Shared Page Titles: Classic SEO Mistake

By Michael Cottam

The page title is one of the most important ways that search engines determine what a web page is about. That means you should make sure each web page on your site has its own unique title, one that accurately reflects its content and purpose. And each page title should include the most important keyword or keyword phrase for that page: the words most people would use to find the page’s key content.

Don’t be tempted to use the same title for each page of your website, just because you came up with one you like. Duplicate titles are a signal to Google that the site is of low quality, and that will hurt your site’s ranking in search results.

Warning: The title of a web page is controlled by a meta tag in the section of the page. It’s quite common for webmasters to create the section just once – including the title and description tags – and then copy it for all pages on the site. Sometimes webmasters simply forget to create a unique title tag and meta description tag for each web page.

Where Does the Title Appear?

The title is what you see in the top border of your web browser window. It’s also in the tab for that web page if you use tabbed browsing: Page title in tabbed view.png
The title is what Google will usually show as the heading for your site in search engine results: Page title in search results.jpeg
A website’s listing in search results has two main parts: a heading in large, bold type, and a “snippet,” or description of the page content, which appears below the heading in regular type. Google normally uses the content of the title tag for the heading, and the contents of the meta description tag for the snippet. You can easily check how your site is listed in search results with the free AboutUs Website Visibility Report tool. Just enter your website’s name in the search bar on (for example,, and check out the audit on your site’s page.

Don’t Let Google Choose the Heading for You

Google will try to create its own heading from the text on a web page if:

  • The web page doesn’t have a title tag, or
  • Many pages on your site have the same title tag

Creating a title tag with the most important search term for a web page can help that page rank higher in search results, and help you get noticed by potential customers.

If you don’t have a title for a page, or if a number of your web pages have the same title, Google can regard your site as being of lower quality. That can hurt your ranking in search engine results.

The title is also used when someone bookmarks a web page in their browser. Make sure they can find your web page again by creating an accurate, attention-grabbing title.

Twitter automatically places the title of a web page in the message when someone tweets directly from that web page. An accurate, attention-grabbing page title can really help you in the Twittersphere.

Title Tag Guidelines

  • Keep it at 70 or fewer characters. That’s all Google will show in search results.
  • Each page on your website should have its own unique title tag.
  • Each title should describe what that web page is about, not what the entire website is about.
  • Your home page should have a title tag that represents the most important keyword(s) for your site.
  • Construct your title tag from a combination of appropriate keywords and your company name.
  • Separate sections of your title with hyphens or vertical bars: Cordless Drills - Tools R Us orCordless Drills | Tools R Us
  • If your brand is familiar to consumers, you could get more clicks by showing your brand first:

Brand name in page title 01.jpeg

  • Otherwise, put the most important topic for that page first, and then the company name:

Page title, seo.png
To get the best ranking for a keyword, put it as close to the beginning of the title as possible. If it’s a keyword phrase, make sure you place the words in the same order as the most-searched version of that keyword phrase.

Meta Description Tag Guidelines

The text in the meta description tag is important. As the second part of what Google shows in search results, it’s your opportunity to attract customers to your site. Keyword in page title.png
Before you write your meta description, do some competitive research. Search for your competitors in Google, and see what their descriptions say. Try to write a compelling description for your product or service that will persuade a user to click on your site instead of competing sites.

Make sure your description includes your most important keywords to help it rank high in searches for those words. You can use the Website Visibility Report to check which keywords search engines are seeing on your home page, and on your competitors’ home pages. You can also use Google’s AdWords keyword tool to see whether the keywords on your site match the most-searched terms for your products or services.

Sometimes Google will pull the snippet, or page description, from your website’s listing in the Open Directory Project (, or its listing in the Yahoo Directory. I recommend that you not leave this important description to the whims of the search engines. To discourage search engines from using either the Open Directory or Yahoo description for the snippet, add these simple meta tags to the section of every page: You can’t fully control Google’s choice of text for the snippet. To up your chances of having your site described as you want it to be, make sure:

  • Your meta description is accurate and uses the most important keyword(s) for that page.
  • The text on every page of your site is accurate and well written, with important keywords used appropriately.

Learn more about how to write a good meta description – and why it’s important – in the AboutUs article, Good Meta Descriptions Bring More Site Traffic.

Final caution: Do not stuff web pages, titles or descriptions with too many keywords. That’s a sure way to tell search engines you’re trying to game results, and could mean you lose out in the search-rankings game.


Read about other classic SEO mistakes even good web designers can make.

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