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Google Title and Desc - do you still keep within the character limitations?

 3:11 pm on Mar 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

so i have a CMS that we use for our webiste(s)...

i have set a limit on the title and description tags to allow them to properly fit into the SERP's without having the "triple period..." at the end...

im not sure this is even still worth doing?

we have alot of policies that you chop only so much before it looks like slang...

is anyone throwing out this technique of keeping the title tag no more than... approx. 65 chars and the desc. tag around 150 chars?



 3:35 pm on Mar 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

Well I try to keep title to 69 or less (i've never seen 69 not be fully listed), but i've done some experiments that suggest G will read beyond what is actually shown and use what is after the ellipses (...) as a ranking factor (though probably not as much as what appears further to the left in the title). Ultimately, I think it comes down to what you can get a good CTR on, but if it's reasonable to think that going slightly over that will give you some additional long-tail traffic than I personally feel it's worth doing (remember Yahoo! and MSN will display more characters than Google will, so the full title will get shown in those SERPS if its a few characters longer).

Robert Charlton

 6:00 pm on Mar 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

Yes, even though Google cuts off display at roughly 63-64 characters (depending on your own word breaks), it will read a lot more. Some other engines also display more. I myself occasionally don't mind the triple-period if I've gotten my important content in the characters that display. If there's something vital to the message, though, that might get cut off, then I make a lot of effort to edit the early part of the title down. I do like to keep my titles short.

With a CMS that's liable to be used by a variety of people, perhaps to include user-generated content, you have a slightly different issue, and building the cutoff to prevent title entry beyond 64 characters might make sense... except that you never know in those situations whether you're going to get relevant titles anyway.

A side issue to your question.... I've worked with sites where the filename for the page was generated from the title, and in several occasions came across pages whose source couldn't be viewed because Windows wouldn't handle a local path over 260 characters. These same files can also prevent certain Windows batch operations. In setting up a CMS, you definitely should take that into account, so you don't get a file that jams up the system.

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 6:01 pm (utc) on Mar. 16, 2009]


 6:19 pm on Mar 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

Page titles in the SERPs will normally truncate at 66/67 characters depending on the word composition at the point of truncation. Yahoo! recommends 67 characters as a limit.

More important, search engines use titles to index web sites, and often display them in search engine results. To make your page most appealing to search engines, we recommend that you limit your page title to 67 characters and do not include images in the page title area.

There really is no hard rule when it comes to longer titles. I've seen titles with up to 20+ words perform just fine. tedster has mentioned that he has seen pages with longer titles perform for keyword searches where the words were towards the end of the long titles.

I actually micro-manage titles from a truncation standpoint. Those three periods are referred to as an ellipsis (...) and mean a suspension point. In some instances, anything beyond the suspension point is gone forever, it got truncated due to limitations. Our input fields for title elements have visual indicators letting me know when I've crossed the point of truncation. I've based our numbers on 67 as the maximum and it works perfectly. If I have a word that truncates because it fell on the truncation point, I might move things around to prevent the loss of the full word. It all depends.

I typically try to write short concise titles too. Most of my titles will be within the 67 character truncation limit by default. Lately though, I've had a few go over that mark especially when dealing with how to articles. I have a formula.

I wouldn't worry about it too much unless you have more than an equal balance of long vs short titles. Heck, Google News Publisher guidelines say to keep your article titles within 2-20 words. That's a lot of characters depending on word lengths.

Always, always front load your titles. Keep the most important stuff at the front then trail off into secondary and/or synonymous phrases. Or, you can even stack. I won't reveal that one in the public forums. ;)


 6:32 pm on Mar 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

"Heck, Google News Publisher guidelines say to keep your article titles within 2-20 words"

to be clear, though, "article title" as used by Google News is not the same as the page title (that is used by Google for web search) - there are different limitations and requirements for each


 6:49 pm on Mar 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

There are different limitations and requirements for each.

Yes there are. But, the basics are the same. Google have different guidelines for their various services. If you read all of them and then put them together, you get a pretty good feel for what their limitations are. This little tidbit is a prime example...

Ensure that the title is not too long or too short. Currently, a title must be between two and 22 words for it to be indexed properly.

And then this one that tells you where they extract the Article Title from...

Our automated system looks at each article's source code and extracts a title from the <title> tag.

Which tells me that they are expecting your 2-22 word article title to reside in the <title> element of the page. There really is nothing different between a page being built for Google News and one being built for general consumption. The basic concepts are exactly the same across the board.

Troubleshooting: Article title


 7:14 pm on Mar 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

well, not that it really matters, but even though it might say it takes what's in the title tag, that isn't what actually happens. It takes what's used in the story as the article title in the H1 or H2 tag (usually anyway - sometimes I've seen it use a subhead). For most media sites these tend to be the same, but for some sites that have good optimization strategies for targeting both these can be different.

NYTimes.com is a good example (not the site I work for, but a good example). Take a look at this page: [nytimes.com...]

Notice the title (in the tag) is different from the article title in the H1 tag, and that is used in Google News (should be able to see it here [news.google.com...]

I've never seen an instance on the site I work on of the <title> being used instead of the article title <h1> when they are different and I've never noticed that in other sites (though I haven't spent a ton of time worrying with other sites). Not sure why Google has this in their Guidelines, but I really don't think it's true anymore.

Anyway, you're right the basics are the same - with a few caveats here and there.


 7:16 pm on Mar 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

Using the K.I.S.S. method here is what I like to do.

Go to a search engine, look up anything, and copy the longest title into notepad. Next while choosing a title I make sure to keep it shorter than the one I copied, that way I know it will fully show up without being truncated by the search engine.

Rinse and repeat with the description. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I see if there is a way to re-word both in a manner that removes needless words and includes more keywords without sounding like spam. Less is more.


 11:38 pm on Mar 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

My experience has been that the truncation occurs at 70+ characters (spaces and punctuation included--70 characters is ok); however, once the title is truncated for display (if the 70 character limit it breached) then the number of characters displayed (including the ellipses) is 67 or less depending on the word size.

As some have mentioned, there is no set rule to follow, but it only makes sense to not have a title longer than what is 'allowed' without truncation. There certainly is more room on the screen to display more characters (even on low resolutions), but the fact that the engines have a cut-off point it suggests (to me) that significantly less weight is given to anything beyond the cutoff point.


 11:58 pm on Mar 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

I care more about clickability than I do rankings when it comes to title and particularly description. I want my 'advertisement' to really pop out.

That means I tend to keep the description brief. In fact I prefer keeping my description so Google only shows one line, not 2. I like to tell myself that makes my SERP listing stand out. I'm the only one on the page that has that short of a listing. It's succinct and I try to put action words in it. Buy Now! Shop Online! Free Shipping! (I don't actually use anything specifically like that, but that's the idea, maybe with the dial turned back off of 11 a bit :) ).


 2:34 am on Mar 17, 2009 (gmt 0)

I use Content Title - Site Name for the title element, quite a lot, and am not too bothered if Site Name gets truncated on some pages. In fact, I would think Google would expect it to for at least some small percentage.


 2:47 am on Mar 17, 2009 (gmt 0)

the fact that the engines have a cut-off point it suggests (to me) that significantly less weight is given to anything beyond the cutoff point.

I've seen some evidence that this is not so. So I'd say the more likely idea on Google's side is attracting the click, because users will not read all of a long title. They're not going to discard relevance signals that might help them build a better SERP.


 3:52 am on Mar 17, 2009 (gmt 0)

My wife looks for the title with the most bold text in search results, meaning an exact match or all of her keywords has the best chance of getting her click, I suspect she's not alone.


 4:44 am on Mar 17, 2009 (gmt 0)

I try to keep my titles up to 65-75 characters. Though from past 2-3 months I have noticed that G has started to show ellipses(...) just after 64th character if the Title is more than 66 char. Don't know if you have experienced the same.

Regardless of the char limit I also make it a point that I keep the density of my main keyword in a title to a certain limit as after a lot of hit and trial I have seen that keyword density of the primary keyword in the title does help.


 5:40 am on Mar 17, 2009 (gmt 0)

We keep 68 char's when optimizing primarily for Google. I know under G will show at least 69 characters if you get it right.

And depending upon the objective of the page, we don't worry about using up to 120. Wouldn't use 120 for a head term though. ;-)

As a general rule, we frequently use g1smd's approach (i.e., not worrying if site name falls out of view).


 9:30 am on Mar 17, 2009 (gmt 0)

I write a title that leaps out of the search results and off page optimization means that I don't need to have a keyword stuffed front loaded Title tag in order to get a good ranking.

For the user, my listing stands out like a diamond nestled among a pile of coal. :)


 2:07 pm on Mar 17, 2009 (gmt 0)

I seen a few post on here stating that G only shows 69, 63 - 64, characters as a max. I have tested G's title display and G will display approximately 70 characters (including spaces). If you add one more character (71) then Google will truncate the title tag. tonynoriega, I would recommend not focusing on the max character limit for third tier pages. Having the title tag fully displayed in G can help with your CTR so you want to focus on max character limits on your highly converting web pages to bring your site traffic. Hope this helps.


 2:57 pm on Mar 17, 2009 (gmt 0)

yeah - i've had 70 display fully at times and i've also had 70 (including spaces as you mentioned) cut off a couple times - it's a pixel limit rather than character limit so it can vary - I haven't ever had 69 cut off so that's why I tell all the writers I work with to stay there or below (or if you go beyond there's an ellipsis - which I personally don't mind because I haven't noticed a CTR difference). But if others want to say 63 or 67, we're all basically in the same ballpark so i don't see much of a difference


 8:06 pm on Mar 17, 2009 (gmt 0)

Be aware that the allowed number likely changes by a small amount from time to time, so if you make all your titles 68 characters long then maybe all of them will get chopped back in the next change.

Simple way to detect SEO actions on a site? Site goes from <10% truncated to >90% truncated when the 'show' limit is cut back by just one or characters. Yet one more footprint you are leaving behind.


 6:44 am on Mar 18, 2009 (gmt 0)


I am veronica. This is my first post.

I normally follow character limitation in my title and meta tags.

If you are not following not a problem.

One thing we should remember if we are following are not title and meta tags should be relevant to that page.



 2:13 pm on Mar 18, 2009 (gmt 0)

i wouldn't limit it because you would lose control when you would like to add a longer title that could fit in a social media submission; i think digg allows 75 characters; if you have to optimize keep the keywords on the left.


 9:04 am on Mar 19, 2009 (gmt 0)

Thats a good Idea, but using in CMS would not be a good idea if it changes every refresh, If that CMS creates pages of static nature then its worth the use. As dynamic pages content won't be considered by google bots.


[edited by: tedster at 9:13 am (utc) on Mar. 19, 2009]


 6:22 pm on Apr 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

I happen to research a bit about this topic and following are what Googlers said:


"Also making sure the most difference in the title is starting on the left ensures it will show up as a distinct button when the window is minimized or the tab is at the back of the browser window. Furthermore this also helps Googlebot in determining how unique that is.

I mentioned length of the description meta tag in terms of words because this is the typical measurement. But yes, 2 lines for a total of about 160 characters or so. As for teh title, it depends on the browse but about 70 characters are safe.

In short, there are no fixed number of words/characters that are allowed for a meta description."

Seems such a mysterious length limit for title is largely from IE 6, which only shows first 70 characters of any page title. But not from Google, at least.


 6:27 pm on Apr 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

Because Google is now displaying longer snippets [webmasterworld.com] for some queries, I'm beginning to work with longer meta descriptions (up to 260 characters) when it seems appropriate to the page content.


 6:35 pm on Apr 3, 2009 (gmt 0)

Yes. And if we remember Google's guideline which is always put user first/seo second, then it's pretty clear not to waste too much time to stick to those length limit, as long as it makes sense for search users at Google.

Actually, my site is a moderate forum site and I put partial sentence as page title to make them all unique and more search kw covered (avg title length is 100 characters) Works pretty well (as not seeing complain in Google webmaster central nor traffic declining from Google)


 11:15 am on Apr 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

What about ranking? Anyone done or seen any case studies on title length and page ranking? Plus CTR. You'd think as basic an issue as this is, there would be many studies available.

Do short titles really get better CTR? How many readers bother with the Description? Does it depend on the user age or site's industry? Stuff like that.

Hey, Tedster, didn't you once tell us one webmaster put 10,000 words into his page title, without penalty? It was something extreme and I seem to recall you said you had to see it to believe it.

Edit: I just found your quote [webmasterworld.com]:

I'm glad you brought up this topic. I don't have massive data on this, but an observation on the other side, about long title tags with many key phrases.
There is one particular site I've watched for a while because it was so extreme. The home page has a title tag of over 10,000 characters! Conventional wisdom always said is was a crazy thing to do, and yet this home page was ranking well for almost every phrase in that mega-title, and for a long time. It's no longer ranking - so that points to a definite shift in the algo, and a welcome one as far as I'm concerned.

In 2007 you wrote: "Right now (and there's no guarantee for how long) I still see URLs that rank for keywords that only appear way back in a very long title element -- far beyond the 70 character truncation point, and nowhere else on the page."

Is that still true today? BTW, if I was writing the Google algo, I wouldn't ignore the words beyond c. 67 characters, would you?

Incidentally, I believe I recently read (in Google patent app/Google staff interview) that you can get bumped from SERPs if you have the same page title as another site (that is higher in the SERPs). The argument for doing this was users want to see different results. Granted it's likely a rare occurrence that two pages with identical titles would naturally rank one after the other, but it's still good to know. I do believe, however, Google now gives sets of results (e.g., first page for a query) with more range or diversity than previously for many if not all queries.

There are some old webmaster theories that title length should considered to avoid "dilution," but I don't know if that's true.



 5:01 pm on Apr 6, 2009 (gmt 0)

Well the particular domain I mentioned is now offline - but while it was live, it always ranked in the top five for that phrase at very end of 10,000 character title. I always chuckled about it - it certainly was humbling to what I thought I knew about Google SEO.

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