Google hates seeing repeated content. I’m not talking about the infamous “duplicate content” penalty, where you do a big copy-paste job from one page to another, or worse, from one website to another.
I’m talking about trying to jam keywords into your SEO tags, into the page templates on your website, or into the image ALT tags. Google will simply start to ignore them.
Let’s look at a few examples.
This is a clear example where all the SEO titles on this website end with the exact same suffix: Portrait photographer Gregory Heisler (and in all caps too, by the way).
It’s a clear case of leaving the defaults in place.
Usually, that’s the name of the page, then a separator, then the name of the website.
Whenever you do that intentionally to try to rank for the phrase “portrait photographer” (in this case), Google knows you’re actively trying to pursue that phrase, those keywords. And it might start ignoring them.
And you can see in this other example that the entire name of the website gets appended to every single SEO title on this domain, clearly going beyond the character limits for it.
So all the SEO titles get truncated in Google.
That’s another common scenario, another SEO opportunity lost. Many platforms do this.
If you’re using WordPress for example, in the Yoast plugin settings, that’s the default SEO title structure for pages.
Yoast uses these elements:
- first the title of the page
- then the number of the page (in case there is one, like in blog index page with pagination)
- then it’s a separator which you can define in the settings (usually a dash or a “|” aka pipe symbol)
- and finally the actual site title
The last element (the site title) is taken from Settings > General:
So if this was the place where you’d try to enter a phrase that you want to rank for, then it would show up everywhere in your SEO titles.
The ideal scenario, and the action that you should take, instead of leaving the default, is just to go to Pages and try to edit every single page on your site.
Just edit the SEO snippet and remove the default elements, and just type custom there.
Each and every single page should have a unique SEO title, and the same thing applies to the meta-descriptions, instead of using the boilerplate, the templates that come with the website by default.
This is a good example of what you can do.
The homepage starts with the most important words (the specialty). Notice that the SEO title doesn’t include the brand name, which is “Swirltography” because there’s really no need to do that. There’s no need to waste the very limited “text space” you have there for the SEO title just to try to rank for the brand name. Whenever people would search for your site name (or for your personal name, if that’s what you use in your domain), you’re bound to show up at the top of Google search results anyway.
So why not take advantage of the SEO titles to write the keywords that could actually help you get more organic traffic. That means specifying your specialty, and maybe your location like in this case.
And you can also see that some pages do have the brand name added as a suffix, but it’s just one word. It’s not three or four words there to try to rank for them. And all of the SEO titles are unique, they’re custom written for each and every single page.
And the same thing goes with the meta-descriptions.
This website actually doesn’t use any exact same suffix at the end of the SEO titles at all.
All of the pages have custom titles. They could still be improved because some of them are too long. You can see that Google truncates them because they don’t fit, but other than that, it’s a good job of making the SEO titles as unique as possible.
Besides the SEO titles and the meta-descriptions, you could also do the bad thing of including a very keyword-rich text into the footer on your website, in an attempt to make that text be present throughout your website on every single page.
Here’s an Italian wedding photographer’s website, and in the footer, in one of the columns, there’s this text here that’s clearly just an attempt to try to rank for the city, and the specialty, and various other keywords.
Google will see this exact same text on tens or however many pages the website has, and it knows it’s an SEO attempt, and it will simply start to ignore that.
What should you have in the footer?
Why not just keep it simple:
Just your location, maybe some clickable contact information, your social media profile links, and that’s it. This is not the place to try to take advantage of, to try to game the system.
You won’t be fooling Google with such attempts.
Image ALT tags
Another place where photographers repeat content is in the image ALT tags.
It’s just a copy-paste job where you don’t add any ALT tags at all, they’re empty. Or you do, but they’re just, again, the exact same text for multiple images, trying and trying to rank for those keywords.
Google will just know it’s an “SEO attempt”.
Instead of this…
… what do you feel about customizing and making the ALT tags unique.
They would look like this:
It’s obvious to see how this text would be so much more valuable for your potential clients searching for such images, and for Google to know that you have this type of content on your website.
“Dinosaur” SEO tactics
This type of mistake, having duplicate content, and many others are listed in an article on my website, you can check it out. I called it “Dinosaur” SEO tactics, stuff that you shouldn’t do these days.
The common thread between all of them, and whenever you have doubts, whenever you’re not clear on what you should do when writing these SEO tags, is to make the parallel with being at a dinner table with some friends, and talking to them.
If one of your friends would mention every 2 minutes that they’re a famous family photographer (for example). Instead of saying “me” or “I”, they would say “famous family photography in New York”, after a few minutes you’d just start to get annoyed, and you’d ignore those words, it would present no further value to you once you heard once or twice.
And if that person kept doing it, you’d to feel more annoyed, you’d think they’re obnoxious, and you’d even not invite them again to your dinner party.
Think of Google trying to do the same thing. They’re trying to provide valuable and relevant information, quality websites to their users, to searchers.
So that’s where writing unique content for each page, for each tag, for each image ALT tag comes into play.
You’re providing more value. It’s fresh content. It’s unique.
Does it require a bigger time investment for you? Yes.
But is it worth the time? I think so, yes! Google is clearly going in this direction, and you don’t want to be left behind.
Block some time on your calendar this week to eliminate any existing “spammy” SEO attempts and to write unique SEO tags (or image ALT tags).
It’s a great way to step up your SEO game and try to outrank your competition.