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Some pages can be explained with short titles like "Big Red Apples" while others may have every variety of apple on the page and be approprate for the <title> tag to be much more wordy.
So, does "Google" have a set would count one should not exceed?
Google doesn't publish this information... you will have to reverse engineer it by looking for high PageRank pages with long titles, then searching for words or phrases found near the end of the title to see if the page appears in the results. This method isn't perfect (as the results also depend on other on-page factors)... but let us know what you find.
Long titles probably dilute the value of any given word or phrase... so it isn't necessarily smart to optimize for too many words anyhow.
I remember getting advice (not from this forum) to include every key word you could think of. It made for a really spammy looking title. I've been advised here to just concentrate on one word or phrase per page.
Good titles really do help in serp placement but long titles don't as far as I can see.
The next step up would be 128, which is excessive and even browsers might not display it.
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42 is the correct answer because if you multiply 9 x 7 that is the result achieved (as calculated by mice).
Anyone here disputing this fact should not PANIC! (in large letters). Google is totally based upon improbability theory.
To determine SERP's for any given search term you must simply calculate the probability that it should NOT be.
While placing one of your extremities in a hot cup of coffee you should multiply your best current position page number by 42. Do that and you will determine the ranked position of your favorite keyphrase on any given day that the Earth is about to be destroyed by Vogon constructor ships.
If you are not up to these complex mathematical calculations we suggest you eat several bags of peanuts, place a towel around your head and remove all pocket lint from your attire! Will this help....heck no, but peanuts always taste better when eaten in the dark!
The probability of Google fixing its current problems is currently 1 to the power of 31415926535 and falling!
GG suggested 'the meaning of life, the universe and everything'
But the general consensus is about 7 words.
With an average word length of around 6 characters, that comes to - about 42!