What are page titles?
Page titles are something which communicates a user and a search engine what a particular page is about. Title tags are ‘usually’ a line of text you see on search engine results page, browser header and in social media posts. Titles are an important SEO factor and also a low hanging fruit as both implementation and optimization is easy.
A page title is wrapped in the HTML tags called <title>.
Example: <title>Does Your Site Have Unique Page Titles?</title>
To check the title of any page you will have to open the source code(Cmd + U) of a page and look for <title>
Why should every page have a unique page title?
The reason is that you want to communicate what a particular page is about as clearly as possible to both search engines and users. Since title tags are a strong indicator of what the concerned page is about duplicate titles and pages can lead to a lot of mixed signals to search engines.
When you are using the same title tag on multiple pages on your site, search engines usually are undecided on which of those pages is the most relevant to the query a user has typed. It even has difficulty figuring out the content on each of those pages.
In SEO industry terms this particular issue is called keyword cannibalization. There are three big problems your site might run in to because of duplicate page titles.
- Dilutes Site Authority and Trust – When Google sees many pages with content on the same topic it might find it redundant. A good website covers various aspects of the topic via a set of unique subtopics. Each covering various nuances and intricacies by diving deep. Search engines are out looking for a website which has topical depth and not topical redundancy. And to help them out in understanding your page better you have to use a title which is as relevant as possible to the original content of the page.
- Google might start ranking less relevant page – When every page is about the same topic then Google might make errors in judgment on which page to rank for a particular user query. A user might then click on a URL and bounce back unhappy because of lack of relevancy. When you use unique titles search engines can better match your pages to the user query leading to more relevant clicks.
- Conversion rate takes a hit – Since search engines will find it difficult to rank the most relevant page people who land on your page will NOT have the right context for the click. This will lead to dip in conversion rates due to short clicks. This might be a signal to Google as a site with the bad user experience. This can further affect your search engine rankings.
How to check for duplicate titles on your site?
Now that we know the importance of having a unique title tag we need to see if your site currently has any duplicate title tags. For this, you must first have verified your website with Google search console.
Once you have verified your site you have to visit the “HTML Improvement” section listed under “Search Appearance” in the sidebar. Once you open this report you should be able to find a list of SEO tags and the number of duplicates each has. Click on the row which says “Duplicate Title Tags” under Title Tag.
You will see a list of duplicate title sets. These are the URLs you need to resolve for duplication of titles.
To make things easier Google even has an option for you to download all these URLs in the form of a CSV sheet or Google Doc.
How to fix duplicate titles on your site?
Fixing duplicate titles is simple decision-making process which relies on bucketing of URL sets based on the type of issue and fixes.
Test the validity of separate Pages – Finding duplicate titles can also help you in finding duplicate content on your site. Once you have the list of duplicate title sets ready you will have to see which of those duplicate page sets are supposed to under a single page. If there are a group of URLs which are to be a part of the single page then pick a hero URL and 301 redirect the remaining URLs in the set to this URL.
Solve duplicate titles technically – Once you have eliminated all duplicate URL sets which are potential duplicates it is time to deal with duplicate titles which occur due to wrong technical implementations. Most of these URL sets usually appear because of one of following technical issues.
Pagination – Pagination which uses the same title on each of its paginated series can lead to duplicate titles. You have to tell both the users and search engines that the page is part of a logical sequence. For this, you have to mention the page number in the title of each page in the paginated series. For instance, a paginated series under a categories accessories will have title tags as below
This has to be implemented as technical code rule in your CMS and should be applicable everywhere a paginated series occurs.
Gallery or Widgets – When you have a gallery in your site each of those images can create unique URL on your site. If you decide to open each of those URLs for search engine indexing then you will also have to give a unique title to each of those images. The title of each of those gallery images should signify specifically what that image is about.
Language – When your site serves multiple languages then you ought to be mindful of the titles too. An English title on a page which serves content in Hindi or Portugal doesn’t make any logical sense. Each of your language URLs should have its titles in its own native language script. This issue is very much prominent for the site below. It has duplicate titles across every URL multiplied by 12 different languages. This is a huge number to fix!
Indexable Filters – Filters can be notorious too. When you have a faceted navigation or a sort option in your category or search pages you can multiply your URLs. If these URLs are uncrawlable or noindexed then having a unique page title shouldn’t bother you. But if you have decided to let Search engines crawl these pages then you should have a unique title for every possible filter created. And the only way to do this is by automating.
The best way of solving this problem is by using the filter name within the title along with the category name. This will make it unique.
For instance, in a category of t-shirts, a filter page with a price under ‘500’ and color ‘Red’ will have a title saying “Tshirts Under 500 & Red”.
Thus for every combination of filter, you will have a unique title.
On the fly URLs – URLs might be created on the fly on your site. This might be a necessary evil for you. But these URLs should not hamper your SEO. You got to give them titles which they aptly represent. Just like in the case of filters you have to pick variables which are unique to each such page and make it a part of the title.
Unattended Duplicate Titles – Few of your site pages might have same titles which are different in content and context. Here we might have to fix the title manually by logging in to our CMS. These issues occur when we are unaware of other pages on site when crafting titles or simply haven’t taken the time and care to think and make our page titles unique. Whatever the case this has to be fixed using a set of title best practices.
- Target a single unique keyword per page – This makes each of your pages NOT compete against each other. Also using a single keyword targeting in the title for each page increases the likelihood for ranking for that keyword. This keyword should be as close as possible to the beginning of the title.
- Write for humans optimize for search engines – Unless you move a user to click on your title no amount of keyword optimization will do the trick. For this, you should have titles which trigger a positive emotional response. Make sure you communicate the benefit a user will get if she visits your post or web page.
- The title should be 50 – 60 characters in length – If your title is longer than 60 characters then it might get truncated. Shorter titles look clean and usually get more clicks.
- Use a brand name to end the title – Using a brand name at the end each title will reinforce the brand in the eye of the user. If the user is aware of your brand then such a reinforcement might even entice the user to click on your link.
- Make it relevant to the page – Your title should exactly denote what the user will get out of reading your web page. Any diversion from this could mean short clicks and wrong query targeting.
A thing to note – Just because you have optimized your title doesn’t mean Google will use it on the search results page. Google can change the title based on user query if it feels the user will find it useful.
Improve your titles using this tool – To test whether your title packs the punch to move people and get clicks use CoSchedule Headline Analyzer