On Friday night, a blog post by Rory Lofthouse over at Dave Naylor’s blog prompted me to run a scientific experiment of sorts, which focused on just how many characters of an html title tag Google actually indexes.
This little experiment seems to disprove Lofthouse’s assertion that Google only counts the first 84 characters of a page’s title tag (also known as a page title or title element and denoted by html snippet <title></title>) as well as Rand Fishkin’s 2007 assertion that Google indexes up to 70 characters.
Based on the results I’m getting, it appears that Google indexes at least 164 characters of a page’s title tag. I’m basing this conclusion on the fact that my aforementioned blog post currently ranks at the top of the second page of results for the search query “iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii” (read the post and look at the image below and you’ll understand why I picked this query and why it matters):
If you look at the source code for the page in question, you will see that this particular keyword (I know, I know, “iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii” is not exactly a highly competitive search phrase although I was surprised to see over 50K results for it) appears in the title tag of the blog post but nowhere else within the html for this given page. And even though Google’s result (above) does not display this part of the title tag (nor does Internet Explorer or Firefox for that matter) it’s clear that Google is in fact indexing this deep portion of the title tag (164 characters deep to be exact). Otherwise, my post would not show up on the second page of results.
So what does this mean exactly?
No, I’m not advocating keyword stuffing of the title tag (or am I? Muahahahaha!). What I am advocating is:
1) Don’t limit yourself to artificial limits on the length of your title tag, especially if extending the title tag a bit doesn’t affect the conversion-friendliness of it (remember that as both Rory and Rand mention, part of the value of a title tag lies beyond pure SEO potency).
2) Don’t blindly accept assertions that you read in the SEO blogosphere without first doing some testing of your own.
P.S. As always, I call on those of you scientifically-inclined SEOs out there to try and replicate these results with your own sites and pages and/or point out any issues with the methodology I used in this experiment.
P.P.S. This post is not meant to be disrespectful towards Rory Lofthouse, Dave Naylor or Rand Fishkin. If I didn’t have respect for these folks, I wouldn’t have bothered to read their stuff (regularly) in the first place. It’s just that my prior experiences made me question their assertions, so I felt that a little testing was in order.