June 1, 2016
Meta descriptions and title tags: they’re difficult, yet critically important aspects of SEO. Designed to provide readers and search engines with a preview of a page’s content, “metas” are simply too important to do badly. Luckily, Google just made these elusive little lines a bit more forgiving for SEOs everywhere by increasing the character limit for both meta descriptions and title tags. Read on to learn more.
The Inside Scoop on the Character Limit Increase
Earlier this month, Ross Hudgens of Siege Media reported that Google had increased its title and description character length. He broke the news via Twitter and the increase went on to be reported by leading SEO and content marketing outlets like The SEM Post and Search Engine Journal. While the character limit increases are exciting, it’s important to remember that nobody is 100 percent certain that these changes are here to stay. While it seems unlikely at this point, this could be A/B testing, which means that Google could revoke the changes at any point. Because of this, it’s wise to avoid overhauling your SEO until Google makes it clear statement that the character limit changes are here to stay.
Title Tag Changes
As it stands now, the character limit for title tags has increased on both mobile and desktop platforms. Here’s what you need to know:
- Desktop: The desktop title tag limit is now 70 characters, although it is possible to extend the limit to 71 characters by using small letters like “i” and “l.” The new 70-character limit represents a 10-15-character increase and offers ample room for SEOs to include an extra keyword or two in their title tags, which can help improve traffic and boost click-through rates.
- Mobile: The SEM Post reports that Google has also expanded its mobile title tags to approximately 78 characters. This is eight characters more than the new desktop limit and offers mobile advertisers ample room to include their site name or additional keywords in title tags. This is especially important for content like product listings, where it can mean a hefty increase in traffic.
Title tags remain an important form of meta content and these recent Google character limit increases mean that SEOs and marketers have more room than ever before to write more descriptive title tags that help users and search engines locate relevant content.
Meta Description Changes
The meta description character limit has also increased. According to Search Engine Journal, the limit is now 100 characters per line, and meta descriptions can now be up to three lines long. Unlike the title tag increase, however, the meta description change comes with a caveat: Google is still truncating some descriptions.
As it stands now, many descriptions that stretch beyond two lines are still being truncated by Google. Because of this, it’s wise to continue limiting descriptions to a 160-character limit at this time. Bear in mind, though, that when three-line descriptions are allowed, they weigh in at approximately 278 characters.
How to Accommodate the Recent Changes
While the meta changes are big news, you shouldn’t be in a hurry to alter your entire SEO strategy as a result. Google is almost always A/B testing something, so it’s possible that these new character limits will disappear in the near future. For now, though, there are some things you can do to ensure that your click-through-rates remain high and that you take advantage of all of the positive advantages the character limit increase currently has to offer.
1. Monitor your CTRs
Until Google makes an official announcement about the fate of the character limit increase, the best thing you can do is monitor your site’s click-through-rates (CTRs) for any positive or negative changes. Most SEOs agree that the character limit increase was implemented on May 4, so it’s wise to monitor your CTRs prior to that to detect any spikes or dips that can help you understand the impact the new character limits are having on your page.
2. Optimize your mobile and desktop title tags separately
Right now, there’s a lot of speculation about how SEOs will handle the discrepancy between mobile and desktop title tag character limits. While some believe it’s wisest to optimize everything for mobile and allow Google to truncate descriptions, you’re actually better off optimizing title tags separately for their respective platforms. This will ensure your title tags aren’t prematurely cut off and that they provide the value they’re meant to.
3. Stay on top of new information
This is breaking news in the world of SEO and outlets are just now starting to report on it. Make sure that you’re on the cutting edge of this exciting change by checking back for new information often.
Meta Content Extended Characters: Good News for SEOs
While it remains to be seen how Google will handle the character limit increases in the future, this has been an exciting piece of news for the SEO community. If the character limit increases stick around, it means that title tags and meta descriptions now provides more space than ever before for additional keywords and more helpful content.
Julia McCoy is a top 30 content marketer and has been named an industry thought leader by several publications. She enjoys making the gray areas of content marketing clear with practical training, teaching, and systems. Her career in content marketing was completely self-taught. In 2011, she dropped out of college to follow her passion in writing, and since then grew her content agency, Express Writers, to thousands of worldwide clients from scratch. Julia is the author of two bestselling books on content marketing and copywriting, and is the host of The Write Podcast. Julia writes as a columnist on leading publications and certifies content strategists in her training course, The Content Strategy & Marketing Course. Julia lives in Austin, Texas with her daughter, husband, and one fur baby.