Duplication as a Form of Waste

Aug 19th

When you do a Threadwatch site search in Google most of the pages are filtered out due to having duplicate meta description tags.

If you have complete duplication of any element (page title, meta keywords, meta description) across your site then it is at best a wasted opportunity, but may also hurt your ability to get your site indexed or ranked well in some search engines. Also, if you have the exact same information in the page title, meta description, and meta keywords areas then that onpage duplication across elements through the "eyes" of a search engine at best makes you look like an ignorant webmaster, but might also be a sign of low information quality or spamming. If you have a huge dynamic site and are forced to chose between having duplication across major elements on a page or duplication from page to page or just yanking an element (like the meta description or meta keywords tag) then you are usually better off just yanking the element until you can find a formula that allows you to dynamically generate somewhat unique page level information.

I think sending duplicate information is in many ways far worse than showing nothing at all, and Matt Cutts recently stated similar in a TW comment. I will yank the meta descriptions from Threadwatch pretty soon.

Many content management systems (like MovableType - which this blog uses) make the onpage header and page title the exact same as one another. In an ideal world you could have the option to make them different to help mix up your on page optimization (by allowing you to focus the page on a broader set of keywords) and your anchor text (as people often link at things using the official name as the link).

If you have a small hand crafted website then it is probably worth taking the time to try to make your content as unique as possible from page to page and element to element within those pages. Any time you have the chance to show that your content is hand crafted and unique that is a valuable opportunity, especially as the volume of search spam increases and spamming techniques evolve.

Published: August 19, 2006

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Comments

dazzlindonna
August 19, 2006 - 4:52am

Great to have someone else say what I've been preaching for a while. People rarely believe me when I tell them that their duplicate meta description tags could hurt their sites. But I know from experience that solving that one simple thing can mean the difference between an indexed site and a non-indexed site, as well as enabling the site to get ranked.

August 19, 2006 - 6:17am

Aaron: Great post! I've thought of this before, that having the same meta tags across an entire site created via a CMS could be in issue eith regards to page uniqueness.

I had never considered removing them completely, though. The fact that similarity of the meta information may be worse than the actual absense of it will lead me to making changes to a few of my sites tomorrow, to see if that will perhaps help the indexing.

Thanks for the insightful post, Aaron!

August 19, 2006 - 6:23am

Aaron - thanks for the heads up. I wasn't aware of this phenomena. I did a search of my blog and it did the same thing.

Looks like its not only the page title, meta keywords, meta description that have to be unique but also how you structure the page in HTML so the Google can decipher the difference between a page title and a tag line and the actual content.

b.a
August 19, 2006 - 9:00am

And I see, that you removed the meta name="Keywords" in your bglog archives ;)
My idea (formula) is, the each blog post,news post, stroy post e.t.c can be made use tags feature. The assigned tags can be used for meta name="Keywords" with randomizing of listing them.
But I wonder, is there any problem, when using duplicating keywords.
Example, lets we have: keyword1, keyword2, .... keyword50 ( lets assume they are our tags ;) )
So, lets when posting story 1, we assigned to it "keyword5, keyword12, keywod33,... and anothers (max 10)." And when displaying the page we will randomize listing of these keywords. This way, we have unique listing of keywords, be we can have duplicating keywords elements with another post.
And this formula for all your postings. Another point is, if we want the important keywords can be in first positions of when listing the weywords.
So, that's my thoughts. What are your opinios?

JayW
August 19, 2006 - 11:40am

Aaron,

This trick has worked well in the last 2-3 years but it's only supposed to be revealed to those that know the secret handshake :)

Thanks for the insightful posts!

-JayW

Nick Kisberg
August 19, 2006 - 12:51pm

If you're using any form of CMS, and not making every individual page by hand - there's almost no chance of making individual meta keyword tags. I didn't think they were using by any search engines any way, thus - there is no point even using the tag (I assume that's why you've removed it Aaron?)

August 19, 2006 - 4:24pm

Yeah...I am dealing with duplicate content issues on two of my sites...and google has killed one of those sites. I am working my butt of to create unique content.

Didn't know at the time this was a bad thing between two of your own sites. Oh well...live and learn.

August 19, 2006 - 4:42pm

Thanks for this reminder and clear explanation Aaron.

I hadn't considered when I first started online, and as a result, many of my early sites suffered while my new sites flourished. This is certainly something to take into consideration when I redesign those sites.

On another note, I don't know much about Movable Type, but maybe there's a way to create a plugin/custom tweaking to get custom meta tags across each page. I know it's possible with WordPress.

August 19, 2006 - 6:37pm

I had a heck of a time trying to explain this exact same issue in the WP forum. Hopefully that functionality will be standard in a future version of WP. Fortunately there are a few others (besides those coding WP) who recognized this issue, so there are a
couple good meta plugins to tide anyone over using WP, until that day.

August 19, 2006 - 8:54pm

Movable Type's "Keywords" textarea in New Entry form can be manipulated via direct entry with an on page title or a plugin (Brad Choate's are good); then use <$MTEntryKeywords$> in place of <$MTEntryTitle$>. I once used this method for <h3> secondary titles.

August 20, 2006 - 12:02am

don't u think comparing these type of pages to spam is a bit too much?

there's still lots of sites that uses the same title tags on all of their pages ( e.g. wordpress sites ). but i haven't saw any of them being banned or anything.

August 20, 2006 - 2:30am

It doesn't matter what I think of something. It matters how a search engine views content.

And you can have a high quality highly trusted site that has many pages on it which provide searchers with a poor user experience if they land on them. And you can also rank a bit lower than you may have otherwise ranked if you have heavy duplication. Or you could end up having the poor user experience pages rank where better pages could be ranking.

Where possible to make obvious distinctions between your content and automated or low quality content it is worth doing so.

The clearer and easier it is to understand what your page is about and the more you emphasize that by using a variety of semantically related words the better off you will end up doing.

August 20, 2006 - 6:37pm

Nice points.

Does anyone know of a wordpress plugin that can fix this?

August 20, 2006 - 9:24pm

I have always use the keyword tag. Even though I hear from many others in the industry that it is totaly ignored by the SE's. Glad to hear someone I respect sees a benefit in it. Thanks.

August 21, 2006 - 5:33am

I have been hacking down my blog CMS for a year or more and focusing on accurate linking, titles, correct tagging, search engine friendly layout, non duplication of URL strings and useful themed content with some extremely good results.

You know what they say about people who talk too much but beware, if your site has spammed and hasn't developed trust your literalness will be ignored as it should be.

August 21, 2006 - 6:19am

I didn't say that I thought the meta keywords tag was a big deal (and have not put much effort into it thusfar). My point was more that it is better to remove it than to have it full of duplicate / irrelevant junk.

I am a fan of meta description tags though. Have seen some of them sharply increase the clickthrough rate of some of my pages.

As far as wordpress plugins go, I know Stephan Spencer created a wordpress page title plugin.

August 21, 2006 - 10:15am

It is amazing how many people overlook the simplest elements. I had one client that still thought the sitewide meta descriptions on his web design and client sites were cool. I feel sorry for all the guys out there using third party software and trying SEO for rankings, so much hacking required.

August 21, 2006 - 2:59pm

I know what you meant Aaron, also use title and alt tags for images on your trusted sites, they add a bit of flavor and it looks cool when you run a cursor over a URL and the keywords show. :)

Quick questions: Why does it take so long for your comment field to initiate, are you ok'ing them by hand? lol!

August 18, 2007 - 7:23am

Regarding duplicate content I have a nice scenario for you guys. Earlier I used the Joomla - Artio JoomSEF component that actually is a SEF URL component with some built-in SEO capabilities.

The SEF component was working superb, but somewhere along the project it started to generate duplicate URL's leading to the exact same articles.

At some times I could register as many as thousands of duplicate URL's.

Since I wasn't aware of this before I accidentally dropped by a technical web analytics software I could se that the Googleboot had fallen into a spidertrap because of this issue.

When I got back from my vacation Google had downgraded my website (Perhaps because of this) and when I removed it I again increased my rankings.

I consider duplicate content, duplicate content and every repeating tekst that is not part of a teaser/intro/read more situation to be a bad solution and perhaps also spam - Especially if ones have done this with blackhat intentions.

Thanks for your great article - as allways and as commented by me earlier :-)

SEO betatester
August 18, 2007 - 3:25pm

I am currently running PHP-Fusion as a CMS on many of my sites and have come across this same issue. Is it really wise to remove the Meta Description in its entirety? I have read other articles debating this arguement.

See here:
8. No Meta Description Tag.
Along the same lines as #10, I often find that web pages lack a meta description tag. This tag isn’t just important from a keyword density standpoint, but it also is the default description Google uses for your search engine ranked listing. So make it count! Create a description tag with a compelling marketing message — but not too over the top — one that entices the searcher to click on your Google listing.

What do you think?

February 15, 2009 - 3:42pm

Very interesting post. I had no idea of the implications of duplicating these tags can have on a sites' SEO. Good to know. Now with the website health checker tool, checking is so easy too.

Thanks Aaron!

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