Google’s new look for 2014

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First they came for Mobile, then Tablet, now Desktop SERPs

When Google decided to make changes to the appearance of their mobile ads last year a small number of users began noticing similar changes on their desktop search results also.  As the months passed by more and more users started to experience these changes.  There was a lot of speculation if these were simply experimental or permanent until Jon Wiley the lead designer of Google Search officially announced on March 12th the following statement.

Jon Wiley the lead designer of Google Search

Jon Wiley the lead designer of Google Search


A Breakdown of the Changes to Google Search Results

Links are no longer Underlined – Organic & AdWords

This was the change that caught my eye the most.  Both AdWords and SEO listings are no longer underlined.  The first time I came across this change I knew something wasn’t quite right, but it actually took me a few moments to figure out what had changed.  This seems to be more of a cosmetic change that Google has made and I’m sure we will adapt to this change quickly but personally I think the listings don’t read as well as they did when the title was underlined.

Increased Font Size – Organic Results

The new changes to the font size (from 16 to 18) are set to have a big impact on organic results.  The larger font now means that in many cases where your title tags fitted in nicely without being cut off with an ellipses, they are now being cut off. This larger font will require many companies to go back to the drawing board for a lot of their title tags as there will be many titles that will no longer display correctly with words getting cut off and replaced with an ellipses.  For large websites with hundreds or thousands of customised titles tags this will certainly create a headache.

Let’s have a look at Before and After.

Moz before after Google search results

Comparison Image Courtesy of

To add to this, it’s not simply a matter of updating title tags to a new character limit. This is due to some letters taking up more space than others, e.g. a W takes up more space than a I. Also note that using capital letters will also take up more space and so limit the number of characters visible in the search results even further.

Thankfully, research is already under way and we can give you a rough guide character limit to go by. Do bear in mind the width of the characters when writing title tags though.

So, not quite a magic number, but in 95% of cases 55 characters means that the end of your title tag isn’t cut off (as below).

  • 80% – 57 characters (81.6%)
  • 90% – 56 characters (91.6%)
  • 95% – 55 characters (95.8%)
  • 99% – 53 characters (98.7%)
  • 99.9% – 49 characters (99.9%)

Note that this change in font size in the search results only affects the organic results, not AdWords ad character limits.

‘Ad’ Label on AdWords Ads

Also note the change in the AdWords ad appearance. Moving from a purple background, to a cream background, to now having no background colour, but a clear ‘Ad’ marker. We’re keen to see the knock on effect of this on click through rate. Watch this space.

Moz before after AdWords Ads

Comparison Image courtesy of


Takeaway Message

Google evolves, sometimes with big changes, and sometimes with such small tweaks that most people don’t notice. The main change to pay attention to here is the change in character limit for organic title tags.

Tip: Enter into Google’s search box and look out for pages that have an ellipses rather than fitting within the character limit. Where they’re too long, edit them down to fit in.

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