Sunday, February 13, 2011

Title Tag Optimization and Character Length

Title tags have always played a vital role in search engine optimization. It is widely agreed that optimized title tags give websites a greater chance at being ranked high on any search engine. In the past, webmasters abused this knowledge by stuffing their primary keywords in the title tag of each page, manipulating the search engines and gaining short term value from a rankings perspective. However, search engine algorithms, as we all know, have become more complex over the years and no longer value title tags that only display keywords. And while it is important to maintain keyword rich title tags across your entire site, it is also equally important to make sure that your title tags accurately describe the nature of the page.

Typically, search engines will display the first 65 characters that appear in a page's title tag. Title tags that are longer than that will show a point of ellipses. There has been much debate among webmasters as to whether or not it is ideal for optimization purposes to restrict the length of your title tags to 65 characters only. Some SEOs argue that exceeding that limit may be a detriment to your efforts, while others argue that it makes no difference at all.

Personally, I do not think it matters. What is relevant is whether or not the visible portion of your title tag in the search results is descriptive, relevant to the on-page content and keyword rich. Out of curiosity, though, let's compare results from Bing and Google to determine whether not not search engines cast a dark eye on title tags that exceed 65 characters in length. If that is the case, we shouldn't see any points of ellipses showing up in the search results on page 1.

Using the search query "title tag optimization", 40% of the title tags displayed on page 1 of Google exceeded 65 characters. Using the same search query on Bing, 20% of the title tags displayed on page 1 exceeded 65 characters. This test demonstrates that other factors are far more important when it comes to title tags and ranking high. And while only 6 of the 20 results displayed on page 1 of Google and Bing exceeded 65 characters, if search engines wanted to devalue that factor from an optimization standpoint, I don't think we would see any pages showing up on page 1 that exceeded that limit.

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