Are duplicate meta descriptions on your website a significant SEO risk?

Brian Bojan Dordevic
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If you’re like most website owners, you want to make sure your site is as search-engine-friendly as possible. However, many people get confused when it comes to the importance of meta descriptions. While we assure you that investing efforts into creating unique meta descriptions for each page on your site will prove beneficial for your business – you may still be wondering whether having duplicate meta descriptions across your website is a significant SEO risk.

In this article, experts from our SEO agency in Chicago will share their opinion about duplicate meta descriptions with you and show you best practices when it comes to removing them. You’ll also be able to learn more about the importance of providing users with a brief description of your web pages in social media shares. Lastly, we’ll help you identify potential reasons why Google doesn’t use your descriptions on the SERPs. 

Table of Contents
remove duplicate meta description

What is a meta description?

If you have a website, chances are you’ve come across the term “meta description” before. A meta description is an HTML element that briefly describes the content of a web page that appears in the search engine results, usually within 160 characters. Include this meta tag in the <head> section of your HTML. Here is what it should look like:

<head>

<meta name=”description” content=”write your description here.”>

</head>

Now that we understand what meta descriptions are let’s see why you should use them on your website.

Why Does Your Website Need Meta Descriptions?

Using meta descriptions can help you attract more search engine users to your website and improve the quality of your website traffic. They are meant to give the searcher an idea of what a page is about so they can decide if it’s relevant to their query. A well-written meta description can help you improve your website’s click-through rate (CTR), resulting in more traffic and, potentially, conversions. That makes them an essential aspect of on-page SEO. And as providing a great user experience is crucial for staying relevant in a highly competitive online sphere, you should also need to pay close attention to your website’s text-to-HTML ratio.

Do meta descriptions affect search rankings?

Back in the day, meta tags were an important factor in search engine optimization. Focusing on the implementation of many keywords in meta descriptions and other meta tags was a common practice among SEO experts – which led to the birth of a practice known as “keyword stuffing.” To prevent low-quality content from ranking high in the SERPs, Google updated its algorithms and started penalizing website owners who did such practices.

Today, many website owners wonder whether or not meta descriptions still affect search rankings – and the answer is a little complicated. While meta descriptions are less important than they used to be and might not directly influence your Google rankings, they can highly influence click-through rate, which is an indicator of the overall quality of your search engine optimization.

Also, if your meta descriptions are misleading and don’t go hand-in-hand with content – the bounce rate percentage on your website might grow, sending negative ranking signals to search engines. That’s why, instead of ignoring the quality of your meta descriptions for your web pages, you need to follow best practices when writing them.

Meta descriptions in social shares

Social meta descriptions are the short descriptions that appear beneath the title of your content when it’s shared on social media sites. Just like it’s the case with meta descriptions in the Google search console, meta descriptions in social shares give readers a brief summary of what your content is about, so they can be a powerful tool for driving traffic to your website.

A good social meta description should reflect the content on your page and be written in a way that is appealing to your target audience. While they may seem like a small detail, well-crafted meta descriptions in social shares can significantly impact your click-through rates. But what are the maximum number of characters Facebook and Twitter show when displaying meta descriptions? Let’s check:

  • Facebook: The largest social media site displays up to 300-character-long descriptions of your pages
  • Twitter: With Twitter Card markup, you’ll get 200 characters to work with when providing users with brief descriptions of your web pages

What are duplicate meta descriptions?

Duplicate meta descriptions are a common problem for website owners. That happens when the same meta description is used for more than one page on a website. Duplicate meta descriptions often occur on large e-Commerce websites when owners try to save time by copying the same meta description for multiple product pages instead of investing efforts to write a unique text for each.

Another reason why duplicate meta descriptions and meta titles might occur is that you are not correctly using a WordPress plugin for managing them. For example, if you set a meta description for your homepage using Yoast SEO plugin, it will automatically set it for paginated pages too.

While search engines won’t penalize you for having duplicate meta descriptions, this can be a problem because it can make your website look unorganized. You’ll also miss opportunities to attract more visitors to your web pages by including unique keywords that meet their search queries. And as your pages with the same meta description compete with one another, you’ll reduce the chances of ranking them all high in search engines.

Although duplicate meta descriptions are less harmful to your SEO than duplicate content issues, it is usually worth investing time into writing unique meta tags for each web page.

Why won’t Google use my meta description?

If you’ve been wondering why Google isn’t using your meta description, you’re not alone. In fact, Google rewrites meta descriptions nearly 63% of the time. The search engine giant has been known to ignore meta descriptions and pick a sentence from your copy instead, which can be frustrating for webmasters who want control over how their pages are presented in search results. So without further due, here are potential reasons why the descriptions you had written are not being displayed on the SERPs:

  • Your description is not relevant to search queries
  • Your descriptions are too long or too short
  • The search engine is pulling information from somewhere else
  • Google still hasn’t crawled the updated version of your page
  • Robot meta tag issues are disabling your meta description

Are Unique Meta Descriptions Important?

By writing unique meta descriptions, you can make your site stand out in SERPs and eventually attract more visitors. And by giving potential visitors an idea of what your web pages are about before they even click on them, you can reduce bounce rates which will prove beneficial for your rankings. And keep in mind that having the same meta description on every page tells potential visitors that you haven’t put any thought into your site, which can negatively influence your brand’s credibility.

Here are some tips for improving the quality of your meta descriptions:

The first sentence matters the most

The first sentence is most likely to determine whether or not someone clicks on your link. You have to make sure it’s interesting and relevant to what the users are looking for. 

Include your focus keyword

You need to ensure that your focus keyword is at the front and center of your meta description. By seeing a keyword that they’ve typed in the Google Search Console, potential visitors will know that you might have an answer to their problems. That’s why including the focus keyword in your first sentence will help you get more hits and improve the quality of your traffic.

Limit them to 155-160 characters

While there is no perfect length for meta descriptions, it is generally a good idea to keep them under 160 characters long so they can be fully displayed on the search engine results page.

Use active voice and emphasize the action

Active voice makes your descriptions more engaging and easier to read, which can lead to higher click-through rates. In addition, using active voice can help you communicate your message more clearly and concisely. That is especially important given the limited space you have to work with. So give your best to deeply understand what motivates your potential visitors before writing meta descriptions.

Ensure meta descriptions match your content

Excitingly clicking on a web page link after reading the meta description only to find out that the content doesn’t deliver on the promise is a very frustrating experience. To avoid annoying your visitors, which usually leads to high bounce rates, ensure that your descriptions represent content on your pages as accurately as possible.

Writing unique meta tags for each page can be very resource-consuming if you run a large e-commerce website with countless product pages. Knowing that Google might rewrite your descriptions anyway, it usually doesn’t even pay off. In this case, we recommend focusing on the keywords with the highest search volume and the pages that generate the most traffic. 

How To Remove Duplicate Meta Descriptions

If you identify duplicate meta descriptions on your website during your SEO audit, there is no need to worry. Chances are that these didn’t do much harm to your rankings. However, to help you make your business appear more professional, we have prepared duplicate meta descriptions SEO solutions you can apply:

  • Manually remove duplicate meta descriptions:

This approach can be very time-consuming, as you’ll first have to manually identify all the web pages with the same meta description and then write a unique description for each. We advise against this approach unless you have a team of SEO experts by your side.

  • Remove duplicate meta descriptions by using Yoast SEO plugin:

Instead of a manual approach, we recommend using Yoast SEO plugin to fix this issue on your website. Once you access this plugin through your WordPress dashboard, navigate to Search Appearence>General>Homepage tab. After you write the meta description you want to show on SERPs for your homepage, add the “%%page%%” tag at the end. That will solve the duplicate meta description problem for paginated pages we discussed earlier in this article.

Get in touch with SEO professionals

Are you having trouble achieving high search engine rankings for your website, no matter how much effort you invest? Google is constantly updating its algorithms; it can take a lot of work to keep up with the latest trends in the SEO industry – especially when you have a business to run.

If you are looking for a reliable partner to help you connect with more potential customers through search engines, feel free to get in touch with our digital marketing agency. Alpha Efficiency hires an experienced team of SEO professionals with a proven track record in the most competitive industries. We will craft an advanced SEO strategy completely based on your business goals and put it into action so you can enjoy the benefits of increased online visibility.

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