Google Chooses Pixels Over Characters For SERP Titles

Posted by on Jan 3, 2013 in Google Updates

You may have noticed a change in your SERP a few weeks ago; or maybe you didn’t catch it. Nevertheless, there has been a few changes that have stuck around after the last few months of changes on the Google result pages. One in particular that affects all webmaster, developers and marketers is the title tag change. We have gone from focusing on character counts to pixels (or points, if you hate technology).

When viewing the SERP you may not notice this subtle change at first, but to the trained eye, it was quickly noticeable because ‘good’ titles of 70 characters started to become truncated or clipped. This is due to a change in the layout of the SERP; specifically the organic listing area.

Firebug screenshot - Width space is 584px

SERP page with ads above and on the right as of January 2, 2013. Organic area width of 584px.

I honestly realized the change (even thought there were several at the time) while using the wonderful website snippet tool from SEOmofo. Darren Slatten provides a simple tool that gives a preview of the SERP snippet (not rich snippet mind you) for crafting beautiful SERP listings. In June, SEOmofo noticed a change in the results when he tested “In thi till trill little litter fill! | Is it illicitly lil’ lilli! | If I fill ill jill I’ll frill thrill!” to see how many ‘characters’ he could use in a title without it truncating it. This one is 107 characters.

Between June and November, Google went through a lot of testing of SERP designs and there was a lot of changes, from the number of organic results to the placement of ads. Hence, I was not ready to jump on the ‘there are no rules!‘ bandwagon. Ruth reported on this oddness on SEOmoz in June.

Now that we start a new year, and we all begin evaluating our best practices I reviewed whether or not this change was permanent. Throughout the flux that was the results page over the last six months, this change has remain.

The Wrapper

So, for all you sculptors of words and crafters of calls to action, check your pixels and update your processes; this one is a keeper.

A. Chris TurnerAbout the Author: Chris Turner is also known as ChocolateSEO. CSEO is Chris' Nashville search marketing and consulting service offering a variety of services to help you, your company and any website maximize web-based marketing opportunities. He is the father of three girls, one boy (finally) and husband to the wonderful Savannah. Join the author's circle: Chris Turner on Google+.