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We've been examining a number of different SEO tools recently. Several of these tell us that some of our page title's, urls and meta descriptions are too long.

We've also been told that some of our pages have too many links on them.

I guess our first question is - is any of that feedback true! Can URL's etc actually be too long and if so how much does this affect ranking?

Secondly can you have too many links on a page and if so, how many is too many?

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3 Answers 3

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That feedback may be true. It also may not be true. If the person giving you the feedback didn't justify their criticism with why this is the case then they may not have any idea of what they're talking about. When someone tells you what's wrong with something but doesn't tell you how or why the criticism is useless. It also fails to establish the critic as a possible knowledgeable person on the topic.

So the best I can do is give you some general guidelines pertaining to the above issues and you can then decide if they apply to or not.

  • Meta descriptions, which are not used in your pages' rankings but may be shown in Google's search results when your pages are listed, does not have an official length requirement. However, since Google will only display so many characters in their search results you should try to limit your meta description content to meet that length. I think that content is about 160 characters in length but don't have anything official handy to back that up. (If someone can clarify this for me I would greatly appreciate it). So if your meta descriptions are too much longer then this length then you may want to consider shortening them. Definitely read up on Google's tips for meta descriptions.

  • Page titles should accurately describe what a page is about. It should contain keywords that you want to rank well for but you do not want to stuff them in there needlessly and, besides looking spammy and stupid, hurt your chances of ranking well for exact match queries. So long titles are normal and can be good for SEO if done properly. But if all of your titles are very long you're probably doing something wrong like putting search engines ahead of users. Write natural page titles (like the title of a book) and don't stuff keywords into them. Definitely read up on Google's guidelines for page titles.

  • URLs, like page titles, can be long naturally but usually are not. Good usability would dictate that you keep them short so users can more easily remember them and type them into their browser. But if you create slugs based on the title of your page, which is a good idea, a long page title will result in a long URL. Just like with titles, that's ok. Just keep in mind there are limits to how long URLs can be and if you exceed it you may run into some technical problems (which also may affect those pages' ability to be indexed).

  • Too many links on a page is subjective. Google recommends "Keep the links on a given page to a reasonable number". Basically why do you have so many links on a page? Is it a sitemap or table of contents? If so, then having a lot of links on a page is natural. If it's because you're linking to everything you possibly can for the sake of linking, then you're doing it wrong. Heavily cross-linking your internal pages is a good thing for SEO so definitely do so liberally but naturally and usefully. As far as external links go, linking to sites your citing or contain quality content is a good thing and may even help your rankings. A quality page probably will have several links these. But if you have a lot of links to external sites on lots of pages you may want to consider your guidelines for what pages deserve to be linked to and which do not. It's subjective so that's about as good as an answer as I can give. There is no hard number for links on a page either internal or external, but "reasonable" is a good guideline to go by.

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The length recommendation is around your mentioned number and based on experience with Google, Bing and others. AFAIK there's no offical hard number. seomoz.org/learn-seo/meta-description. One thing to add (Matt Cutts): youtube.com/watch?v=RBTBEfd7z_Y - a good description can boost conversion. –  initall Feb 7 '13 at 8:14

Page titles and URLs can be too long for usability purposes, as can page descriptions, and packing too many links on a page can also be bad for usability (in addition to being a sign of a link farm, affiliate marketing spam site, or other spammy/low-quality sites).

So this gives search engines plenty of reasons to penalize, or at least not favor, sites for having too long a page title/description/URL or too many links. As far as how much affect this has on ranking, it's probably not that significant unless you have so many links or such suspicious-looking URLs and page titles (not just in length but content as well) that you're flagged as a potential spam site.

I'm not sure there are any published hard limits on these items, but if you use a little common sense and stay within reasonable limits, you shouldn't have anything to worry about. At the end of the day, if you concentrate on user experience, these sort of ranking factors will sort themselves out.

It also doesn't make sense to have a hard limit on something like link count, as what's a reasonable range may be different from one page to another. It depends on the type of page it is as well as the length/amount of content on the page. If one page is 1 printed page long, and another is 50 printed pages long, then the second page is probably going to naturally contain more links. Likewise, certain types of pages have legitimate reasons for containing lots of links:

  • a directory/glossary/index page
  • a search results page
  • a rich AJAX interface
  • an RSS feed

These types of pages are common enough that most search engines probably know to make exceptions for pages with a legitimate need for a high number of links. So just think about what would be best for your users. If dumping 50 links on a single page is potentially confusing to users, then redesign your navigation flow to improve UX, regardless of whether Google/Bing/etc. will reward you for it.

The same is true with meta descriptions. These are frequently used by web browsers, accessibility software, and other desktop and web apps that handle or process links & webpages, e.g. newsfeed generators, social bookmarking sites like del.icio.us, link sharing sites such as Facebook, Google+, etc., in addition to search engines and web directories. So when determining the length of your page description, take into account how it will be displayed in such applications.

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Page title length

AFAIK there is no official rule for max length of page title, but I would keep them into 68 chars for two good reasons:

  • they should describe your page briefly in 4/5 words, it's hard to be concise, but have you ever seen a newspaper's/book's title that takes two lines of words? A title is title, and must be short, it's not a paragraph.

  • Google shows only 66/68 chars in its SERPs, does this maybe mean Google thinks 66 chars are enough for a page title?!

Meta description length

Google shows only 155 chars, why writing longer meta description then?! IMHO they are useful only to be shown in Google's SERPs

Links length

They are better short, let's say I tell you by word of mouth: "you can pay my invoice at: http://mysite.com/invoice" it's easier to remember rather than "you can pay my invoice at: http://www.mysite.com/payments/customers/paypal/invoice"

Number of links per page

Easy this one too, if your page looks (or behaves) like a links farm, then definitely you have too many links on that page. Otherwise I would not be worried.

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protected by John Conde Feb 7 '13 at 12:40

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