I-Search #113: Title Length

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             "Understanding Internet Search Technology"
Moderator:                                          Published by:
Disa Johnson                                       SearchReturn
February 01, 2007                         SearchReturn Issue #113
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                   .....IN THIS DIGEST.....

Switching gears a little, we at SearchReturn want to reward you
for your loyal readership with the latest thinking and essential
advice from the brightest minds in the world of search.  Our aim
is to make your membership useful, (like what I-Search was).  I-
Search was a valued resource that we want to see again.  To best
accomplish this, we plan to begin publishing informative texts,
tips and more comments to the list.

Let us know what you think!


// -- ESSENTIAL TIPS -- //


==> Title Length

Essentials:  Titles are the natural place for us to begin.  A lot
has been already published by practitioners about writing titles,
their length and what to do to optimize them for search engines.
This is because one of the single most valuable things you can do
to improve your state of affairs with search engines is to write
excellent titles.

The reason titles are so important has to do not only with search
engines, but that titles are used by several applications for a
variety of purposes.  By authoring excellent titles, you stand to
gain valuable search engine rankings, and simultaneously
influence these other uses of the text.

Titles have limits on length and they have prime word positions
that you can calculate as you go.  Luckily, the length of a well-
written title is short enough that it doesn't take a tremendous
amount time to write them once you get the feel for them.  This
is helpful because you want to write unique and specific titles
for every important page.

Social media marketers also stand to gain from writing excellent
titles.  It isn't enough to create something worthy of social
media marketing alone if you limit the audience through poorly
written titles.  Users can encounter trouble distinguishing your
listing among the noise in del.icio.us or even YouTube unless you
write well.  Titles are key to your success with search engines,
and taking care to write good titles will be rewarding elsewhere.

Do you have success with words that appear at the end of the
string in a lengthy title?  Your success may be more attributable
to links and other factors, even when text at the end of some
lengthy titles aren't wholly ignored by search engines.  Avoid
assuming a keyword at the end of a lengthy title is the reason a
given page ranks for that keyword.  You will find shorter titles
have more ranking power.

Figure out the best length for a title by looking at what
applications use them.  Early versions of browser software such
as Netscape originally displayed only the first 62 characters of
the title.  Newer versions display more but the old 62 character
limit is still instructive for us today.  Since search engines
are a big concern here, calculate how much space search engines
display to users at common browser resolution settings.

In a recent interview, Melissa Meyer revealed that Google expends
considerable energy making sure their SERPs display nicely at
800x600, which limits the character count of titles at less than
70.  Yahoo! Trusted Feed, a form of paid inclusion, has a
requirement that titles fit that same character count limit.

Why should we care if titles are longer than what displays?  The
answer lies in the logic that search engines want users to notice
the words used in search.  They go to great lengths to do so.
For example, they use bold typeface where search words appear in
the listings.  This is done intentionally to assist the user in
making a choice from among the results.

Note that in search listings titles are shortened using an
ellipse (...) as the total character count begins to exceed the
70 limit.  Search engines favor displaying search words to users
for the purpose of helping them choose among listings, so they
naturally increase the weight for ranking pages where search
terms will be present.

Search engines also are very aware of the character count limit
in use with other applications that use titles, namely browser
software and the operating system.  This all means that words
appearing in the first 65 characters (including spaces) of the
title are going to get special ranking power.

What is so important about the title anyway?

Search engines know that important applications, including
the browser and operating system use titles.  They also are very
aware that coding tricks will not allow webmasters to hide title
text.  Webmasters have incentive to write titles properly and
cannot stuff keywords using tricks.  That adds up to quite a
compelling case for search engine designers to give extra weight
to text found in titles.

The last thought on title length is that shorter titles will give
your individual terms additional strength.  A title that uses a
large percentage of the title boundary is one that is at least 50
characters in length.  If the page content is focused, you may
require fewer than 50 characters to retain the natural quality
and depth of coverage a good title demands.  If so, the power
behind each word is increased relative to the drop in character

Aim for between 50 and 64 or 65 characters for a full title, and
remember less is more.  Before you decide to edit your titles on
this basic advice, be sure to know that we have not yet covered
the quality of the writing.  Trying to stuff keywords - even with
a short title - is a mistake.  Next we'll have a look at special
spaces inside the title.  As you might suspect by now, there is
much more to writing excellent titles than simply including
keywords within the character limit.

Stay Tuned.

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