In short: Google has changed the number of characters it displays for your Page Title and Meta Description in your search results.
The old Google character limits were:
70 characters for Page Title tag, and 150 characters for Meta Description.
The new limits are:
50 to 55 characters for Page Title tag, and 115 characters for the Meta Description.
Why worry about these new limits?
If you don’t shorten your meta data, your search engine listings risk looking incomplete – or worst case scenario, looking like complete gibberish. This is very likely to hurt the click-through rate to your website.
Let’s look at an example:
The Page Title for the home page of this website used to be as follows (and this was previously displayed in full on Google):
Writing service: Words By Cornelia is all about helping you sell more!
But now, the end of the sentence gets cut off and replaced with “…”:
Eh?! “Words By Cornelia is all about helping you dot-dot-dot”? That doesn’t make much sense! An important part of my message (helping you sell more) has been rudely cut off!
And that’s not all – the Meta Description is getting truncated too – especially on mobile devices.
For example, here’s how the Google listing for my website copy page looks when viewed on Google on a desktop computer:
But here’s how the same search result looks on my iPhone:
Ugh, that’s not what I want! (So yes, I’ll be re-writing my own meta data, page by page, to get rid of the dot-dot-dots, and get my message across the way I want it.)
But why did Google make this change to character limits? And when?
Google most likely made the change to provide a better experience for people using their phones for search. After all, people are increasingly accessing the internet from smart phones.
This change started appearing around May 2014 , so even if your website went live or got updated quite recently, you will be affected by this change.
If beforehand you had a nice, catchy headline showing, it won’t be so catchy if there’s a bunch of dot-dot-dots!
Are these new Google character limits set in stone?
Nope, nothing with Google is permanent or set in stone.
And as you can see, there are variations from the desktop search experience to what you see on your smart phone – even with these changes.
But I definitely think it’s wise to embrace these shorter character limits. Any website copy I write for new clients will include meta data with these shorter character limits (and I’m contact existing clients to let them know if these changes to see what they’d like to do).
After all, website useage on mobile devices is on the rise all over the world, and it’s best practice to give users the best possible online experience.
What you need to do:
You need to review your existing meta data and make sure it’s working as hard for you as possible. After all, a bunch of dot-dot-dots isn’t going to compel Google users to click through to your site. Your meta data needs to be short, keyworded and punchy.
Also, make sure that any new pages (and also blog articles) stick to the new character limits.
Here are some helpful articles on this topic: New Title Tag and Meta Description Character Lengths and New Title Tag Guidelines & Preview Tool from The Moz Blog.
Next step: Do you want help with writing Meta Data – or other website copy?
I’d love to help you with your website copy! You can see the kind of results I’ve achieved for my clients, and also get an idea of my pricing… and if that sounds like the level of attention and service you’re after, please contact me and tell me a bit about what you need. 🙂