You may have heard that having duplicate Meta descriptions on your site won’t get you penalised by Google, and that is partially true. Google will not actively penalise you for having duplicate meta tags or meta descriptions on your site. But it’s still bad SEO, and it’s still costing you rankings. In this article, we’ll take a look at why duplicate meta tags and duplicate meta titles hurt your site, and what you can do to fix it if you have this issue.
Google will only pick up the Meta Tag once
The first issue is that Google will only pick up your duplicate meta tag once. That means that only one page of your content is being referenced. Now the chances are that if you have multiple pages of content on your site, that you want each page to boost your rank. Instead, you are wasting resources creating content that will never be indexed. All of those additional pages of content that have the duplicated meta tag are just sitting there, taking up space and achieving nothing for your SEO.
Pages with the same titles are competing
If you have more than one page on your website with the same meta title or meta description they are actually diluting your efforts to be found, because they are competing with each other. This is confusing to Google. The search engine can’t understand why you would have two pages on your website that about the same thing. So it pushes your rankings down, and will choose only one of the pages to display in the SERPs. Now visitors who might have found useful content on one of your subsequent pages will never find it.
So, Google doesn’t have to penalise you for duplicate descriptions, because you are essentially doing it yourself. It also makes your site look as if it could be spam, and puts Google on the alert for other spam-like behaviour from you.
A word from the experts
According to Mat Cutts of Google, It’s better to leave your meta description blank than to duplicate the same tag all over your site again and again. This includes your meta tags and your meta titles. Even though Meta descriptions don’t traditionally have any SEO value, they are helpful in bringing traffic to your site, and if your descriptions are duplicated the chances are high that you have not put a lot of thought into your descriptions, and they have not been created in a way that wil attract real people to your site when they read them.
If you choose to leave the meta description blank, Google will fill it in with what it perceives to be the most relevant snippets to your visitor’s search terms, and this is far superior to a an un-crafted blurb that doesn’t tell the visitor anything.
How to fix duplicate meta tags
If you have duplicate meta tags on your website and you want to rectify them to improve your rankings, there is still a lot you can do.
You have more than one page on your website (or you wouldn’t have multiple pages to duplicate your tags on in the first place). The chances are that each page on your site is about something different, or you wouldn’t have created it. Take a look at each article or page on your website and determine what makes it unique, what is it about? Why is there? Then write a meta tag for your page that tells the search engines what the page is about. It doesn’t have to be what your whole site is about, just what that page is about. If you have thousands of pages and don’t have time to create a meta tag for each page, rather leave the field blank. But try to ensure that all your main pages (and your future pages) have detailed meta descriptions that describe what they are about. If your pages are delivering duplicate content then perhaps you should look at restructuring your website and removing duplicated content.
Think about your target audience. What content do they want to read? What will be helpful to them? This is what you should be delivering on your website.
If the content is very similar from one page top the next (and it can’t be avoided) make sure that you change the titles (and adjust your URLs, wetting up redirects if necessary) so that they come up with unique meta titles. Then make sure you include the important keywords that make the page unique in your meta tag.
If they are truly too similar to create unique meta tags then you should set all similar pages except for your most important page to noindex so that Google knows which page to reference and does not get confused.
If you are still not sure, Google has more information about duplicate content on their Web Master Help Forum. Or contact an SEO professional to assist you with your query.