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Over in the AskUbuntu meta, I found it worrying that many search engines direct people to duplicates because their titles are more searchable. Often (or so I guess from looking at the viewcounts), people visiting a duplicate page do not make to the leap to following the Possible duplicate link to the original, answered question.

Could duplicates just embed the actual question in the closed link to avoid visitor confusion? Like so:

Screenshot of a duplicate question, with the proper question and answer listed below

In the above page, Upgrade Ubuntu 10.04 to 11.04 would remain the <title> and <h1>, while How to Upgrade from a very old release to the latest would be an <h2> (or perhaps just a <p>) visually styled like the title. The answers to the original question would also be listed below.

The core idea is that a duplicate question link is basically equivalent to a redirect, but retains the duplicate's question title for searchability.

I think this would make SE's duplicate system more user friendly, and better optimized for search indexing.

To address the concern that this would be confusing: It is my position that current system is confusing. In cases duplicate links are more visited than the actual answered question they link to, doesn't that indicate our search visitors aren't getting it? And are leaving the site before figuring it out? This would ensure that the first page visitors see when hopping off Google contains the best information for their query.

Obviously the current operation of the duplicate system is perfectly clear for an SE guru. But maybe not to someone briskly hopping through Google results.

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Wouldn't that make it more confusing to find/read the answers to the original question? – Adam Lear Jan 13 '12 at 5:24
That could potentially be very confusing. A whole other question with (potentially) multiple answers embedded in the body of another question? I think a link is a lot cleaner. Plus, searching should turn up the original question anyway, so searchability shouldn't be an issue. – Adam Lear Jan 13 '12 at 5:28
@AnnaLear Hm, I don't really see why. It's not a "whole other question"; it's an exact duplicate. The title and link of the duplicate is preserved for cases where the it is more searchable than the actual question. – Jjed Jan 13 '12 at 5:30

2 Answers 2

This already happens when the duplicate is deleted. If the duplicate is deleted, the question redirects to the thing it is a duplicate of.

I just deleted this post:


Try it yourself; as a non-mod, non-10k user -- you will get redirected to the duplicate now. (If you are a mod or 10k user there, try in Incognito Mode so you aren't logged in.)

However, there is a catch-22 with this approach: if the duplicate is deleted, how will Google et al know to index the alternative title?

To solve this while allowing all the relevant search terms, you have to combine the "best" of both posts. It's unavoidable; I can't think of any other way. So:

  1. Delete the dupe.

  2. Then edit the remaining question, making sure that the relevant title and relevant body words from the deleted dupe are present on the remaining question. In other words, combine them!

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Thanks! Just one question: admittedly this is an edge case, but for the question you redirected to, there are an infinite number of duplicates. That is: "How do I upgrade from <release X> to <release Y>" where Y>X+1. How could you edit the remaining question to accomodate that regularly expanding pool of search terms? – Jjed Jan 13 '12 at 7:27
hmm, dunno -- in that case if you have {n} possible variants, sounds like there's no other way than to have {n} closed duplicates..? – Jeff Atwood Jan 13 '12 at 7:53
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Another feature proposal in the same problem space has been marked .

Starting with the next build, anonymous users will be redirected when they visit duplicate questions with no answers.

As with migration and merge redirects you can disable with ?noredirect=1.

Kevin Montrose — March 2012

Thanks, Stack Exchange team!

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