Google is showing slightly longer titles in its search results partly because the left column in desktop results is narrower. Search Laboratory ran several tests to assess extent of change.
GOOGLE EXTENDS RESULTS COLUMN WIDTH (June 27)
Title matters a great deal to SEO and to searchers – “Longer titles and descriptions also allow more room for targeting the long-tail keywords that customers search for when they are closer to taking action, making them all the more valuable to marketers.”
Who knew display of the title tag in search engine results could be so complicated? Dr Peter Meyers has figured it out in Title Tag Length Guidelines: 2016 Edition.(May 31)
Bottom line – if you’re writing title tags on your web pages, keep to 60 characters; if you are a searcher be aware that Google makes some adjustments. Google will break a title at a whole word (this is good), but sometimes modifies a title by appending the brand name at the end (which may or may not be helpful).
Danny Sullivan shows that Google can make very bad mistakes when it takes over writing the title for a page and ignoring what the owner/creator of the website wrote – When Google Gets It Wrong By Changing The Titles Of Web Pages (Search Engine Land, April 30)
All webmasters know the importance of the title tag on a web page and strive to construct one that describes the page’s content well and identifies the site. But some people who create the pages may not do this well – or at least not satisfactorily in Google’s estimation. There have been many reports of Google displaying a title that it makes up – not the one on the page. These two postings describe this.
Ann Smarty summarizes what it seems Google is doing – shortening the title (unless it’s already too short) and dropping brand names – Why Does Google Modify My Title Tags? (Weekly Q&A) (Internet Marketing Ninjas, Jan 16). She points to another blog with a detailed description – Google Changed My Title (Blind Five Year Old, Dec 4, 2011).