Home / Posts tagged "URL"
Search Engine Optimization and Punctuation, Capitalization, and Special Characters

Search Engine Optimization and Punctuation, Capitalization, and Special Characters

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Triple Canopy Media wishes to inform you once again that high-quality content must be an essential part of your company’s website. Simply put, you need engaging, informative content to both demonstrate to Google that you’re an authority in your field and show that your website is well-maintained and polished.

What may not be as clear to content creators is how search engines might deal with some of the little differences that they find in your content. For instance:

  • Can the way in which a content creator uses punctuation affect SEO? Will overloading or omitting commas and other punctuation marks harm a webpage in the rankings?
  • Does capitalization, or a lack of capitalization, affect searches conducted by Google?
  • Will special characters such as the copyright symbol (©), the trademark symbol (™), or the registered trademark symbol (®) get picked up by search engines?

Let’s take a look!

(Incidentally, some younger readers might be asking, “What does it mean to sound like a broken record?” If you don’t understand this idiom, know that a broken record is usually one that is scratched. A scratch on a record may cause the needle on the record player, which facilitates playback, to get stuck and thereby repeat the same few seconds of music over and over again. Still unclear? Text your parents or call your grandparents for clarification.)

Capitalization and SEO

Does capitalization matter to Google? Are searches case-sensitive? The consensus on a Quora forum addressing this subject is that capitalization doesn’t affect keyword searches. What this means, then, is that someone searching for “North Canton Ohio SEO” will get the same results as someone searching for “north canton ohio seo” as the below set of screenshots shows:

Screenshot of search engine results with capitalization in mind


Screenshot of search results without capitalization

As you can see, the first search capitalized the location name, and all of the letters in the acronym “SEO.” The second search used nothing by lowercase letters, but still turned up the same top-five page results.

(Allow us to point out, in case you missed it, that Triple Canopy Media holds the top two spots in both searches. You’re welcome.)

But Wait! Does Capitalization Ever Matter?

Yes! It turns out that capitalization does matter when it comes to a website’s URL.

A website’s domain name is always going to be rendered in lowercase. It doesn’t matter if you type “triplecanopymedia.com” or “TripleCanopyMedia.com” or “TRIPLECANOPYMEDIA.COM” when you want to visit the TCM homepage. Your browser will send you there regardless.

In contrast, where capitalization does matter is in the portion of the URL that follows the domain name. This is called the “path,” and it indicates the exact location of a page, post, or file.

In the web address, “https://www.triplecanopymedia.com/category/blog/,” the path is the part of the URL that follows the first single backslash, in this case, “category/blog/.” It’s here, in the path, that capitalization matters.

This is essential to keep in mind when you’re creating pages for your website.

There IS a difference, as far as Google is concerned, between https://www.triplecanopymedia.com/category/blog/ and https://www.triplecanopymedia.com/CATEGORY/BLOG/. In this example, the second page doesn’t exist. Even though the domain name is correct, the page name is not because the path is capitalized and the actual page has a lowercase path. If you were to input this exact address, with the path capitalized, Google would not redirect you to the correct (existing) page, though it would do so if you capitalized just the domain name.

What does this mean for you if you’re creating new webpages for your site? It shows that it’s a good idea to conform with web conventions and make sure that the whole path is in lowercase.

If you fail to be mindful of this, then you might end up with a situation where capitalization could negatively affect your SEO. Placing duplicate content on two different pages that each have a different path may ultimately cause Google to value the authority of each page less than it should. The solution? Both for the sake of SEO and internal consistency, make sure all of your pages have paths that uniformly use lowercase letters.

How About Punctuation and SEO?

To begin our discussion of punctuation, rather than thinking about how Google will look at your page, think about how a human reader will respond to it. If your website’s content is full of errors, not just typos, but also in punctuation, then readers probably won’t stick around for very long if they happen to land on it while browsing. And the lack of time that real humans spend looking at your site will have a negative effect on your search results.

This means that you should be mindful about using basic punctuation marks correctly. A misplaced comma here or there probably isn’t going to harm you very much, if at all. But failing to ever use commas in your content or not placing any periods at the end of your sentences likely will have a negative impact.

But Punctuation and URLs, on the Other Hand…

Again, there’s a difference between on-page content and your page’s URL. You should place hyphens or underscores in between the words in your URL’s path (as in https://www.triplecanopymedia.com/social-media-aligns-connection-customer-service/). This ultimately makes the page easier on a human reader’s eyes. But avoid using other punctuation marks in your web address that you might readily put in page content such as question marks or exclamation marks. After all, remember that the URL for Yahoo! is yahoo.com and not yahoo!.com.

SEO and Special Symbols Such as ©, ™, or ®

Finally, we come to this set of special characters. According to Search Engine Roundtable, in an article published in 2017, for SEO purposes, Google ignores all symbols such as those which indicate copyright. The search engine reportedly treats any word that is next to a copyright symbol just like it treats that word without the symbol.

So does it matter at all if the copyright symbol is there?

One user on this Moz Q&A forum agrees that it doesn’t from an SEO standpoint. However, this commenter goes on to state that including these symbols is not only wise from a legal standpoint, it might also improve CTR (click-through rate) by showing that your business is professional and honors trademarks. Including the trademark symbol is therefore a respectful practice that apparently won’t have any negative effect on your place in search results.

In Conclusion

In your website’s content, it’s generally best to adhere to proper writing conventions when dealing with capitalization and punctuation. After all, that’s likely to make a higher number of human readers happy. And Google rewards content that gives people what they want. But the same rules don’t apply to URLs, which are far more particular. When in doubt, follow the conventions. But, above all, as always, try to make your content as engaging, informative, and readable as you can.