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Optimising Title and Meta Description Length for Display in Google Search Results

In a previous article we examined title and meta description tags and outlined what these tags do and why they are important.

One of the primary purposes of title and meta description tags is to control (to some extent) the information about the page that is displayed in search engine results pages (SERP).

SERP example

When you consider that the SERP is the first (and possibly only) encounter that a potential visitor has with your website when using a search engine, it is immediately obvious just how important the title and meta description tags are.

Limited Space

One of the things that makes writing titles and descriptions difficult is the fact that search engines limit the space allocated to each SERP snippet. Google, for example, (at the time of writing) limits SERP snippets to 600 pixels in width, which equates to roughly 70-80 characters for titles and 150-160 characters on two lines for descriptions (although occasionally you may see Google display three lines of text with up to 270-280 characters).

When a title or description is too long to fit within the designated boundaries, search engines will truncate the offending text at the end of the last complete word that will fit and insert an ellipsis ("..."). This is a problem for two reasons:

  • it looks ugly, but more importantly
  • it results in incomplete information being displayed to potential visitors

Crafting Titles and Descriptions: Easier said than done

Ideally, you want your entire title and description to be displayed in SERP snippets. Crafting something that is not too long but makes the most of the available space is easier said than done. Add to this the fact that title tags are important for SEO (and should contain some - but not too many - relevant keywords) and that your entire title + description combo should aim to capture a user's attention and attract them to your website, and you have quite a task to carry out.

indie.web's SERP Preview Tool

To aid us with the process of writing and refining title + description combos for our clients, we created our own SERP Preview Tool, which allows us to view an approximation of how a title and description might be displayed in a Google SERP. Feel free to make use of it. We hope you find it helpful.

SERP Preview Tool

Tags: meta description, serp, title