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Meta Title Length in 2016 & the ‘Big’ Question: DOES Size Matter?

Ah, the meta title.

One of those simple, ‘dinosaur’ on page signals that STILL makes a difference in your SEO efforts.

Over the years, some of the biggest questions surrounding meta titles have been length (ie: character count versus pixels), and formatting (colons, delimiters & beyond). I actually did a presentation on this a couple years back when we observed “Home page” meta titles getting switch-a-roo’d to “Brand: Rest of your stuff here” regardless of how you had them written.

These days, however, how long is long enough – and how long is too long?

A quick Google search search shows the knowledge graph piping this info right into the search results from industry leader MOZ:

meta titles 2015 55 characters

Pretty apparent, right?

If one were to dig a little deeper, you’d find that most trusted info hubs on the web will give you this same information, more or less.

What we know:

Apart from some variations on ‘length’, it’s been increasingly apparent that Google will dynamically generate your meta title for you if it thinks there is content on your site (or potentially in a place like DMOZ) that is:

  • better suited to the user’s query, or
  • less spammy than your super spammy title

Google’s been doing this kind of stuff for a while, but my recent casual surfing has revealed more of these changes happening in increasingly significant ways, and with some major deviations to the generally accepted standards.

Here are a few of my findings…

Example 1 – A search for “Edmonton Plumbers” on Desktop & Mobile

This is best illustrated via the image below:

adster-blog-plumbers

Note the differences in mobile and desktop titles here.

In mobile, Pro Plumbing is CRUSHING it with a monster 2 line, 79 character meta title. That is almost TWICE the length of Action Auger’s (39 chars), and around 15% ‘taller’ pixel wise (ie: clickable area).

Looking beyond this, it also has supplemental words that tie nicely into my query such as Furnace, Gas Line & Heating. If I was looking for a plumber that specializes in Gas lines, Furnace, or Heating, the meta title has just become that much more relevant, right?

Granted, in desktop, Action Auger’s meta title falls neatly into the allowed characters without truncation, but the question needs to be asked – are they missing out on mobile opportunity?

Finally, note that the “Brand: Rest of title” is not being forced by Google here and Pro Plumbing ‘benefits’ from an old school, keyword predicated left to right title.

Example 2 – “Edmonton SEO Company” On Desktop & Mobile

Now let’s take a look at something a little closer to home:

meta title 2016 length

Here, we see the same desktop/mobile phenomenon where, once again, local SEO consultant Andy Kuiper enjoys a full two line meta title in mobile that not only includes the short form ‘SEO’, but the full ‘Search Engine Optimization’ on line 2 to boot.

Dang.

This is all newly developing stuff, and the best spot I’ve found that dives in was written over at Hobo Internet Marketing. Worth a read, if you have time.

The Adster Meta Title Experiment:

If Google is going to dynamically start changing Titles on us and magically rewarding mobile results with some old school 2-liners – and we can’t be sure how or where Google will truncate –  our idea was to:

  • Make our title’s a little longer than normal – up to 80 chars or more if sensical
  • Strategically consider ‘known’ break points
  • Don’t be spammy.

Meta Title Theories:

While we don’t have the data to state anything conclusively, here’s a few ideas we’re knocking around:

  • Big Ads Theory – In Google Adwords, we do all we can to increase the size of the ad – sitelinks, callouts and beyond. Is Google somehow ‘rewarding’ sites that make use of all available (whatever that limit may be) characters?
  • Convenience – On a mobile device, a larger snippet is easier to click. Is Google looking to provide larger search results on mobile to make results easier to click?
  • Relevance – one of the most probable theories, is Google willing to let your extra long Meta title roll if it is hyper relevant to a user’s query?

Results? None Just Yet!

We’ve just begun playing with this idea, and have benchmarked some of our clients current positions for select keywords and positions in mobile & desktop.

I’ll update this post (or just write a new one) once we’ve got some answers. In the meantime, we’d love to hear your experiences here in the comments.