There’s no point in carefully crafting your page title if Google doesn’t show it! Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to tell if Google will truncate your title. There are some shorthand guidelines. For example, we’re told that your title length must be below 66 characters. But this isn’t true. Sometimes Google cuts off titles that are below this limit. And sometimes, it shows the entire title when the length is higher than 66 characters!
So how do we ensure that Google doesn’t truncate our title? Here’s an easy way.
Why Yoast’s Google Preview Isn’t Enough
If you’re using WordPress, you probably installed the Yoast SEO plugin. It’s a great little tool that helps you write separate SEO titles from your page’s H1 heading and takes care of the routine SEO work like structured data. The Yoast plugin has a “Google preview” section that looks like this:
In the example above, the green line is supposed to show whether or not the title is too long for Google. But this merely counts the number of characters in the title. And as I’ve mentioned above, this isn’t good enough.
So How Does Google Determine When to Cut a Title?
In reality, Google determines the optimum title length by looking at the number of pixels in the entire line. This pixel count isn’t a simple character count. It depends on the number of characters (of course) but also on capital letters, special characters, and more. Not all capital letters are built the same. And not all special characters have the same pixel length.
For example, if you want to include your site name along with the title, you can use the dash (-) separator or the pipe symbol (|). Many people don’t realize that the pipe symbol has a lower pixel width than the dash separator. So while Google can truncate one title, it can choose to show an identical title if the only difference is the separator type.
Counting Title Lengths with an Online Tool
A great tool I use all the time to check if my titles are the appropriate length is ToTheWeb’s Title Tool. While you can use it to preview page titles by inputting a URL, the real value comes when you scroll down to the section titled “Write or Edit your Title and Meta Description:
Input your title into the box, and the tool will calculate the length in pixels. In the above example, the pixel length is 574. Generally, if you’re below 580px, you’re safe. You can play around with the tool and notice that it’s not a simple character counter but is measuring the width of the title in pixels.
If your title is green here, you can rest easy knowing that Google will display everything.
Is Adding the Site Name Necessary?
It’s nice if I can add the site branding to the title, but I’ve often been forced to compromise if it will result in Google truncating the title. Particularly when targeting long-tail keywords that tend to be more complicated, I reluctantly drop the site name to make room for more words. It’s a question of priorities. If you can manage to squeeze in the site name, do it! Use every trick, including the pipe (|) operator, as a separator instead of a dash.
But if you can’t make it work, drop the site name. Or use an abbreviated version of the site name instead – you can use the alternate site name. But remember – the first priority is not to truncate the page title!
I’m a NameHero team member, and an expert on WordPress and web hosting. I’ve been in this industry since 2008. I’ve also developed apps on Android and have written extensive tutorials on managing Linux servers. You can contact me on my website WP-Tweaks.com!