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This has been very common in Chinese listings for a long time - but Chinese surfers are much more tolerant of the animations, pop-ups and so on that we would class as annoying.
I'd say it depends on your audience. If you have a site aimed at kids, it might help. If you are trying to find people to buy expensive technical equipment . . .
Google now seems to show a question mark (?) instead of the star sign
my understanding is that it will be a star for some of the people, some of the time. If you happen to have the right webfonts installed for it. And whatever google datacenter you're poking feels like it at that moment.
A lot of the time though, a lot of the people see very ugly (?)'s
I saw a happy face somewhere yesterday, it's ☺
My goal was for any of my competators that tried to steal it, they would steal the wrong character. Such as $$$ which is a dollar sign three times in a row, or № which is No with the 'o' being raised as in the abbreviation for 'number'.
I thought it would be funny because they wouldn't know what was going to happen until it was in the SERPS and then it would take a while for it to come back down. :D And you would know which competators were looking at your stuff.
Man I'm evil...
But can you imagine the look on someone's face if they saw the word 'No' next to their name in the serps!
Here's my third favorite ♂ which is the symbol for male, like what Austin Powers wore around his neck. hehehe...
Big discussion ... somehow funny ... not that long ago but it's nowhere now. Can't find any thread about it allthough i did a lot of searches - at google as well as using the WebmasterWorld site search. Did it go to the bin? A link somebody?
The only thing i can find about using a star in your title [google.com] is your profile, James. ;)
Not using IE6 on this Windows ME box. It is indeed a smiley face here. As for Google penalizing in terms of lower rankings, I very seriously doubt this. If Google cared, they'd just ignore these special characters and not display them in the SERPs.
I think we can conclude and put to rest a few questions here that keep popping up.
1)You will not be penalized for using special characters
2)Special characters on a keyboard will appear correctly in most browsers and search engines.
3)Characters that require html will often appear as question marks or boxes in many search engines and browsers.
4)As a general rule of thumb, you are better off using a title tag for keywords
But when you hit the home page, IE shows question marks in the titlebar while safari shows the smileys.
I know we are probably pushing the TOS, but does anyone have a search where the star show up? I'm curious about how it displays on different browsers, and if it depends on which fonts are installed.
As a side note, I created an ASCII table script that displays as many characters as I have patience to wait for and I see different amounts of characters depending on which browser I view it with.
When a character doesn't display I see an empty box. Maybe this has something to do with foreign language support?
Try a search on the keywords "ticket shopping" at google. In the number 1 spot is out of 5,010,000 results is a listing with an html happy face.
I guess that answers my question about whether special characters in the title hurt SEO.
If any one see's something different, maybe mention what browser you are using.
I saw the smiley face in Opera 7.11,Netscape 7.1 and IE 6.0.2800.1106