Onsite SEO for Lawyers: Meta Descriptions Best Practices for Attorneys
Chris Dreyer | August 04, 2016
What are meta descriptions?
Meta descriptions are brief snippets of text that describe what a web page is about. They are not seen on the page but they are seen by software programs like search bots and crawlers. Meta descriptions are used to give users more information about a page in a summarized form before they click on a link.
Meta descriptions began as a core part of optimizing a web page for SEO1. While still important for search, they do not carry the weight they once did. Below is an example of how meta descriptions are used in a search results page as well as on a social media website.
Meta Description Best Practices
Well-written and thoughtful meta descriptions can have a positive impact on search results. Compelling meta descriptions can increase click through rates on search snippets. The following best practices should be followed for meta descriptions:
- Not every practice area and legal service page needs to have a unique meta description (housekeeping pages like terms of service or sitemap pages do not need to have one)
- Meta descriptions should be written as “sales pitches” for the page2. They should make people want to click
- The target keyword for the page should be found in the meta description and toward the beginning of the description itself
- Meta descriptions length should be no longer than 150 characters
- Avoid making duplicate meta descriptions
- Don’t use quotes in meta descriptions (Google does this when truncating meta descriptions)
Meta descriptions are not a ranking factor in Google’s algorithm meaning they aren’t factored in when Google decides which search result is most relevant to a query. The true importance of meta descriptions comes into play when users are reading them in search results pages.
People scan search pages looking for the query they used. They are scanning page titles and meta descriptions until they see the phrase. They tend to read descriptions breifely until they find a page that looks relevant to what they are looking for.
Searcher Intent and Meta Descriptions
When writing meta descriptions3, attorneys should avoid doing it for search engines. Keep real users in mind when crafting these snippets of text. Think of the target audience and what they would be looking for as it relates to a particular practice area.
For instance if someone is searching for “dog bite lawyer” and are looking for a personal injury lawyer that can handle dog bite cases. The meta description should reflect that a lawyer is active in that particular practice area and that they are competent and can provide legal services for those types of cases.
Avoid generalities that apply to the firm as a whole. The meta description should reflect whatever the page is meant to rank for and should give someone looking for that information a reason to click.
Crafting meta descriptions in WordPress is super easy. By default WordPress does not have functionality for adding page titles or meta descriptions but there are lots of great plugins that can do it. Here are two of the leading plugins for WordPress:
Once installed, meta descriptions can be written during the post/page editing or creation process. The plugins give lawyers a text box below the post to insert their title and meta description. There are also character counters that show you how close you are to exceeding the recommended limit for meta descriptions.