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Draw More Visitors with Better Meta Descriptions

By | Mar.26.14 | Daily Dispatch, Law Practice, Legal Marketing, Optimize

Optimize Online Marketing for Attorneys

Would you like it if your law firm’s website pages attracted more visitors from search engines? Improving your pages’ meta description tags can help.

Most people agree (and Google has stated) that meta description tags aren’t used as direct search-ranking signals. However, these tags can still have a significant impact on whether searchers click your pages’ listings within search results.

Here’s why. Search engines, like Google, use meta tags to understand all sorts of information about web pages. And one especially important piece of information that search engines may use is a page’s description. Webmasters can communicate that description with the meta description tag:

<meta name=”description” content=”Here is where you would put some descriptive information about your page.”>

In terms of SEO, search engines will often (though not always) use information contained in meta description tags to display snippets in search results. For example, searching my name in Google delivers up:

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Which corresponds to that page’s meta description tag:

<meta name=”description” content=”Let’s have a conversation about SEO, the web, business, law, football, food, or anything you want to talk about.”/>

Now, on to some ways your firm can improve what these tags convey to searchers.

Meta Meta Descriptions: Helpful Hints

Here are a few things to remember when creating meta description tags for your pages.

Uniqueness. When constructing page descriptions, remember that they should be unique. While there may be situations where you choose not to provide a description, most of your pages should contain them — and you should avoid duplicating them from one page to the next. Hopefully, if your site pages are themselves unique, this shouldn’t be an issue.

Unfortunately, if you are creating pages for the sake of ranking, you might run into situations where you have substantially similar pages on your site. Beware: This is likely to create duplication issues that can create problems related to how search engines view and deliver your pages in their results.

Compelling appeal. Perhaps the most important thing to remember when creating a page description is to make it compelling. This is your big opportunity to persuade a searcher to click through to your page from the results list. Think about what you can include in your page descriptions that would motivate search engine users to want to click on your listing. What is their search intent? What are they looking for? What does your page offer that other pages appearing in the search results don’t?

Keywords. Too many lawyers and their web marketers overuse keywords in their meta description tags. Perhaps this stems partly from a misconception that using keywords in meta description tags will help their pages rank better. There is simply no evidence of it being a direct search-ranking factor. That said, in describing your pages, it should be obvious that you’ll include certain keywords naturally. Instead of hyper-focusing on keywords, focus on using the words that will motivate clicks.

Length. There aren’t any really bright-line rules for the number of characters to use in meta description tags. As a general guideline, though, around 150 characters is frequently recommended because excessively long meta descriptions will be truncated by search engines. My advice is to include the most important descriptive items earlier in the meta description tag. Some people also like to include contact information (i.e., phone numbers) in these tags. This makes sense for a main contact page, and perhaps attorney bio pages. However, I wouldn’t recommend doing it on a site-wide basis. You don’t want all of your pages to read like advertisements.

Adding Meta Description Tags

If you use WordPress and Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin, you can configure these tags quickly and efficiently on a page-by-page basis. Just navigate to the WordPress page or post editor and scroll down to the WordPress SEO by Yoast box, then enter your meta description in the Meta Description field.

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Click on Update and your new meta description tag will be added to your page or post.

If you rely on someone else to make updates to your pages and posts, make sure they are familiar with the basic on-page SEO factors.

I also recommend creating a website map for all of your pages. For an existing website, you can use Screaming Frog to crawl your pages and export them into an Excel spreadsheet. This will give you a good overview of your pertinent HTML tags on a page-by-page basis.

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Or, if you’re in the site planning stage, you can build this kind of map by hand. At a minimum, I would include columns for:

  • URL
  • Title
  • Meta Description
  • H1 – H4 tags

This way, you can be sure that you and your website administrator are always on the same page in terms of what HTML should be located on every page on your site. Adding unique and compelling meta description tags is one very simple way you can help those pages stand out in searches and attract more visitors.

Gyi Tsakalakis helps lawyers put their best foot forward online because clients are looking for them there. He is a co-founder of AttorneySync, a digital marketing agency for law firms. You can find more of Gyi’s writings in his “Optimize” column on Attorney at Work, on Lawyerist and on Avvo’s Lawyernomics blog. You can ask him a question (or just say hi) on LinkedInTwitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Illustration ©iStockPhoto.com

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