Did you notice Google’s search results were recently redesigned? My guess is you didn’t catch this update unless you spend a lot of time analyzing Google’s every move.
To be clear, I’m not talking about an algorithm change here. Last month, Google rolled out a new design for Google.com’s search results. The most notable difference between the new design and the old design is the larger font for the webpage Titles. Google simply increased the font size of the blue hyperlinks in the results.
It doesn’t really matter why they did it, but my guess is Google wants to make it easier for all of us to read the search results. Thanks Google, that was very thoughtful. :)
This sounds like a harmless update since all they really did was increase the font size, but it actually has a big impact on the most important on-page SEO factor…
What Is The Most Important SEO Factor?
Before I get to how this change impacts SEO, let’s talk about the most important SEO factor.
There are a lot of moving parts in an SEO campaign, including keyword selection, website content, links, etc. But when it comes to ranking a specific page for a specific keyword, the most critical factor is how you write your webpage Titles, aka Title Tags.
(Not sure what Title Tags are, or where to find them on your webpages? Click here for a quick explanation)
Why Are Titles So Important?
Google uses your Titles to determine whether or not a particular webpage is relevant for a search phrase, or keyword.
Each webpage Title should tell Google what your page is about. Think of your Titles like chapters in a text book. They should all be unique and descriptive so it’s quick and easy to flip to the most relevant chapter to find the information you need. That’s basically what Google has to do every time someone searches. Google has to find the most relevant webpages, and they rely heavily on Title Tags.
So if you want to rank a webpage for a relevant keyword, then you’ll need to include that phrase in your Title Tag. For example, if you want to rank a webpage for the keyword, “vinyl wall art” then I recommend including the phrase “Vinyl Wall Art” in your page’s Title Tag. Makes sense right?
Your Titles Must Also Be Compelling Ad Headlines
As I said earlier, your webpage Title is what Google lists in the search results as the blue hyperlink. That means, your webpage Titles are essentially advertising headlines. After a prospect searches in Google, then she’s going to scan the results and make a decision about which website to visit by first reading the webpage Title.
So if you write boring Titles, or Titles that are just a list of keywords, then few people are going to click on your listing even if you’re ranked on the first page of Google. Alternatively, if you write compelling Titles, then you’ll get more clicks than your competitors, which will further improve and solidify your search rankings. This is another reason why your Titles are the most important factor in SEO. Not only are they a key factor in getting ranked, but they are the first thing your prospect will read to determine whether or not to visit your website.
How Have the Rules Changed?
OK, now you know why your webpage Titles are so important for SEO, so let’s get back to the recent update. Before Google increased the font size of the webpage Titles, about 70 characters could fit in the search results before Google used an ellipsis (“…”). If you wrote a Title that was much longer, then everything after about 70 characters, including white space, would get cut off and replaced by an ellipsis.
Clearly, if you have something important that you want your prospect to read in order to get more clicks in the search results, then it’s important to use it early on in the Title. Otherwise, it’s not going to show up.
Can you guess what happened as a result of Google increasing their font size?
That’s right, we now have even fewer characters to work with before Google cuts off our Titles and uses an ellipsis. According to some nifty research by Dr. Peter J. Meyers at Moz.com, the new maximum character limit is closer to 55. If you write Titles longer than 55 characters, then they’re likely to get cut off.
Now is a good time to review the key pages on your website to make sure you’re using the best Title Tags. Make sure you’re using your target keyword phrase in the Title, and write the Title like a compelling headline in under 55 characters.
Want More SEO Tips?
On Friday, April 18th, we’re hosting a live training called “How to Get Free Traffic from Google.”
During the training, we’ll go into more detail about on-page SEO, keyword research, how to use blogging to grow your SEO traffic, and much more.