This is one of those Basic SEO posts, that i feel silly writing about because "everybody knows" this information already. But then I look at websites of prospects and I realize that not everybody really does know. Or maybe they do and they just forget. In any case, this will be a quick reminder / refresher.

Most duplicate content issues have to do with on-page content. Mass page/content duplication can often have a negative effect on how the search engines spider and index your site. While I believe the title tag is the single most important piece of real estate on your site, duplication here is likely to have the least effect on the search engine crawlers. Even still, it's a duplicate issue that absolutely must be addressed for tactical SEO performance.

Duplicate titles is something we often see on newly developed websites or content management systems that don't allow proper control of individual pages. While I get how, when developing new websites, the title tag can get overlooked, I'm still amazed that many internet savvy software developers still don't take title tag customization into account.

Duplicate Title Tags

In some cases it's just a matter of some creative programming to fix. In others it might require some significant reworking of the system, or a scraping of the system altogether. And, of course, other times it's just a matter of taking the time to get into your HTML or your CMS and writing unique title tags for all your products and content pages. If you have a lot of products or pages, this can be time consuming, but it's well worth the effort.

If you can pull it off with your CMS, allow Titles to be automatically generated based on on-page criteria, but also give yourself the opportunity to overwrite the defaults with your own customization. This is especially handy for product pages. The default can display essentially the breadcrumb trail of categories down to the products as the default. This will ensure all your title tags are unique, to a degree. But at some point you may want to get in and create a unique title tag for more punch and better search engine rankings. Having both options will give you the greatest degree of control without having duplicate titles until you get around to customizing them.

Duplicate Title Tags

Do whatever you need to do to make your title tags unique. And by unique, I mean, not tied to any other element on the web page such as the header or breadcrumb trail.

Having unique titles on every page is great, but not if they are always identical to the your page's headers and breadcrumbs. This just creates a different form of duplication.

There are some cases when it makes sense to have your Title tag and H1 tag in very close alignment. Typically this is done in blogs or other informational articles. But I still recommend keeping an element of control that will allow you to change them to be unique whenever it makes sense to do so.

All said and done, your titles should:

  • Short, 65 characters max
  • Unique for each page
  • Accurately reflects page content
  • Contains main keywords

This article is part of a series on duplicate content. Follow the links below to read more:

  1. Theories in Duplicate Content Penalties
  2. How Poor Product Categorization Creates Duplicate Content and Frustrates Your Shoppers
  3. Redirecting Alternate Domains to Prevent Duplicate Content
  4. Preventing Secure & Non-Secure Site Duplication
  5. Why Session ID's And Search Engines Don't Get Along (Hint: It's a Duplicate Content Thing)
  6. What Does a Title Tag, Title Tag and Title Tag Have In Common?
  7. How to Create Printer Friendly Pages Without Creating Duplicate Content
  8. How to Use Your WWW. to Prevent Duplicate Content

May 12, 2008





Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.

If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.

Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.

Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.





Comments(9)

Writing attractive and unique titles can be a pain, but just like you said. It's well worth the effort.

Since I'm writing on my blog post by post, it's kind of hard to have duplicate titles but still, I keep checking google's webmaster tools to see if there are any errors.

Yeah, duplicate titles on blogs usually isn't a concern, but it is for e-commerce sites with lots of products, etc. Heck, I've even seen it with 20-page sites fresh out of development, all the title's say "welcome"!. It's just something to keep an eye out for. Thanks for your comment MrCooker!

Dups in titles and description tags should be a concern. I have seen great pages suffer on ecommerce and larger websites because of it. Google uses the title attribute and description tag as a duplication identifier.

Jaan, I agree completely that they should be a concern. I didn't mean to imply otherwise. In terms of ranking I think duplicate title tags can be a problem. I'm not convinced, or at least I've not seen evidence, that dupe title tags will play a significant role in pages being dropped from the index, if the content on the pages is unique. If you have experience otherwise, please let me know.

Never seen them dropped from the index, but surely not ranking to their fullest potential. I have taken on many clients in the condition of duplicate titles/description and simply made them unique and seen an enormous jump in rankings.

Unique titles make an incredible difference. We've set up a great CMS that creates good Titles for a client. She owns an IT recruitment agency and adds new jobs whenever she gets any, within a few days Googe will have indexed it. Have a look at the jobs section and the individual job pages - www.baobabcon.co.za, the site design is not my favorite, clients choice... ;-)

Yea, I've heard about the 65 char. limit.

Thanks for sharing the info. Title tag is definitely the most important

I agree with exactly what you are saying - One of the troubles of writing websites is the dreaded cut and paste can often result in pages having identical title tags. This will seriously reduce the attraction of your website in google etc.

There are quite a few tools out that there allow you to check for this problem. I use the free Website Link Checker that checks each page and report the title tags, descriptions and keywords straight into an Excel Spreadsheet.

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