Only a year ago, you could write a meta title a basic keyword-driven meta title for a webpage and expect it to do well and appear in Google’s search engine if your website had good enough optimized content and other aspects, but meta data has become an increasingly important factor in determining where your webpages stand in Google rankings. You can no longer have the same keyword repeated two or three times in a lengthy title and expect Google to view it as a high-quality title. Part of this is because it detects it as sloppily optimized and also, more importantly, because Google will change it anyway. That’s right—Google now rejects titles that don’t seem to accurately reflect the contents of a page, replacing it with its own interpretation that may or may not appeal to you and your aspirations.
“How do I get around this problem today?” you ask. Well, the simple answer is that you should make sure your meta title tags truthfully represent the pages for which they are written. That means avoiding broad keywords that don’t appear anywhere on the page or shortening an overly long title.
Choosing Appropriate Content for Meta Titles
When it comes to the content of the title, pick long-tail or short-tail keywords that read naturally in a title format, i.e. “Home Security Systems for Residential Areas in Chicago”. This title accurately presents to the reader what the page is about, and doesn’t come across as a poor attempt at optimization. People are likely to search for that phrase, or even part of it. If the content of the page is good, Google will lift it to the top rankings, particularly if the site is reputable.
Determining Meta Title Length
Another thing to note about that example title I gave is its length. The title contains 54 characters, shorter than what you might think should fit within the character limit. While the limit for meta titles used to be a flat 70 characters in the eyes of SEO professionals, Google has revealed that they no longer count characters, but rather pixels. And the ideal character limit to reach is actually 60 now because of that. This isn’t a flat number to follow, though, because the font Google uses for its displayed titles isn’t monotype. A monotype font is one that makes all letters, numbers and punctuation take up the same amount of digital space. Instead, Google uses a proportional font for its results, which means that each letter takes up a different amount of pixels depending on its size. Naturally, capitalized letters are wider and take up more space, which might mean that a 50-character title gets cut off because of a surplus of capitalization.
What you should do to avoid any cut-off problems is gauge how long your titles are, and there’s a nifty meta title length preview tool on The Moz Blog that you can use to find out what your title will look like once it’s uploaded.
Note: this title is actually 65 characters, but it fits because of the reasonable use of capitalized letters, as well as simply having “and” replaced with “&”.
Paving the Way for Improved SEO Practices
It may seem like Google is simply trying to make things harder than they need to be for everybody’s websites to succeed, but it’s all a part of getting rid of the relentless and ever-present spam out there that’s trying to keep the honest man down. The days of black-hat SEO are dwindling because of the vigilance of Google and other search engines. Taking care in constructing meta titles is now an even more important step in getting your brand out there.