Title tags are designed to be concise and brief summaries of a page’s content; a symptom of not using them effectively is duplicated title tags. I often see these ranging from pagination duplication, generic pages which have had no manual input (terms and conditions, contact or about pages) or the site has underlying issues with how it handles these tags. The key issue with duplicate title tags and this does sound very common sense, but it’s hard to differentiate the pages – it relies on search engines to look beyond the title tags and work out their own descriptive terms. In my experience, I also see a lot of businesses have duplicated or missing meta descriptions accompanying these. Duplicate title tags can also mask missing page titles if your CMS automatically injects your site name for example (as-is with WordPress).
The easiest way to identify them is to crawl your website with software providers like SEMRush, ahrefs, Screaming Frog or SiteBulb (others do exist). Many of these providers allow users to sign up for a free trial too, giving you easy access to identifying the issues on your site without having to invest in expensive software. Most of the providers will bring out duplicate title tags into an isolated section of their data, often allowing you to export a CSV to work through page by page.
Always remember, if you have two similar pages with exactly duplicated title tags, you only have to fix one in order to resolve two problems. Try to create distinctive discrepancies between the two pages of course but it’s very common to see 100 duplicated titles and to work through all 100 pages, whereas in reality, you need to validate that 50 pages are correct and change the other 50. You also need to ask the question, if page titles are the same and content is very similar, is there a need for multiple pages or can we consolidate?
Yes, it can cause conflicts called canibilisation whereby two pages with similar content can compete against each other. There are more factors than just the page title but in reality, it’s likely the two pages are similar in nature. Often is the case that many webmasters or business owners don’t know the duplicate page exists, it can be created in error or as a test page too. In contrast, fixing this issue can also help rank for more diversified terms if you include them in the point of separation – so segmenting two pages to go after unique terms after identifying the issue and fixing it can be beneficial.
- Page titles are powerful when it comes to SEO, the good news is once you fix these issues once you don’t really have to revisit them (unless the nature of the pages changes of course).
- When making changes to create a unique page title, ensure that the content doesn’t overlap – so adding an s onto one word does not qualify for unique page titles – instead, rewrite the full page title with a different order of words for the page requiring the fix.
- Ensure you try and stay within 150-160 characters including spaces.
- This is rare but does happen; ensuring the page title you update it with doesn’t conflict with another page – you can often validate this by re-running the crawl once you’ve fixed the first round of errors.
If the crawler of your choice has flagged up errors around meta descriptions, this could be a good opportunity to fix both as they are often situated very close to each other in the HTML or CMS, errors would include duplicate meta descriptions and missing meta descriptions.