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I've noticed that in the page <title>, some questions have one of the tags prepended to the question.

This question does it: Fermentation stopped and then started again

This one does not: List of free online brewing books and guides

Why are some questions displayed differently from others?

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All of the content that is contributed to the Stack Exchange sites is made available for others to use - http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5/ thus we own the content rather than the site (good news!).

The downside of this is that other sites can copy that content and publish their own site covered in adverts and try to make some money for little/no effort.

Theoretically these copycat sites shouldn't feature very highly in search engine results as the license for usage require attribution (a link back to the original source). Unfortunately these sites did start gaining ground in search engines and after a lot of head scratching one of the measures put in place was to add keywords to the <title>.

For more details on all of the above see this blog entry: http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2011/01/trouble-in-the-house-of-google.html

For a bit of extra info on keyword significance see: https://webmasters.stackexchange.com/questions/6556/does-the-order-of-keywords-matter-in-a-page-title

As for your actual question; Why are some questions displayed differently from others? I can not answer authoritatively on this however I believe the keyword that is used is the first tag that isn't in the question wording itself. I have found exceptions that disprove this rule but it seems to apply in most cases.

  • excellent answer, one rider -- if the keyword is already in the title organically, we don't add it. Also, if the community feels the keyword-in-title rule does not work at all, it implies the tagging system is broken, in my strong opinion. – Jeff Atwood Jan 20 '11 at 20:40
  • Thanks that's exactly what I was wondering. Is there a limit on the number of tags that are coerced into the title? – Mark McDonald Jan 21 '11 at 3:11
  • Never mind - It's the "most popular tag". Thanks again. – Mark McDonald Jan 21 '11 at 3:12
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Short Answer:

SEO.

Long Answer:

See Al Nixon's post.

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