Yoast is Wrong; Moz is Wrong: SEO Myths Dispelled

Services for Real Estate Pros

SEO confusion!I was inspired to write this post after I read something on Google+ yesterday about SEO. It really got me thinking about the economics of SEO and more importantly, the value of publicly available SEO advice.

About 9 months ago I think- I was talking to my friend Kathleen Daniels- a fellow member of ActiveRain- and I expressed my frustration about a friend who I was giving free SEO advice to. I was ticked-off because he was taking my suggestions cafeteria style: liking and implementing some and ignoring others.

Kathleen said something that day that made perfect sense:

"Michael, if you give away something for free, it's not worth anything is it? If you charged him, you can bet he would take your advice."

That's right Kathleen!

90% of the SEO Tips Online Are Junk, Based on Simple Economics

My tactics are my intellectual capital. I could never give away my best SEO tactics- nobody can. If I give away my best stuff, then it becomes worthless as capital. Yet, in the effort to do better in the search engines, many of us try to read as much SEO nonsense as we can.

Enter the SEO blog.

Much of the online world has come together and has generally agreed on what "good SEO" is, and then they all do those same things. They all write about the same things... And so many of them spread misinformation. So many. Then like sheep, they are herded together and penalized. By a panda or a penguin.

It's weird; I know.

Yet, I'm Still Going to Give You Something Of Value!

You probably came here because I said "Yoast is wrong" in my title. Or maybe because I wrote "Moz is wrong." Don't worry-- I didn't make you suffer through my rant for nothing.

Here is what you need to understand about Google (and most people don't). It's just this simple:

Google is a database. You aren't actually searching the internet-- live, in real time-- you are searching the Google database. Like any database, it has "fields" to hold the data. Those fields have certain limitations. For example, when you search the MLS for a certain ZIP code, the IDX/MLS database only allows a certain number of characters in the zip code field. The MLS only allows for a certain number of characters in any field- because that's how databases work.

If you use Moz.com, and your page title is longer than 70 characters, it's qualified as an error and shows up in red on your dashboard. Moz says: "The visible portion of the title tag in the search results extends to 70 characters, after which it is truncated by the engines or replaced with other text from the page."

Yoast says (via his plugin) that: "Title display in search engines is limited to 70 characters."

Both are wrong.

Quick Sidebar: If you have a WordPress site, the only SEO plugin I recommend is Yoast WP. I think it's best and it's what I use for my clients. Install his plugin if you have a WP site. Also, I pay for Moz monthly and I recommend that you use Moz to help your SEO efforts as well. I just don't agree with either of them on the subject of titles. That is all.

Now back to it:

Google arranges titles on the page according to physical width. This means that you have about 485 pixels to display your page title. (I'm a database guy, not a designer. If you are a designer, feel free to chime in.)

Check this out:

Meta Description

This demonstrates the width theory. The page title above, that is displaying in Google- even though Yoast and Moz say that it won't display- is 86 characters.

Again, databases don't work in widths- but apparently Google displays in widths. That's a bit different than what Google stores, in the Google database, about your site. Way different. This time I showed 86 characters, but really, I think the max is around 105ish (in the display), based on my own experiments.

A real life example:

If I showed you an Excel spreadsheet with MLS listings, and I had the MLS number field shrunk down so that you could only see 4 numbers, would you believe me if I said:

"There's your proof! That's proof right there! MLS numbers only have four digits, because you can only see four!"

Silly, right? You'd just tell me to widen the field so you could see all of the digits. It's just as silly to think that Google stores your website information in fields based on width.

Here's an example in reverse:

meta title - max characters

Those are a bunch of fat capital W's- and there are only 33 of them. Again, this is a width issue.

This title is totally maxed out, in width only, at 33 characters.

If you believe the average SEO blog, then you believe that there are 70 characters in a page title. But we can see that there are as little as 33 (displayed) and as much as 86 (characters stored by Google). And again, I've gotten over 100 characters to display in Google and that means Google is storing at least 100 characters.

Let that sink in.

So what do you do with this information?

Here's the thing: I don't write this information so that the amateur SEO can "game" the system. Gaming the system usually harms your website. "Do not try this at home." But instead, I write this to illustrate a point and to get my readers to see beyond the copious amounts of SEO B.S. on the net.

After reading this you might decide:

1. To make all of your page titles as close to 100 characters as possible- Yoast and Moz be damned- and know that Google will index every single character of your 100 character title. However, I don't publicly endorse this idea. That's my disclaimer.

2. Do nothing- because something about this just doesn't feel right. After all, Yoast and Moz both say 70 characters, so be safe and do what everyone else does.

3. Be smart and test this out on a single page of your website, using real correlation- and ignore the SEO gurus. Here's an idea: Make those 16 additional characters a unique phrase that nobody would ever search for. Something like...

Homes for Sale in San Jose | Real Estate Agent with Listings in San Jose | Pickled Herring

Don't put the words pickled herring anywhere else on the page but the title. It will add exactly 18 characters to your title and be "truncated."

Get it? I'll let you figure out what you should do from here, to see if Google is indexing your pickled herring page...

That's real SEO folks. Understanding databases. Once you understand that, you will achieve Google-enlightenment. Good SEO starts with a very basic and common sense understanding of databases. If you understand how an MLS search works, you already have a basic understanding as to how Google works. It's not voodoo. It's about writing good property details so the home buyer finds the best listing for his or her needs.

Have a great day!

Posted by

seo guru

Comments (65)

Jon Kolsky
Kolsky Realty & Management - Long Beach, CA
Licensed California Real Estate Broker

Michael~ WOW.....Thanks for the wealth of insight! I love the info!

Sep 27, 2013 04:41 AM
Terri Woods
Benton, Linn and Douglas Counties - Days Creek, OR
Selling Homes and Land in Oregon

OK - this is a post that I will have to reread when my brain is functioning.  Great knowledge - not ready for it on a Friday afternoon.  Have a great weekend.

Sep 27, 2013 06:37 AM
Bob Crane
Woodland Management Service / Woodland Real Estate, Keller Williams Fox Cities - Stevens Point, WI
Forestland Experts! 715-204-9671

Thanks for the tips Michael, I have learned a little more about seo today.

Sep 28, 2013 10:10 AM
1~Judi Barrett
Integrity Real Estate Services 118 SE AVE N, Idabel, OK 74745 - Idabel, OK
BS Ed, Integrity Real Estate Services -IDABEL OK
This makes perfect sense. Sometimes I reduce my width in documents by unbolding, going to lower case, smaller font, or different font. I realize you can't change the width in the Google database in these ways but the concept still makes sense.
Sep 28, 2013 10:14 AM
Jennifer Fivelsdal
JFIVE Home Realty LLC | 845-758-6842|162 Deer Run Rd Red Hook NY 12571 - Rhinebeck, NY
Mid Hudson Valley real estate connection

Michal I appreciate your take on the issue.  I never quite understood the 70 characters.  Your post makes sense.

Sep 28, 2013 03:52 PM
Rekha Vyas
Keller Williams Realty of Brevard - Melbourne, FL

Hi Michael, Thanks for the tips. I feel lost when it comes to Seo, but I am trying to learn.

Sep 29, 2013 12:12 AM
Michelle Minch
Moving Mountains Design Home Staging, Pasadena, CA - Los Angeles, CA
Home Staging Los Angeles and Pasadena, CA

Thanks for sharing this, Michael. I'm pretty good with SEO, but there is always more to learn. And thanks for doing all that testing. It's time consuming!

Sep 29, 2013 01:19 AM
Raymond Denton
Homesmart / Evergreen Realty - Dana Point, CA
Veteran Friendly Realtor®

Thanks, Michael, that's good stuff.  I'm continually conducting SEO tests, and some of the results are really surprising.

Sep 29, 2013 03:18 AM
Lani Stern
Toronto, ON
Your lifetime agent

Easily the most informative post I have read to date on AR. Thank you!

Sep 30, 2013 12:10 AM
John J. Woods
Big Dog Press, LLC - Winder, GA
Going where no man has gone before - wouldn't you?


   Great, informative post.  I will be saving this for reference.  I especially appreciate the way you use your real estate knowledge to provide analogies and examples that everyone here on AR should be able to 'get'.  Thanks!  (Now, if I only could figure out how to 'Subscribe/follow' you..?)


Sep 30, 2013 01:48 AM
CA COASTAL ESTATES Lauren Selinsky Perez CRS
California Coastal Estates - Aliso Viejo, CA
"Your Real Estate Broker" #oclauren
Very interesting.
Sep 30, 2013 12:09 PM
Lea Deo, REALTOR® - KW Legacy Partners
Keller Williams Legacy Partners, Inc. - Shawnee, KS
Johnson County REALTOR®| Shawnee KS Homes for Sale
So, what you are teaching us is that measuring the acceptable length of titles in characters is like measuring the acceptable width of butts in cheeks. You are a smart one.
Oct 02, 2013 12:37 PM
Thom Abbott
MyMidtownMojo.com |770.713.1505 | Intown Atlanta GA Condo Living - Atlanta, GA
Midtown Atlanta GA Condos For Sale

UGH...this stuff gives me a headache! But thanks for driving it in Michael! 

Oct 30, 2013 01:04 PM
Temple Callahan
Connect Real Estate - REALTOR / BROKER - Ventura, CA
Search Ventura County Homes For Sale CA

Hi Michael,

Wow - my brain hurts!  So much good information, just need to absorb it all...  Thanks for the referral to Yoast for the MLS plug in, that really helped me because I'm trying to figure out how to begin my journey into "Agent Press" via Wordpress...  Maybe you can write a post on your thoughts regarding Agentpress?


Nov 22, 2013 01:04 PM
Eleanor Thorne
Equity Resources - Cary, NC
Equity Resources 919-649-5058

I love feeling like I should be doing this - no wait, do that, no wait... it's coming, coming... it's all changed!  :)

Dec 16, 2013 03:49 AM
Missy Caulk
Missy Caulk TEAM - Ann Arbor, MI
Savvy Realtor - Ann Arbor Real Estate

Your the best, Michael. Thank you. I do use Yoast too, and try to follow the 70 character rule. Not going to worry about it anymore. 

Dec 16, 2013 07:36 PM
John Fauth
Coldwell Banker King Thompson - Grove City, OH
Turning your dreams into an address!

I don't like pickled herring! However good points to ponder.

Dec 16, 2013 11:17 PM
Jody Siano
Keller Williams Princeton - Princeton, NJ
With You Every Step

I have Yoast plug in for my piggyback WP blog and am getting this on my piggy back wp . what does it mean?

You're linking to another page with the keyword you want this page to rank for, consider changing that if you truly want this page to rank"

Jan 12, 2014 07:43 AM
Lynn B. Friedman CRS Atlanta GA 404-939-2727
Atlanta Homes ODAT Realty - Buckhead - Midtown - Westside ... Love our City - Love our Clients! - Atlanta, GA
Concierge Service for Our Atlanta Sellers & Buyers

Enjoyed reading your post especially (although off-topic) seeing the name of my AR friend Kathleen Daniels 
Have a happy day -

Jan 06, 2015 08:28 PM
Kathleen Daniels, Probate & Trust Specialist
KD Realty - 408.972.1822 - San Jose, CA
Probate Real Estate

Lynn B. Friedman sometimes the good paying clients get the short end of the stick while small business owners spend their time working for people for free.

Jan 07, 2015 12:13 AM

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