I'm sure many of us have noticed this recent change across all Stack Exchange site, where the most popular tag is displayed at the front of page titles (as displayed in search engines, and in the browser's tabs and title bar).
For some background see seo - Does the order of keywords matter in a page title? - Pro Webmasters - Stack Exchange and feature request - First tag in the title of the page is not that convenient. - Meta Stack Overflow.
Whilst I appreciate the reasons for this, and actually think it is quite useful on some sites (the two questions I linked to above for instance) I don't believe the change should be implemented on Ask Ubuntu.
Assuming the main reason for this change is for SEO purposes, I believe the reality is we will see a decrease in visits. Having the tag at the start of the title looks unprofessional because of being lowercase; is unusual on the internet; and on Ask Ubuntu is inconsistent across questions (see examples below). In my opinion this will put people off clicking on our Google listings.
What I have said above assumes we will see an increase in search engine position. I don't actually think the tags that are being picked out are likely to be entered into Google in the first place.
- applications - Comparison of backup tools - Ask Ubuntu - Stack Exchange
- install - What are the most useful programs installed after setup of a vanilla Ubuntu? - Ask Ubuntu - Stack Exchange
- ubuntu desktop - What native games are available? - Ask Ubuntu - Stack Exchange
- package management - What's the difference between package managers? - Ask Ubuntu - Stack Exchange
- keyboard - How can I listen on global keypress event? - Ask Ubuntu - Stack Exchange
- How do I install Ubuntu to a USB key? - Ask Ubuntu - Stack Exchange (no tag)
- dvd - Lightscribe on ubuntu (i32 and i64) - Ask Ubuntu - Stack Exchange
- ubuntu desktop - How do I make my purchased music be synchronized on Rhythmbox and in ~./ubuntuone/Purchased from Ubuntu One? - Ask Ubuntu - Stack Exchange
- 10.10 - How to permanently mount a remote share? - Ask Ubuntu - Stack Exchange
So some observations:
- The ubuntu-desktop tag is the most used tag on this site, but no doubt something very unlikely to be entered by users into a search engine, and therefore adds nothing for SEO. (Note I'm not saying I think we should stop using this tag.)
- The version tags such as 11.04 and 10.10 are very commonly used (2nd and 3rd most used tags) so will often appear in titles this way. However the way these tags are used on the site means that the question often applies to Ubuntu versions other than the one tagged (although perhaps we should consider changing this tagging practice, but that's another discussion... I can't imagine how we would do so). Placing the version at the start suggests quite strongly the question is very much specific to that Ubuntu version.
- Placing dvd at the start of the Lightscribe question actually prevents the keyword of Lightscribe from appearing at the start of the title
- The install tag on the second question I listed is almost totally irrelevant to actual question (although I understand why it was tagged this way)
Having the tag greatly decreases usability; specifically when using tabs then it is very hard to work out what each tab is at a glance.
Google's own SEO guidlines (page 5) tell us to avoid:
- using extremely lengthy titles that are unhelpful to users
- stuffing unneeded keywords in your title tags
My fear is that that all this effort could result in our site being penalised by Google and other search engines.
I apologise for the length of this post; many thanks to those of you who have hung on until the end...