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Will Google penalize for this? Would it be better if I design the CMS so that it simply omits the "Meta Description" and "Meta Keywords" tags all together until they are entered by the store owner?
While this probably does not affect your listing, it can seriously affect the appearance of your listing.
Your pages may (depending on search terms) appear as:
The Best Wesite In The Whole Wide World
<table cellpadding="1" border="0" width="97%" height="95"><tr><td bgcolor="#990
Worse, if all your pages have no - or identical - meta descs, most may appear as supplementary listings - or not appear at all.
The more specialized the search term, the less likely the problems - so search for domain.com, and all might appear OK; search for 'standard widgets', and you may experience a disaster.
[edited by: Quadrille at 5:48 pm (utc) on Aug. 29, 2006]
I was under that same impression until I came across the following post from Taiwan_Tim from the thread [webmasterworld.com...] and I changed my mind:
"Taiwan_Tim - 3:26 pm on Dec. 31, 2005 (utc 0)
I just noticed this thread---let me see if I can rekindle the discussion.
Two important keyword phrases for my industry are of the form:
many door widget
many door gadget
The two phrases refer to exactly the same type of product.
About 4 years ago we decided to use "many door widget" exclusively. We've been ranked No. 1 on Google for "many door widget" ever since. However, this left us out in the cold with "many door gadget." Our main competitor uses "many door gadget."
The new marketing manager at my company recently modified the homepage description and keyword metatags to include "many door gadget" (in both tags), but the phrase appears nowhere else on the homepage (not even in the browser page title).
We are now ranked No. 5 or 6 on page 1 of Google for "many door gadget" (95% of our search engine clicks come from Google).
Is it possible that Google has recognized the synonymity of the two phrases, saw from our description and keyword tags that we wanted to be ranked for this phrase, and then rewarded us accordingly?
I'm tempted (but reluctant) to remove "many door gadget" from the keyword tag to see if it's JUST the description tag that's giving us such a high ranking.
I've had to eat some crow since in the past I told my boss (i.e., the marketing manager) several times that the description and keyword tags were not considered any more in keyword ranking algorithms. Forthunately, she was gracious enough to accept my apologies."
I agree with the points made about descs - I have no doubt at all, from personal experience as well as many 'second hand' reports, that identical or missing descs can contribute to supplementary listings, and pages being dropped.
While I've really no knowledge of placing an empty meta desc, my guess would be that Google would - at best - treat it as 'identical descs', and at worst, it could conceivably prevent effective spidering (unlikely, but possible).
As you may be aware, Quadrille's Oft-Quoted 12th Law states "If you use Meta Tags, then use them correctly - failure to do this may lead to duplicate page problems, ugly SE listings and conceivably, pages not being listed at all"
Looks like the meta keywords issues has the jury out again- it would be good to hear more views on that - and maybe some experiments. But don't risk a money-earning domain!
Google might pick those up and place them in the description. If your site is template based, that means every page could index like that.
Also, remember google is not the only search engine, a lot of search engines still use keywords. I would venture to say that google still uses the tag somewhat as well.
Furthermore, I should use Meta tags since if I don't Google may do the work of forming a suiting text string based on what it sees on my page and it may or may not be what I would ideally want to have.
Thanks alot for you help guys!
Take the time and build the page right the first time. Its worth it doing it that way. That way there will be no issue down the road for you.
In the beginning of SEO and sound web design, meta description and keyword tags were essential. When spammers rendered these tags useless, search engines discounted these tags and looked to link structure (mostly backlinks) to categorize, index, and rank pages.
Most recently, search engines - Google and Yahoo's most recent update - have discounted incoming links that appear spammy, and most important to this thread and your question, have looked at the meta description to index - or not index and send to supplemental - pages.
I'm not suggesting that the meta description tag is a key component in rankings, however I am suggesting that the tag is important to indexing and categorizing a site's pages. We know for fact that duplicate descriptions will send those pages supplemental. My hunch is that empty tags will probably send those pages packing as well.
Lastly, from a ranking standpoint, internal factors are becoming more and more important as search evolves. Going back to the basics, a good page title, good meta description, h1 tags, solid internal linking, and unique content are king.
My 2 cents, unique meta descriptions are an absolute must.
Remember though, 154 characters is all you get before it is truncated with an elipsis
However, if you don't know how Google builds snippets, I'd say you're rolling the dice by pulling your META description tags. Google will not always magically find the right snippet to display in the SERPs. Just adding/subtracting one DIV can make Google index the wrong text. It's one area where you'd be better off not overestimating them.
[edited by: Halfdeck at 5:02 pm (utc) on Sep. 1, 2006]