How to Leverage Google’s New Longer Titles for SEO

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Google Increases Page Title Character CountIt’s been an interesting week for SEO…in a good way.

As Jennifer Slegg reported last Wednesday, Google has increased the width of its main search results column. Granted, the news didn’t make for an earth-shattering headline, but Google’s redesign of its search engine results page (SERP) is huge news for anyone involved in digital marketing (including, of course, SEO copywriters!)

Let’s explore the implications…

More SERP real estate for page Titles  = SEO content opportunities

When we’re creating a page Title, we’re trying to accomplish a lot within a very limited character count. Ideally, your Titles should:

  • Include keyphrases (of course!)
  • Describe what the landing page is about in a compelling manner
  • Encourage target readers to take action.

Here’s the exciting news:

Previously, the recommendation was to keep your Title character count to 59 characters (including spaces.)  Now, we have about 11 more characters to work with for desktop listings — or approximately 70 characters including spaces (Google measures in pixels, which is why we say “approximately.”)

The additional character count feels almost decadent! There’s a lot you can do with 11-18 additional characters — like slip in one more keyphrase!

For mobile listings, Google has increased the Title space even more, to about 78 characters total.

The character count has changed for desktop search meta descriptions, too. Now, we have roughly 100 characters for each line or 200 characters total, including spaces. [Note: as of this writing, the expansion to 100 characters per line applies only to the first line of the description; Google is still only displaying 150 to 160 characters total before truncating descriptions with ellipses, although that should change soon].

Pretty cool, eh?

Will this new Title and description length “stick?” As I’ve said before, Google giveth, and Google taketh away. The character/pixel count can stay as-is, or change again (as it has in the past.) I always advise folks to not make any major changes immediately after a Google change…just in case.

But, let’s say the changes do stick. What does this change mean for your clients — and your bottom line?

Want to be an SEO copywriting hero? Suggest a content audit!

Chances are, your client (or your employer) doesn’t know about this change — and could benefit from a longer Title length.

If you’re a freelancer with a prospect that’s still not quite ready to commit, bringing this new development to her attention – and probably being the only freelance writer to do so – may mean winning your prospect’s trust and confidence. And winning the contract.

A smart first step could be a SEO content audit. Depending on what you find, one site audit may turn into more than just tweaking Titles. For instance, the content may be in need of rewriting or keyphrase editing — and that’s another way you can help!

Do you work in-house? Sharing this information can make you the in-house hero. Especially if you can conduct the content audit, find the opportunities and make the changes.

Check site analytics to determine your strategy

Because of the different Title character counts for desktop and mobile listings, you’ll want to answer an important question:

Does your client receive more desktop or mobile visitors?

If most of your visitors come from desktop search (as may be the case with B2B sites), you’ll want to follow the 70-count guideline for Titles. If the majority is from mobile, then you have more room to move.

The more likely scenario you’ll encounter is that their traffic is a mix of both desktop and mobile. So, how do you figure out a strategy when you’re straddling both worlds?

The answer: the same strategy we’ve pursued when we only had 59 characters, including spaces. Setting SEO aside for the moment, focus on putting the meaty, compelling, clickable, CTA information in the known visible part of the Title – meaning, the first 70 characters, including spaces. This way, the most critical elements appear in the desktop results.

Have fun!

The longer Title character count is good news for companies, searchers and — yes — SEO copywriters! How are you going to leverage this new opportunity? Let me know in the comments!

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