What is the ideal length for a title or meta description in terms of SEO?

If you’re an SEO, one of your primary duties (IMHO) is to optimize the homepage of any website.  It is typically the most trafficked website (organically) for any web property.

As a result, you probably follow the recommendations given by the top SEO websites in the world like Moz or Yoast or Search Engine Watch (all, who show up for the top results for the following): 

Ideal Title Length by Moz

Do you see some irony here?

While the title is within the correct limitations of the typical 50-60 characters (Moz & Search Engine Watch), the meta description is not.

Moz will say it’s 160 characters like this:

Ideal meta description length by mozbut the one above they use for the “ideal title length” for SEO, they use 223 characters (with spaces).

So, what is it?

As Yoast explains:

There are currently three “modes” in which Google can show a title. These modes are: wide screen, smaller screen and mobile. On a wide screen and on mobile, Google shows a longer page title than it does on the smaller screen

So, what is it then? 50-60 characters or ???

Ideal Wide Screen Title and Meta Description lengths

Have you ever done a search for “Amazon?”

If you have, you’ve probably seen this:

6th best Title and Meta Description length

Why so many dots?

Long SEO and meta description length model

Well, they optimize in a way that we believe is correct: they don’t worry about constraints.

Their title tag is actually 83 characters long (incl spaces).  Here it is:

Amazon.com: Online Shopping for Electronics, Apparel, Computers, Books, DVDs & more

Their meta description is a WHOPPING 303 characters.  Here it is:

Online shopping from the earth’s biggest selection of books, magazines, music, DVDs, videos, electronics, computers, software, apparel & accessories, shoes, jewelry, tools & hardware, housewares, furniture, sporting goods, beauty & personal care, broadband & dsl, gourmet food & just about anything else

So, with such a HUGE violation against the proper lengths, why should we care?

Amazon is obviously a huge Internet darling to the stock market and anyone who’s owned their shares, but to us SEO’s, it’s supposedly the 6th most optimized site in the world (according to SEMRush):

10 Most SEO Sites in the World

Do you want to see something funnier than Amazon violating these lengths?

Guess who also goes beyond the “recommended lengths?”

Google itself does:

Google's Meta Description Length

That’s why there’s a “…” after “looking” in the 2nd line of the description.  Supposedly they are only #4 in terms of “most optimized” websites though.  So, I’m not sure if I can use them as a model.  LOL.

Dictionary.com also goes beyond the limits.  And they are #11 in the list behind 2 of the top porn sites.  (I would argue porn plays in a different SEO world, but don’t have any proof.  It’s just my gut feelings).

11th most optimized seo website's title and meta description

Yelp and eBay also go beyond, at least in terms of meta descriptions.  (do note: the example I found with Yelp is specific to our local searches.  When you search for “yelp” in Seattle [605 5th ave to be exact], the restaurants in seattle page on yelp comes up #1 and the meta description goes beyond what google can handle in the serps).

Best Practices for Titles and Meta Descriptions in our Constantly Changing SEO World

So, what length should we truly write our titles as or what number of characters should we use in our meta description?  I would say:

  1. Have your most important keywords in the first 50-60 characters.  Expect to be truncated around there.

  2. Do the same with your meta description around 150-160 characters.

  3. However, go ahead and build on them for even longer giving google more clues as to what you want to represent.

  4. Write engaging copy at the same time.

  5. Don’t just use keywords as your “compelling title” or meta description.  Write copy like they did in the old days, but just be very wary and focused on what you want the site to represent.

  6. Follow best practices for CTA’s.  Rather, what would drive you to click?  Read further?

  7. Find language that might also impress you about your website.  Using language like “Louis finally makes love to [spoiler].  Click here to find out with who.