What happens if you have two pages with the same title? Usually, that is not good for SEO. But if you have a multilingual site and your pages in different languages share a same title, is this also bad for SEO?
Let’s be honest: This situation -unless you really don’t have a clue about SEO- will usually not occur. You want your titles to be keyword-rich, so they usually do not restrict themselves to a single word. And the probability that a sentence or a part of sentence that you use in your title is the same in two different languages is close to zero. Unfortunately, many CMS (customer management systems) don’t give you control of your website to a sufficient degree as to prevent this – the page titles are often generated automatically.
Now, this becomes a problem when you use certain words. For example, the word “romance” is spelled exactly in the same way in English, Spanish, French, Dutch, Basque, Czech, Hausa and probably a lot of additional languages. If your web site sells fiction books, it is very likely that you will have a page with this category, and the title name will be repeated over and over. Now, this is likely to become unavoidable. But will it hurt your ranking?
It’s old news that the title of a page is specially scrutinized by the search engines, and that the keywords in the title carry more weight than those in the text. You would assume that the repetition of a same text across different pages in likely to be considered some kind of keyword spamming by Google and other search engines.
However, we should remember that the corresponding pages are in different languages. You should be aware how search engines recognize language (see also my book “Search Engine Babble” on that subject) to understand this, but the most important thing to remember is that the title is NOT the only criterion for language identification, and not even the most important one. The search engine -assuming you have sufficient text in your page- will eventually recognize the language of the page. The title will then be considered to be in the same language as the page and will therefore NOT be considered repeated content.
A same page title (in the vast majority of the cases, one single word) should therefore not be an issue. Of course, you should make sure that the page can be recognized as being in a specific language. Ensure that each page sends the correct language signals to the search engines. If you need to rework your site to make this happen, then start with the highest value pages (those ranking highest, that provide you with a higher income or receive the higher number of visitors).
All the above is is also true with a page header that is automatically inserted by some CMS, though usually you do have more control about page headers. Again, if sufficient text is available for language recognition, it should not be an issue.
In any case, and even though it won’t penalize you to have the same pages with a same title or page headers in different languages, it is advisable to change such titles and page headers if possible. Not only to prevent duplication – but also to add additional keywords to your title. Instead of “Romance” you could write “Romance books” (English), “Livres de romance” (French), etc. The moment you use more than one word, the probability that you will repeat titles is extremely small. And that will not only prevent a potential doubt by the search engines, but it will also allow them to classify you better and enhance your ranking in other keywords.