penalised" but it certainly is a quirk or bug in the quoted search terms routine. We can take some consolation in that searches of this kind are usually not performed by anyone but the site owner or author.

Fascinating find, by the way - thanks for the information!

wilderness




msg:3575924
 4:37 pm on Feb 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

As an aside, many old widget writers utilized em-dashes.

Strucurally speaking, they may be the same as commas, however I learned a significant difference.

Today's scribes seem more educated in sentence structure and computers allow more organization of thoughts in composition than pecking out articles on an old Underwood ;)

Widgets also offer specific data categories (utilizing commas that have been in practice more than 150 years (mentioned previously) of which the SE's have no ability to connect the phrases.

wilderness




msg:3575933
 4:39 pm on Feb 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

If you want something to worry about, try spellings, such as "traveler" vs. "traveller," "color" vs. "colour," or "gray" vs. "grey."

I could likely add another hundred similar examples with a focused widget.
The latter happens almost daily.

tedster




msg:3575948
 4:53 pm on Feb 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

em-dashes

Sometimes that's the best way to get a written voice that feels like personal speech - or even to transcribe a spoken interview.

I'm involved with several writers who use em-dahses extensively. Off to do some research on how it might affect the SERPs!

europeforvisitors




msg:3575964
 5:06 pm on Feb 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

As an old typist (and an old-fashioned ASCII kind of guy), I tend to use double hyphens (--) for the em dash.

And how about traditional typewriter-style quotes (") vs. open and close quotes? I wonder if search-engine designers have given any thought to such matters?

wilderness




msg:3575991
 5:32 pm on Feb 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

As an old typist (and an old-fashioned ASCII kind of guy), I tend to use double hyphens (--) for the em dash.

The archival/digitization that I do, is accomplished by saving the files as RTF/Word 6.0.

Later on when coping the RTF data into my html editior, em-dashes and hyphens or dashes are converted to question marks and require editing corrections.
Initially, I found this problem frustrating. Today I accept it as part of the proccess which allows me to focus on a deeper layer of proof-reading. It does add extra time.

stinkfoot




msg:3576541
 8:42 am on Feb 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

Hi All,

>it's not really being "penalised"

Think about it from the perspective of a writer. The art of expressing thoughts so as to be understood by many, rather than a few. These people may well be more emotional than a computer scientist working for google, whom this problem is in the hands of. In a writers eyes, this can in my mind be seen as a punishment. Not trying to be over pedantic, I will move on.

>I'm involved with several writers who use em-dahses extensively. Off to do some research on how it might affect the SERPs!

Tedster you have now expressed my worry more fully. The English language should not be changed to suit a machine. This is the hypocrisy of google's webmaster guidelines.

Next, we will be writing poetry in phone text dialect and expect everyone to connect with it (sorry for the pun). Which would you rather have you children reading and writing? Good, well punctuated English or geek speak? One is a well documented language, the other is being promoted by google for public consumption.

I believe they have a lot to answer for here. They are giving the public work that savages our language.

wilderness




msg:3576609
 1:04 pm on Feb 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

They are giving the public work that savages our language.

Times even change for etiquette?
b-a-s-t-a-r-dize used to be a commonly used phrase for the same offense ;)

Joking aside, the depth in writing has changed as well, at least in periodicals (which will likley carry over to more extensive publications). The depth in most instances is the result of the restriction of the periodical publisher themselves, who've become aware of the short attention span of their subscribers.

europeforvisitors




msg:3576621
 1:50 pm on Feb 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

The English language should not be changed to suit a machine. This is the hypocrisy of google's webmaster guidelines.

While you're at it, why not get mad at newspapers for formatting articles with short paragraphs that are dictated by the need for readability at narrow column widths?

Why not get furious at the translators of the King James Bible for arranging text in numbered verses for more convenient indexing and retrieval?

And why not condemn yourself for "savaging the language" because you're under the false impression that writing text without commas is the only way to rank well in Google?

wilderness




msg:3576642
 3:12 pm on Feb 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

While you're at it, why not get mad at newspapers for formatting articles with short paragraphs that are dictated by the need for readability at narrow column widths?

Do worse than "get mad"!
For some time I've been working on three column text on an approxiamte 8 X 10 pages of old periodicals.

Also have done some four colum text of the aforementioned width.

europeforvisitors




msg:3576651
 3:30 pm on Feb 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

You know, what really burns me is the way Google's Webmaster guidelines ("Make sure that your TITLE tags and ALT attributes are descriptive and accurate," etc.) have influenced writers and publishers even in the offline world. I've actually seen textbook authors use descriptive titles like "INTRODUCTORY GEOMETRY" or "PRINCIPLES OF ACCOUNTING" instead of more creative titles like "TYING THE HYPOTENUSE" or "BUSINESS BY THE NUMBERS," presumably to help their books rank higher in Google Book Search.

wilderness




msg:3576662
 3:52 pm on Feb 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

ALT tags were never intended for the use that it (ALT) has become.

Rather the TITLE tag was intended, which google fails to index and IE (at least the older versions) doesn't even expose on a mouseover.

I stopped using ALT tags long ago, however after some recent reading of materials may change all the TITLES to ALT.
Even the google video by Matt Cutter emphasizes ALT tags.

BTW, a short while back I came across a method which explained how to lengthen the display of ALT text by browsers.
The method suggested including a line break in the tag between text.
Tested the suggestion and it works.
Whether google would include the excess is another issue.

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