Most likely Yes….A lot of attention has been given to Google decision earlier this year to shorten the length of their title tags. With all this hubbub we decided it was high time to weigh in on the subject and especially in light of the increasing number of questions we’ve had about the topic. A lot of people want to know if they need to shorten their title lengths to meet the new 55 character restriction and it seems that much of this commotion has been caused by a post from Authority Labs called ‘Google Doesn’t Think Your Titles Are Good Enough Anymore’.
Either way, it’s time we had a think about what this all means and whether it indeed is wise for you to cut them down.
What We Know
So is it true that titles over 55 characters are going to get truncated from now on? Certainly Google have recommended that title tags from now on should be 55 characters and under but this doesn’t actually mean that your titles will be too long in every scenario. The reality is actually a little more complicated than that you see and it seems there are a range of factors that will impact on how much of a title Google shows.
Here’s what we know:
- Google now shortens more title tags than they ever have done in the past
- Google will sometimes partially or entirely rewrite titles as they see fit
- Titles displayed can now be anything from 40-70 characters with the average number of characters being 58
- This means that your 58 character titles are probably okay and so might your 59 word ones be
- Once you start edging above 60 though, you are risking getting your titles being rewriting
- And 55 characters is the safest limit if you want to be absolutely certain that Google won’t edit your titles
So the approach has definitely changed and you certainly need to rethink your own strategy moving forward but not every one of your old titles needs to be revised.
What Should You Do About Your Old Title Tags?
There are other factors to consider here too. For starters, rewriting titles can actually damage your current listing in Google and that means you might cause your pages to drop down a few pegs in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). Remember that Google consider title tags in their algorithms and if you change your title tag then they might view your page as less relevant to your target keywords or to other long-tail key phrases.
This means you need to weigh up your options to decide the best course of action. Just because Google isn’t showing your title verbatim, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t including that in their index. Really then the only effect this will have is on your potential visitors. That means you have to ask yourself whether that matters.
The risk is that letting your titles get revised could impact negatively on your CTR (click through rate). You no doubt came up with your title tag because you wanted something that would catch the eye and encourage people to click. If that then gets butchered, people might not want to click on your link. In order to actually get clicks and to get people to visit your site, you want your listing to be prominent in the SERPs and you want it to look the part. Both are of equal importance as long as they are impacting on your views and serving your goals.
So what you need to do is to focus on the numbers. If your new title has created a drop in your click through rate then you may want to rethink. If it hasn’t, then you might want to leave it as it is. The only time you might not follow this logic is if you think your new title could be hurting your brand.
Of course one other factor you need to consider is the sheer time it could take you to rewrite your titles. Do you have that time available? And would you even know how to go about shortening them without losing their oomph?
How to Tell if Your Title is Impacting Your Clicks
All this means that you really need to be able to accurately discern what impact if any your shortened title is having on your views. This is where things get a little tricky. You can use ‘info’ in Google Webmaster Tools in order to look at your CTR and if you know roughly when your title started displaying differently then you might be able to ascertain whether or not it had a direct impact. This is a little ‘iffy’ though, seeing as there are many factors that impact on your CTR and on your ranking, meaning that any number of things could have contributed to the changes in traffic that you’re seeing. Likewise, it’s possible that there would only be a small change anyway, which would potentially be almost imperceptible.
Creating Great Title Tags
Ultimately, as is often the case with SEO, your focus should be on providing your traffic with quality and that means choosing title tags for more than just the way they affect your site in the SERPs. You need to walk a balance between meeting Google’s guidelines and staying true to the style and nature of your site and brand.
Here are some tips that can help you to think about title tags correctly…
Recognize Their Importance: The first and biggest tip when creating title tags is simply to recognize just how important they are and to accordingly give them serious thought rather than just bashing them out. The right title will make all the difference when someone considers clicking on your link either in the SERPs or on social media, so don’t rush it!
Get to the Point: Google has a point – often it’s unnecessary to write long title tags and in fact these can simply waste time and be distracting for the user. Rather than writing long titles, try to pack more meaning into fewer words. That means selecting the correct vocabulary but it also means choosing to use things like abbreviations, commas, dashes etc.
Branding: Including the name of your site or company in the title tag can sometimes be a good idea and especially if you’re trying to rank for that. But in other cases this can just take up valuable space, particularly if your site/company name is in the URL. Learn when to include your brand and when not to.
Reflect Your Content: While you want your title tag to grab attention and clicks, you also need to make sure it accurately reflects the content on your site. Not only is it misleading to do otherwise (which upsets your viewers) but it’s also bad for your SEO. Ideally you want your keywords to appear both in the title tag and in the body of your pages.
Stand Out and Pique Curiosity: It’s important to stand out among the crowd and that means choosing the right working for your title that will get attention. You don’t want to stray into spammy ‘click bait’ territory but do try and create titles that will evoke and emotional response and that will encourage further reading.
Consider the Description: Your title tag does not act in a vacuum, it also works alongside your description tag, so think carefully about how the two will work together.
Follow these golden rules, consider what we’ve discussed regarding length and you won’t go wrong!