Are you also frustrated that your page titles are chopping on Google Search Results, but the preview tools indicate they should display fine? In starting a new blog and watching my indexed pages closely I realized I needed to take a deep drive into what was going on. Here’s what I learned about Google Search Result title tag length after counting pixels and characters while testing title combinations.
The snippet preview tool in Yoast for WordPress was showing me green on titles, but something was clearly wrong when looking at my indexed pages in Google.
Let’s run through a few assumptions and how things seem to be working for the desktop view of search results on Google.
The title needs to fit 600 pixels.
The meta title needs to fit within 600 pixel and this is still true based on inspecting the code. But I noticed something else when I started to compare the preview tools versus the actuals I realized the font size was not the same.
Yoast Snippet Preview and the Moz Title Tag Preview Tool both use 18 pixels to estimate what will fit within the title area in the search results.
Google search results display the titles at 20 pixels. That means fewer characters will fit within the space on the page.
Thinking I had solved the mystery, I submitted a bug into Yoast about the difference between the preview font size and the actual font size. I also attempted to send a contact message to Moz about the same.
After digging further it became clear there was more to it than that.
The title only displays full words that fit the space
Next I started counting characters to figure out what was happening. It’s not just how much of the title will fit the space, but what will fit the space nicely. The display is chopping off extra characters so that only full words would display in the title.
And on a second look at the code, the title is coming in truncated. It’s not simply the visual display adding ellipses for the letters that overflow space.
This is where I took out my graphics design program and started counting pixel to help me figure out where the cutoff was actually happening and to confirm what should fit the space.
And then I found one of my post titles that should have fit within the 600 pixels was truncated.
Best practices suggest keeping your titles to a maximum of 60 characters
In looking around to see when the titles size in search results changed to 20 pixels I found one suggestion about keeping your titles to 60 characters to have a best chance of showing up without truncation.
Based on my initial counting of characters, I could just about confirm that titles were truncated at about 60 characters AND only the full words that fit within that 60 characters are displayed. If more than 60 characters would have fit within 600 pixels, the title is still truncated to full words within 60 characters.
And then I realized one of my title had 65 characters but wasn’t truncated!
Given the titles are coming in truncated (ellipses already applied), then Google is likely evaluating the title prior to showing the search results page, not relying on the browser to truncate in the browser.
Looking at the CSS there is still a rule to hide the overflow of the title. I suspect that’s needed if the 60 characters made of many wide characters (i.e. W and M). I haven’t tested this theory yet.
And one less test confirm which comes first, characters or pixel size?
Taking all these pieces into account while trying to confirm the Google Search Results title tag length, I tested the following. A 64 character title (for this post) which fit into 600 pixels with room to spare. Despite having about 30 pixels of remaining space the post title still truncated as part of creating the page. You’ll see the ellipses in the source code view below.
To keep this simple aiming for 60 characters in your title help reduce the risk of title truncating unless you happen to have a graphic design tool (Photoshop or Sketch) where you can count pixels.
What I realized after comparing the 64 character example above and the 65 character title that did not truncate, it was a difference of 2 pixels.
At the risk of using an odd analogy, it’s like ordering coffee and asking the barista to leave room for milk. Within the 600 pixels, a truncated title also needs to have space for the ellipses.
It seems like the cutoff for title character width is 567 pixels, again cropping at the full words that fit. It’s 33 pixels of space to account for the ellipses. It’s possible that 568 might also work but I haven’t been able to confirm that extra pixel yet.
Looking at this final test, 60 characters has a good chance of fitting if you don’t have easy access to counting pixels. Otherwise, count the pixels if you can.
Did Google change how it’s displaying page titles in search results?
While the 60 character suggestion has been around for while, the preview tools don’t seem to be accounting for what looks to be an enforced pixel width that’s less than 600 pixels for the desktop display of Google Search Results.
And without inspecting the code on Google Search Results, Yoast Snippet Preview, and the Moz Title Preview tool, I wouldn’t have caught the difference in font sizes. I only happened to look at this very closely because of a new site launch when I wasn’t seeing what I expected.
Wrapping up. What have you noticed about the Meta Search Tittles in Google?
Showing our titles in search results is important for clickthrough. Have you been tracking this closely and noticed any changes lately?
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