In a recent video released by Matt Cutts, the head of search quality at Google, he talked about the benefits and pitfalls of meta descriptions. Before we get too deep into this topic, let’s spend a few minutes talking about meta descriptions.

Meta descriptions offer a context about the webpage to search engines. This helps crawlers  more clearly understand the title, heading and content of the page. Recently, the value of a good meta description has been downplayed. The video released by Cutts has brought needed attention to the importance of unique meta descriptions and the pitfalls that can happen from automating descriptions.

In the video Cutts answers the simple question, “Is it necessary for each single page within my website to have a unique metatag description?” Cutts answers the question simply: if you are going to have metatags, have unique tags for each page. If you plan on using the same metatag for every page, it is better to NOT have tags at all. Why would Cutts respond this way?

Even though meta descriptions do not directly affect your Google search rankings, they still have an indirect effect. When users are searching for your site, your meta descriptions appears in the search results. Good tags will have better click-through rates than poor tags. If Google sees that you are using the same (automated) meta description for multiple pages, you are likely to receive a suboptimal response from users. However, if you are using unique meta descriptions, they won’t improve the SEO rank but they will provide a better user experience.

According to Matt Cutts and recent audit of how Google is treating meta description they would prefer to select the text over  duplicative content. While this isn’t a fail safe way of generating meta descriptions, it is the recommendation and the practice which Matt is using on his personal blog.

As you consider meta descriptions, start by focusing on pages that generate a high amount of traffic. If you have the time to write unique meta descriptions for every page on your site, that is the ideal way. If, however, you have too many pages for this to be a valuable resource of time, don’t fear! It is good practice to leave the page blank and let Google populate the description for you. In short, don’t let meta descriptions kill your SEO! Either write them well or leave them to Google.

 

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