Etsy Titles: Commas or Dashes?

Posted by on Mar 28, 2016 in Copywriting | 21 comments

Etsy Titles:  Commas or Dashes?

I want to take a moment this week to address a very controversial topic in the land of Etsy: Title punctuation. Etsy titles contain 140 potential character spaces, and it is often a race to jam pack the most (and hopefully highest quality) keywords into this space. Punctuation is a hotly contested subject, simply because you have two schools of thought:

1. No punctuation (save the space for more words!)
2. Punctuation (structure the space)

When I teach my clients, I try to teach them to find that fine balance between writing code for software and text for human customers. Your average customer is not familiar with Etsy specific SEO (search engine optimization) and so to them, a title without any punctuation looks messy and is often confusing. While it is true that punctuation takes space and is not read by the search engines, it is important to customers. You want them to be able to efficiently glance at your title, see THEIR keyword, and click the listing. It is no surprise that I am of the school of thought that advocates punctuation.

Now there are many different options for punctuation:

Dash –
Period .
Backslash /
Comma ,

I recommend the dash, and it must always have a space before and after it’s used.

The dash mimics traditional sentence structure and provides clear delineation between phrases. It is the “easiest” of the options for the human eye to read. The period and the comma are small and hard to distinguish, and the backslash looks like an italicized letter causing further word confusion. A further note on commas, when the human eye sees a comma the brain automatically tries to connect all the words into a sentence. Since the sentence is nothing more than a jumble of keyword phrases, trying to read it as a sentence with comma cues simply doesn’t make sense and will cause frustration and confusion. These negative feelings result in a subliminal association with your product. You want to only associate positive feelings with your product.

Long story short: Punctuation matters for people (not search engines), and in my opinion and research, dashes have the best aesthetics.


  1. 1-14-2018


    Would using | work as a punctuation? I’ve been using those as spacers in my title, but not sure if it’s working for SEO.


    • 1-14-2018

      You can certainly use them but I do not recommend them. They are easily mistaken for the letter “l” so I stand by the Dash Method.

  2. 1-29-2017

    I have never understood the use of punctuation in listing titles before. Thank you for shedding light on this topic. I have found every opinion on the face of the planet in regards to what to do, but this seems to be the most practical. I need to spend some time revising my titles since I currently do not use dashes (or anything).

    Does it make sense to punctuate your title and use the same keywords that you have for your 13 tags?

  3. 12-3-2016

    Would * be appropriate? I like – and ~ but my daughter (10 year old bossy mastermind behind the business) likes *. Thank you.

    • 12-3-2016

      I don’t recommend asterisks but, at the end of the day, you must make the call for what works best for your business.

  4. 9-5-2016

    Thank you for the tips, I will definitely be taking this advice and applying it to my shop.

  5. 4-13-2016

    I have a question about this, if you don’t mind. What is your opinion of the following:
    If I use “… Invitation Gold Birthday …” in the title, I am sure that searches for “Invitation Gold” and “Gold Birthday” are hits. But if I use “… Invitation Gold – Birthday …” what then? Is “Gold Birthday” still a hit?
    Thank you.

    • 4-13-2016

      This is a great question. When creating keyword phrases, especially for Etsy, you need to type them exactly as a customer would type them. Using single words in your titles and tags will not be effective as the search engine will not combine them to create multiple word phrases.

      For example:

      Birthday – Invitation – Gold

      Will generate hits (with a lot of competition) for just those three words. They will not combine to make the following keywords:

      Birthday Invitation
      Gold Invitation
      Gold Birthday Invitation

      So rather you should type out the variants in your keyword sections for optimal results.

      • 4-13-2016

        So, basically, what you are saying is that if we use punctuation in title, we are hurting the SEO ranking?

        • 4-13-2016

          I am not saying that at all. Punctuation is important for identifying your keywords.

          This post details my preference for the dash method ( – ) for individualizing keywords within an Etsy title for the consumers benefit.

          • 4-13-2016

            I’m sorry if I misunderstood, but I specifically asked about using dash in the TITLE not in the key words, and you said that that will reduce number of word combinations Etsy uses for search. To me, that is hurting my SEO. IF with “Invitation Gold” I have hits on “Invitation” and “Gold” and “Invitation Gold” searches, AND with “Invitation – Gold” I have hits only on “Invitation” and “Gold”, to me, that hurts my SEO.
            And, yes, I don’t use ANY punctuation in my Titles.

          • 4-13-2016

            You are just fine; this is a great discussion.

            Your keywords are the words in your title, and yes, I do recommend using punctuation in that field. I recommend the dash because it helps customers delineate their keyword at a glance. Writing on Etsy is a balance between writing for live customers and search engines.

            You have 140 character spaces in the title and this space should be used by researched keywords that both describe your product and mimic what customers are actually searching.

            Gold invitation will get you results for gold invitation.

            Gold – Invitation will get you results for gold and invitation individually, but it will not combine it to make gold invitation.

            For example if I enter the term gold into the Etsy search bar I get exactly 2,922,776 results.

            If I enter invitation in the search bar I get 774,446 results.

            If I type in gold invitation I get 53,138 Results.

            You can see how building your keyword phrases (developing long tail keywords) narrows down your competitor field.

  6. 4-7-2016

    What about ~ ? My shop is wedding flowers, so I feel like my target market is looking for fancy, embellished product and thought I could get that feeling with ~

    • 4-7-2016

      The tilde ( ~ ) is a great option and it still achieves the same goals as the dash. I think using the tilde for your shop is consistent with your branding and a good example of a variation that fits within the parameters outlined above.

  7. 4-4-2016

    Makes a lot of sense. Thank you!

  8. 3-29-2016

    Love this and always enjoy your writing~ thanks

    • 3-29-2016

      You are very welcome! I’m already researching next weeks topic…

  9. 3-29-2016

    Woohoo!! I’m doing something right! Haha! I, personally, like the space – space so that’s why I chose to do it that way in my titles. As a seller, I understand why some do their titles with no punctuation, however, my 7th & 8th grade English teacher drove those run-on sentences into my brain enough that when I see those titles, I’m pretty sure he’s flipping out somewhere in the afterlife! 😛

    • 3-29-2016

      I agree with you completely! In my opinion, the formatting for the customers eye is worth the sacrifice of one or two additional keywords.

  10. 3-29-2016

    great advice, thanks!!


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