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Matt Cutts Video on Duplicate Meta Descriptions

 1:51 pm on Nov 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

Hi There, I'm hoping someone can help. I have been worried since Matt Cutts released a video this week talking on the negatives of duplicate meta descriptions.

I am the webmaster of a online store where many product pages are duplicated into other categories within the stores infrastructure. I have canocial set up but I am getting warnings of many duplicate meta titles and descriptions. I cannot help that the pages are ion multiple categories and all have same content (this should be fixed by canocial) and duplicate meta tags.

Has anyone else experienced this issue and managed to get this issue solved? or should the canocial remove the duplicate meta issues as well (they are showing in webmaster tools so must me issue to Google)

Any help and guidance is greatly appreciated



 4:02 pm on Nov 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

If the URL structure of your site is set up so that these duplicate product pages are all accessible from different URLs, then I would say the answer to your question in light of Matt's video is yes. The duplicate pages with the rel="canonical" tag should not have a <meta> description tag.

I try to avoid trying to over-interpret Matt's videos. So while I was struck by the fact that Matt didn't really explain why duplicate <meta> tags were bad, I don't think it's helpful to go into too much speculation about how important this would be to your site's rankings. Since he does say you should avoid them and it's an easy fix, I'd just go ahead and follow the advice.


 4:07 pm on Nov 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

If i remove the description tags and leave them empy my ecommerce software or google will simply create their own based around the page content. Ass the pages are the same I assume they will actually create the same/duplicate description themselves. Although it wont be present in the code i suppose. I am worried about removing the meta description tags aghhh


 4:34 pm on Nov 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

The meta descriptions that Google creates aren't static - from what I've seen, they are influenced by the query. So they won't necessarily be duplicated.

Forget what Matt says for a minute and just think about it from a marketing standpoint.

If a particular URL on your site comes up for a query, the meta description tag is the one chance you get for trying to convince the searcher to click on YOUR link as opposed to the other nine on the page (or the ads, or the product listings, or the video, etc etc) So in a perfect world, you really really want it to be unique and killer.

Now, I oversee a fair number of ecommerce sites for clients, and one thing I really try to do is make sure that ONLY the canonical URLs get indexed. (that means a direct URL into the product, without the categories in the URL) You might want to consider that. That limits the amount of duplicate product pages AND duplicate titles and meta descriptions, but still allows me to put products into multiple categories.

If your store can't do that, then take the duplicate meta description tags off, because you probably have a better chance of avoiding a dupe with Google tailoring it to the query.

But overall - duplicate meta description tags are not likely to directly affect your rankings or traffic by themselves, particularly if your search traffic has been fine so far.


 7:13 pm on Nov 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

i would like to roughly paraphrase something netmeg said - if the urls with duplicate meta descriptions are not being indexed then it's not a problem.
i would address that first.
check the index for these urls and do a "fetch as googlebot" in GWT.
check the response googlebot gets and the link rel canonical eventually seen.


 7:25 pm on Nov 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

Thanks phranque; you said it more clearly.

Martin Ice Web

 7:43 pm on Nov 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

@netmeg, so you "noindex" all sites that link to the canonical site?
if so, that would m,ake the canonical tag needless?

My widget pages that have the canoncial tag do not show up in serps. So I guess

canonical == index but do not count

is wrong now?


 8:44 pm on Nov 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

I don't noindex them, but they don't go into the sitemap, and very few of them end up indexed. If I have for example:

is the canonical, but also there exists

example.com/small-widget/blue-widgets.html and


then for the most part ONLY the first one (the canonical) goes into the sitemap, ONLY the first one gets any internal linkage or links from other marketing channels, we may or may not deny them in robots.txt, and nine times out of ten, that's the only one that Google and Bing pick up.

I have to have the developers code this all for me but it was worth it.

Honestly, I don't know what counts now or what doesn't. I just have em do what makes sense to me. To me it's always been as important to keep some stuff out of the search engines as it is to get other stuff into the search engines. Maybe more.


 9:18 pm on Nov 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

Welcome to WebmasterWorld, GemmaTubbrit!

For the record, the link to Matt Cutts video referred to is here:

Is it necessary for every page to have a meta description?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4gr88oHb-k [youtube.com]

@netmeg, a question:
ONLY the first one gets any internal linkage or links from other marketing channels

If you are internally linking only to example.com/blue-widgets.html, how then the other URLs (with additional folder in URL) get created? Or are you perhaps referring to some filters etc that show your blue-widget.html with URL containing folder (so some internal linking exists), but you do not use such URLs when linking within the content?


 9:43 pm on Nov 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

Well yea - there are links that are created by the shopping cart system that include the category in the url, but any manual linking is done directly to the canonical, and in fact the main navigation and breadcrumbs all go to the canonicals too.

Martin Ice Web

 10:50 pm on Nov 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

@netmeg, yes as aak says, google will pick up pages even if they are not in sitemap but by internal linking.
So when i put on the canonical tag to my detail widget pages, google did very fast dropped from the index. So far as i understand it, if u put the canonical tag, u donīt have to worry about dc in description tag?!
I watch my big brands competitors very close and they have all the same desc tag for filter pages/ detail pages but put the canonical tag on it. They donīt "noindex" them though.


 12:03 am on Nov 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

So far as i understand it, if u put the canonical tag, u donīt have to worry about dc in description tag?!

This is my understanding too. (Canonical link element is kind of a poor brother of 301 redirect.) When I originally implemented the canonical on pages that I could not redirect (some years back), duplicate titles and meta descriptions dropped from the WMT report.


 12:59 am on Nov 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

The meta descriptions that Google creates aren't static

When you say "meta description" do you mean "description"? To me, "meta description" means the specific element of your html that begins
<meta name = "description" content =
et cetera. That's what gwt is talking about when it complains about duplicate meta descriptions. It would be pretty nervy of a search engine to say you've got duplicate descriptions when the descriptions were created by the search engine itself.

Unless your name is webmasterworld dot com, you can't expect changes-- such as adding "canonical" tags-- to bring instant reactions. You have to wait a while for the re-crawl, and then wait a further while for re-indexing.


 1:24 pm on Nov 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

Yes, you're correct lucy24; descriptions. I used the meta because that was the original language of the post.

So far as i understand it, if u put the canonical tag, u donīt have to worry about dc in description tag?!

In theory, but remember - the canonical tag is a suggestion, not a guarantee. I prefer to control what I can.


 5:26 pm on Nov 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

welcome to WebmasterWorld, GemmaTubbrit!


 6:22 pm on Nov 21, 2013 (gmt 0)

@netmeg, yes as aak says, google will pick up pages even if they are not in sitemap but by internal linking.

Pick a canonical (preferred) URL for each of your product pages, and tell us about your preference by submitting these canonical URLs in a Sitemap.

We don't guarantee that we'll use the URLs you submit in a Sitemap, but submitting one is a useful way to tell Google about the pages on your site you consider most important.


Including the canonical URL in an xml sitemap while not including the others give Google an indication of the canonical they seem to be fairly good at picking up on -- Another reference to using sitemaps rather than assigning a canonical URL is in the video here: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/139394


 9:20 am on Nov 22, 2013 (gmt 0)

Thanks for all your advice, I will be speaking to my website technical team to try and possibly get the non canocial product pages removed from google index and the sitemap. I will let you know the outcome.

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