Writing A Page Title? Quit Focusing On The Wrong Things

Once upon a time, I worked with a client with a very specific Title-writing formula.

What was his special trick?

He believed that page Titles should be EXACTLY 60 characters (no exceptions) with the keywords separated by pipes. Like this:

Accounts payable software | Accounts payable solutions | Small business payables

Ugh. You guys know how much I hate this Title format.

The thing is, he wasn’t technically wrong from an SEO standpoint. The Title should include targeted keyphrases. And keeping your Title length to around 70 characters including spaces allows most of it to be seen on the search results page.

At the same time, tightly adhering to these SEO “rules” destroyed his Title’s conversion benefits. Obviously.

And the “rules” he was following don’t make a lick of difference to Google.

Let’s talk about Google’s stance on Title length.

News flash: Google doesn’t have an official stance on Title length.

In fact, Google’s Gary Illyes said Title lengths are a “made up metric.”

(Insert a needle-scratching noise here.)

It’s true. I’ve been in the industry long enough to know that current best practices are created by a small group of industry insiders. Heck, I remember advising on Title and copy length back in the day.

We’d see what was working, compare results, and deliver “best practices.”

The current Title character limit recommendation has nothing to do with skirting a Google penalty. Nor is it a magical benchmark that guarantees your page a top position.

That’s why character counts are guidelines. That’s why I’ve always said, “It’s fine if your Title runs over the maximum character count.” That’s why we worry less about shoving in keyphrases, and we focus on writing a Title that grabs the searchers’ attention.

(Plus, there are some geeky aspects about Titles too. Check out this Search Engine Journal post for more information.)

Wait! Does this mean it’s OK to write super-long Titles?

No. Just because Google doesn’t have an official stance on Title length doesn’t mean you can game Google with a super-long Title.

Remember, Google doesn’t take kindly to people trying to trick them. According to Illyes:

“Try to keep it precise to the page, but I would not think too much about how long it is and whether it’s long enough or way too long. If it fills up your screen, then probably it’s too long, but if it just one sentence that fits on one line or two lines, you’re not going to get a manual action for it.”

Plus, your readers won’t dig a long, rambling Title that doesn’t concisely describe what the landing page is about.

Assuming the page even positions.

As Roger Montti, author of the Search Engine Journal post, says,

“Taking everything together it’s probably safe to craft Title tags in a concise and accurate manner and to be mindful of how it will appear in the SERPs and influence clicks, as Google’s developer support pages recommend.”

Yup. That’s smart advice.

What do you think?

How were you taught to write Title tags? Did you learn to shove in as many keyphrases as possible? Or to focus on the reader and get the click? Leave a comment and let me know!

3 replies
  1. LISA RUIZ says:

    Great write-up here . Since the first day I came to your blog, its been freebies worth hundreds of dollars from you and I’ve learnt another great deal in this post again. Subs means alot

  2. Susan Vincent says:

    Thank you for this clarification! It takes the pressure off trying to write under 60 characters. (No, I won’t write War & Peace, but it’s helpful to know it’s okay to go over a little bit.)


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