In the latest Google Webmaster Help Channel video, Cutts confesses his content shortcut, and reveals a secret: Why you may not need unique meta tag descriptions.

Marketers know that in Google’s eyes, organic and original is best. To make sure online publishers aren’t mass producing unhelpful copy and spreading it across the ‘net, Google developed the Panda algorithm that seeks out sites with duplicate web content and punishes them with lower rankings. But how important is it to spend time creating unique captions beyond main-body content for elements like meta tag descriptions, photo titles, etc.? According to Matt Cutts’ recent Webmaster Help Channel video, SEOs are better off leaving metadescriptions blank than populating them with recycled text.

“You can either have the unique meta tag description, or you can choose to have no meta tag description, but I wouldn’t have duplicate meta tag descriptions,” Cutts said.

When it might be OK to skip original meta tags:

– On pages that don’t see much traffic
– Pages that have a shorter shelf life, like daily blog posts

“In general, it may not be worth your time to come up with unique metatag decription for every single page on your site. Like when I blog, I don’t bother to do that,” Cutts explained. “But if there are some pages that really matter … then it might make sense to go in and make sure that you have a unique, hand-crafted, lovingly made meta tag description.”

When it’s not OK to skip unique meta tags:

“But if there are some pages that really matter … then it might make sense to go in and make sure that you have a unique, hand-crafted, lovingly made meta tag description.”

– On homepages
– On pages with a high ROI
– Landing pages featuring most popular products or services

Basically, Cutts suggested that it’s important to create unique and relevant descriptions for the pages that are most important. If brands are looking to rank for certain pages, it makes sense to give internet users (and search crawlers) as much information about what’s behind the link.

The takeaway? Don’t duplicate!

If it’s not worth writing unique descriptions, it may not be worth it to have them at all. With Panda prowling for duplicate content, it seems foolish for marketers to copy and paste generic sentences just for the sake of including them.

Although this might seem to go against widely accepted SEO best practices regarding the importance of meta tag descriptions, it’s very much in line with advice Google has been offering all year: Don’t do SEO just for the sake of SEO.

To learn more about the dos and don’ts of duplicate content, check out these articles:

Lauren Kaye is a Marketing Editor at Brafton Inc. She studied creative and technical writing at Virginia Tech before pursuing the digital frontier and finding content marketing was the best place to put her passions to work. Lauren also writes creative short fiction, hikes in New England and appreciates a good book recommendation.