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Master pages, page title and SEO

MHenry
MHenry asked
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Last Modified: 2008-01-09
I just started looking at ASP.NET 2.0 and the Master Pages feature looks pretty cool. The one thing I'm concerned about is the fact that the page title is part of the Master Page. That would mean that all the pages which use that Master Page would have the same title, correct?

Since Google uses the Page Title as one of its key determining factors for ranking, this would be a bad thing, right?

Anyone have any definitive info?

Thanks,

MH
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Top Expert 2007
Commented:
MH,
Scroll thru this article and look for Listing 9 and 10.
http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/default.asp?url=/library/en-us/dnvs05/html/masterpages.asp
You can set the titlle for content pages very easily.

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Author

Commented:
samtran0331,

Since this is generated instead of hard-coded will Google be able to index the different titles? I'm concerned they won't be able to "see" the pages.

In listing 10 it says: "When the page is rendered, the text "Content Page Title" is displayed as the page title."

Since the pages won't be "rendered" by Google's spiders, will Google be able to see the titles by just indexing what's in that directory?

Best,

MH
CERTIFIED EXPERT
Top Expert 2007

Commented:
MH,

Keep in mind that the main way Google makes money is their ranking system.
You pay Google and you get the highest rankings.
If you don't pay Google, then you are taking your best guess.
No one, except those inside Google know for sure what the algorithms are.
So all those SEO companies are taking their best guess and using mainly trial and error to get your site ranked higher.
After a while, the SEO companies kind of get a feel for what they think Google is doing...but then Google's developers are also constantly modifying what the ranking system does...

My point is that even with static html pages, page titles and metatags can only get you to a certain point on a search engine rankings...because Google and all search engines keep their methods very very secret...it's their bread and butter!
On top of that, with dynamic pages you've added another unknown.

I've only had one client where SEO was a primary concern.

And I did have moderate results where dynamic pages were getting spidered (majority of the site was restricted to logged in users...which definitely won't get spidered)

...so I think the MS article should have probably used the word "requested" instead of "rendered"...but as the article was showing you how a browser will output a page..."render" was probably the better word to use...but a page has to be "requested" before it gets "rendered"....
bottom line is, imho, I wouldn't be overly worried about the page title making or breaking your SEO...

hth,
Sam

Author

Commented:
Sam,

I agree with you that it's not the be-all and end-all, but for those of us whose clients don't have budgets to buy keywords every little bit helps. For now, I'm leaning toward only using Master Pages for pages that are either hidden or ones I don't care about being indexed. Just to be on the safe side.

I'm hoping someone might come up with a "safe side" ansswer. Just so I can avoid the extra work.

Hope you don't mind, I'll leave the question open for a while.

Best,

MH

ASP.NET is server side, so any request to an ASPX page (including master pages) will result in the server sending back the complete HTML page. The page is not rendered on the client like JavaScript. To test what the spider will see when viewing your web page use the WFetch tool provided by the IIS Diagnostic Toolkit / Microsoft. Run a GET on your page.

http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=9BFA49BC-376B-4A54-95AA-73C9156706E7&displaylang=en

I cant see it written here, so i will add it:

Masterpages titles are not hard-coded to the masterpages title.

each content page starts with something like:

<%@ Page Language="VB" MasterPageFile="~/master.master" AutoEventWireup="false" CodeFile="default.aspx.vb" Inherits="_default" title="This is the title that will appear on the page" %>

so you see you can set the page title for each content page. Google etc only get to view the final product and not your code so the page for them would be titled "This is the title that will appear on the page"

Author

Commented:
Ok, I was hoping to give Super's recommendations a shot but haven't gotten there yet. Probably won't until the weekend.

As a followup to that suggestion, I haven't published a site yet either. Does the .master extension change to .aspx when published? If not, are you sure that Google will even attemp to spider a .master file?

Thanks for your input.

Best,

MH
When you publish the site .master files are compiled. Therefore the spider will never know of the existence of the master file. Instead it will see the completely compiled ASPX page.

Here's an excellent article on MSDN that shows you how master pages and their content pages are compiled - look under "Runtime Behavior of Master Pages":

http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-US/library/wtxbf3hh.aspx

Author

Commented:
Ok, I'm confident enough in the answers to award points and give Master Pages a shot. I think between Sam's pointing out how to set the titles and SuperGhosty's clarification I can split the points between them.

Solar Flare, thanks for your input but setting the title page was included in the article mentioned by Sam first.

Best,

MH
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