Google’s New SERP Design – What You Need to Know

Did you notice any recent changes when you search on Google? Maybe you’re thinking something looks different, but can’t quite put your finger on it. The images below may provide some help – the first result was several months ago in November, while the second is what is seen today in March.

NOV 2013

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MAR 2014

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The most obvious difference between these results is the removal of the underlining of the title link. However, that is not the issue that has SEOs in a slightly frenzied state. Google increased the font size used for this link while keeping the overall space allotted unchanged.  In this example, you can see that the title on the bottom takes up more of the horizontal real estate. What this means is fewer characters that may be seen in the Search Engine Result Page (SERP) before being truncated (fortunately, that is not an issue in our example).

Prior to this redesign, we were able to easily recommend a character limit of 70 for page titles. The updated appearance displays page titles and meta descriptions based on their pixel widths rather than character counts.

Yikes!

Does that mean we try to develop page titles that use more narrow letters such as “l” rather than wider letters such as “o”? What about capitalization? There are still some guidelines for page title character counts that we can use. The team at Moz conducted research and provide the following cut-off lengths with their respective levels of confidence for characters:

 Title characters confidence levels

Google’s SERP redesign doesn’t mean you need to rush through your site and change all of your page titles now or risk losing traffic. An overly lengthy page title is not a factor in ranking results. The impact it may have is a reduction in click-throughs from search. If your valuable keywords are beyond the cutoff point, there is a loss of context for the searcher, leaving them less likely to click on the link to your site.

5 Tips for handling this change:

  1. Start by reviewing the page titles and meta descriptions on your highest traffic and conversion pages.
  2. Test the SERPs by conducting a search for your targeted keywords.
  3. Make changes as you feel necessary based on what you see. Placing keywords near the beginning of the page title will ensure  the context is communicated to searchers.
  4. Organizations with lengthy brand names may need to consider abbreviating or removing their name from the page title. Include the full name in the meta description to provide context there about who you are.
  5. Don’t panic. It may take a while to see how this change really affects SERPs and SEO as we understand it today.

 

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