If you want to be sure what your title will look like in the search engine, you can use this neat tool by Portentto check it out.
Enter your title tag, meta description, and URL to see how they’ll appear in a Google search result.
Meta Description156/156 Characters
Use meta descriptions to describe your page content. Google uses relevant meta descriptions to create the snippet that describes your page in SERP listings.
Bolded Keywords (Separated by comma)
Add Date(Increases length of meta description)
Show Rich Snippet(Ratings, Price)
Google’s recent SERP redesign may not seem like a big deal to the casual observer, but at least one change could have a real impact on SEOs. This post will explore the impact of the redesign on title tags, and define a new, data-driven length limit, but first, a new tool…
Title tag preview tool (2014 edition)
Pardon the reverse order of this post, but we wanted to put the tool first for repeat visitors. Just enter your title and the search query keywords (for highlighting) below to preview your result in the redesign:
Note: Enter keyword phrases as natural queries, without commas. This preview tool only highlights exact-match text (not related concepts) and is only intended as an approximation of actual Google results.
How the redesign impacts titles
Google’s redesign increased the font size of result titles, while keeping the overall container the same size. Look at the following search result both before and after the redesign:
The title on the top (old design) has a small amount of room to spare. After the redesign (bottom), it’s lost six full characters. The old guidelines no longer apply, and so the rest of this post is an attempt to create a new set of guidelines for title tag length based on data from real SERPs.
It’s harder than it sounds
You may be thinking: “Ok, so gimme the magic number!”, but unfortunately it’s not that easy. While we try to set a reasonable length limit as a rule of thumb, the reality is that Arial (the title font) is proportionally spaced. Put simply, different characters have different widths. For example, the following two titles are both exactly 40 characters long:
As you can see, these two 40-character titles cover a wide range. Let’s break down what’s going on here…
(1) Narrow letters are narrow
Ok, that’s probably obvious, but let’s just put it out there. The first title is full of lowercase l’s and i’s which take up relatively little space. Meanwhile, m’s and w’s take up quite a bit more space. In this font, three lowercase l’s are actually narrower than one lowercase w.
(2) ALL CAPS take up more space
Capital letters are wider than lowercase letters – again, not a big surprise. All-caps titles also tend to be hard to read and are the visual equivalent of shouting. In some cases, like “LEGO” above, capitalization is important and necessary. In other cases, like “BRIDGEWATER COMMONS”, it’s just noise.
(3) Width varies with the query
Google highlights (bolds) the query keywords, so a longer query will bold more keywords. Bolded characters take up slightly more space. So, even if you found a title that just squeezed into the width limit, the actual display of that title would change depending on the keywords searchers use to find it.
(4) Cut-off titles have fewer characters
Google is cutting off titles with CSS, and the browser appends “…” whenever a title is truncated. So, a title that’s just slightly too long and gets cut will actually be shorter than a title that barely squeaks in under the width limit, due to the additional space required by “…”.
Data from real-life searches
In order to really understand what’s happening to title tags in the wild, we need to collect the data. So, we set about looking at real searches to understand where title tags were getting cut off after the redesign. Before I get into the methodology, I’d like to thank Bernt Johansson, founder of Swedish SEO firm Firstly for his generous help in hacking together this particular jQuery monster.
We looked at page 1 search results for 10,000 queries. Since not all SERPs have 10 results, this resulted in 93,438 total search results. An encoding error caused some issues with special characters, requiring us to toss out some bad data – this left us with 89,787 titles to work with. Query highlighting was preserved from the original searches. This data was all collected from Google.com using English search queries.
Means, distributions & confidence
Sorry, it’s about to get mathy up in here. Let’s look at just the titles that were truncated by Google, to find out how their lengths varied. This leaves 28,410 titles for analysis. I can tell you that the mean (average) length of those titles was 57.7 characters, but don’t run off just yet. If the distribution of these lengths was normal, then setting the mean as a reasonable limit would mean that half of the titles at that length would still get cut off. That’s hardly ideal. Also, this doesn’t account for the titles that weren’t cut off.
Just out of curiosity, though, let’s look at the overall distribution of cut-off title lengths (post-cut-off):
The good news is that this distribution is roughly normal, peaking at about 57-58 characters. Post-cut-off title tags ranged in length from 42 to 68 characters. Here’s a title cut off at 42 characters:
Again, all-caps titles take up more space, and the query (“anywho reverse lookup”) is fairly long. Here’s a title that makes it up to 68 characters after being cut off:
In this example, the query is short (“Giftster”), the title only has two capitalized words, and there are quite a few lowercase l’s and i’s in play. Keep in mind that all of the lengths in the graph above are after the cut-off. Gifster could probably get away with 1-3 more characters beyond what’s displayed. We also need to consider the pre-cut-off length and account for the ellipsis.
So, how do we turn this all into something that’s actually useful? What do we really want to know? Ultimately, we want to find a reasonable length at which we can be fairly confident our titles won’t get cut off. At each length, I looked at what percentage of titles were cut off. Since the distribution is fairly normal, longer titles were (as expected) more likely to get cut off. Here are the cut-off lengths at five different levels of confidence:
- 80% – 57 characters (81.6%)
- 90% – 56 characters (91.6%)
- 95% – 55 characters (95.8%)
- 99% – 53 characters (98.7%)
- 99.9% – 49 characters (99.9%)
Since character lengths are integers, we can’t hit the 80%, 90%, etc. marks right on the money, so these are the closest numbers (the actual percentages are in parentheses). Maybe I’m biased by my statistics background, but I tend to think 95% is a pretty reasonable level. Put simply, if all of your title tags were exactly 55 characters long, then you could expect about 95% of them to be left alone (1 in 20 would be cut off).
There’s no magic number
I feel comfortable saying that 55 characters is a reasonable title-length limit under the new design, but keep in mind that your title lengths may vary quite a bit. In addition, a cut-off title isn’t the kiss of death – Google still processes keywords beyond the cut-off (including for ranking purposes), and other formats, like vertical results and Google+, may display your full titles. Here’s an example from Google news vertical results:
In this example, the first news result actually displays the full title of the article, whereas the second result is truncated. Ultimately, if you’re really concerned about any given result, you need to see it for yourself. In some cases, a mysterious trailing “…” may even make a title more clickable (I wouldn’t bank on it, but it’s possible).
In many cases, like blog posts titles, it’s not worth going back and revising everything based on this new data. I’d look closely at your core pages, view the SERPs for your target keywords, and make sure that your snippets look the way you’d like them to. Use your judgment, and keep the guideline in mind for future SEO efforts, but don’t start hacking at characters. Google could change the rules again.
All about slugs (not the slimy kind)
When we start writing a new post, WordPress automatically creates a URL for the post using our blog’s address, the date, and post title. Great, now you don’t have to worry about your post’s URL, right? All taken care of.
Not quite. You don’t need to lose sleep over your post URLs, but paying some attention to the post slug — the bit of the URL after the address and date — can have a nice traffic payoff.
“I’m still not sure what a slug is!”
The slug is the bit of your post’s (or page’s) URL that describes what that specific post is about. Here’s the URL of this post, with the slug in bold:
If I’d used the URL that WordPress auto-generated for me based on the post title, the slug would have been:
They both get the job done, but one is short and easy to read, while the other is long and unwieldy. Think about what the auto-generated slug would look like for “Perennial Favorites: Should You Connect Your Blog to Your LinkedIn Account?” or “Recommended Reading: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running,” and you’ll start to see how easy it is for post slugs to bulk up.
“I’m still not sure why I should care.”
First, it makes an easy-to-remember, easy-to-share URL, and lets the person with whom you’re sharing the URL — or the person who sees the link out in the wild — understand the focus of your post quickly. And when we know what we’re getting into, we’re more likely to click.
More importantly, Google likes a short, focused slug that contains the key words describing the post and not a lot of fluff. Slugs are important to search engine rankings; the fewer keywords your slugs contain, the more highly they’re valued. Google is smart — it knows that a long title and slug have lots of filler words (from a search engine standpoint), so it gives the words less weight.
Let’s look again at what the auto-generated slug for this post would look like:
It’s full of words that make for an interesting title but are meaningless from a search perspective: all, about, not, the, slimy, and kind. If you were looking for information on post slugs, you wouldn’t search for those terms and the Google Wizards know it. Make your titles as fun, funny, titillating, or descriptive as you want — then edit your slugs to make them succinct and focused.
“I’m convinced. How do I edit my slugs?”
Simple. If you’re writing a post (or page) in the classic editor, the URL appears just below the title field — click “Edit” to change the post slug:
If you’re writing in the new visual editor, you’ll find the post slug under “Advanced Settings,” the last option on the right-hand side of the page. “Slug” is the first field — enter your text, and it will save along with your post text.
The slug will depend on what you’re writing about, but here are a few ground rules:
- Keep it short — five words or less — and limit it to words that actually describe what the post is about.
- Remove “stopwords.” Words like the, in, a/an, is, and it don’t tell search engines anything about the focus of your post, so they’ll be filtered out. You want to keep your slug focused, so don’t waste a word on something that search engines will ignore anyway.
- No punctuation. Slugs are lowercase letters and numbers only. Punctuation will be automatically removed, which could leave you with meaningless words (“doesnt”).
It only takes a second to edit your slug, but Google will thank you!
Note: Changing the slug of a post that you’ve already published means that all existing links to that post will stop working. Make sure you update all links with the new URL if you decide to retroactively modify your slugs.
Excerpts are optional hand-crafted summaries of your content. They can be used to shorten your blog posts so that only part of the entry — usually the introduction or a summary of the post — is displayed, instead of the entire entry. Using excerpts is completely optional.
Depending on the theme you have activated, excerpts you assign may be displayed on your homepage, RSS feed, or archives page. Your theme will also determine whether or not your excerpt is followed by a link that points readers to the full-length post.
Here’s an example of an excerpt on the homepage of a blog with the Inuit Types theme:
When you click the post title, you’re taken to the full-length post:
Note that the excerpt is only visible on the site’s main blog page (where all posts are shown) but that excerpt text is not visible on the blog post itself.
The Excerpt module can be found to the left of the post editor, under More Options with some other publishing options. To add your text in this field, click More Options then enter text into the Excerpt box. When ready, publish your post.
Note that the excerpt feature only works with certain themes. If your theme does not support excerpts, you can use the More tag instead.