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Does Matching Title & H1 Trigger Google Overoptimization Penalty?

     
3:53 pm on Jan 3, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Hi guys,

Just bringing this topic up again, because it has changed over the years, possibly.

When Page Title = H1, can this result in Google overoptimization Penalty?

Another words, is this "keyword stuffing" according to Panda?

And can this trigger Penguin Filter as well, because once your page is scanned by spammer bots, it'll get links with your title = KeyWords , which will trigger "too many keyword links" - Penguin penalty?

Obviously, a number of software programs, like blogs and Wordpress do it. But question remains.

Let's discuss, what any of you think.

Previous discussions 5+ years back were all ok on this. But in site of animal updates, I don't think are valid:
[webmasterworld.com...]
[webmasterworld.com...]
7:56 pm on Jan 3, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Rhetorical question: why would g### penalize something that's useful to humans? (“Lessee now, which tab was the page with a question about matching h1 blahblah? Oh, here it is; it's got the same title.”)
8:04 pm on Jan 3, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@lucy24, this page is not a very good example.

I'll explain. Webmasterworld has probably hundreds of thousands of links (millions?), being this old and an authority site.
When spammers scrape it and auto-generate pages on their spam sites with links being automatically created titles, such is a title of this page, WebmasterWorld having such a strong link profile could care less about it.

However, when a widget site has a page that was scraped, and it has only a few thousand links (as any small business site would), a page gets linked from a few spammer auto generated pages and it sinks, "because of bad links". That is a fact since 2013 Google Animal Farm.
8:43 pm on Jan 3, 2017 (gmt 0)

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There isn't a penalty for over optimization. Yes, there are statistical patterns that are signals that a site might be spamming, but that was something that was noticed back in the early days.

A site is spammy (like keyword stuffed) or it's not spammy (not keyword stuffed) and the stuffing might have more to do with user experience because the number of times a keyword is on the page doesn't help a site rank better so it's not anything Google wants to deflate for ranking purposes (because it doesn't help a site rank anyway) but for user experience reasons.
10:03 pm on Jan 3, 2017 (gmt 0)

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i think it's a good question from Lucy24
2:44 am on Jan 4, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Why would there be an overoptimization penalty?

If a page is about aardvarks, the Battle of the Bulge, or the new Widgetco WC-1 Router, it makes perfect sense for the title and the headline to read "Aardvarks," "Battle of the Bulge," or "Widgetco WC-1 Router."

On the other hand, if the phrase appears 50 times in the space of 500 words, that might look a bit unnatural.
3:49 am on Jan 4, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I believe that the recommendation for titles and H tags (especially H1) has often been to differentiate them somewhat, not because of any sort of penalty but simply to use the opportunity of 2 places that count.
By doing this you would make your doubt disappear anyway, plus you would say more than if you copy/paste.
5:59 am on Jan 4, 2017 (gmt 0)

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The H1 is a content heading. The page Title is a page heading.

Sometimes they are relatively the same so I reword (synonyms) the H1 so not to waste another oppertunity for relevance.

But sometimes (depending on each page) the content discusses more than what the page Title represents, but still relevant. This is where more diverse H1, H2, etc wording can play an important role.
9:03 am on Jan 4, 2017 (gmt 0)

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There's a big gap between "not penalised" and "best practice" - matching H1 & Title may not always be best practice, but it is not going to get you penalised.

Having them both keyword-stuffed (matching or not) is much more likely to be a problem.

As others have noted, it's best to aim for contextual relevance and not worry about too much about "optimisation". Google aims to measure, with generally improving success, "what's best for humans" - so do that too. Humans tend to like a heading that introduces the content, and a page title that captures what the page is about/for - which is often the same thing.

Synonyms are worth considering, but I would avoid using if it reduces clarity to humans.
8:06 pm on Jan 4, 2017 (gmt 0)

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By doing this you would make your doubt disappear anyway, plus you would say more than if you copy/paste.

It isn't a matter of copying and pasting. Sometimes, it makes sense for the title and main head to be identical, and sometimes it doesn't.

In an encyclopedia, for example, an entry about the Battle of Hastings is likely to be called "Battle of Hastings." (In fact, I looked up the Encyclopedia Britannica's entry for the Battle of Hastings just now, and sure enough, the page title was Battle of Hastings | Britannica.com" and the headline was "Battle of Hastings. No surprise there.)

In a news story, on the other hand, the title might be "Battle of Hastings - Hastings Daily Clarion," while the headline might be "Norman conquest hinges on Battle of Hastings outcome." Different media, different conventions.
6:43 am on Jan 5, 2017 (gmt 0)

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What do we mean by the same,

In @EditorialGuy's example the page title is the headline plus site name. That is common and useful. What is less common is for the two to be identical and I think that is what may be less than optimal.
7:29 pm on Jan 5, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Not sure there's a problem as the TITLE is what appears in the browser's title bar and H1 is generally the "title" of the page within the page. These can be identical with no ill as they serve two different semantic purposes.

When HTML was invented there was a failure to identify the actual title of the PAGE as TITLE and we have learned to live with it.
8:10 pm on Jan 5, 2017 (gmt 0)

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What Tangor said. To complicate matters, the title isn't necessarily displayed by the browser these days. It's useful mostly as a teaser in search results. (Unfortunately, too many titles are written by SEOs who worry about rankings at the expense of clickthroughs.)
9:16 am on Jan 6, 2017 (gmt 0)

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For me it is more about missing an opportunity to leverage the unique value of each both for the user, but also for potential SEO gains too.

With spoken/voice search, the growth of AI and RankBrain, plus the huge scope to match user/search intent through key elements like the title tag and h1 tag, I would want to make them unique in most instances.

I would very much doubt any penalty through over-optimisation would come from this as some CMS force this to happen.

The key here is not getting full value from distinct optimisation items that have different purposes in many occasions.
1:26 am on Jan 16, 2017 (gmt 0)

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>> @Shaddows: There's a big gap between "not penalised" and "best practice" - matching H1 & Title may not always be best practice, but it is not going to get you penalised.

More than 10 of my sites, and several very prominent SEO tools beg to differ. Several very prominent SEO tools are now showing an overoptimization error if H1 and Title tags are the same.

Hence this thread.
8:45 am on Jan 16, 2017 (gmt 0)

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very prominent SEO tools
Yeah, tools don't really work. They were predicated on "rules" that have not been true for a very, very long time.

Google is not running a ranking competition, whereby the cleverest optimisers win as long as they don't get caught breaking ill-defined rules. All tools, and many webmasters, work on the premise that this is exactly what google is / should be doing.

Google doesn't strictly care about your attempts at optimisation. What they care about is returning the best results for a query (as modified by Google's assumptions about the user - AKA query intent). SEO tools ignore this, and treat everything like a ranking competition. Using them is not likely to give you actionable information on improving your site, although they may stop a newbie from making horrific mistakes.

In general, hard penalties no longer exist, except for extreme manipulation (which typically cannot be an oversight, or otherwise "by accident").

Conceptually, my experience of Google and optimisation has changed over the last few years- as Panda, Penguin RankBrain propagated through the index and matured. I'm sure it did not really work like this, but in the early Panda days it was as if Google did one pass of the index to find the sites that appeared to satisfy the query, using the secret-sauce algo. Then it did a second pass of that subset for evidence of manipulation, using signatures or pattern matching from known manipulators, and deducted points for pattern-matches. This caused a number of consequences, including that professional SEOs got hit, because they all used the same conventional wisdom about "making a site rank".

These days, it seems more like "tricks" do not work- which could be either they get detected at indexation and so do not ever give you a boost to start with, or that the second-pass anti-manipulation process is better calibrated.

I'm rambling so will just conclude; H1-Title matches are the sort of easy win that purveyors of FUD can use to convince you that they know what they are taking about. Their product needs to have a perceived value, or they will cease to exist. A large percentage of UGC sites will have matching H1-title with no ill effects. A reasonable percentage of CMS tools will do the same by default. Many times, hand-crafted pages will naturally match. All of these cases are valid examples of why a blacket "penalty" would be ludicrous.

Put the SEO tools away!
2:47 pm on Jan 16, 2017 (gmt 0)

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For me it is more about missing an opportunity to leverage the unique value of each both for the user, but also for potential SEO gains too.

Possibly there are some small "potential SEO gains" in some cases. But in my opinion you need to balance this "potential gain" against the possibility of creating a poor user experience.

For example, suppose a searcher sees "Antique Widgets" as the page title in the google's search results, and that's exactly what they're looking for, so they click that entry. They're expecting to see "Antique Widgets" at the top of the landing page. If they see something else, it could raise questions in their mind. It could create a bad initial impression of your site.

So in my view you need to take the user experience into account when you choose the H1 title.
2:58 pm on Jan 16, 2017 (gmt 0)

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But if the H1 was
"Widgets of the 19th Century" - that would be a reasonable case of diversity. It's a good example, because "Antique Widgets" doesn't make a compelling headline to my eyes anyway.

Diversity doesn't mean they can be unrelated.

I mean, no one is advocating "Antique Widgets" Vs "10 ways modern widgets will make your skin crawl"
4:09 pm on Jan 16, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Shaddows -- I understand your point and agree that sometimes a different H1 can make sense. But your counter-example is rather extreme.

In addition, "Widgets of the 19th Century" could be misleading if your site also covers widgets from earlier centuries, especially if the searcher is interested in those earlier centuries.

All I'm saying is that you need to take account of the visitor's likely reaction in choosing an H1 tag,
4:54 pm on Jan 16, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@aristotle, sorry for the flippant example, I was just making the point that flagrant mismatching wasn't at issue.

I agree that searcher reactions are important, and you don't want to mis-represent the page through either its title or H1.

Essentially, there is no need to either enforce a match, or avoid one.
8:28 pm on Jan 16, 2017 (gmt 0)

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As the title is one thing and h1 is another, I can see the title being modified (but not essentially changed) from the h1

title: Widget of Dreams - example.com
h1 The Ultimate Widget of Dreams: An Annotated History

Why? Title is limited real estate and often contains site info (url, domain name, etc). Any such "edit" of the h1 for title use should not impair the search query as both title and h1 can be factors in a successful search by the user. I see this as similar yet match, or match but slightly different.

There's nothing wrong with having exact match for title and h1, they serve two different purposes FOR THE SAME ARTICLE. It is highly unlikely this will trigger an SEO over-optimization penalty.