The world wide web and word counts – what happens when it all changes?

25th October, 2016 - 8 minutes read

With all the freedom that technology today presents us, it often seems strange that something as simple as word count can control everything that we do online. The world wide web is full of restrictions based on the number of words you can use, the number of characters you can use and the space you have available to get your message across.

You only have to say meta descriptions, page titles, H1s, PPC ads or tweets, and you will automatically be able to recall a head scratching moment where you thought “Can’t I just have one more damn character, please?!” Yeah, you’ve been there.

But, we should be used to these restrictions. Many of us will be able to remember the struggles of pay as you go mobiles and the 160 characters we had to use when tapping text messages out. One letter over and that was another 10p spent, and whilst today that may not seem a lot, then it meant the difference between staying in the warm or venturing out and dipping into vital funds to buy more credit. Anyway, I digress. The point is character counts often define what we do. However, they also often change, meaning we have to adapt in the way we do things. Just like the smartphone and its constant internet connection heralded a new era of messages in which we could write as much as we liked, two recent developments in character counts have given us a new found freedom.

For those who aren’t aware, these changes come courtesy of Google (shock, that they would change something) with the format for how ads are written in AdWords and Twitter, in what counts towards the 140 character limit.

So, what’s changed…

Google AdWords

Since the introduction of AdWords, 25-35-35 has been a combination of numbers that anybody working in PPC would find hard to forget. However, following an initial announcement in May and with what Google are expecting to fully roll-out by the end of the year, this is all set to change. Goodbye 25-35-35. Hello 30-30-80.

How it was:

Google Adwords

What it’s like now:

Google Adwords

Google has given us is 47 percent more characters to play with! Out goes the 25-character headline and the two 35-character description lines. In their place, we get two 30 character headlines, plus a supersized 80 character description line.

Whilst previously, you were able to give ad headlines a boost in size if the description line ended in a full stop, exclamation or question mark, this was always at the expense of the description line and of course wasn’t always guaranteed.

However, with this new format, you get all those extra characters you previously wished for. The only thing is you now have to find the perfect combination of words to fit the new 30-30-80 character template and muster up the creativity to come up with the ultimate converting ad.

So, why have Google done this?

Because they like changing things? Well, yes they definitely do. That cannot be denied!  However, they probably haven’t done this because they just fancy a change. Instead, it can probably be put down to the changing way in which people view these ads. When AdWords was first launched in October 2000, ads would have been viewed almost exclusively on a desktop computer. Fast forward to October 2016 and you have all kinds of devices thrown into the mix, with mobile being the main one.

To create a more streamlined experience across all devices, Google removed the majority of the right-hand side ads from desktop back in February. This removal means ads which look more uniform across devices (mobile never previously having right hand side ads) and of course more space. And what can you do with more space? That’s right, give advertisers the opportunity to create ads which are more prominent, more engaging and more likely to be clicked on by searchers.

When will this be happening?

Word from Google is that this change will be fully rolled out by January 31, 2017. In an Inside AdWords blog post last month, they stated the following: “You now have until January 31, 2017, to make the transition to expanded text ads (instead of the original date of October 26, 2016). This means starting on January 31, 2017, you’ll no longer be able to create or edit standard text ads — you’ll only be able to create and edit text ads using the expanded text ads format. Existing standard text ads will continue to serve alongside expanded text ads.”

Twitter

Whilst there were rumours that Twitter were set to increase the maximum character count of a tweet to a ludicrous 10,000 characters, this thankfully isn’t true. After all, Twitter isn’t the place for essays. Instead what we now have is the ability to add videos, photos and gifs galore, without them cutting down the number of characters we are then able to tweet.

Whilst previously, adding media attachments such as photographs, videos, gifs, polls and quoting another tweet meant eating into your character count, now you will have all this plus your 140 characters.

twitter-140-characters

So, why have Twitter done this?

Well, while there has been no official word. Speculation is that it is a way of attempting to keep up with rivals such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, all of which offer a raft of rich media. With Twitter’s average monthly users plateauing at 300 million users, lifting these restrictions could be a way of making the service more accessible and growing these numbers.

When will this be happening?

The new, less-restricted tweets are rolling out now.

Other Word Counts

Of course, these aren’t the only word counts which define the ways of the world wide web. There are many others and here are just a few of those:

Website page titles

Ideally, these should be under 55 characters. Google will typically display the first 50-60 characters of a page title or as many characters will fit into a 512-pixel display.

Website meta descriptions

To ensure your entire meta description is shown, you should aim to keep it at around 155 characters.

H1s

Whilst there are no stringent rules regarding H1s, it’s always advisable that H1 headings should accurately describe the page in which it appears, in no more than one sentence.

 


 

If you have any questions about word counts and why it matters to online marketing, give us a shout and we’d be happy to help.