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When asking or editing a question, is it better (from SEO or user perspective) for the title of the question to be an actual question? Do we even care? If the preference is for questions, is there any preference for how the questions starts ("How do I", "What is", etc)?

For example, given this question, would any of these titles be preferable:

  1. SQL Query to display all tables in an Oracle database (current title)
  2. What is the SQL query to display all tables in an Oracle database?
  3. Is there an SQL query to display all tables in an Oracle database?
  4. How do I display all tables in an Oracle database with SQL?
  5. Can I display all tables in an Oracle database with SQL?
  6. something else?

Obviously, we want the format that will make it easiest to find duplicate questions, so that fewer duplicates are asked. But I don't know which format that is.

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

Phrasing your question title as an actual question helps to ensure that you've phrased it cogently. All too often I've seen question titles that are little more than a mish-mash of technology keywords, making it impossible to determine what is actually being asked. Making an effort to write a grammatical English utterance mitigates this problem to some degree.

Of course, many of us are perfectly capable of being clear and direct without needing to phrase the title in that way, but all things being equal I think that phrasing the title in the form of a question should be preferred.

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Regardless of any SEO, I always make the question titles into a proper question. I do this for user readability because my goal is to help people get answers for their questions by editing.

If this is not as good for SEO, I figure that is the development team's responsibility to use some scripting magic to clean it up for SEO.

Consistency is the key here IMO.

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In all honesty, while I'm probably guilty of using the "How do I" prefixes, they're kind of pointless. After all, we're on a question/answer site. The topic mentioned, or issue referenced in the title is implicitly understood to be a question.

I don't think it's going to matter for Google which way you do it. They'll detect the high-degree of similarity between "How do I x" and "x". With regards to internal search, I'm not sure if one way or the other would benefit Stackoverflow.

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In general I like to use the Title as more of a subject line when the question needs some explanation (and I prefer to see it that way as well). That way it's less likely for someone to jump to conclusions from the question in the title when there is more information to take into account in the question body. If the question's trivial or needs no further explanation, go ahead and make the Title the question.

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