I've seen questions edited to remove the language name from the title. Won't search engines - and folks using search engines - have an easier time finding them if these "tags" are kept as part of the title?

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TL;DR: No, it is not necessary to include "tags" in question titles.

Stack Exchange sites have an extensive tagging system which allows users to identify what subjects are involved in a question, watch or ignore certain subjects, narrow their searches to a specific area, and even learn about the tag's subject via its wiki.

This tag system works. You can rely on it to notify users who are interested in a tag about your question. Stack Exchange is optimized so that tags are indexed by search engines along with the content of the question. Users are guaranteed to be shown your tags, and will usually take them into account when answering your question.

As a matter of fact, the system automatically prepends the most commonly used tag to the question title when generating the page title (unless it's already in the question title somewhere) to help search engines find it more easily. (This doesn't happen on meta sites, but it doesn't matter since the most common tag is probably one of the four required tags anyway.)

Therefore, it is completely unnecessary to include tags in your question titles.

You absolutely do NOT have to use any one of the following forms when composing your title:

  • [tag]: [question title]
  • [question title] -- [tag] [tag] [tag]
  • [question title] in [tag]
  • [tag] [tag] [question title] [tag] [tag] [tag]
  • [tag] [tag] [tag] [tag] [tag] [tag] [tag] [tag]

The only time you should use tags in your title is when they are organic to the conversational tone of the title.

For example,

JavaScript, jQuery: When should I use one or the other?

is seen by many users as an attempt to force tags in order to compensate for a lousy title. The title would be much more well-received if rewritten like this:

Can I use plain JavaScript to foo the bar on the baz, or is my only choice to use jQuery?

  • 9
    Then why not enforce that when posting the question automatically? Put a warning that the questioner has to click away if the tag appears in the title Sep 25 '16 at 14:05
  • 1
    Who argued against this? I think it's a good idea, you should add a feature-request for it. But make sure there aren't dupes, as it seems an obvious enough request.
    – user1228
    Sep 26 '16 at 14:41
  • 45
    Except it doesn't work a) for Hot Network Questions, people click through, without any context at all, especially on popular or emotive topics. b) For external links, viewed outside SO (blog posts, Twitter, etc.). Again, the tag context isn't visible.
    – smci
    Nov 6 '16 at 0:04
  • 23
    The SO tagging system isn't that good, and it's obvious that including more information (including words that happen to be tags) in the title is helpful. The idea that "Users are guaranteed to view your tags" is just flat-out wrong as @smci points out; I'm looking at this very SO page where there are plenty of plain titles without tags. Put tags in titles. It's just better. Jan 10 '17 at 4:36
  • 1
    @JamesMoore it would be trivial to add the most popular tags to the link names automatically for hot network questions. You might want to FR that. However, I don't believe for a hot stinky second that anybody gives af about tags when looking at hot network questions. "Ooh, Difference between Nombro and Numero, I've wondered that myself. But, damnit, I just don't know if I should click through because they didn't force [grammar] into the title." Utter BS.
    – user1228
    Jan 10 '17 at 13:45
  • @JamesMoore I didn't necessarily say that tags should be included in titles (when viewed externally), just that not doing it causes issues. HNQ is in particular a flashpoint, large numbers of new users thronging to a flashpoint question without understanding the context. Perhaps we don't show the more controversial HNQs to people with < 110 rep on that site. Or to people who start flamewars. By contrast auto-inserting tags for external search engines seems minor.
    – smci
    Jan 10 '17 at 18:13
  • 6
    I don't think automatically inserting tags into titles is very useful because I think titles should almost always be worded to have the tags in them. Removing information from titles is a terrible idea. Personally, I think the HNQ section is awful and should go away completely (and I usually do it manually with an ad blocker), but it's the same for linked and related questions. The title should always have everything you need to know; tags are there to make life easier for searching, but they're a supplement that makes it easier to search, not a replacement. Jan 10 '17 at 19:44
  • 1
    It would have saved me time if the last line of this answer were the first line instead, as all I wanted to know was "should I prefix my question java - like some of the other questions I see?"
    – Noumenon
    Oct 1 '17 at 13:29
  • " or am I stuck using" conveys no information. Maybe the phrase is more pleasant for english readers but for others I think [tag,tag]: [short question title] is more straightforward and efficient.
    – frenchone
    Oct 17 '18 at 14:00
  • How about [tag]-[question title] OR [tag][question title] ?
    – Ayman
    Oct 27 '18 at 13:52
  • 4
    How about you just tell folks what your question is.
    – user1228
    Oct 29 '18 at 13:09
  • 8
    I can't agree that the example re-write "Can I use jQuery to foo the bar on the baz, or is my only choice to use plain JavaScript?" would be a lot more received. I see it as a lot more of a mouthful, that will break into a second line. Whereas the original example, I don't see that as a lazy title at all, and can be quickly scanned by eye, and describes plainly what the question is: "JavaScript, jQuery: When should I use one or the other?". In fact, it takes effort to make a SHORTER message that communicates the same thing. Being super literal with lots of words is lazier, IMHO. Apr 10 '19 at 2:30

Yes, it is important to provide context in question titles. Tags are wonderful tools but they do NOT provide context in all situations, most notably:

The sidebar:

enter image description here

Imagine, if you will, that the use of "Python" in a question title is banned because, of course, it can be put in a tag. You would see a list of question titles like this:

  • How to print colored text?
  • Is there a ternary conditional operator?
  • How to print an exception? (etc.)

It can be extremely frustrating when a related question appears that seems to be exactly the answer you need.... only to find that it belongs to a different context, and it's actually something relevant to Scala or Clojure but not the Python context you want.

The "Similar questions" box when asking a new question

No tags shown.

enter image description here

The close-as-duplicate tool

No tags shown.

enter image description here

External websites

Google searches show titles but no tags. (Granted, you can add the tags to a search query to suggest context, but the results shown to you do not include tags.)

enter image description here

StackExchange should probably mitigate this within its own websites by including tags in the displayed results in the sidebar and in the Similar questions box and in the close-as-duplicate tool, the way it does for searches in SO (see below) but it cannot help in results outside of the StackExchange websites. There is little downside of including minimal context information in a title, in a readable way, so that it provides benefit to the reader in all circumstances. SO/SE users with the power to edit a title should be encouraged towards this approach, rather than the overbearing habit of removing context clues from a perfectly good title.

enter image description here

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