Gary Illyes shared if there are any hard limits to how long title tags can be during a Google Off the Record podcast. He then explained what the best title tag is.
How Long Should a Title Tag Be?
Title tags are technically measured in pixels. It’s typically recommended that title tags be from fifty to about seventy characters long.
Those character limits are based on how the titles display on desktop and mobile devices.
Title tags that are longer than what Google displays in the search engine results pages (SERPs) will be shown cut off, which means that nobody will be able to read the full title tag in the SERPs if it’s longer than approximately 70 characters.
Many SEOs and SEO websites recommend a title tag length of approximately 50 to 70 characters because that’s what Google shows in the SERPs.
But that is not anything Google recommends to the SEO community. That 50 to 70 character length for a title is something the SEO community invented as a standard based on what Google is able to display.
But those display limits are based on what a mobile and desktop browsers are able to show.
Title Tag Length Recommendations Are Not for Ranking Purposes
Nobody at Google has ever said that the 40 to 70 character limits are what Google’s ranking algorithms are limited to indexing for ranking purposes.
So it does not make sense to accept the advise for limiting the title tag to 70 characters for ranking purposes when that recommendation is based on what is displayed.
You can search around and you will see that 70 characters is the recommended limit for title tags.
Related: Google Ranking Factors
SEO Industry Recommended Title Tag Length
Moz Title Tag Recommendation
Moz’s title tag length recommendation is 50 – 60 characters and Moz correctly notes that there is no actual limit to how many characters can be used.
“Optimal title length
Google typically displays the first 50–60 characters of a title tag. If you keep your titles under 60 characters, our research suggests that you can expect about 90% of your titles to display properly.
There’s no exact character limit, because characters can vary in width and Google’s display titles max out (currently) at 600 pixels.”
Ahrefs Title Tag Recommendation
Ahrefs recommends that title tags stay within the 50 to 60 characters, with no caveat about there being no actual character limits as Moz documented.
“Google starts cutting off title tags in the SERPs after around 50–60 characters. (Well, it’s actually based on pixels, but 50–60 characters is a good rule of thumb.)
So keep your title tags around this length.”
SEMRush Recommends Limiting Title Tag Length
SEMRush goes one step further and recommends limiting the title tag length for “effectiveness.”
“Limit The Size Of Your Title Tag
The most effective title tags are around 10-70 characters long. These include spaces so keep this in mind when coming up with your Title Tags.
If it is too long, the title tag will be cut off from the display not revealing the full message.”
Google’s Gary Illyes on Optimal Title Tag Length
Google’s John Mueller asked Gary Illyes about title tag length.
“I have a question that is, maybe, just a yes or no thing, Gary. “Is there a value in having <i>title</i> tags that are longer than the displayable space and the sections of it?”
Gary Illyes gives a direct answer without any hedging or ambiguity about if there’s any value in having a longer title tag.
Gary Illyes answered:
After some lighthearted jocularity between Martin Splitt, Gary and Mueller the question was revisited.
Martin Splitt asked:
“Christina’s asking if we can get a reason for the <i>title</i> tag length answer, Gary.”
Gary expanded on his original answer by noting that the title tag length that is typically recommended is something that comes from outside of Google.
“The <i>title</i> length, that’s an externally made-up metrics.”
After some attempts at humor and general merriment between Gary and Martin they soon returned to answering the question.
Gary Illyes Explains Why He Does Not Recommend Title Tag Length
In his answer Gary Illyes mentions “tokenizing” but without explaining what that means. Understanding tokenization will help understand his answer.
Tokenization is something that is done in natural language processing and information retrieval. It’s a way to edit a document into chunks that make it easier to understand what sentences and words mean. Some chunks are sentences and some chunks are single words.
Stanford University defines tokenization like this:
“Given a character sequence and a defined document unit, tokenization is the task of chopping it up into pieces, called tokens , perhaps at the same time throwing away certain characters, such as punctuation.
These tokens are often loosely referred to as terms or words, but it is sometimes important to make a type/token distinction.
A token is an instance of a sequence of characters in some particular document that are grouped together as a useful semantic unit for processing. A type is the class of all tokens containing the same character sequence.”
Now that we have a light understanding of tokenization we can make more sense of Gary’s answer.
One last thing though, Gary mentions a “manual action.” A manual action is a penalty given by Google that can stop a page from ranking.
“The reason why I try to steer people away from thinking about concrete numbers is it’s not even about how we display titles, but rather, how we construct our serving index and how we tokenize the page itself.
Technically, there’s a limit, like how long can it be anything in the page, but it’s not a small number. It’s not 160 characters or whatever– 100, 200, 20, or whatever.”
Gary follows up with advice on title tags:
“Try to keep it precise to the page, but I would not think too much about how long it is and whether it’s long enough or way too long.
If it fills up your screen, then probably it’s too long, but if it just one sentence that fits on one line or two lines, you’re not going to get a manual action for it.”
Google Does Not Recommend a Title Tag Size
Nowhere in Google’s webmaster and developer title tag support pages does Google recommend an optimal title tag size.
The recommendations to keep title tags under seventy characters long originated outside of Google, they are not Google’s recommendation.
The official statement from Google is that there is no limit (per Gary Illyes). The official Google recommendation is to be descriptive and concise. Concise means to say the most with the least amount of words, to be precise in the use of words, and avoiding being wordy.
According to Google’s official title tag developer support page:
“Titles are critical to giving users a quick insight into the content of a result and why it’s relevant to their query.
Page titles should be descriptive and concise. Avoid vague descriptors like “Home” for your home page, or “Profile” for a specific person’s profile.
Also avoid unnecessarily long or verbose titles, which are likely to get truncated when they show up in the search results.”
Best Title Tag Length
Google only advises that title tags be concise and accurately describe what a page is about. SEO recommendations for title tag length should acknowledge that Google displays around 70 characters in the SERPs but that it’s okay to use more characters if necessary. This allows publishers to use as many words necessary in the title tag and not have to worry about the 70 character limitation if their website branding pushes the number of words beyond the 70 character limit.
Seventy characters should probably be considered as a soft limit that publishers can use to describe what a web page is about. Any leftover space can be used for the website branding.
According Google’s Gary Illyes and Google’s official documentation, it is recommended to use as many words as is necessary to communicate what a page is about. When writing the title tag it’s also important to be direct while also being mindful of how that title tag may look when displayed in the SERPs.
Taking everything together it’s probably safe to craft title tags in a concise and accurate manner and to be mindful of how it will appear in the SERPs and influence clicks, as Google’s developer support pages recommend.
However if your company name or branding at the end of the title tag pushes it over 70 characters then that’s not something to worry about in terms of that artificial 70 character title tag limit.
Regardless of how the title tag is displayed, Google will still take into account the entire title tag.
Transcript of Google Search Off the Record 15th Podcast Episode (PDF)
Listen to the 15th Episode of the Search Off the Record Podcast