ABCs and URLs

Two popular myths are that alphabetization in the HTML title tag or using a keyword in a URL can improve ranking. There is little reason to expect either of these to work as “secret weapons” to getting amazing rankings, as explained below.

Alphabetical Ranking

People sometimes assume that titles that start high in the alphabet, or with letters or symbols, will be ranked better. They create titles such as these:

A1 Page About Cars
1. My Page Is Best For Cars
! The Best Place For Cars

A title high in the alphabet or the ASCII character set offers no advantage with the major search engines. Sometimes you will see pages using this technique doing well in the top results. However, this is always because of other techniques they are using, not solely because they employed alphabetization.

This myth seems to have emerged out of the fact that Yahoo used to list sites alphabetically within its human-categorized directory results. Thus, some mistakenly assumed that alphabetical titles would help with crawler-based search engines such as Google.

If you find alphabetization working, certainly carry on. But those assuming it to be a secret weapon can expect disappointing results. Don’t forget, it can also make your titles look so unattractive that people will fail to click through.

Keywords In The URL

Some people feel that if they want to be found for cars, they should have a URL with the word “cars” in it, such as:

I have never found that including a word in the URL as shown above has made a major difference. If it works for you, stick with it. It certainly won’t hurt to include the words. But as with alphabetization, don’t expect it to be a miracle solution. Chances are, it will do little to improve your ranking.

What about the fact that you may see lots of sites ranking well for the same terms that also appear in their URLs? Isn’t that proof positive that having the terms in the URL is crucial? No, not at all.

As you might expect, anyone who specifically includes a particular term in their URL is extremely likely to be doing other things to rank well, such as using the terms in their meta tags, in the text on their web pages, in their title tags, and so on. These things are far more likely to be propelling them to the top of listings than having the terms in their URLs.

Again, it doesn’t hurt to have the terms there, and if you can do it — great, go for it. You might get a tiny ranking boost, but you shouldn’t expect miracles.

By the way, if you are really worried about this issue, then use hyphens between terms. For instance, assume you wanted to be found for “stamp collecting.” You could make a page and give it either of these names:

The second example is better. That’s because the hyphen between “stamp-collecting” will be read as a space, so the words become “stamp collecting.” In contrast, the “words” in the first example really are read as a single word, “stampcollecting.”

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