As designed Google Webmaster Tools "Duplicate Meta Description" Issue


Well-known member
I'm hesitant to report this as a "bug", but there might be some better way for XenForo to handle this, so I'll leave it here. Moderators, please move if you disagree. Anyways...

I have a very large forum (just hit 10 million posts), and have noticed some SEO issues recently. While reviewing my site in Google Webmaster Tools, I found it was complaining about 5,600 pages with "duplicate meta descriptions". Here's a sample of the full report:

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 8.35.15 PM.png

I realized there are two reasons a page would be flagged here: either the same thread has been renamed, which changes the URL (and for whatever reason, Google is ignoring the redirect), OR multiple threads have the first post which contain the exact same content.

Of course, I'm not quite sure what an alternative method would look like, how exactly this could be "fixed", or just how much of a concern "duplicate meta descriptions" actually are (there appears to be some healthy debate about this among SEO experts). Regardless, I wanted to bring it up.


XenForo developer
Staff member
A lot of the examples here do seem to relate to renamed threads. We send 301s so there's nothing we can really do about that case anyway. I suspect Google is picking this up from "inconsistent" snapshots.

In terms of the threads with identical content, I don't think there's really a useful change to make. If you consider the description to be something that's supposed to be useful for a human, the first post's content is really the logical place to pull from. Changes to make differentiations are going to simply end up repeating something like the title or just doing something that pushes the actual page content back. In terms of Google, it really only shows the description when it doesn't have more relevant stuff on the page to show you.

Further, I assume that the duplicate meta description page is like many of the other pages in webmaster tools: they're informational to make sure you're aware of what's happening so you can be made aware of mistakes.

As such, I don't think think an explicit change is needed here.