I'm having a hard time thinking of the best terms to search for similar questions so please bear with me.
We run a yearly "best X" contest where we nominate several to choose from and let readers vote, and I have a question about how to handle the URL structure. I'd like to have the top-level landing page describe what the contest is for, how it's run, etc. and have links to past years. This is how the Oscars do it:
http://www.oscars.org/oscars - basic description http://www.oscars.org/oscars/ceremonies/2016 - 2016 ceremony http://www.oscars.org/oscars/ceremonies/2015 - 2015 ceremony
When the next ceremony is announced, no URLs or page contents change. They simply add a new year for 2017.
http://www.oscars.org/oscars/ceremonies/2017 - 2017 ceremony - added
But our current design displays the most recent contest on the landing page with links to past years.
http://example.com/best-x - 2016 contest (latest) http://example.com/best-x/2015 - 2015 contest http://example.com/best-x/2014 - 2014 contest
When we have this year's contest, what's currently shown on the landing page will move to the
.../2016 URL, and the nominees for 2017 will replace it.
http://example.com/best-x - 2017 contest (latest) - changed http://example.com/best-x/2016 - 2016 contest - moved http://example.com/best-x/2015 - 2015 contest - unchanged
This confuses Google as the subject of the landing page changes every year. If you do a site search for the contest name without a year, Google displays the landing page, but the title is "Best X 2012". 2012! They crawl our site quite frequently, and all the metadata on the actual page is correct.
I can only assume the changing subject is confusing somehow. Yes, the landing page is technically always about the "latest" contest, but the URL for every contest changes when it becomes the no-longer-latest contest.
Can anyone point me to a definitive resource that explains why this is problematic and how much it matters? Or am I tilting at windmills?
Title in HTML: Best Car to Buy Best Car To Buy 2016 Nominees 2016 - Green Car Reports
Title in SERP: Best Car To Buy 2012 - Green Car Reports
The duplicated title is due to the single category being named the same as the contest itself. I've fixed that going forward, and 2012-2015 all had the same title format. Also, the first year was 2011. For some reason Google took the new title once but never again.