A good way to think about it is, what is the easiest way for a person to read and understand the text. Perhaps surprisingly, it will be similar for the machines behind a search engine. Maybe an example will help.
- my house is awesome: hot tub, wifi, great views
I think it's fair to say that #5 is the easiest to read and understand the individual words and phrases.
In every other example, a person or a machine would need to process more to determine where the actual words are and how they relate to each other. And there is a risk with each one that the concepts you are trying to communicate are understood properly.
What may have been blurred for you was that there are different cases where using hyphens is preferred. Typically when building a URL, hyphens are preferred over spaces (represented by underscores) and other punctuation. But when it comes to text on a page, you want to defer toward making it readable and meaningul for people.
If we take the headline that's on your VRBO listing right now, "Seasonal Specials-Grt. Views-Mod. Amenities @ Popular Chalet!", there is some risk that "Specials-Grt." and "Views-Mod." are not understood by machines, even though people will figure it out.
I approach headline writing as a fun challenge, like a game. How much useful information can you fit in a finite space that is still easily understandable at a glance. Writing a great headline is tough to do!
I haven't reviewed them all, but there are some articles about writing headlines on this site.
Thanks for the help re: the 'headline' issue. I hadn't used dashes 'till I viewed the webinar that deals with this issue and though I'd give it a try to pack in a little more info on my VRBO listing headline. I'll go back to using a comma & space, even though I will have to abbreviate something else to make up the spaces. I know the SEO issue is important and I want to avoid hindering that.
Also, I wasn't able to open the private message you also sent. When I attempted to open it, I got the following error message:
"There was an error, please check below."
"It appears you're not allowed to view what you requested. You might contact your administrator if you think this is a mistake."
Not sure what to do to open this - any suggestions?
Thanks for all the help!
Jeff, I agree with you that writing a good listing title is almost like solving a puzzle. With only so much space, it's tricky to do! Do you think Homeaway would ever consider adding a few more spaces to the headline box? I'd be thrilled with even 5-6 extra spaces so I could avoid using dashes,slashes or commas to separate words
I think HomeAway would consider, but I couldn't commit to getting it done since there are likely a number of other useful, but competing features customers would like to see.
It would be helpful to have a sense of how many people would find it valuable to have a bit more space on the headline.
In the meantime, I peaked at your listings and I think there is a ready way to pick up 5-6 spaces in your headlines. If you switched from pipe delimiters to commas, you'd save one space in each case. It might let you squeeze in one more word. ... Otherwise your headlines look quite good, in my opinion.
Hi Jeff, oh my...I bet I could get you a lot of owners who would LOVE to have a little more space for their headlines. I'll put up a poll here today, plus ask my Smokies Yahoo group for some input. I think this would be a very valuable improvement and aid for VR owners. A few extra characters would go a long way!
Thanks for taking a look at my headlines. I'm surprised that using the "vertical slash" as I call it (pipe delimiters sounds so fancy LOL) took up less room than a comma because no space was needed after it. Example:
Great View|2 Master Suites|WIFI|Fireplace|Pool Table|Pets Welcome!
Great View, 2 Master Suites, WIFI, Fireplace, Pool Table, Pets Welcome!
If I take out the space after the comma that I'd normally put in, it would look like
Great View,2 Master Suites,WIFI,Fireplace,Pool Table,Pets Welcome!
I can't see where it's saving me any extra spaces, but maybe you can help me see where the difference between the pipe delimiters and commas with no space after them. I use the pipe delimiters to stand out from the other headlines but I know you had told me last year at the summit that they kind of hurt SEO...that commas are much better to use. <sigh> I may have to go back to those darned old commas if it's saving space and helps the search engines.
Please, please consider lengthening the headline box. What a help that would be to everyone with a listing.
When I looked at your listings it did look like there was a space before and after the pipe. More like " | " rather than "word|word".
If it was the latter, you're right that it would save space, but you'd run into the same situation as Pat where it would be hard to read and understand for people and search engines. If it's the former, then you gain one space by switching to commas.
I'll try to keep the nerd terms out next time.
I agree, Jeff. It does look like there's a space before and after the pipe thingy. Example cut and pasted below for benefit of others on this thread:
Spring $135/Night! Wifi|King Beds|Hot Tub|Fireplace|Pets Ok
But this is how the VRBO font for headlines displays it when you use the pipe, and I haven't used the space bar at all. Sure looks like it, doesn't it?
That's why I switched from commas to the pipe because it required no hard space, while using a comma meant I had to hit the space bar right after using it. I thought this would be the smart solution to squeezing as much into the box as possible but still keeping it easy to read.
So basically for SEO and readability, you're suggesting commas are pretty much the only way to go, right? It sounds like my headlines need to go on a diet and lose a few characters. Bummer!