Quick Tip: Increase Search Traffic with New Title Tag Guidelines

3 minute read

Upland Admin

seo title tag best practices 2014

We all know we need to adapt to the fast-paced evolution of technology on the web, yet we often find ourselves sticking with best practices that—well—aren’t actually the best anymore.

I’ll be the first to confess. With so many SEO optimization nuances to remember, I often find myself referring to tactics that worked a year ago. However, it’s important to stop and update your knowledge bank, and to make sure you’re adapting to changes.

To keep content marketers in the loop, here are updated best practices for page titles. Specifically, the HTML title tag that search engines use as the title that appears in the search results (not necessarily the title as it appears on the blog or website).

The Way of the Past

Google used to use 70 characters for the title that appears in search results. If the title went over 70 characters (including spaces) it would get cut off.

The Way of the Present

Google no longer uses a fixed character limit. Instead, they use pixel width to determine title length.

Each character on a keyboard has a different width when typed, and the combination of character widths that make up the title needs to fall below Google’s limit. This means that it’s now more difficult to recommend a specific number for titles, since the length varies as the character count remains constant.

In the example below, the chosen title is 60 characters, and we can see Google still cuts it off.

So what kinds of guidelines can marketers follow to ensure the full title fits? Fortunately, Dr. Pete from Moz has compiled this analysis, which is quickly becoming the new best practice to follow.

His recommendation? Well, it’s a bit of a moving target. Sparing you the science-y stuff…

Aiming for 55 characters will ensure that only 1 in 20 blog post titles get cut off. 

As fewer characters are used, the odds of being able to fit the entire title increases. The percentages below are confidence levels from Dr. Pete’s analysis. For example, at 56 characters, 2 out of 20 blog post titles get cut off, or 18/20 = 90%.   

  • 80% – 57 characters
  • 90% – 56 characters
  • 95% – 55 characters
  • 99% – 53 characters
  • 99.9% – 49 characters

This is is important not for ranking purposes, but for click-through purposes. It’s long been confirmed that search CTR’s are higher when the full title is visible to the user.

Key Takeaways

  • When creating content that will live on a new page, ensure no more than 55 characters are used for the page title.
  • Stay away from upper-case letters, as these are wider and see an increased probability of having the titles cut off.
  • Try not to rework the entire title. Using the example above, opt for something like “Planning a Kickass Webinar: A Content Marketer’s Guide” (Get the important stuff mentioned first!). It could be as easy as dropping a word or two.
  • If you’re struggling to make it fit in 55 characters, it’s okay. Depending on the width of the title, it may still fit!

If you’re interested in seeing the methodology behind the study and how results were compiled, see Dr. Pete’s post over at the Moz blog.

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