Google’s Matt Cutts: Don’t Duplicate Your Meta Descriptions

meta-keywords-tags-featuredGoogle’s Matt Cutts, the head of search spam, released a video today providing an SEO tip on meta descriptions. Matt said, do not have duplicate meta descriptions on your site.

Matt said it is better to have unique meta descriptions and even no meta descriptions at all, then to show duplicate meta descriptions across pages.

In fact, Matt said for his own blog, he doesn’t bother to make meta descriptions for his own site.

In short, it is better to let Google auto-create snippets for your pages versus having duplicate meta descriptions.

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About The Author: is Search Engine Land's News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry's personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here. For more background information on Barry, see his full bio over here.

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  • MattStormsSEO

    I have to agree, I run a few blogs and now I am letting Google do the lifting for me and I have come to find that Google does a better job then I do so Google is pulling a description for me.

  • MattStormsSEO

    I have to agree, I run a few blogs and now I am letting Google do the lifting for me and I have come to find that Google does a better job then I do so Google is pulling a description for me.

  • http://seohour.com/ Akash KB

    Google is quite efficient in auto-creating better meta description these days. Don’t waste your time constructing unique MD. Better invest to construct quality content :)

  • http://websitecash.net/ Scott McKirahan

    Matt Cutts is a moron! Sure, that’s great advice for all of the bloggers out there but please, tell me what is wrong with an eCommerce website having the following meta description for ALL of its products? “All orders Ship Free and feature our Low Price Guarantee. Order this week, and take advantage of our 10% off coupon (see banner on website for coupon code)”

    The meta description’s role is to get people to click on your listing. The above does that perfectly well! People know what the page is about from the title tag already.

    No, instead, we are all led to believe that we are supposed to “fix” things Google says are broken with our websites when it is their algorithm that is so unbelievably flawed. I’m beginning to think that the meta description that they CLAIM is not important to SEO is far more important than they let on. Otherwise, why do they give a rat’s a$$?

    Honestly, unless I am looking for a quick answer from the major places that everybody knows about, I never use Google anymore to research anything – especially when looking for things to buy! I want to know about the places I DON’T know about already when I am searching for something. Otherwise, I’d just type in walmart.com, amazon.com, ebay.com, etc. Tell me something I don’t already know, Google, or please, just shut up and go away!

  • http://websitecash.net/ Scott McKirahan

    Matt Cutts is a moron! Sure, that’s great advice for all of the bloggers out there but please, tell me what is wrong with an eCommerce website having the following meta description for ALL of its products? “All orders Ship Free and feature our Low Price Guarantee. Order this week, and take advantage of our 10% off coupon (see banner on website for coupon code)”

    The meta description’s role is to get people to click on your listing. The above does that perfectly well! People know what the page is about from the title tag already.

    No, instead, we are all led to believe that we are supposed to “fix” things Google says are broken with our websites when it is their algorithm that is so unbelievably flawed. I’m beginning to think that the meta description that they CLAIM is not important to SEO is far more important than they let on. Otherwise, why do they give a rat’s a$$?

    Honestly, unless I am looking for a quick answer from the major places that everybody knows about, I never use Google anymore to research anything – especially when looking for things to buy! I want to know about the places I DON’T know about already when I am searching for something. Otherwise, I’d just type in walmart.com, amazon.com, ebay.com, etc. Tell me something I don’t already know, Google, or please, just shut up and go away!

  • http://www.seo-theory.com/ Michael Martinez

    So, you’re not asking a search engine to display useful text that helps visitors determine if a listing is likely to be what they are looking for — you want them to display a free ad instead.

    I have been telling people to stop fussing over meta descriptions for years. I’m glad to see that Matt is finally taking the same position. The whole page is the meta description — the meta description tag is obsolete, unnecessary, and a cause of a LOT of grief for Websites.

  • http://websitecash.net/ Scott McKirahan

    Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying! I can put whatever I want there – it’s MY FRIGGIN’ WEBSITE!!!

    If you don’t think it is helpful to people to know in advance that the website they are about to visit is going to have free shipping, a low price guarantee and a discount, what the heck do you think people are looking for? A random string of words some robot chose for them? Every time I am stuck at a red light at a completely empty intersection, I think about how great these robots that control our lives are!

    No, I guess you think those “ads” should be things you pay for from Google on those same search listings pages, instead!

  • http://websitecash.net/ Scott McKirahan

    Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying! I can put whatever I want there – it’s MY FRIGGIN’ WEBSITE!!!

    If you don’t think it is helpful to people to know in advance that the website they are about to visit is going to have free shipping, a low price guarantee and a discount, what the heck do you think people are looking for? A random string of words some robot chose for them? Every time I am stuck at a red light at a completely empty intersection, I think about how great these robots that control our lives are!

    No, I guess you think those “ads” should be things you pay for from Google on those same search listings pages, instead!

  • UK Tutoring Services – Cambodi

    I agree. I am working on a couple of sites and haven’t had time to deal with the Meta descriptions and Google has done it for me!

  • http://www.seo-theory.com/ Michael Martinez

    “Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying! I can put whatever I want there – it’s MY FRIGGIN’ WEBSITE!!!”

    Sure, and it’s Google’s search engine, which means they can put whatever they want in the SERPs and they can make whatever recommendations they wish about what would work best for most Websites.

    You’re free to ignore their advice and even to pull your site out of their search results. I’m sure they’ll have no hard feelings if you do.

  • http://www.bilalsarwari.com/ Bilal Sarwari

    This is exactly what I am following from last few months, the importance of meta description is decreasing, this tip is best for blogs. For eCommerce sites I still believe strong, attractive meta description required.

  • http://websitecash.net/ Scott McKirahan

    “it’s Google’s search engine, which means they can put whatever they want in the SERPs …”

    It’s funny how you people selectively use that argument when it supports your position. Not exactly the tune everyone was singing when Google switched to paid product listing ads a year ago, is it?

    I also find it interesting that every single on-site optimization article you will EVER read tells you that the purpose of the title tag is to get attention; the purpose of the description tag is to get a click.

    Now, because Google says so, all the Google butt kissers say “No; it doesn’t matter if you get a click. All that matters is that Google is happy.”

    Others seem perfectly content to take the easy way out and do nothing at all simply because they are incredibly lazy. They are happy they don’t have to spend a whole minute of their life banging out a grueling 140-160 characters for a meta description. “Let our good buddy Google write it for us. I’m sure they have our best interests at heart!”

    I am no longer concerned at all with what Google says or does. They have clearly lost their way. It has become more important for them to battle and punish spammers than it is to have any integrity at all in their search results. I rely on far more things than Google to drive traffic.

    Soon enough, Google will go down. Their search results are horrendous. Their days of being a verb are numbered if they continue down this path.

  • Guest

    This is good information about meta tag description…. lets leave it on google to decide what to show on the search results. :)

  • http://www.brandappz.com/ Vishnu Gupta

    This is good information about meta tag description…. lets leave it on google to decide what to show on the search results…

  • http://www.smetteredilavorare.it/ Come Smettere di Lavorare

    I simply put article title in meta description, so I just need to think about do not duplicate post titles. I think this is the best chiose for a blogger.

  • pranav

    Google is quite efficient in auto-creating better meta description these
    days. Don’t waste your time constructing unique MD. Better invest to
    construct quality content :)

  • iamoldskool

    I have to agree with Scott, meta descriptions should be used to encourage the click, Google have given that one, and if you don’t take advantage of it, well, then you’re wasting an opportunity. Where as I don’t agree with making them the same for every page, a well crafted meta description can really increase the clitkthrough to your site.

    Where as I agree that it’s perhaps not as important for a blog, any website where you have any form of conversion on it really should be doing everything they can from the first time the searchers sees you in the SERPs to raise themselves over the competitors and a well crafted meta description is one of the ways you can do that.

    It’s no guarantee Google will show it though, they may still show a description from the content that they think is more pertinent to the searcher’s enquiry.

    And where as repeating the meta description is not required, you essentially end up repeating it at least three times for the various social sharing descriptions.

    Wouldn’t go so far as to call Matt Cutts a moron though

  • Gaurav

    What if I am targeting home page only? Should I leave other pages as such for Google…………….

  • SEO Jaipur

    Thanks Barry to share this useful information . Matt Cutts say right, if you use duplicate meta descriptions in your websites, Google show meta descriptions duplication in Google Webmaster Tools, Recently Google Automatic generate your meta descriptions in search results if you forget meta descriptions any page.

    Accurate Meta description is improving your Search Engine Ranking and Page Rank Both.

  • http://www.seo-theory.com/ Michael Martinez

    “It’s funny how you people selectively use that argument when it supports your position”

    LOL! No one has made the point about Google being free to do with its organic results more consistently than I through the years.

    I suggest you develop some professionalism.

  • Niko Mitev

    Totally agree with you mate.

  • Niko Mitev

    Totally agree with you mate.

  • http://topspot-official.blogspot.com/ Daniel Benny Simanjuntak

    It seems like Google wish that we all stop doing SEO and focus on content quality will do, perhaps with some important keywords existed in the content–so that snippets can be auto-generated with bold user search terms. :)

  • http://www.brand.com/blog James R. Halloran

    Ah, I didn’t think that duplicating meta descriptions also counts as duplicate content! Something to keep in mind for SEO.

  • Sarah Lund

    I would still fill in the meta descriptions. Having stronger pages under your home page can really help boost your traffic

  • http://www.seo-theory.com/ Michael Martinez

    You guys seriously need to do some research on just how useless meta descriptions have become through the years. Google is doing you all a favor with this video.

  • http://www.amulet-creations.com/ Dipti

    If your site has less pages then you can manage it very easily but for the big site, its very difficult so let Google to pull the Meta description tag. That’s a best option !!

  • Souvik Mallick

    Google has seriously lost its way. For blogs its good but for eCommerce site it isn’t good at all. eCommerce site need better title and description for better CTR from organic search results. If the auto scrapped description by google isn’t convincing then eCommerce site owners will loose valuable traffic and not to mention it would be simply because of google. They are trying to make things look better but ended up with horrible search results.

  • Steve

    I understand what you are saying Scott, but let’s think about what the true intention of the meta description is supposed to be. Its purpose is to provide a unique summary of each page.

    It is not a space intended for advertising to get a few extra clicks. Sure, it might work, but again, the true intended purpose of the meta description wasn’t to spam. If you choose to include that sales message, then maybe you can customize each page so that they are unique.

    Google has said that meta descriptions don’t play a role in the SERPs before, so I’m wondering why Mr. Cutts is now saying that we should use unique descriptions. Maybe for user experience? I don’t think he would blatantly lie to us.

  • http://websitecash.net/ Scott McKirahan

    Hey Steve, I think very few people that give advice on or frequent places like SEL are people with eCommerce websites (I know there are a few). ECommerce sites have so many obstacles that bloggers don’t have to deal with. In many cases, there is absolutely nothing we can do about things like canonicalization, pagination or even rich snippets because very, very few shopping cart platforms make it even possible (and none of them make all of the above possible). Because most are using PHP scripts, every page (or type of page – i.e. product pages, category pages, etc) shares the same header and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.

    People read advice about implementing snippets or authorship on their site and completely screw them up because they don’t realize many pages are sharing the same header. I see people making the mistake of putting authorship on product pages because they read on some blog they are supposed to have it on all of their pages, for instance.

    When I see something as ridiculous as telling us what to do with our meta descriptions, which supposedly are ignored for ranking purposes, I get a little miffed. I don’t believe for one minute that the meta description is completely benign and I never have. If it was, what is Matt Cutts doing worrying about it? Unlike you, I have a bit more jaded view of Google and believe they have an “ends justifies the means” mentality there. I would be shocked if Matt Cutts wasn’t lying to us fairly often. So, when Matt Cutts starts poking his nose into something that supposedly has nothing to do with how pages are ranked, I immediately think “LIAR!”

    And, just in case anyone is wondering, I always have unique meta descriptions. My point was that I SHOULD be able to have them the same if I wanted to (since they are allegedly ignored by search engines).

    I would challenge anyone to come up with unique, compelling meta descriptions (or even product descriptions) for something like a glass bead. You may have 20 that are exactly the same size, green and white with some sort of abstract pattern on all of them. I think as a consumer, I would rather read about a sale, low price guarantee and free shipping than whatever Google thinks they can parse from a page about a bead, which can’t be much!

    Like I said, I think I see things from a different perspective than most people here because I deal with eCommerce sites every day. I build them, I own them and I perform site reviews of them for other people. Most of the people giving advice about eCommerce sites don’t really know what they are talking about because they don’t own one, themselves. No shopping cart is perfect and you make many sacrifices, choosing the one that has the most features that are important to each individual website. Theories are great; implementing them is a whole different thing.

    Anyway, you are all probably right – at least with Google. You may be better off not putting anything for a meta description, since they are going to put whatever they want to put there anyway. I’m not sure if that is a wise strategy for the other search engines, though!

  • goverhorticulture

    After read this article ,i had check all my website pages . thanks a lot

  • Lisa Agostoni

    So what’s interesting here, is that Google often reports in Webmaster Tools that we have duplicate meta descriptions for a couple of pages, when in fact, we don’t. Is Google savvy enough to know when the meta data they are reporting as duplicate is a result of descriptions they chose to pull and show?

  • Lisa Agostoni

    Michael, I would agree with you except that I have come across pages that we’ve chosen not to include a meta description for, and for some reason Google will pull header information or some other gobbledy gook that adds nothing detracts from the decision making process. I wouldn’t click on it if I were grazing SERPs. IMHO, if you’re already in the content, why not take a stab at creating a meta description that you feel is compelling. If they ignore it, oh well, at least you tried and might possibly avoid having a nonsense description pulled by default.

  • http://www.seo-theory.com/ Michael Martinez

    Your focus should be on figuring out the “some reason why” Google chose not to use text from the page.

    That is not a comment on the quality of your content.

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