After testing out various design changes, Google recently changed their search engine results pages in an attempt to further optimize for mobile devices. Included are the following changes:
- Font change
- Underline removed from links
- Headlines (titles) are larger and wider
- Display of Google Adwords-targeted ads has changed considerably, including:
- The light yellow in the background is gone
- A tiny yellow "Ad" marker has been added next to the green URL
- An underline separating the ads from the organic search results has been added
With these changes, Google has cut the display length of the titles (or our media brands' headlines, for instance). Search Engine Watch's Jennifer Slegg clearly illustrates why this is such an important change:
"Titles that were optimized to the maximum 70 allowable characters for SEO purposes will now find the same headlines truncated in Google's new results, giving everyone about 59-60 characters to work with. This means you might have a lot of work ahead of you trying to rework titles so they don't appear poorly truncated in the search results, which could impact click-throughs to your site."
What she doesn't touch upon is the need to properly optimize for placement of search terms (keywords) as well as for length. In countless posts and training sessions, I've advised editors and marketers to include targeted keywords as close to the start of the title as possible as it affects both ranking and click-thru and this placement keeps the truncation risk to a minimum. Now, those efforts are more important than ever.
Here is the now (left) vs. the before (right):
You can see -- by the bolding in the results above -- that the search query in use is "financial times" and you can see that in the current layout, you would have to look closely to be sure that the first result is actually the official site for The Financial Times as its name has been truncated from the results! That's poor user experience and could surely affect CTRs. Keep in mind, CTRs not only affect traffic, but they also affect ranking!
Next steps for our team will be to roll this updated best practice into our efforts on all sites, not just media brands. And that includes revisiting category and sub-category level pages and their titles.
• Do you foresee any challenges with this new shorter display cap?
• Have you see any dips in traffic on pages with less optimized titles?
Share in the comments!