Google now takes certain punctuation marks and symbols into account when returning results for select queries.

There’s new evidence suggesting a website’s search standing depends on reliable content writers: Google tweeted a page from its Inside Search Help forum outlining punctuation and symbols that influence search results. Marketers with relevant keywords will want to ensure they’re punctuating appropriately to increase their chances of showing up in SERPs.

The company is updating its search capabilities to recognize when punctuation impacts the meaning of a query and return results accordingly.  Of course, Google acknowledges that punctuation doesn’t always lead to more refined results. It will always give priority to the highest quality results. In cases where puncutated searches yield “poor content,” Google explains:

Google might show you a suggested search or results for that search without punctuation if those results seem more useful.

Nonetheless, companies investing in high-caliber content should make sure their writers are one the same page about when to appropriately punctuate or use symbols in SEO-friendly copy. 

The symbols that might impact search standing include:

  • Plus signs (+) – Google gave the example of blood types or coding language
  • The at symbol (@) and hashtags (#) – when referring to social handles
  • The ampersand (&) – seemingly for titles
  • The dollar sign ($) – to distinguish prices from model numbers or quantities
  • Dashes (-)  – to signify closely related terms/ adjectives (ie: 30yearold actresses)
  • Underscores (_) – taken into consideration when connecting two words

Punctuation recognition is one of many search updates that Google is working on to improve user experience. While the search engine’s main objective is providing the best results to searchers, the changes have SEO keyword implications that remind marketers to also aim to improve user experience if they want better rankings. Last month, Brafton highlighted Google’s numerous synonym updates that promote natural keyword inclusion to create reader-friendly content. 

Katherine Griwert is Brafton's Marketing Director. She's practiced content marketing, SEO and social marketing for over five years, and her enthusiasm for new media has even deeper roots. Katherine holds a degree in American Studies from Boston College, and her writing is featured in a number of web publications.