What is meta? ×
Meta Stack Exchange is where users like you discuss bugs, features, and support issues that affect the software powering all 150 Stack Exchange communities.

I searched through both Gaming's Meta and here, and couldn't find an answer to this. I was reviewing my questions on gaming.stackexchange.com this morning and I noticed that in certain questions like What is the effect of falling to your death in Metroid Prime 3, the <title> tag on that page shows:

metroid prime corruption - What is the effect of falling to your death in Metroid Prime 3? - Gaming - Stack Exchange

So it's like the first tag (s/-/ /g) is prepended to the question title to make up the <title> tag. Why is this? Because it happens here also, and on meta, but it does not happen always.

What is causing this behavior and where can I read more about it?

EDIT: Now with Freehand Everything:


share|improve this question

4 Answers 4

up vote 21 down vote accepted

In order to try and stop the scrapers from being ranked higher on Google, they are working on increasing their SEO. To this end, the tag listed first on a question (sorted by popularity of the tag) will now appear at the start of the page title. Search engines like having keywords in the page title, specifically at the beginning of the page title. If the tag is already in the title, then this new approach won't duplicate the keyword, as you've noticed with several of your links.

I've asked a related question about the ordering of keywords on Webmasters.

share|improve this answer
the fight scrappers argument is nonsensical. They want to improve organic search position, that is fair on it's own. But sometimes things get out of hand. If i ask a Makefile question and include php tag in the off-chance someone from the php world might suggest a better approach that avoids my Makefile question/mistake... it is now showing up as if i classified the question as PHP, even though it is barely related to php. e.g. stackoverflow.com/questions/27975825/… –  gcb Jan 16 at 2:36

I am against including the tag in the title. I wrote the following first at meta.emacs.stackexchange.com by mistake, then found this question here.

I would prefer that the window-manager title bar (or the tab label, if using tabs) reflect only the question title, and not have the first tag prepended to the title.

Especially when there are multiple tags for a question, the order is not necessarily signifiant. So why pick the first one to prepend?

But really, why prepend any tag?

I'm using Google Chrome, and at least with this browser, this is the behavior I see.

Here is one example. The tab title shows this: text properties - com. In this case, because the first tag (text properties) is fairly long, after the first 3 chars of the question title, com, the rest of it is truncated.

So we learn a lot from the page (or tab) title about the first tag, but we learn next to nothing about what the question is.

IMHO, the best label for the question's tab (or page) is the question title itself - no "helpful" adornments. Just one opinion.

In response to the reasons given for this page/tab title munging, I would say that these components of a web page are for users. They are for quickly locating a given page or tab among many that might be open.

They are not first and foremost for web developers or search engines. My advice here is Hands off! - this is a user browsing convenience. It's not for you to fiddle with in attempts to struggle with web indexers and such. Please find another terrain for that combat, and leave the visible components of a user's browser for use by the user.

share|improve this answer
This is only a discussion, if you really want it changed, you should start a new feature-request and pledge your case. –  Shadow Wizard Mar 15 at 22:43
I doubt that this feature will go away, because it improves the page's ranking on Google and Google pretty much controls the web because almost everybody uses it to find stuff (upwards of 90% of the visits on Stack Exchange are from Google searches — other stack engines are insignificant, and most visitors aren't Stack Exchange regulars but random people randomly finding an SE thread when searching for an answer). If this annoys you, install a userscript. –  Gilles Mar 15 at 23:59

Everyone's favorite* scraper is starting to do the exact same thing themselves, and adding insult to injury by capitalizing it. It was a nice couple of days while it lasted. Is there any solution to this that the bad guys can't simply do themselves to wipe out any SEO benefits? Now it seems like we're stuck with an ugly tag at the front of the page title that has to be there just for SO to stay even in the SEO race.


share|improve this answer
*Claim void in some locales. YMMV. –  Brant Dec 15 '10 at 21:31
Exactly! If they are already scraping your/our content then now they are going to be scraping the same improvements that StackOverflow made and thus you are back at square one! –  scunliffe Apr 20 '11 at 0:30
Of course since most of us have a google account we can actually mark/flag the results in google as good on SO links and bad on efreedom or similar scraper sites. A simple request to the SO nation on the blog would surely help in correcting the google results to reflect the original source. ;-) –  scunliffe Apr 20 '11 at 0:33

Note that this screenshot and post is already out of date.

See related discussions about tags and titles at:
How do I write a good title?
When should we remove pseudo-tags from a title?

Please note my comment from July 29, 2009

To be clear, I think it is fine to duplicate the tags in the title, but only when they can be worked into the titles organically and conversationally.

Therefore, the "tag in title" code tries very hard to see if you already used the tags in the title organically, before it goes slapping them in there. It's tricky because we are asking users to do the same thing twice.

  1. tell us what your question is about... in the title
  2. tell us what your question is about... in the tags

This way we ensure the best of both worlds. Either you already organically have the most important (as judged by tags) words in the title.. or we add them for you. Since we kinda have to, because "how do I format a string?" is a LOT less useful than "c# - how do I format a string?" But yes, in a perfect world, people would write perfect titles like "how do I format a string in C#?" or Google would understand rel=tag (which we've used for almost 2 years now) or some other blessed tag microformat.

This decision also highlights problem tagging IMO. If adding the 1st or 2nd tag to the title ruins the question, your tagging scheme is broken. Ideally, the 1st and 2nd tags should work organically in the title, and if they don't.. there is something wrong. So, to the extent that "forcing 1st tag in title" is bad, it's because there is a deeper problem with tags. Of course you always have the occasional clueless user but that's a constant.

(that said, I'm really glad we don't have to do this in the <h1> because that would totally suck.)

Does the order of keywords matter in a page title?

share|improve this answer
Great explanation, thanks. I just don't understand the comment, "Note that this screenshot and post is already out of date"? –  The Unhandled Exception Dec 13 '10 at 12:47
Nevermind, @Rebecca explained it to me :-) –  The Unhandled Exception Dec 13 '10 at 23:15
Please see my meta question on why this change is harmful to usability: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/87831/… –  scunliffe Apr 18 '11 at 13:25

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .