There's something about apostrophes that causes journalists - and other media types - almost endless grief.

As it happens, one of the most popular parts of this website is the interactive briefing and exercises on the use of apostrophes.

Now there's another question: does the inclusion of apostrophes in online headlines affect the performance of a story in search engine rankings? Are apostrophes Search Engine Optimal?

It's an important question, especially for sports journalists who will often use phrases like: 'Derby's Rob Hulse' (with apostrophe) or 'Derby striker Rob Hulse' (without). Which is best? Do search engines distinguish between the two - and, if so, which comes highest in the search results?

BBC SEO guru Martin Asser says: "Google is usually able to bring up results with the apostrophe (Derby's, for example) when you've entered the word without it and vice-versa.

But it does seem to favour stories with or without depending on whether you've searched with or without. 

Given that search engine users very rarely bother with an apostrophe, I would therefore - for preference - avoid apostrophes in headlines."

So what about 'Derby's Rob Hulse'? Write it like that or find another way?

"If you're pushed for space you could try the following, especially if the story is more about him than the team: 'Rob Hulse of Derby'.

However, it's best to have the name of the team first, as that's what most people would use to search. So, again, if pushed this would do: 'Derby striker Hulse'."

Martin adds that with sports personalities you can often drop the first name and not lose ranking - Google must have worked out that sports people are often called by their surnames only, especially if they're fairly unusual ones. 

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