How to check your title tags won’t get cut off in Google SERPs

In years gone by, it was pretty easy to work out whether your title tag would display in full on Google’s results pages – keep it between 65 and 70 characters and you should be fine. Then Google decided it would start messing around with how it displays titles and it became very difficult to predict whether your title would fit on its results pages without being cut off with a “…”.

As recently as February ’12, Search Engine Land published their “9 Best Practices For Optimized “title” Tags” which advised keeping your titles to 70 characters or less. This was followed a few months later by a post from SEOmofo demonstrating that title tags are now limited by pixel width rather than characters, meaning that if you use wide characters such as “W” and “H” then Google will display fewer characters than if you were to use thinner characters such as “i” and “l” – in fact they managed to get a 107 character title tag to display in full!

A week or so ago, whilst helping out our intern with a project he’d been working on and playing around with various homepage title tags, we decided to try out Firebug so we could see how each of our suggestions may look in the search results… In doing this, we stumbled upon the revelation (to us at least!) that if you amend the Google SERPs page code with Firebug, it retains Google’s restrictions on title length.

Whether or not you are fussed about having your page title displayed in full tends to be down to the individual – some are very strict and others are less concerned with having Google cut them short and instead prefer to include more keywords in their title. If you’re one of the former, hopefully this should help you craft your titles.

A Working Example

To demonstrate how you can use this feature, we’ve used the Coast Digital Blog with a search for “coast digital blog”:

Say we wanted to try out a new title tag:

Online Marketing Blog | SEO, PPC, Affiliate & Email Marketing Blog | Coast (76 chars)

First you need to make sure you have Firebug installed on your browser – it’s free and quick to install if you don’t have it already.

Once installed, right-click the title and click “Inspect Element with Firebug”:

This will bring up the page code in the bottom half of your browser, with the title tag code highlighted as below:

Click on the “+” sign to the left of the highlighted area to bring down the text contained within this area – you will find the keywords that Google has bolded within and brackets.

Now you can simply replace the text with your desired title tag text and it will display on the page, so if we now insert our new title:

Too long! Let’s remove the “| Coast” part from the end:

Then if you want to double check that your title will still display in full when Google bolds out your keywords, just wrap and round the appropriate words. Let’s see what it displays if someone searches for “online marketing blog”:

Unfortunately this doesn’t appear to work for meta descriptions, but hopefully you’ll find this useful when writing title tags!