Your SEO and Google’s SERP Updates

Big Changes to Results

Although you may not have noticed, Google recently made some big changes to the way they are presenting information on their search engine results page, or SERPs, and it has quietly disrupted some of the foundational best practices of search engine optimization.  

On the surface, Google has made a move towards presenting basic results in an easier to read format with larger descriptive text by rearranging and resizing some of the results elements. Google has removed the traditional underlining of the page title that has been such a long-running standard in Google’s SERPs, and has made the title text font slightly larger. To make up for that additional room, Google has decreased the size of the URL text.

In an effort to standardize these new changes, Google has actually moved away from the traditional character-based measurements of the title tags, which is where the real disruption of traditional SEO standards beings. In the olden days, title tag standards were often measured in character counts, including spaces, but that measurement came with a host of issues. As we all know, character counts are not created equal, by any stretch of the imagination. Bold and CAPITALIZED characters naturally take up more space than characters that aren’t bold or capitalized (as you can see in this sentence). Additionally, letters such as l or i will take up less space than d or w. These issues with character sizes are exacerbated by the fact that Google itself alters the size of title and description tags by bolding keywords in the search query that are matches to keywords used in title and description tags. This means that the size of 2 identical tags will vary based on which keywords are a match to the user’s search query.   

So, in an effort to standardize the length of something with so many changing variables, Google has moved to a pixel-based length limit. This means that the days of standard 60-something traditional SEO character guidelines for title tags are over, and it’s gotten even tougher to write good title tags. After a about a month of research, the general consensus is that 55 characters is a relatively safe number to shoot for if you don’t want anything to get cut off, but we’ve seen title tags in the mid 60s that are complete, and tags in the low 50s getting half a word cut off. If you want to be truly safe, 50 characters is a much safer guideline. However, if you simply rely on safe limitations to write your tags, you will be wasting a lot of valuable SEO space on those tags that aren’t taking up their allotted amount of pixels, so the true impact of this update is that the proper length of title tags are completely unique and dependant on the characters and formatting you choose for each tag.

This undoubtedly makes writing these tags much more difficult, and the limited amount of space makes crafting properly sized tags that are still appealing and readable even more of a skill than it was (and anyone who has spent much time writing these tags knows how much of a pain they were to write to begin with). So, if you plan on writing your own title tags, take the time to  truly understand all these new and changing variables. They will not only impact your SEO, but will have a direct impact on your SERP click through rates, and therefore your conversions. If you and your team just don’t have the time, don’t just fall back on old standards and hope for the best. Feel free to contact us at Aktiv, and we’d be more than happy to help.

by: Chris Kosiba