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Would adding a hyphen to all titles impact ranking?

     
10:16 am on May 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I am in the process of changing my site from all html to a database driven one. I managed to keep most of the content the same, however due to some bug the page titles of my most important pages now all start with a hyphen.
I read that Google interprets hyphens as spaces, so I guess it should not be a big deal. But as there are quite a lot of other changes going on throughout the site I'm not sure whether I should postpone the change over until this bug is solved, to keep changes to a minimum. Any ideas if these hyphens could have an impact on my rankings?
5:51 pm on May 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Since page titles are VERY important concerning your pages content, this change may have an effect on your ranking...

Will the rankings return?
probably...

after a while...
maybe...

hopefully...

let us know....

best of luck!
Tera

[edited by: Terabytes at 5:55 pm (utc) on May 8, 2008]

6:01 pm on May 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I agree, changing every title at once might cause a bump in the road, even if the change is minor. If you intend to fix this bug eventually, I'd do it now rather than change all your titles twice.

However, because it is a minor change I wouldn't expect long term ranking trouble.

6:08 pm on May 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Thanks very much. Unfortunately I can't fix this myself, I'm waiting for a software update which is overdue. Looking at your replies I think I will wait a couple more weeks and see if the update gets released. Fingers crossed.
6:10 pm on May 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Google might also interpret the hyphen at the beginning of the title as a way of attracting attention on the results page. There have been discussions about this in the past, wondering if this might hurt. I don't remember the specifics, but someone else might.
6:12 pm on May 8, 2008 (gmt 0)

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It sounds like you're probably using an open source CMS. My guess is that somewhere out there is a fix.

IMO it would be worth it to pay a programmer to fix this if you cannot do it yourself.

I had the same problem with Wordpress starting all my page titles with right angle quotes () and finally found a hack to fix it after searching for a while.

2:43 pm on May 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

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you're right, its open source cms. I tried to get a solution using their forum, but my best bet seems to be to wait for the new release which supposedly is just around the corner (but you never know).
So until then I will have two 'parallel' sites and I was wondering how I could avoid having to update both.
Would it be ok to link from my old site to new product pages of the new site (the new version is currently in a sub folder that is disallowed in robots.txt and no links go out to this folder).
If Google indexed those pages I would otherwise have to redirect them all later, which I would rather avoid as I already have a lot of pages that will need redirecting.
Another worry might be that Google could somehow find the new versions of my old pages in this folder, which could mean duplicate content problems.
I guess what I'm asking is how much can I rely on robots.txt in this case.
4:15 pm on May 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

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You can rely on robots.txt very much. If there is a technical bug (not too common in this area). As long as the url is disallowed in robots.txt, the url removal request is straightforward and usually quite fast.
4:31 pm on May 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

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That's great news, thanks! Just had another thought and (hopefully last) worry: Could Google look at my site in a negative way if I introduce a larg(ish) number of links to pages that are disallowed in robots.txt? Would I possibly be sending any unwanted signals - or is this a common thing to do?
4:50 pm on May 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I've never heard of a ranking problem, and the practice doesn't break any of Google's guidelines.
5:21 pm on May 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

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My guess is that somewhere out there is a fix.

I agree, look for a hack that fixes the problem.

7:30 pm on May 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I agree to the consensus: do not mess with title
7:46 pm on May 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Taking a hyphen out of page titles is relatively simple in PHP, even a beginner can do it. Can you find the specific part of the code that generates the titles? If so you can probably get help in the PHP forum (if that's the language of the CMS).
9:48 am on May 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for all your advice and making me look at the code, something I wouldn't normally have done. I think I might have located the right section and will post in the php forum. Hopefully I'll get this to work :-)