Based on the results of our very own testing, we have come to our own conclusion that Google does not truncate title tags in the search results based on the number of characters in your title tag. Google truncates the title tag based on pixels, not characters. This is huge. Why? It means that every SEO “best practice” guideline written about title tags on web pages is incorrect. Previously, we have been told that we need to make sure that title tags are less than 70 characters in length because Google truncates the title tag in the search results. Well, that’s incorrect. Here is what we found.
Here at Standing Dog, we see a lot of title tags, and we write even more every day. We started to notice some interesting changes in the title tags, how Google was displaying the title tags in search results, and what characters they were displaying–which ultimately led to our conclusion here, and thus our test post that proves that we’re using 99 characters and 466 pixels in our title tag (and still forcing Google to show the full title tag in the search results).
More proof of the title tag pixel length for us came when we started to notice changes in how Google is handling the title tag for one of our clients, Jewel Resorts. If you search in Google for the keyword phrase “Jamaica Beach Resorts”, you will see a Jewel page in the search results, on the first page. The title tag displayed in the search results is taken from the first sentence in the paragraph of the content…and Google adds the branding at the end with a hyphen (not a pipe). We have concluded, also, that Google prefers hyphens to pipes, by the way.
For this keyword search, “Jamaica Beach Resorts”, the title tag displayed in the search results: Google has changed this according to pixel width, not characters:
Jewel Dunn’s River Beach Resort & Spa – Jewel Resorts
Title tag: 53 characters in length
Title Tag: 389 pixels wide
Here is the actual page’s title tag in the code:
Jamaica All-Inclusive Resort | The Jewel Dunn’s River | Ocho Rios Jamaica
Title Tag: 514 pixels wide
Title Tag: 73 characters
Google did not take the title from the description because there is no description in the code. The description displayed on the results page is also form the first few sentences in the first paragraph. This webpage most likely ranks for the term “Jamaica beach resorts” because of the extremely relevant content in the first few sentences.
SEO Best Practice Guidelines for Title Tags
Many of the most trusted SEO “best practice” guidelines are incorrect. Even SEOmoz’s title tag best practices explains that the title tag should be “Less than 70 characters, as this is the limit Google displays in search results”. This is incorrect. While you should want a well-written title tag that’s short enough to get your point across (and include your important keywords), we should not be talking characters here–we should be talking about pixels and the number of pixels in your title tag. There is also a site called MetaLength.com that explains that you should “Aim for 65 characters including spaces. You can go up to 69 characters in total, but do not exceed this”. The basis for that site and the script that they’re using is the number of characters in your title tag. This is incorrect, as well.
How to Test the Pixels in Your Title Tag
We have written a script that will tell you specifically how many pixels long your title tag is. Simply use the form below to test the pixel length of your title tag. Enter words you’re using in the title tag and we will calculate how many long the title tag is based on the number of pixels. Google’s default font is Arial 16 pt, so that is what we are using as a baseline here.
Insert the text of your title tag below, we will tell you how many pixels wide the title tag is. This is based on Google’s default, using Arial font at 16pt.
Results of Our Testing
We recently posted our own test blog post, called the Title Tag Pixel test. In that blog post, we used a fictitious title tag that uses some made up characters just to prove that we could get more than 70 characters into a title tag in the Google search results. Well, as you can see from the post (see the screen capture below), we were successful in getting a blog post that has a title tag that is 95 characters in length and 448 pixels wide into the search results.
As you can see from the title tag above, the title tag in the search result was truncated at 93 characters, far above the recommended 70 characters that some have been all along recommending. Don’t get me wrong, though. I still highly recommend that you write a title tag that is effective, gets the visitors to click on your search result and come to your site, and include the appropriate keywords. I am just saying here that we need to start thinking about Title Tag pixel length–and not measuring title tags based on the number of characters in your title tag.
There have been others who have noticed these same effects–that Google has been truncating title tags in the search results based on pixels and not characters. Search Engine Roundtable has some more information if you’d like to look into this further.