How long should your WordPress meta title and meta description be?

You’ve decided to work on creating a strong, keyword-rich title and a human-readable, keyword-infused description for each of your pages and posts on your WordPress site. Great! Now comes the all-important question: how long should you meta title and meta description be? Here are some answers for 2016.

The short and sweet version

As of 2016, changes to the width of Google’s search result display means that there is a little more space available for your title and keywords. The result is that many SEO gurus have been recommending that titles are under 70 characters, and that meta descriptions are around 100 characters per line, which means that if you expect to see a two-line result, you’re looking at +-200 characters.

Sounds simple, but not so fast…

The challenge with titles:

The number of characters you can have for titles depends on the space available. Different characters take up a different amount of space. Here’s an example – two fake words with 10 characters each:

(1) Dmdmdmdmdm

(2) Lilililili

As you can see, the first example is significantly longer than the second and takes up much more space. This means that you not only have to take into account the number of characters, but also how much space each character uses in the line. So in reality, most titles range between 50-70 characters before being cut off and replaced with an ellipsis.

In addition, Google sometimes appends the site name or the brand to the end of the title, even if you haven’t put it there! This will then result in your title being truncated with an ellipsis, then a hyphen followed by your site name will appear.

The challenge with descriptions:

As with titles, the width of individual characters influences how many characters will appear on a line. However, more than this, Google seems to deal with descriptions differently for different sites. Some search results appear over two lines and are truncated, and others appear over three lines with no truncation. This means that some search results show roughly 160 characters before truncating (with an ellipsis) whilst others get a whopping 280 before being truncated!

Let’s look an two examples. We carried out a little search for the keywords “attract bees“. Here are two of the top-ten results:

How long should WordPress meta title and meta description be in 2016

In the first example above, the title is 69 characters and the description is a whopping 285 characters!

How long should WordPress meta title and meta description be in 2016

In the second example, the title is 45 characters and the description is 164, including the ellipsis.

Both examples appear to simply take the description from the page as opposed to a custom description, so why does the first result get more space? And will they always get more space or is this just a fluke? Good questions, without good answers.

And another thing

Google changed the search results width in May, but after much speculation as to whether or not the extended length of search snippet titles and descriptions is a test or a permanent change, Search Engine Journal received confirmation from Google’s John Mueller that this is just a test at the moment.

Google extended description and titles

So what’s a savvy WordPress website owner to do?

We think that it makes sense to play it safe.

If you can keep your meta title and your meta description brief, we suggest:

Meta title length: 50-55 characters
Meta description length: 140-150 characters

If brevity isn’t your strong point, try to ensure that your most essential keywords or content appears within our recommended range, then add text as needed. Try this:

Meta title length: core keywords in first 50-55 characters, total length under 69 characters
Meta description length: core content in first 140-150 characters, total length under 280 characters

That’s it!

Hopefully this was useful.  Need more information or fancy a chat?  Just shout!

Stressfreewp Whitby, Stress-free WP