Meta descriptions are the small block of text you see in the SERPs just below the URL. They allow you to write 1-2 small descriptive sentences informing the visitor as to the page they are about to visit.
If you have a large e-commerce website with hundreds of products and decide to automatically generate your own meta descriptions – this will cause a flurry of duplicate meta descriptions which is not ideal.
With this, you may be asking yourself “Why should I avoid duplicate meta descriptions?” That is what we will explain below.
What Are Duplicate Meta Descriptions?
As mentioned above, this tends to happen as a time-saving tool to publish all of the required pages on your website.
By doing this, however, you are sacrificing the amazing opportunity that meta descriptions allow.
Why Should I Avoid Duplicate Meta Descriptions?
Meta descriptions provide you with the opportunity to sell your wide array of pages, products or services with 1-2 descriptive sentences. Not to mention, informing search engines of what each of your pages represents.
Meta descriptions also allow you to implement one or even two keywords that you wish your products/services to rank for.
You might think that having a large number of duplicate meta descriptions may penalise you and see your rankings drop? They will have an effect on your rankings, but not through being penalised.
Simply put, if your website has various pages with the same meta descriptions – you should not expect to have one key service or product to outrank another as they have the same meta description.
How To Find Duplicate Meta Descriptions?
The tool that we suggest using is Screaming Frog. Screaming Frog is a fantastic website auditing tool that allows you to get a full grasp of a website’s condition.
Regarding finding duplicate meta descriptions, it is also really straightforward. Once you have run your website through Screaming Frog, find the ‘Meta Description’ tab on the top left hand side. after you have clicked it, you will see an overview of your meta descriptions appear.
Underneath ‘All’ and ‘Missing’ – you will find ‘Duplicate’. If you are showing as 0 duplicate meta descriptions, then there is nothing to worry about.
However, if you do have pages, Screaming Frog will identify them for you so you can go into the pages and address them.
Why Do Meta Descriptions Matter?
One of the main goals for SEO is to have a decent click-through rate. If you are unsure as to what is meant by click-through rate: Click-through rate essentially measures the total number of people who have clicked on a link against the total number of those who have seen the link and decided to not click on it.
Your page title will always be the first thing that organic traffic will see before they decide to enter one of your pages.
Meta descriptions will ultimately be the second and in some cases can be the deciding factor as to whether a visitor will click-through.
Regardless of what page you are writing your main goal is to make sure that the meta description has a clear understanding regarding what the page represents, as well as being quite informative.
With that being said, it is important to understand the difference between informative and unprofessional.
For example, if you are solicitors – you want to make sure that your meta descriptions don’t come across as informative as potential visitors will be likely to look elsewhere.
If you have an eCommerce website, however, it may be wise to get an understanding of your target demographic and tailor your copy to that demographic. That way you are writing in a style that speaks to your audience.
Things To Consider With Meta Descriptions?
When it comes to writing a meta description, often you may find that the first sentence needs the most work. Usually, the first sentence serves as an introduction to the page, giving visitors an insight into what they are about to visit.
The second sentence usually allows you to implement a keyword that invites the user to actually click through. If your description doesn’t completely represent what your page is about, this can often cause traffic to leave which will boost your bounce rate percentage and ultimately harm your overall rankings.
It is also important to know that Google may not always use the meta description that you have set. For instance, you might have the best meta description in the world for a particular product or service and find that Google has either taken a snippet of your text on the page or they might choose a subheading. They could even take the first few lines of the text.
To write a meta description, you usually have 155-160 characters to work with. So it is important that when you are addressing your duplicate meta description issue – you write a compelling description with your keyword(s) in there while also not exceeding the character limit.
Exceeding the limit will mean that the descriptions will start to truncate. Truncation will not penalise you, this is fairly common to see as truncation can happen at fairly different lengths, but it is important to keep an eye on it.
A Summary Of Should I Avoid Duplicate Meta Descriptions
Having duplicate meta descriptions might be incredibly harmful to your SEO. Although your pages won’t be penalised, you shouldn’t expect a particular page to rank better than another as they both have the same meta description.
As you are eliminating your duplicate meta descriptions by writing your own meta descriptions, you should make sure that they are written in a way that speaks to your audience whilst also injecting your main keyword(s) into the sentences.
Liam is the founder of Liverpool based SEO agency Quirky Digital. He has been ranking websites at the top of Google since 2014 and has a particular focus on link building in competitive niches while taking eCommerce brands to the next level.