The title tag is an important SEO element. It can have a significant impact on your rankings. My experience shows that optimizing title tags can give rankings an important boost.

There are many ways to optimize a title tag.

One is to ensure they are within the 55-60 character limit. Other SEOs recommend that title tags not exceed 70 characters.

There are also concerns about having the title shortened in search results or having it changed by Google. This could negatively impact organic performance.

This post will explore the reasons for such concerns, Google’s official statement on title length and my findings after manually reviewing 645 title tags Page 1 of Google’s SERPs.

Example of a title tag that has been removed from SERPs

Technically, the number characters that Google can display for a title tag in SERPs is measured by pixels. Google can trim your title tag if it is too long.

The title tag update and its aftermath

Google released an update for title tags in August 2021. This update allows Google to show users a different title in SERPs than what is available in the HTML title tags.

HTML title tags could be rewritten in SERPs if they are:

  • Too long.
  • Stuffed with keywords.
  • Repetitive boilerplate language (i.e. home pages might be called “Home”)

The update caused a stir in the SEO community. Many SEOs reported instances where the title rewrite went “horribly incorrect”. This led John Mueller, Google’s chief of search engine optimization, to tweet about it.

Rob Woods reported a situation in which the title tag was replaced by the URL slug

Chatter from the SEO community showed many instances of Google replacing title> tag in search results with alternative elements like H1 tags and image alt texts. Sometimes the selected text was not even in the page’s source code. The most striking insight from the title tag update was that Google wants shorter titles to be displayed in SERPs.

This has caused panic in the SEO community. Many SEOs realized the importance of avoiding title changes and made sure that their titles were short and within the character limit.

The confusion

Everyone knows that Google prefers shorter titles in SERPs.

But does this mean that they will use the titles shown in SERPs (which could be cut off or rewritten) to rank instead of the HTML title

Many SEOs have assumed that longer titles would be cut or rewritten by Google and will not be considered for ranking. Instead, Google will consider the new title in the SERPs.

What is Google’s official statement on title length?

Google’s John Mueller questioned Gary Illyes about the length of title tags in a Search Off the Record episode.

Gary, I have a question that might be a yes or no. Is it worth having title tag tags that are more than the space available and the sections?

Illyes replied, “Yes,” with a clear and precise answer.

He said, “The title length is an externally created metrics… Technically there’s a limit like how long it can be anything on the page but it’s not small.” It’s not 160 characters, or whatever – 100, 200 or 20, or whatever.

It is recommended to “Keep it to the page but not too long. I wouldn’t worry too much about whether it’s too long or too short.” If it takes up too much screen space, it is probably too long. But if it fits on one or two lines, you won’t get a manual action.

Referring to Google’s documentation about SERPs titles (a.k.a. title links), the recommended length for the title tag is not recommended.

Are longer titles likely to have an impact on rankings?

Rankings would be affected if longer title tags could be cut off or rewritten in search engine results pages. This was a great question that Lily Ray asked on Twitter. Glenn Gabe replied.

This is what Mueller said at Google’s SEO Office Hours starting Dec. 11, 2020.

Google still uses the HTML title tag to rank your titles, regardless of whether they are cut off or rewritten by SERPs. Not the titles shown in SERPs.

My analysis

This argument needs to be put to rest. As an industry, we should stop recommending clients to “shorten” their title tags just for the sake of doing so – just because there has been a title length metric floating around in almost all online resources about the topic without any facts or evidence supporting it.

I created a random list of keywords and analyzed Page 1 of the SERPs to determine the titles for each keyword.

After manually reviewing 645 title tags, here are my findings:

  • Google tends display shorter titles. Google tends to display shorter titles.
  • 286 URLs (22%) had HTML titles longer than 60 characters. The maximum length was 139 characters. This means that you can go beyond the 60 character limit for title tags, get cut off, or written, and still rank at the top of the first page.
  • We can filter out pages without title tags and find instances where Google actually increased title tags length. So even shorter titles can get rewritten. This is very common on LinkedIn profile page titles. Example:

    • For this URL [https://ca.linkedin.com/in/michael-kuch-387740207] the HTML title tag was “Michael Kuch | LinkedIn” but Google decided to display a longer more descriptive title as follows:
  • In 103 URLs out of 645 sample URLs, the length of titles displayed in SERPs increased. This represents 16% of the total sample.
  • This sample has a maximum length of titles between 58-60 characters (see histogram).

This Google Sheet contains the complete sample.

Title tag length in 2023

Summary: Your title tags do not have to be limited to 55-60 characters. Titles can be as long as you need them to be, and that is okay.

Title tags are one of the few assets that have a significant impact on rankings. We still have some control. Let’s make the most of them.

These are secondary concerns if you are worried about losing your title or being cut off. Ranking high is the most important thing.

Optimize your titles for first rank, even if they exceed the 60-70 characters limit. Next, you can experiment with how your titles appear in SERPs.

It doesn’t matter how long you have been in the industry.

The post What should be the length of the title tag in 2023? Search Engine Land was the first to publish this article.