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I've been looking at some of our questions and how they appear in Google, and I noticed that the tag that is prepended to every question title is pretty much always useless to a user seeing it in Google.

We have certainly significant tagging problems, our scope is extremely broad and we haven't found a good tagging scheme yet. But I would argue that even if our tagging was much better, due to the nature of our site it still wouldn't make sense to prepend a tag to the title.

Our tags are purely organizational, they try to divide the questions into broad topics. They almost never add any information to the title, like e.g. would do on SO if you don't mention the programming language in your title.

Our titles can stand on their own, I don't think we need the tags added to them. So, similar how on Gaming the tag count was increased to 2, I think we should decrease it here on Skeptics to 0.

If you find any counter examples that would get worse after this proposed change, please post them here.

I went through the top search queries that result in people finding this site and I did not find a single one where the tag appended to the question title was part of the search terms. This might be important for SEO on StackOverflow or e.g. Gaming, but it doesn't seem to have any positive effect on this site. We don't have any important terms that we leave out of the title because they're in a tag already, like the programming language on SO or the game name on Gaming.

Here are some examples where the tag directly hurts the Google search results:

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Those are all examples where part of the question is cut off due to the length, the tag is taking away precious space from the real title. And none of the tags actually contribute anything useful to the title.

The third example is an exception as for some reason Google doesn't pick up the tag in the title, but if it would it would cut off even more of the title than without the tag.

Another aspect that bothers me is that due to our problematic tagging in general, the tags that appear in the title often don't make all that much sense out of context. This gives the impression that a somewhat related, but a bit random word is added to the title, which is something I associate with content farms and other SEO spammers.

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  • There's something missing from here: how is it harmful? How do the negatives outweigh the positives? Commented Jan 12, 2012 at 3:46
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    @Rebecca I expanded my explanation, the main drawbacks are that it causes the title to be cut off for longer questions. It wastes the precious space in the beginning of the title for a random related word, which I believe to hurt our SEO.
    – Mad Scientist Mod
    Commented Jan 12, 2012 at 17:42

2 Answers 2

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Generally if the first, most relevant tag appearing in the title is a problem, this means your site's tagging scheme needs improvement.

I recommend attempting to clean up your tagging practices on the site itself before proposing a global change like this.

Feel free to involve the community team if you need assistance in mass renaming, merging, etc for tags.

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    Even if our tagging were perfect, which is it certainly not, adding the tag to the HTML title would still be useless. We don't leave out important search terms in the title because they are already in a tag like programming languages on SO or game names on Gaming. Our site topic is essentially "everything", arguably our most useful tags are the broad category tags like history or biology. But those are not the terms people search for, there is no SEO benefit to adding them in front of the title.
    – Mad Scientist Mod
    Commented Jan 21, 2012 at 11:00
  • out of the 5 examples in the question, I think 3/5 are acceptable. Certainly "drugs", "ethology", and "environment" are reasonable things to want in those titles. Perhaps enormously broad bucket "kitchen sink" tags should be phased out in favor of tags that would be more useful in titles? Commented Jan 21, 2012 at 11:09
  • Jeff, here is how we built our tagging scheme. In what way do you feel that approach is unsound?
    – Borror0
    Commented Jan 21, 2012 at 21:11
  • @bor I'm not saying it's 100% unsound but requests like this are evidence of a problem. That said, IMHO 3/5 of the above examples are OK. I'll change it from "broken" to "needs improvement", which is more the case.. Commented Jan 21, 2012 at 23:29
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    I can't disagree that our tagging could be improved. To an extent that would invalidate the request made by Fabian, however? I don't see it. Simply put, I don't see how keywords like biology, technology, physics, psychology or history will increase our SERP. All they do is cut off the longer question titles.
    – Borror0
    Commented Jan 21, 2012 at 23:40
  • Someone made the same suggestion (but for cooking) on Meta SO.
    – Sam I Am
    Commented Jan 28, 2012 at 6:22
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I think this might be mostly resolved or at least much improved thanks to Google:

Google result title: "Are humans the only species to have
homophobes? - Skeptics Stack Exchange"

More examples from mobile:

  • medical science - Is thyme antiviral? - Skeptics Stack Exchange
  • Do “Soupeurs” exist? - Skeptics Stack Exchange
  • Does electricity grab? - Skeptics Stack Exchange
  • medical science - Is fasting healthy? - Skeptics Stack Exchange
  • Is Starlite a hoax? - Skeptics Stack Exchange
  • Do dolphins rape humans? - Skeptics Stack Exchange
  • Who writes congressional bills? - Skeptics Stack Exchange
  • Does auto-suggestion work? - Skeptics Stack Exchange
  • Are "bait bricks" real? - Skeptics Stack Exchange
  • Do yaks get shaved? - Skeptics Stack Exchange
  • Is salt "white death"? - Skeptics Stack Exchange
  • Are pomegranate seeds edible? - nutrition - Skeptics Stack Exchange
  • Do monkeys love bananas? - Skeptics Stack Exchange
  • Are most terrorists Muslim? - religion - Skeptics Stack Exchange

As you can see, all of these have the full title and site name and a few have the primary tag, which isn't usually the first part of the link. On desktop, it's only slightly different, where sometimes the site name is dropped to make the full title fit, but I didn't see any results that looked cut off.

In a few cases (none listed above), having the tag in the title helped a little, to make it more clear what subject the question was about.

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