Lily Bowron, SEO Executive at ClickThrough, explains why Titles, Keywords and Descriptions are an important part of on-page SEO optimisation.

Writing the best Meta Titles and optimising Meta Descriptions has been a constant struggle for many websites since the dawn of SEO. With Google continuously moving the goal posts, and high competition for specific keywords, making the most out of the display space offered by a Google search has never been more important.

When it comes to optimising a web page, the first port to call for most is TDKs:

  • Meta Title
  • Meta Description
  • Meta Keywords

For years, ‘guidelines’ have circulated the Internet, providing glints of hope and some kind of direction as to how many characters to use for a description, in order to maximise conversions. Sadly, it’s often the case that people are left grasping at straws looking for authoritative sites to show them the way, so their descriptions don’t get cut off half-way through, and end with the dreaded ‘…’

Anyone else confused? Still looking for an answer? Here are some examples of previous guidance:

Guidance 1

65 characters for Meta Titles

Google displays about 150 to 160 characters for Meta Descriptions

Guidance 2

70 characters is the maximum for Meta Titles

Roughly 155 Characters for Meta Descriptions

Guidance 3

“Google shows 69 Characters (including spaces) for Page Title.

Google shows 156 Characters (including spaces) for Meta Description.”

Well, the answer is … drum roll, please! …Well, the answer actually depends on the letters you use.

Don’t get more confused. It’s quite a simple premise. When it comes to choosing your letters, some obviously take up more ‘font space’ than others. For instance, ‘M’ and ‘W’ are much wider characters than ‘I’ or ‘J’. Therefore, descriptions or titles with space-hogging letters or characters will provide much less space to display your targeted keywords than descriptions using thinner characters.

Writing a word like ‘Woolworths’, for example, would take up considerably more space than other, more svelte ten-letter words, such as ‘Illiterate’:

Now, knowing this, you may look at your wording choices a little differently in future. You could  use alternative words, which may have the same number of characters, but use letters with less width. This will allow you to show more keywords for both searchers and Google robots, especially for words that are not a priority, or wide conjunctive words which are necessary to help the flow of your sentences.

For example:

Call instead of Ring

Note instead of Memo

Female instead of Women

Heater instead of Warmer

Cupboard instead of Wardrobe

Exclude instead of Without

This month, I will be researching the text shown by Google for a variety of search terms, then comparing the displayed number of characters depending on the use of thin and wide letters.

This, I hope, will provide a better indication as to how many characters will be shown on Google searches, depending on the specific letters used.

Follow this blog to find the ‘Perfect Size’ for Meta Titles and Descriptions, rather than the ‘Magic Number’, and it could help you get the most out of your Meta Titles and Descriptions.

In my next post I’ll be looking at title tags in more detail.

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About the author:

John Newton has 14 years of strategic marketing experience across Online Display, Search Marketing and TV and Outdoor Advertising, in companies which include Yahoo!, ITV and TNS Global. John has written on blog monetisation for Web Designer magazine and was the editor of ClickThrough’s two books. John is a CIM Chartered Marketer.