Last Updated on May 25, 2023 by SERP Kingz
In the realm of search engine optimization (SEO), the minutiae often matter just as much as the grand strategies. One such small but impactful detail is the use of brackets and parentheses in page titles.
In 2023, as all 2 of the search engines continue to refine their algorithms—and as user search behavior evolves—understanding how to effectively utilize these punctuation marks can make a difference in your SEO performance.
[SOLVED] The Purpose of Brackets & Parentheses (And Why to Use Them)
Brackets “[ ]” and parentheses “( )” are punctuation marks often used in writing to include additional information, clarify, or separate items in a list.
But in the digital marketing world, they serve a more specific purpose.
Brackets and parentheses in page titles can help make a page visually stand out in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
These marks disrupt the textual monotony in search results, naturally drawing the user’s eye to your listing. The aftermath? A higher probability of scoring that (much-desired) [clickage], as SEO Guru Pauly Shore would say.
Translated: It can lead to improved click-through rates (CTR)—a metric that search engines like Google use as an indirect ranking signal.
The Benefits of Using Brackets & Parentheses in Page Titles [UPDATED] (May 2023)
Picture it: “10 Best SEO Tools [2023 Edition]”—see how the brackets emphasize the content’s freshness and relevance [alleged]?
Sure, the article is almost definitely complete trash, and the “tools” will probably turn out to be the same tired list of software we’ve seen recycled a million times. But the brackets, my friend. They might just trick you into thinking there’s something new and exciting inside.
Again, the key advantage of using brackets or parentheses in your page titles is that they visually set your page apart in the SERPs by simply breaking up the visual monotony of text. (Speaking of visual monotony of text, let’s move on.)
Increasing Click-Through Rate (CTR)
The consequence of increased visibility is a higher CTR. And a higher CTR is a positive signal to search engines, indicating that users find your content relevant and valuable.
By using brackets or parentheses to highlight key information or unique selling points in your page title, you can potentially boost your CTR.
Improving Clarity & Adding Context
Brackets and parentheses can provide additional context or clarification, helping users understand what to expect from your page.
For instance, a title like “Understanding Electrical Wiring (A Comprehensive Guide)” assures users that the page either provides in-depth information about the topic, or was written by an AI and is a robotic regurgitation of useless information and/or dangerous wiring advice.
Here are some other ways these punctuation marks can be helpful for humans reading your titles—and indirectly improve SEO rankings:
- Distinguishing alternatives: Brackets and parentheses can help differentiate between multiple options or variations. For instance, a title like “The History of Jazz [1920s-1940s]” signifies that the content focuses specifically on the mentioned time period, whereas “The History of Jazz (A Global Perspective)” implies a broader exploration of jazz across different regions.
- Explaining abbreviations or acronyms: When introducing a term that might be unfamiliar, brackets or parentheses can be used to provide the full meaning or description. For example, “Introduction to AI (Artificial Intelligence) Marketing Management” ensures that readers who may not be familiar with the abbreviation understand its meaning from the start.
- Noting additional considerations: Brackets and parentheses can be employed to add important warnings, notes, or exceptions. For instance, in a guide titled “Healthy Eating Habits for Weight Loss (Including Dietary Restrictions),” the parentheses emphasize that the content caters to people with specific dietary restrictions, ensuring that readers who fall into that category feel acknowledged.
- Clarifying ambiguous titles: Ambiguity in titles can lead to confusion and potentially deter users from clicking on your page. By using brackets or parentheses effectively, you can eliminate ambiguity and enhance the clarity of your SEO titles.
#4 itself might be a bit ambiguous, so let’s break it down a bit. Here’s an example that demonstrates how this can be applied:
Original title: “Best Cameras for Outdoor Photography”
Revised title: “Best Cameras for Outdoor Photography (Compact and DSLR Options)”
In the revised title, the parentheses clarify that the content covers both compact cameras and DSLRs, ensuring that users searching for either type of camera will be interested in clicking on the page. The added context clarifies what lies within, drawing in the right crowd. Bravo, parentheses, bravo!
Using brackets or parentheses to provide clarification in SEO titles can also be beneficial for targeting specific niches or addressing specific user needs. For instance:
Original title: “Top Travel Destinations”
Whoa, whoa, stop the tape—this is a bad title. It’s too generic and lacks specificity. It doesn’t convey any unique information, or cater to a particular audience. Let’s try it my way:
Revised title: “Top Travel Destinations (Beaches, Adventure Getaways, and Historical Gems)”
Here, the parentheses provide a glimpse of the different types of travel destinations covered in the content, catering to users with various interests. This specificity can make the title more appealing to users searching for specific types of travel experiences.
By using brackets and parentheses thoughtfully, you can provide additional clarity, set appropriate expectations, and ensure that your content is easily understood by users.
However, it’s important to avoid overusing them, as excessive or unnecessary usage can create clutter and hinder readability.
[SOLVED] Using Brackets & Parentheses in Page Titles (Best Practices)
While there’s no definitive rulebook for using brackets and parentheses in SEO, here are some best practices to follow:
Keep It Relevant & Valuable
Ensure the information within the brackets or parentheses is relevant and adds value to the title. Don’t use them just for the sake of it; make sure they provide additional information that will interest or benefit the user.
Don’t Overdo It
Remember, less is more. Overusing brackets and parentheses can make your title look cluttered and potentially spammy. Use them sparingly and strategically.
Test and Analyze
SEO is all about testing and learning. Experiment with different uses of brackets and parentheses in your page titles, and then analyze the impact on your CTR and rankings. Tools like Google Search Console can provide valuable insights into your performance.
Other Considerations (Potential Drawbacks) [in 2023]
Despite their benefits, there are some considerations to keep in mind when using brackets and parentheses in page titles:
They Take Up Space
Page titles have a limited character count before they get truncated in the SERPs. Brackets and parentheses, and the information within them, count towards this limit. Be mindful of your title length to ensure the most important information isn’t cut off.
They May Not Always Be Appropriate
While brackets and parentheses can be useful, they’re not always the best choice for every page title. Consider the tone and nature of your content. For example, a serious or formal topic may not benefit from the use of these punctuation marks.
Can Will Be Are Overused [in 2023]
As more marketers catch on to this tactic, the novelty is already wearing off. If every title in the SERPs is using brackets and parentheses, it could lead to “ad fatigue”—causing users to overlook these titles.
For an example, well… how do you feel reading the headings in this article?
The Best Separators to Use in Titles (Yes, We Tried Them All) [Ranked]
And here’s the kicker…
Recent research has suggested that using brackets in title tags may lead to Google changing your title more often.
In a study by Zyppy, Google changed the page title with brackets 77.6% of the time and completely removed the words between the brackets 32.9% of the time.
Google also removed brackets 33% of the time, parentheses 20% of the time, dashes 19.7% of the time, and pipes (|)—wait for it—41% of the time.
So if you want to keep your titles, consider using dashes and parentheses in your title tags rather than brackets or pipes.
Remember, overusing brackets and parentheses might dilute their impact and risk coming off as ‘spammy’ to some readers. But used sparingly and purposefully, they can help draw attention and provide additional context to your titles. Assuming Google doesn’t just throw out your carefully crafted titles and rewrite them to be, y’know, better.
But while it’s increasingly common for Google to rewrite page title tags, this doesn’t mean you should put little effort into them.
Of course, all this could change in a heartbeat whenever Google decides to rewrite the rulebook again and herald the supremacy of another punctuation mark (Don’t laugh, remember the underscore vs hyphen debacle?).
But until that day arrives, remember to use brackets and parentheses like a good chef uses truffle oil—sparingly and to add value, not just to seem fancy or to hike up the price of the dish. And above all, always be ready to adapt. Remember, SEO is less about hard and fast rules and more about surviving whatever digital marketing equivalent of a bear attack Google throws your way.
Or, you know, just keep using brackets until Google removes them so often that they become the digital equivalent of vanishing ink.
Final Thoughts [Expert Insights]
All kidding aside, your success in SEO ultimately boils down to delivering high-quality, relevant content that meets the needs of your audience. As nifty as brackets and parentheses can be in aiding that mission, they’re not a magic bullet. No amount of cleverly crafted title tags can compensate for subpar content that doesn’t serve the user’s intent.
So, before you go overboard with these punctuation marks (and potentially end up looking like you’re writing a math equation rather than a compelling page title), take a moment to consider the big picture. Keep these considerations in mind:
- Audience Needs: Are you meeting the needs of your audience? Always prioritize user intent in your SEO strategies. This means focusing on creating content that provides real value, answers questions, and solves problems for your readers.
- Content Quality: Does your content deliver what it promises? If you’re using brackets or parentheses to highlight an aspect of your content, make sure the content fulfills that promise. Misleading titles can lead to high bounce rates, which negatively affect your SEO.
- Value Proposition: Are you providing something of genuine value? Clickbait tactics may drive temporary traffic, but long-term SEO success comes from offering unique insights, solutions, or perspectives that distinguish you from your competitors.
In other words: Are you bringing something valuable to the table, or are you just trying to pull a double-cross on some algorithms?
If the latter rings true, you might want to rethink your approach.
Google might be an algorithm, but the users are human beings—fickle, savvy, and fed up with crap in the SERPs. Give them a genuine reason to click on your page and not leave immediately and they will—brackets or not.
Remember, in the grand chess game of SEO, brackets and parentheses are just pawns. They can be useful, they can advance your strategy, but they are not your queen.
And for the love of all things digital, please don’t start using emoji in your titles. The SERPs are chaotic enough as it is.
May your page titles always stay intact, unless Google decides it would be better if they didn’t.
And if all else fails, remember… there’s always PPC. [How to Fix] (Solved)