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Search Engine Journal comments on a video by Matt Cutts wherein he recommends three things specifically about metatag descriptions:

  • Write unique metatag descriptions for “pages that really matter”
  • Let Google auto-generate metatag descriptions for other pages
  • Absolutely DO NOT allow duplicate metatag descriptions for any of the pages on your website

This advice coincides perfectly with our own experience. We prefer metatag descriptions for most pages, but there are definitely times when you should let Google generate metatag descriptions.

For instance, when you have several web pages that are close to the same but not quite – an example would be an online dictionary of niche terms organized by alphabet where each letter of the alphabet has a separate page – then you might not want to write a metatag description. The last thing you want is 26 metatag descriptions that read something like

Glossary of terms for _____________, letter A.

where the only difference is the actual letter. In this case, you’d essentially have 26 duplicate metatag descriptions with one small variation. Even if you rewrite this description, there are only so many ways to say the same thing. Your best bet is to let Google generate the search snippet based on the user’s query.

When it comes to long web pages with a lot of information on them, especially web pages where you might have several subheadings, you want to write your own metatag description.

Still, even if you write your own metatag description, there is a good chance that Google will replace it with a search snippet customized to a searcher’s query. There’s nothing wrong with that so don’t be alarmed if you see it. But if you are targeting your long-copy web page toward one or two keywords or phrases, then you can write a metatag description that targets those words or phrases. That can benefit you.

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