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How long should my text within my <title></title> tags really be? I know Google cuts it off at some point but when?

When I used IIS7's SEO Toolkit 1.0 I get error stating my title should be under 65 characters. I have a book by Bruce Clay that states I should use from 62-70 characters and roughly 9 +/- 3 words. I also have used SenSEO's Firefox Add-on and it states I should use a max of 65 characters or roughly 15 words. What is the max really? I have 2 sources saying 65 and 1 saying 72 but Bruce Clay is generally kept in high regard.

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6 Answers 6

up vote 20 down vote accepted

It's not just the length, it's being meaningful enough so that tabs in any given browser can be easily differentiated (usability), as well as SEO.

I never go over 80 characters in length, and I assume that it's likely that some indexes will truncate at 60 characters or so. That isn't as big as a concern as it used to be. But, be aware that Google isn't the only search engine.

Regardless, following both usability and SEO means get something meaningful in the first 20 characters and avoid keyword spam.

EDIT

Example:

Gibson Rant 1 - "I hope you ... " | TheBestNews.com
Gibson Rant 2 - "I'm going to ..." | TheBestNews.com

You want the least significant words as far 'right' as you can get them, while not defeating tabbed browsing. That is, of course, if the language is read left to right. Reverse the order otherwise (tricky in sites that offer many languages).

There's also nothing wrong with using titles as a teaser, as long as you deliver when someone clicks through. Discretion, depending on the topic, is of course paramount.

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1  
Those examples contain a LOT of duplicate information. The URL can be seen on any search engine. Adding it to the title isn't really going to help users. Also in a tabbed browsing setting the tabs have the sites favicon. Users are going to look at that to see what site they opened. Stack Overflow puts the article title first and in full. Then it puts the site and other repeated info to the right. Wether in tabs of in a search your title will be more relevant if you put the article title first. E.g.: I hope you stub your toe! - Gibson Rant #1 | TheBestNews.com –  Gareth Farrington Jul 15 '10 at 19:31
    
Haha, I've seen some very rude page titles made from innocent pages because of tabs truncating things... –  Mark Henderson Jul 16 '10 at 5:54

65

The reason being that search engines will only show the first 65 characters. For example search google for something. They will show the first 65 character and then a ... bing however seems to do 67.

So if you want to control how your title shows up in the results and you need to concentrate on the first 65.

I am not sure if they ignore more then this is just don't show it. I would assume the later.

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What they show vs what they index remains alchemy :) –  Tim Post Jul 15 '10 at 16:45
    
+1 I totally agree. –  Marco Demaio Aug 11 '10 at 11:11
    
So few pages have titles that long, that I actually can't find one. Do you have any example? –  Bobby Jack Aug 17 '10 at 17:21

Tim Post naoled it, while they only show 65 i've seen returns on words that are easily outside that limit.

Also remember while it's great to tailor your title to the search engine, users read them to and spammy titles annoy users.

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Good point. I am not trying to spam the titles. I am building a website for an engineering company so their words tend to be pretty big and that space can fill up fast. –  RandomBen Jul 16 '10 at 13:52
    
you say "i've seen returns on words that are easily outside that limit" I never seen Google returning words outside the limits, title are returned left to right with no spaces or ellipsis. Could you provide an example search we can try to prove your answer. –  Marco Demaio Aug 11 '10 at 11:13

I think the best thing to do is to subscribe your site into your Google Webmaster Tools (it's free). Such a tool provides a functionality called "HTML Suggestions" that tells you when your title or meta decription are too short/long or even duplicated in pages. From my experience I did NOT see Google Webmaster Tools complain for titles longer than 65 chars, therefor probably also those words after the 65th chars are still in some way indexed by Google.

But I have to agree also with the answer given by corymathews, since most search engines displays only 65 chars in their results it might be worth paying attention to Google's searchers that won't be ever able to read the text after the 65th char of your title in a search result.

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This is a bit like asking "How long should my book title be?" or "How long should my child's name be" i.e. it's pretty subjective BUT the best advice is to do what makes most sense in context, rather than trying to game SEO or similar. Think about the contexts in which your site's title will be used, including:

  • Window title (on massively wide desktops and claustrophobic mobile devices)
  • Window tabs
  • Bookmark menus
  • Bookmark toolbars
  • External services, such as delicious, facebook, twitter, etc.

Almost all of those contexts suggest, to me, that your title should be as short as possible, but as long as necessary to describe the page's content.

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I'm surprised no one also suggested that the Meta Description is a good place to put the "extra" information you aren't able to put in the HTML .

65 chars is a mutually agreed upon number, with the reason being that you don't want the GOOG to truncate your title poorly, as they do sometimes. You want to have control over that yourself.

So, you have two tools to "sell" your site and earn the click through:

  • Title
  • Meta Description

If you recall that those are the two things the user typically sees when scanning the SERPs, you'll be able to write them in a complimentary way that "sells" your page and earns the click... if, in fact, it's relevant to the user.

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