Well-structured titles are a schooling fish, which, I’ve recently discovered, is not the same thing as a shoal of fish.
Shoals are loose herds of fish travelling in the same direction. Schools are co-ordinated and disciplined; they move in unison, keep a set distance, travel at the same speed, and nobody knows why they do it, except a keyword separated from the school shows signs of distress.
You can only imagine what a distressed keyword looks like. The great thing about schooling is that it not only helps with predation, but it also attracts predators, which is what we want: we want our titles to be devoured, savaged, hunted down.
Ahem. I see. Right.
Let us intone a (nother) metaphor, prior to embarking on the ‘how long is a piece of string’ thing.
On-Page SEO titles are, as a rule, like Scandinavians i.e. they don’t make good servants, which may be, for all I know, admirable. And like Scandinavians, they carry with them a stolid sense of duty, born as penance, delivered with humourless obligation. Some titles stretch like winter, intoned like a pitch by a scientist, not a salesman. It is SEO as endurance, and search vanity.
So here’s what might be the case with the length of the page title. I use the work ‘might’ because, let’s face it, I haven’t a clue and you’re right, so let’s get that out of the way.
The top four English language search engines – Ask, Bing, Google, Yahoo.
SERP Listing Character Limits
It’s interesting, and a bit convenient, that the two search engines that use the smallest number of characters from titles and descriptions are also the two with the smallest share. So size does matter: who’d a thunk?
So, if you only worry about Google and Yahoo (when Bing gets around to incorporating, like, the rest of the world into their geolocation/local map strategy, I may feel inclined to regard it as, you know, ‘hip ‘n’ hapennin’), you can use 69 characters in your title, and 156 in your description.
69 – this is how many characters or words – including spaces – Google actually counts AND displays (i.e. presents to the User in the SERPs) in terms of attributing it to the page title in the TITLE element. At least, that’s the theory.
On t’other ‘and, if your page title is over 69 characters, Google will dot dot dot your page title when it displays to the User in the SERPS like…
And one more thing: Google will only count full words – that is to say, if your 69th character is the second letter of the word ‘online’, it will ignore the entire word, and revert to the last legible keyword.
Good question. Haven’t a clue. It is, however, best not to ruminate, because, like Google, if it grabs your vitals, that’s it: the rest of your life is trashed, laid waste; your family leaves you, you have no friends.
I like to think (if for no other reason, it can account for arguing with myself in loud whispers about the relative business benefits of, say, Twitter v. Facebook) that I’ve a pretty high resistance to the myth and folklore of search marketing. The construction of suspended disbelief is very thin and rickety (a bit like meself, now that I mention it), and there is always something that makes you laugh out loud, which collapses the whole edifice.
So, 69: lets both partners orally go down on each other at the same time. Including spaces.
Some On-Page LinkLuv
On-Page SEO: Hello World!
On-Page SEO: the Title tag
On-Page SEO – Keyphrase Positioning – First Fit v. Best Fit
On-Page SEO – Keyphrase Positioning – Display Order v. Markup Order
On-Page SEO – Head and Body – A Foot in Both Camps
On-Page SEO – Head and Body – Both Feet in Both Camps