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Duplicate meta titles and descriptions - removing in UGC?

     
11:03 pm on Jan 19, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Mod's note: Since the question is about both forum titles and descriptions, I'm changing the title of this thread to reflect that.

- original title:
Duplicate meta descriptions - remove meta description for UGC?
to...
- new title:
Duplicate meta titles and descriptions - removing in UGC?

I'll note further down in the thread where I made the change.




I run a large forum and WMT is telling me I have thousands of duplicate and short meta titles. Would I be better off just removing the meta description?

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 7:37 am (utc) on Jan 21, 2015]

10:36 am on Jan 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Don't know what others think but can you add a message id number to the title?
10:52 am on Jan 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Edit **

Ignore me, i thought you said meta DESCRIPTIONS, ill leave my post here anyhow as it might be relevant to others.

Edit **

On pages with large amounts of static text content I dont include them. I just let Google decide.

On things like homepage or category pages where text changes or is thinner I write my own.

Matt cutts doesn't use them at all. They also have zero effect on ranking. It's just for CTR, hence why I think you only need them on pages where text changes or is thinner.
12:44 pm on Jan 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

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1. Meta description
There are mods that can grab a snippet from the first post to make that the meta description.

2. Titles/title tag
As for the title of the post, make sure the title of the post becomes the title tag. Then get your mods and members on board with writing descriptive titles. It helps your users, helps your site visitors and helps you. That's your job as an admin to make sure it happens, even if it means rewriting titles here and there. Failure to do so is to severely limit the search reach of your forum.

Doing the above work is imperative and fundamental to the health of a forum, like eating and breathing is to a living organism. No whining about how much work it is, that would be like complaining about what a nuisance it is to breathe. It's that fundamental.

Good luck. ;)
8:06 pm on Jan 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

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dethfire - With regard to martinibuster's excellent comments about forum maintenance... should the title of this thread be saying...

- "Duplicate meta descriptions"
or should it be saying
- "Duplicate meta titles" ...?


Are you talking about duplicate titles or duplicate descriptions? Depending on your answer, we can perhaps change the title of this thread to clarify it for everyone. I suspect you meant "duplicate titles".
9:01 pm on Jan 20, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Sorry for the confusion! I meant meta descriptions, but in fact I also have 20,000 duplicate titles, from common thread topics.

For the meta description, the software already uses content from the first post, but sometimes the first post is too short and or contains duplicate content from other threads (homework template). In that case should I just remove the meta description tag and let Google decide?

For the titles, I would like to ask about the suggestion from @denisl. Would adding the threadid which would be up to 7 digits to the end of each title be harmful or helpful?
12:05 am on Jan 21, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Would adding the threadid which would be up to 7 digits to the end of each title be harmful or helpful

It would get rid of duplicate titles message in WMT. Which means you would actually not know you have duplicate titles. Martinibuster's advice is the best to follow with regards to writing unique titles.
12:11 am on Jan 21, 2015 (gmt 0)

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aakk this is not realistic with a big board. I can't rewrite 300 titles a day nor do my mods care to. The forum is also 14 years old and I didn't pay attention for the first 8 years. Furthermore the titles are now used to create the URL. Changing the title changes the url and would mess with backlinks.
12:24 am on Jan 21, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Then you're pretty much stuck with what you have. Adding numbers might get rid of the messages in GWT, but that's all it will do. Won't help you any in the SERPs.
7:33 am on Jan 21, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Mod's note: I'm changing the title of this thread now, to reflect that the question is about both titles and descriptions.



dethfire, initially I was going to post in agreement with martinibuster, aakk9999, and netmeg on this one... because for most forum models they are correct... ie, an ID number does not provide enough differentiation of relevant vocabulary describing the thread, which is what any search engine would need to distinguish among pages... and, yes, you would need additional moderation.

But your comment about "20,000 duplicate titles" makes me wonder whether the problem isn't something else entirely (or in addition). It's simply not likely that you'd get that many duplicate titles on separate threads by coincidence. That's a lot of dupe pages.

Have you run any sort of spider tool, like Screaming Frog, to sort these? Group the identical titles together, and then see what you have. I'm thinking that even canonical issues or spam wouldn't account for this number of dupes... though that may be part of it.

By any chance, do you use forum software that gives you threaded posts, with a separate page but an identical title for each post? I'm thinking that this might be what's creating a large number of pages with identical titles, one for each post in the thread.

The thought occurs that in such a case you might consider pagination as a fix, using <rel="prev"> <rel="next"> ...or indexing only a master page and noindexing the individual post pages.

That would also change my comments also about duplicate description elements... but briefly, for a forum, I recommend that you omit description elements and let the Google generate relevant snippets. In your case, you could simply remove all the descriptions for the UGC content on your site. I'd do it gradually at first, just to see what happens.

Dave_Hybrid's suggestions for the use of descriptions are appropriate here.

The titles, though, are what's most important.
6:18 pm on Jan 21, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for the help everyone!

I did end up removing my meta description tags. I guess my follow up question is whether Google will then just use what is in my og:description tag which is also auto generated from the first post.

@robertcharlton In fact they are just innocent duplicate titles from members. There are some topics that are extremely common. For example I have some 60 threads with the title "black holes" and 30 for "conservation of momentum". Dumb and lazy members are the bane to my existence! :(
9:38 pm on Jan 21, 2015 (gmt 0)

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For example I have some 60 threads with the title "black holes" and 30 for "conservation of momentum". Dumb and lazy members are the bane to my existence!

I suspect WebmasterWorld moderators spend a fair amount of unseen time editing away "Urgent Help Needed", "SEO Problem", "RewriteRule doesn't work" and so on.
10:46 pm on Jan 21, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I'm not interesting in getting into an argument over this, but I have over 600k threads. Renaming is not possible. Especially now that the URLs are generated from the titles.
11:09 pm on Jan 21, 2015 (gmt 0)

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A wise person might see it differently than me, but if google is telling me that I have 20,000 similar titles, from common thread topics, well... a plugger like myself thinks that maybe it would be a good time to consolidate pages and get rid of the duplicates.

I guess getting a large forum to continually rank well is kind of labor intensive project...
11:11 pm on Jan 21, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I suspect WebmasterWorld moderators spend a fair amount of unseen time editing away "Urgent Help Needed", "SEO Problem", "RewriteRule doesn't work" and so on.


Actually, no, they are usually busy deleting my daily new threads entitled, "Why does CSS hate me?!?!?!"
11:38 pm on Jan 21, 2015 (gmt 0)

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@planet13 they are not duplicate questions/discussions even if they have the same title