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Fixing Many Duplicate Meta & Title Tags for e-Commerce Site

6:23 am on Jan 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Hi Im new here so forgive me if im posting on the wrong place...

Google webmaster tools is saying I have 1204 pages of duplicate description and 1207 duplicate title tags? Where is this coming from, is there an error in coding? I am using Zen Cart...This looks really bad..How can this be fixed?

I downloaded and saved an excel file of the description and tags and here area few samples..

Pages with duplicate title tags


Pages with duplicate meta descriptions



[edited by: tedster at 3:50 pm (utc) on Jan 26, 2011]
[edit reason] Please no urls [/edit]

5:03 pm on Jan 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Hi fsb4e,

You have kinda answered your own question, as you have the list of URLs therefore you know where the duplication is coming from ;-)

Parameter driven URLs can be seen as a form of duplication by search engines, for example...


...although these are technically the same HTML page (endodontics-c-8.html), a search engine will see the parameters as separate URLs therefore causing potential duplication issues.

In this case it looks as though the duplication stems from refinement options on the page, for example "order by price", "order A to Z" and such like, which cause the parameters to change.

How bad is it? Well its not brilliant that's for sure - Zen Cart is well know for being non-search friendly. But it depends on the context of the page and what you are trying to achieve. I would always advise trying to minimise duplication where possible.

How can it be fixed? Depending on the context of the page you may wish to try implementing the canonical tag - [googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com...]

This may help in the short term, but it is not a directive which is currently followed by all search engines.

Long term you should look at rectifying the root cause of the duplication, the architecture of the website, to avoid duplication.

5:14 pm on Jan 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Google Webmaster Tools might have a real time saver for you:

This link has information about "Site Configuration", "Settings", "Parameter Handling" TAB

Apparently you can tell Google bot to ignore certain parameters.
6:08 pm on Jan 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Sounds like your best bet may be Google's canonical fix ...

9:27 pm on Jan 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Ok - I use oscommerce quite a lot - (please read on - dont let that bit put you off as off topic).

In oscommerce - as is the case with zencart, there are plug in modules you can apply. They take a little knowledge to apply but with some practice you will get there.

You need to locate Zencart modules which are SEO related. There will be two of these at least.

The first thing you need is a module which will provide you with "Search Engine Friendly URLS - zencart" - this works with .htaccess redirects and gives your site URLS with product names in the file names.

The second one you need, is "SEO for Zencart" - this will change your meta tags and title tag for each page - and probably a description tag aswell - to contain the product name and details - rather than duplicating all over the show.

If you search Bing - as bing is better than google - for the strings in "" above - you should find the patches/add ons you require.

10:22 pm on Jan 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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If you search Bing - as bing is better than google

Sounds like an interesting debate! probably not for this post though :-)
11:36 pm on Jan 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Have you not heard - "Bing is Better"
11:36 pm on Jan 26, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Thanks eveeryone..Im have a programmer do all my work butthis was about 1 year ago..so im not sure if there is a bug or something on this...MrFewkes i do have SEO for zencart for friendly urls...this is what i have installed:


Title Value Action
Enable SEO URLs? true
Add cPath to product URLs? false
Add category parent to begining of URLs? true
Filter Short Words 0
Output W3C valid URLs (parameter string)? true
Enable SEO cache to save queries? true
Enable product cache? true
Enable categories cache? true
Enable manufacturers cache? true
Enable articles cache? true
Enable information cache? true
Enable automatic redirects? true
Choose URL Rewrite Type Rewrite
Enter special character conversions
Remove all non-alphanumeric characters? false
Reset SEO URLs Cache false
Enter pages to allow rewrite index, product_info, products_new, products_all, featured_products, specials, contact_us, conditions, privacy, reviews, shippinginfo, faqs_all, site_map, gv_faq, discount_coupon, page, page_2, page_3, page_4

so im not sure if there is a problem somewhere wit this feature....if you look at my urls the have the freindly extension with the original url, but after that things start changing? Sorry if im not clear but as mentioned im not a programmer so some of the lingo may be new to me...
I appreciate everyones time to answer nad help out...
5:55 pm on Jan 27, 2011 (gmt 0)


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It looks like all your problems are due to sorting and pagination.

If you're looking just at Google, this is exactly what the rel="canonical" attribute was invented for (see link in bumpski's post).
7:16 pm on Jan 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Your problem is not severe, fsb4e, you just need to do a little housekeeping is all. When you have a long list of products in a category, zen cart will tack on an extra &page=2 to the URL to note that the user is looking at the second page of results. Same thing with sort - because if a user is looking at products sorted alphabetically by product name, the URL is slightly different than if he's looking at it sorted by price.

You just need to tell Google to ignore those parameters:


(make sure you include the ampersand)

And there are several ways to do that - in GWT, or in robots.txt for example. (Although robots.txt won't remove the ones that are already in Google)
7:20 pm on Jan 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Whilst use of canonical tag is a solution for some of URLs listed by the OP, I am not sure that the canonical tag is a correct solution for all URLs given in the OP example.

Google advice (see links to google by bumpski and jakegotmail) both talk about either:
- one product being accessed via multiple URLs; OR
- a page with the same list of products being re-ordered by a different criteria.
Link to Google by jakegotmail, emphasis mine:
It's common for a site to have several pages listing the same set of products. For example, one page might display products sorted in alphabetical order, while other pages display the same products listed by price or by rating.

From the OP URLs, we can see that he has multiple pages of products, and that these can contain different set of products per page depending on the page number and/or sort criteria. This does not always result in the same list of product being on different URLs.

That is, the first listing page does not have same products as page 2 and may not have the same products as page=3&sort=3d.

So personally, I would not set all these pages to be a canonical of the first listing page (which is probably www.example.com/endodontics-c-8.html)

One of reasons why I would not do this is that I am not sure what happens with product links that are on the page 2 onwards if page 2 has canonical tag set to point to page 1 (e.g. I am not sure whether in such case Google just ignores the content from page 2, and whether this would result in products that are on page 2 not being indexed.)

Or in other words - having 10 pages of listing with 10 products each, and setting pages 2 - 10 to be canonical of page 1 - would this result in Google picking up only 10 products from my site and not crawling other 90?

With regards to URLs that are result of various sort criteria, then I think that canonical could be used to canonicalise page 1 with sort parameters to page 1, page 2 with sort parameters to page 2 etc.

I would appreciate if someone could correct me if my understanding of canonical behaviour/usage is incorrect, especially with regards to link discovery on pages that have canonical tag pointing to a different page.
10:04 pm on Jan 27, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Aswell as those settings - you will need a correct .htaccess file present and active to do the redirection (well page naming if you like)

Regarding the content of the titles, keywords and descriptions etc - you may have to actually EXECUTE a module which "Fills Tags" for you. As this is generally not done on page requests on the fly.

In oscommerce theres an option under admin called "Header Tags SEO" - then under that theres an option "Fill Tags" - this fills fields on the database - which are then passed to the php routines on the fly - so you can see theres an extra step involved in loading up the DB so that the "products.php" script can pick up the text and put it in the metas.

Hope this helps somewhat.