Have you recently optimized the meta title and meta description of a website only to find it truncated when Google displayed it in the search results? If yes, you are not alone!
A majority of the meta titles and meta descriptions that SEOs write get truncated due to the lack of understanding about how Google SERP works. Even the SEO experts tend to make this mistake, which stemmed from an age-old belief that Google considers 70 and 160 as the character limit for the title and description, respectively.
Let us drive right into the pertinent fact that can debug this misconception. There is no official document from Google that says you must consider 70 as the character limit of title and 160 as the limit for the meta description. Google cares little about the characters that you use but is more watchful of the number of pixels used by each character. However, popular WordPress plugins use this benchmark, especially Yoast plugin, creating a misperception about optimizing meta title and description.
How Long is a Meta Title?
According to the study conducted by Moz, Google’s display titles max out (currently) at 600 pixels.
A research done by the internal team at Stan Ventures found that titles start truncating between 525- 535 pixels on Desktop, but when it came to smartphones, the results were surprising!
Meta Title Length Example – Desktop
Meta Title Length Example – Mobile
We found that the titles that were cut short in the desktop search appeared fully in the mobile search. A deeper dive into the mobile search results revealed that Google displays titles that go beyond two lines.
It was also noticed the title displayed in the mobile search included the company name as a default suffix for all the results. This holds true even for those pages that have force-removed the brand name from the Meta Title. We found that only one in twenty mobile search results had the title truncated despite flouting the age-old pixel limit dogma that SEOs have been adhering to for so many years.
There are a few handy websites that provide free Meta Title and Description length checker. One of the tools that I use is Serpsim, which checks the length of the meta title and description based on the pixel
How Long is a Meta Description?
Google has tested a few different options to display the Meta Description over the last two years. At one point, Google even decided to buff up the character limit of the Meta Description to 320 characters, which made a significant change in the overall aesthetics of the search engine results page.
The increase in character limit for the Meta Description made the SERP text-heavy and less pleasing to the eyes (this could be a very personal opinion). However, after a few months, Google reverted to its old standard of
160 characters, and this could be an indication of Google taking into cognizance the popular sentiments.
All this said, there still exists a fair bit of confusion among SEOs regarding the character limit of the Meta Description. Google has categorically stated that the Meta Description is not part of its ranking factors. So, what is the purpose of the Meta Description if Google doesn’t consider it as a ranking factor?
SEOs must now consider Meta Description as a message sent across to the users. It must highlight why they should consider clicking on your site instead of the other competitors that are featured in the SERP. It’s time that SEOs put in the effort to make Meta Descriptions compelling and informative, rather than simply stuffing in the keywords.
Unlike what we found with the Meta Titles, Google’s search algorithm seems to be following the same rules when it comes to displaying Meta Description on desktop and mobile devices. We found that the Meta Descriptions for desktop and mobile search results tend to truncate after 930px.
However, SEOs should also consider the Date and other Rich Snippet elements that they have enabled while writing the Meta Description as these features take up some real estate. Another interesting find was that the descriptions that Google generated on its own based on the intent of the search query have more characters displayed.
Meta Description for Question-Based Search Queries
We found the descriptions that Google self-generates for high-authority websites based on the context and intent of the search query may be as large as 1500 px. This is the same for both smartphone and desktop results. In addition to this, most of the question-based search queries featured results that have a Meta Description of 1500 px in the first three positions.
How to write Meta Description and Title for SEO?
Google is in a transition stage, and a lot of incremental changes are expected to happen concerning the User Experience in the coming years. With the recent Google algorithm updates focused on content, context, and relevance, Google is reiterating the importance of quality content as the benchmark for ranking.
Meta Title and Description were the two SERP features that SEOs misused. Adding keywords to the title and description may not yield the same results that SEOs got a few years back. This is because Google search results are more focused on the context, relevancy, and user interaction. This is why it’s important to optimize the title and description based on the content within the page. Even though keywords matter, they are now weaved together with context and relevance. Ensuring that the Meta Title and Description provide the best answer to the search query will give a boost to the page’s visibility on the SERP.
If you’re wondering what character length to follow while writing the Meta Title and Description, it’s ideal to follow the standards kept for mobiles. Since users who access the web through smartphones are soon to overtake the ones using the desktop, it’s ideal to optimize the title and description for mobile devices.
When does Google Re-write Meta Title and Description?
Are you see an increasing number of pages displayed in Google SERP with different titles and descriptions? This could be an indication that your existing meta title and description are not fulfilling the real intent of the page.
Gary Illyes from Google during the recently concluded Webmaster Summit said that Google is forced to re-write the meta title only during the worst-case scenarios and the number of times Google does it is less.
Google re-writes the Titles and descriptions only when the website tries to tell Google users a totally different story than what they have inside the webpage. Google is conscious not to take their users to a misguided page, hence, the search engine giant takes the text within the content inside the page and create titles and descriptions.
However, if you see Google doing the same to some of your webpages, it could be an indication to rewrite the existing Meta Title and Description. Over-optimization of the title and description is the usual culprit that forces Google to re-write.