Many SEO agencies write that you must limit your title length to 60 characters and meta description length to 160 characters, because Google generally truncates snippets to ~155–160 characters.
In fact, many SEO agencies that I worked with gave me Excel files in which I am requested to fill the title and meta description in Japanese with “=LEN()” function to make sure that title and meta description don’t exceed the character length limit.
Well….they are doing it wrong…
Google does not care about character length, they generally truncate title to 560px and meta description to 990px.
Google counts pixel length, not character length
Google limits the number of pixels on Serps. The limit of meta title is 560px and description is 990px, typically.
In English, not all characters have the same pixel length. “I” is very thin and “W” is very wide.
Search “IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII”. That’s 100 characters but that fits in Google’s meta title limit.
On the other hand, “WWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW” is only 30 characters and it’s already too long.
Optimal title length in Japanese is 28 characters
All Japanese characters are 20 pixels. The limit of meta title is 560px and description is 990px, so 28 characters and 49.5 characters each. However, that’s only when the meta tags have only Japanese characters.
For example, “新しい Surface Pro 7 との出会い – 軽さの中に、無限の可能性を – Microsoft Surface” which is a combination of Japanese and English and has 59 characters, so it should be the optimal length according to what many SEO agencies say, but the result is this.
“– Microsoft Surface” is trimmed out. That’s because “新しい Surface Pro 7 との出会い – 軽さの中に、無限の可能性を – Microsoft Surface” is 761px out of limit of 560px. The visitble part “新しい Surface Pro 7 との出会い – 軽さの中に、無限の可能性を” is 576px. This is 39 characters , so that’s 10 characters longer than the aforementioned 28 characters limit and it still fits.
Alphanumeric characters are typically shorter than Japanese. “Surface Pro 7” is 13 characters, and it’s only 123px. If it had the same pixel length as Japanese which is 20 pixels each, it would have been 260 px.
This means, measuring length of meta titles and descriptions by “LEN” function is completely useless.
So what should we do?
Use LENB instead of LEN
LENB function on excel counts byte length of text in cells. Alphanumeric characters are single byte and Japanese characters are double bytes.
For example, to “新しい Surface Pro 7 との出会い – 軽さの中に、無限の可能性を – Microsoft Surface”, LEN function returns 59 because that’s 59 characters and LENB function returns 82.
Average pixel length of lower-case alphanumeric characters is 10.3 pixels, and all Japanese characters are 20 pixels.
Therefore, LENB gives you more or less accurate indication of pixel length on Excel.
Maximum LENB length of meta title is 60 and meta description is 135, typically.
Is the pixel length limit always the same?
According to website, SERPsim.com, the pixel length limit of title is 560px and description is 990px. Many SEO agencies make the claim, but look at this SERP.
The meta description of the first search result is clearly longer than 990px. It’s 2564px and 250 characters.
The second result is a little bit shorter. It’s 1523px and 140 characters.
Here is another strange thing. The rendered text is not even really meta description.
The meta description of the page is not even on the serp. Google ignores the meta description and picks up a snippet of body text.
The title tag and meta description are only suggestions for the search engines. Google is not obliged to display exactly what you want them to display.
In fact, if Google lets you display what exactly you want Google to display, you can create a click-baity title and meta description, and that will lower user experience of Google.
However, it’s not a bad thing at all. Google’s goal is to provide the most relevant search results for any given search query.
The best SEO meta title and description practice
In short, you don’t know and you have no control over how many characters or pixels of your title and description are displayed on SERPs, and which texts are displayed as meta description on SERPs. It seems you have almost no control over anything on SERPs.
So, should you give up title and meta description?
You can control what to display on title and you can guess how many characters will be displayed there.
As for meta description, if you write a great meta description, Google will display that. If your meta description is not so good, Google will display a snippet of the body content. Remember, the goal of Google is to provide the most relevant search results for any given search query. Either Google displays your meta description or snippet of content, Google picks the better one and that’s a win for you, right?