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Basically, for pages that may not have a description or tags set, is it better to have

<meta name="description" content="" />
<meta name="keywords" content="" />

or just skip the tags altogether for those pages that don't have the information set?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

FYI, meta tags have no effects on rankings so no meta tags is the same as empty meta tags is the same as full meta tags.

Having said that, empty meta tags are the same as no meta tags. Either way you are not providing search engines or any other crawler any information normally provided in those tags. If I had to choose one or the other I would simply omit them as it means a (slightly) smaller file size and less parsing for crawlers.

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John, reading your answer and Stephen's, I was a bit surprised and decided to google an specific page in one of my sites. I specifically searched for 3 keywords in the description tag and one in the title. The search result displayed the title of the page with the description tag underneath it, and not part of the text in that page. So my question is how is it that no meta tags is the same as full meta tags, and how is it that it offers no value? – riseagainst Sep 19 '13 at 19:19
Google has clearly stated that meta tags don't affect rankings. What I didn't say was that they don't use them. The keywords tag is almost certainly unused, but the description tag is known to be used for display snippets in the search results. That's why I didn't say they weren't used. I only said they don't affect your rankings. – John Conde Sep 19 '13 at 19:21
Ok thanks. So, even if they don't affect rankings, they might help you on search results right? As in the test I just did, it is still worth to have them, correct? – riseagainst Sep 19 '13 at 19:24
It will give you some possible control over how your pages appear in the search results. It just won't be factor in determining where those pages rank. So if you have good copy in your meta description tag you may see a higher click thru in the search results. – John Conde Sep 19 '13 at 19:25
ya im aware of their irrelevance these days but im required to include them on some pages for the project im working on, but its a dynamically generated site that bases off a template, so either I write a conditional for the whole tag to show up or just inject content into the tags, being blank when blank. I just dont know if having blank content attribute values actually hinders anything in anyway (you know how google is, they find ONE thing they dont like and they blacklist ya lol) – RedactedProfile Sep 19 '13 at 20:37

There is no benefit to having an empty meta description or meta keywords. They take up a few bytes in the page source. You might as well leave them out.

On the flip side, it shouldn't really hurt when those fields are empty compared to not having them. If you CMS requires that they are there and you don't want to write content for them, it would be OK to leave them empty. Especially the meta keywords, they are not used at all by Google anymore. Writing a good meta description is generally a good idea because it often gets shown as the snippet in the search results. Writing a good meta description can help pull in users that see your listing.

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