Duplicate Title Errors on rel="canonical" Pages

  • joebert
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Post 3+ Months Ago

In Google Webmaster Tools I've got about 50 instances of "Duplicate Title Tags" errors in the HTML Suggestions area. Normally I would just download the table and get to work, but I'm not so sure I need to do anything this time, and here's why.

In every instance, the trouble pairs are pretty much the same page but they have a different URL depending on how the visitor got there. For instance, if they were taken to the item from a feature on the home page, chances are they'll have a URI something like this.

Code: [ Select ]
/item1234-Title-of-Item.html


Now, each item can be a member of multiple categories. At the least, each item will have the URI described above, as well as one or more instances of a URI like the following depending on how many categories it's a member of.

Code: [ Select ]
/category1234-Category-Title/item1234-Item-Title.html


When setting this up, I made sure to utilize a canonical meta element on every page of the site. Even the index has a canonical element pointing to "index.html". In the case of items, each and every item page has a canonical meta element pointing to the first URI pattern I described no matter which category the visitor is browsing from.

Now, I would think this would clear up any confusion about duplicate titles tags with Google. I'm hoping that GWT just isn't caught up with the rest of Google as far as reporting goes. I've actually been ignoring this issue for months now for that very reason, and it doesn't appear to hurt the sites it happens to. But months later now I still see instances of this happening so I figure now is a good time to bring it up and see what others think. :D
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Post 3+ Months Ago

  • Bigwebmaster
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Post 3+ Months Ago

So just to clarify, the two example URLs you gave above, are they identical content at different locations?
  • joebert
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Post 3+ Months Ago

Identical, no. Largely similar, yes. The only differences between the content returned by the two URLs has to do with navigation elements.

When the "/item1234~.html" pattern is used, there are only root level categories listed in a sidebar. However, when the item is navigated to using the category-specific "/category1234~/item1234~.html" pattern, there will be breadcrumb navigation along with possible sub-category navigation elements listed in the sidebar.

--

Right after I hit submit for this thread I got the bright idea to append the category name on category pages to prevent duplicate titles being created due to this issue. Since it's something that required me to add a single line to update all of the sites involved I went ahead and implemented it for my case.

Quote:
Item Title (in Category Title)


I still can't help but wonder why I'm getting duplicate title warnings for pages marked as the same via a canonical meta element though.
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Post 3+ Months Ago

To me it sounds like they are largely similar. Typically for such pages you would have an identical canonical tag on each page to point to the main one.

For instance, what would happen if you were to get some visitors to your site and they really liked one of your pages. Now lets say some link to one page, and some link to the other page (because its pretty much the same thing, some just found the other version). Do you want the backlinks and importance split between the two pages? or do you want all of it to count towards one of those two pages. In most situations I would prefer it to go all towards one as that would help you get higher SERPs for the same content. I think that is the main idea behind this and its possible Google detected it due to your using identical title tags. Not entirely sure though ;)
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Post 3+ Months Ago

Quote:
Typically for such pages you would have an identical canonical tag on each page to point to the main one.


That's the thing though, they are setup so that every pages canonical meta element points to the category-less page and it's still showing me warnings.

The "link to this page code", "facebook like", and other social bookmarking gimmicks all use the address specified in the canonical meta element as well.

It's like Google is the only one who hasn't gotten with the program here and they're the ones who told me to do it. lol
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Post 3+ Months Ago

Ahh I see now, for some reason I had the impression that you were using that canonical attribute to point to the same pages they sit on when you said this:

Quote:
Even the index has a canonical element pointing to "index.html".


I suppose I should get out of the habit of skimming as sometimes I miss important parts such as:

Quote:
In the case of items, each and every item page has a canonical meta element pointing to the first URI pattern I described no matter which category the visitor is browsing from.


So that does sound like you are doing things correctly. Odd behavior by Google then, and I would think they would be the ones on top of things. Maybe it is more of a warning than anything else?
  • joebert
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Post 3+ Months Ago

I'm guessing it's just Webmaster Tools not having access to the indexes that keep track of the canonical mappings.

If I do a "site:domain.com" search, Google seems to take the canonical meta element into consideration and only indexes (or at least returns) the canonical elements version of the URL.
  • joebert
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Post 3+ Months Ago

I just checked back on this, the number of reported duplicates has dropped drastically since I started adding the category name to the end of the item titles.

I did find one instance where the new title was being reported, but when I looked at both of the URLs listed, they had different titles. It's just plain strange.

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