Case Study: Should You Add Pipes or Dashes to Your Title Tag?

Brian Moseley

Nov 03, 20213 min read
Case Study: Should You Add Pipes or Dashes to Your Title Tag?

Before you start: what do you know about SEO split-testing? If you’re unfamiliar with the principles of statistical SEO split-testing and how SplitSignal works, we're suggesting you start here or request a demo of SplitSignal. 

First, we asked our Twitter followers to vote:


Only 25% of our followers guessed it right, the test result was positive.

Read the full case study to find out why.

The Case Study

Over the years, many SEO professionals have questioned whether it is better to use a dash (-) or a pipe (|) right before the brand name in the page title. For SEO, you’re always trying to write the best possible title tag. We’ve seen that small changes and tweaks can make a huge difference. But this case study may blow your mind...

Have you ever considered whether there would be a performance difference between using a pipe or dash in the page title? Read on to find out!

Most of the time, using a dash or a pipe before the brand name is just an aesthetic decision. However, there has also been some discussion about optimizing the amount of space you get for your title tags in search results. Title tags are measured in pixels. That means if you replace dashes with pipes, you can actually fit more characters into a title tag. That, in turn, increases the number of words that appear in the title that shows up in Google search results. But is this argument enough to make a final decision?

For a major ecommerce company in Australia, we replaced pipes with dashes in their product page titles to see if it would make a difference in terms of organic performance.

The Hypothesis

The website in question had its page titles set up like this:


We wanted to validate whether replacing pipes (|) with dashes (-) in the page title of their product pages would have a positive effect on organic traffic, so that’s what we did.

The Test

We used SplitSignal to set up and analyze the test. 400 product pages were selected as either variant or control. We replaced pipes (|) with dashes (-) at the end of the page title for each variant page, before the brand name:


The image above shows the development/progress of the variant (orange line) compared to the predicted control group (blue line). 

Looking at the orange line, we can see that organic traffic (clicks) to the tested pages outperformed our modeled control group. This means that the traffic to the variant group is performing better than predicted and shows that the test is positive.

After running the test for 21 days, we saw a 9% increase in clicks, not bad for a character change. 


Honestly, our jaws dropped when we saw the results. We never thought such a small character change could make such a big difference. This shows that the devil is in the details. There's a lot more to writing compelling and effective page titles than you might expect. Naturally, we wanted to find out why turning pipes into dashes was so successful in this case.

Looking at the data, we saw an increase in clicks to the variant pages. The CTR of the pages tested also increased dramatically. However, there was no significant change in impressions or rankings. We believe that the positive result of the test has to do with the personal preference of the target group. We tested this for a well-known eCommerce site. Perhaps dashes improved the scan and readability of the page titles, making the brand stand out a little more from the other results, resulting in more clicks to the website. 

This test shows that for SEO, you need to think about and experiment with different elements that make up your page title. Keep in mind that results may vary by site, industry, and audience. 

Given the impact this can have on your overall search performance, it’s a good idea to thoroughly test these "small" optimizations. For the website in question, this was a real eye-opener and paved the way for much more detailed testing.

Have your next SEO split-test analyzed by OrangeValley Agency.

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Director of Agency Channel Sales for Semrush‘s Enterprise Product Division
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