Google is constantly striving to provide users with the most relevant information for their queries, which it does through regular algorithm updates. These updates encompass many elements of SEO including page titles, which are the blue text you see on the search engine results page (SERP). Google often changes its preferences for page title length and format across desktop and mobile, and digital marketers find themselves discussing this every year. So just how long should your page’s title tag be in 2022?
So, what is a page title tag?
Page titles, or < title > tags if you’re working in HTML, are essentially the name of your webpage. While they don’t appear on the page itself (except within the tab in your browser), page titles tell Google what your page is about, and it’s what users see on SERPs. Depending on the content management system you are using, the naming conventions for your page title can differ. For example, on WordPress, this is called the SEO Title, on Squarespace, it is the SEO Title Format, and on Shopify, it’s the Page Title.
Page titles usually include important information such as the topic of the page, the brand name, and possibly a unique or attractive selling point about the contents of the page. This should be displayed succinctly, without the use of joining words or full sentences.
However, there is no formula for the ‘perfect’ page title. Brands can spend hours writing and updating page titles just to have them be rewritten or truncated (more on that soon), by Google’s algorithm. This isn’t necessarily a ‘bad’ thing, but we should still be trying to get it right.
What’s the difference between a title tag and an H1?
An H1 (heading 1) is the search engine optimised headline of your page, generally containing the focus keyword you’re aiming to target with that page. Many websites actually use the H1 incorrectly, instead opting for a catchy headline more focused on grabbing users’ attention. While this is fine to do, it presents a missed opportunity to allow Google to index the page, and have it rank in search engine queries.
If your H1 is correctly optimised and you have used your focus keyword relating to the content, Google will be able to easily read and index your page. When Google understands what your content is about and deems it to be relevant and useful, you’ll have a higher chance of a page 1 ranking.
If your page is missing a page title tag, Google will usually grab the H1 of your webpage and use this. Best practice SEO is to ensure your page title is similar to your H1, as this solidifies to Google what your page is about. If it’s vastly different, not only will Google not understand your page, but users are also likely to get confused and bounce off the page. We recommend your page title begins with your H1, and then a sales message or your business name to complete the character count.
When does Google rewrite titles?
Writing page titles for your website is pretty time-consuming, so you’ll want to avoid a few things to ensure your hard work isn’t undone by Google! Research shows that Google is rewriting page titles, especially if the page title you have written is too long or not relevant enough for the page. We’ve summarised the most common reasons Google rewrites titles below for you:
- Not enough context
For example, if your page title is missing the brand name or simply doesn’t offer enough context, Google will usually add a brand name, or change the order of the title.
- Incorrect format
There’s been much discussion about the use of pipes |, colons :, hyphens -, brackets , and parentheses () in page titles. Text in brackets or parentheses is almost always removed, so it’s best to avoid these. If you need to separate text, recent research is showing that Google prefers hyphens and colons, depending on which makes the most sense.
- Irrelevant information
We know that the most informative, useful page titles get the highest click-through rates, and with such limited characters, it’s important to stick to the most relevant points. Avoid run-on sentences or joining words, and keep it succinct and to the point.
- Too long
We mention below, that the longest page titles should be around max 60 characters. Studies show that Google has rewritten page titles of 60 characters above and below to around 49 characters, or will truncate them with an ellipsis (…). This makes the information at the end of the title irrelevant, as readers will be unlikely to see your relevant information.
What’s the optimal length for your page’s title tag?
The million-dollar question. The honest answer is, that there is no single answer, though we know Google is favouring page titles with 49 to 60 characters. To better understand how long page titles should be, we need to consider pixels.
Google generally allocates 600 pixels for a page title. This translates to approximately 80 characters depending on the letters used, size of the screen, etc. If your page title comes too close to the 80-character count, it’s extremely likely it will be truncated. Truncated page titles see a vastly lower click-through rate, so long page titles should be avoided.
In fact, if Google decides it needs to add your business name to the page title, this can further increase your character count and result in important information being lost. For this reason, it’s best to stick to 50 characters for an optimal page title. Ensure the important information or SEO keyword is at the beginning, and you should be okay.
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when or why Google rewrites page title tags, but we can take steps to avoid it. Keep your titles at around 50 characters, avoid brackets and parenthesis, and stick the important information at the start. Don’t leave page titles (or meta descriptions) blank, and format the title in a way that gives the user the correct context.
Google is always going to keep us on our toes. Keeping up with the latest algorithm changes is so important to ensure your business isn’t left behind. Check out our other marketing tips for more help with growing your business, or get in touch with us for a chat about how we can help you. As a leading SEO agency in Perth, we love working with businesses of all shapes and sizes to create digital marketing strategies that work for your business.