David Leonhardt’s SEO and Social Media Marketing

Tips for better SEO (search engine optimization) and website marketing …

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How Long a Title Tag?

This is a tough one.  I have a habit of trying to fit as much into a title tag as possible.  I try to keep it below 12 words as a general guideline, but I know there is a difference between a short 12-word title, such as “Dine in – fast food fair for people who eat on the go” (53 characters) and a long 12-word title, such as “California pipeline producers – environmentally sensitive petroleum infrastructure for transporting energy internationally” (OK, so it’s just 11 words, but it’s 122 characters).

In addition to being the most valuable real estate on a web page, the title tag is also used by many other websites to link to your page.  So someone linking to the pipeline site, might use “California pipeline producers – environmentally sensitive petroleum infrastructure for transporting energy internationally” as the link text.

A new study suggests that Google reads only the first 55 characters of link text, which means that in the above example it would read only “California pipeline producers – environmentally sensiti”.  If you had to target such ridiculously long words for your search market, that would totally suck.  But it does speak to the importance of placing your most important keywords at the beginning of your title tag.  This is where so many websites that put a corporate name of even their domain name at the beginning miss the mark.  It also means trying to keep words like “the” and “and” out of those first 55 characters. 

A couple caveats: Google could at any time change this to 50 characters.  Or 60.  Or 600.  Or 10, for that matter.  So don’t get stuck on the number 55, but focus on the principle.  Yahoo and MSN will have their own limits, too, so don’t stop at 55 if you have something that might get picked up by someone else.  And, of course, the title tag is not primarily about link text, is it? 

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17 Responses to “How Long a Title Tag?”

  1. Central Coast SEO (1 comments) Says:

    I think another important point you missed is, the title should also be appealing to the user to click on. It must describe the content of the page in an attractive way. I’m often changing my title tags around, sometimes having my location first then my service and then changing it around. The keywords are still in the title but what is more attractive for the user to click.

  2. BMW Headlights (1 comments) Says:

    No matter how many words you use,the title should describe the web page completely. So that user can have a clear picture about website on reading it.

  3. David Leonhardt (143 comments) Says:

    Just to be clear, there are many aspects to a title tag. This blog post is specifically about the effect of a title tag on the link text that some website owners will generate from it.

  4. Hobo (1 comments) Says:

    “Or 60. Or 600. Or 10, for that matter.”

    I’ll keep an eye on it :)

  5. wilson (40 comments) Says:

    David, isn’t we’ve been told to keep the title tag as simple and descriptive as possible? By the way, I didn’t concern about the total character of title tag until now…

  6. Roger Hamilton (6 comments) Says:

    I think as long as it dosen’t becomes 2 lines then it’s fine.

  7. gold coast seo (1 comments) Says:

    Best to keep it short, readable and keyword rich to keep all parties concerned happy! Link related and user related.

  8. bartolomo (1 comments) Says:

    Thanks for the info. Didn’t know about the “character number”.

  9. professional internet marketer (1 comments) Says:

    I agree, keeping the title short and relevant to the page content is the way to go. I’ve seen titles as long as 69 characters appear in the Google results but 55 characters seems like a safe number.

  10. SEO Firm (1 comments) Says:

    I’ve followed this standard with good success:

    Primary words need to be within the first 3 word positions, secondary words can be in positions 4 – 6, anything else afterwards that SEs like is gravy. This usually takes me out to ~50 characters.

  11. SEO (17 comments) Says:

    In my opinion size of title tag doesn’t matter, but I do agree that words after 60th character will be given less importance.

  12. lyndon ogden (1 comments) Says:

    don’t you just get dizzy with this or is it me?
    try and get keywords to the front but if it makes no sense grammatically then don’t compromise the readibilty

  13. David Leonhardt (143 comments) Says:

    @ Lyndon I am not sure “dizzy” is the word. Sometimes I opt for the main search phrase to be a little further in because otherwise it would make no sense. However, if the main search phrase is really a lot more important than all the others, you can always just plunk it up front…

    Leather boots – find a leather cowboy boot in black or brown

    Yes it has to read well as a title. But titles do not always follow full-sentence grammar.

  14. Freddie Laker (1 comments) Says:

    Solid post. I just dug through the rest of your blog there is some good stuff in here.

    Right placement of keywords can make all the difference.

    I just added this to my newsreader. You should check my blog out sometime too – we seem to have simliar interests.

    -Freddie Laker
    Digital Strategist / TakeMeToYourLeader.com

  15. Tyler (3 comments) Says:

    A lot of SEO enthusiasts forget, as central coast SEO mentioned above, that there is another part to the equation besides just the Google god and that's the human behind the click. I'm not going to preach good content like so many others before me but I'd like to second that the title tag *MUST* speak to the person reading as well as have good keywords that are relevant to the search.

  16. www.theseomizer.com (1 comments) Says:

    Size of search tag do matters. Search tag should be short but sufficient. It is about, how well you describe your search within limit. It's kind off art.

  17. CarHIDkits (1 comments) Says:

    Yeah as long as I it dosen't becomes 2 lines then it's fine.

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