meta descriptions for law firm websitesYou’re most likely familiar with the term SEO, or search engine optimization. You were probably introduced to the concept very shortly after deciding to put a website online to help promote your law practice.

Are you familiar, though, with the term “meta description”? Most people have no idea what a meta description is, even though it’s one of the most important parts of effective search engine optimization. How you use meta descriptions can have dramatic results on the traffic your website receives from search engines.

In short, a meta description is a tag within a web page that is invisible to site visitors, but used by search engines to help describe the page when it appears in search results. It can be up to 155 characters in length. Each individual page on a website can, and should, have its own unique meta description.

The Effect of Meta Descriptions On Search Results

If you look at the results of any search on any of the major search engines, each entry has a specific structure. First, the title of the web page is displayed in a large font. Below the title is the URL of the page. And finally, the URL is followed by two to three lines of text.

Those last few lines of text that you see on each of the search results are the meta descriptions for those pages, if the page authors have specifically written one. If no meta description exists, the search engines will fill in the space with the first few sentences of text they find on the page. As you might imagine, these descriptions have a tremendous effect on whether a user will click any given result.

One Chance To Make A First Impression

The meta description is your first chance — and usually only chance — to make a connection with the user. Anyone running a search is going to quickly scan the page of results and choose where to go based on those descriptions. A good description can mean a windfall of new visitors while a bad description can send potential leads off to visit your competition.

With that in mind, here are some tips for crafting the perfect meta description for each page on your law firm’s website.

Write for Real People

Search engines have made it very clear that the meta description is not a factor that influences placement in search results. Clicks on search results, however, do influence rankings. Results that get more clicks are more likely to be moved up in the results.

This means that you should write your meta descriptions for real people. Your goal is to entice as many people as possible to click on your link without being misleading.

Keep Your Descriptions Accurate

Just as clicks on a a result can move sites up or down within the ranks, bounces have a similar effect. A “bounce” is when someone clicks on a result and then quickly returns to the search page to click on another result.

When search engines see a lot of users bouncing back from a page in their results, this tells them that the page causing the bounces is probably not relevant to the term users are searching for. The result is that the offending page will start to drop down in the search results.

Nothing causes bounces more than inaccurate descriptions in search results. To avoid a high bounce rate, be sure that the descriptions you write for your pages are accurate and truthful.

Make Descriptions Unique

Even though meta descriptions will not help to boost your law firm’s website within search results, your site can be penalized if there are a lot of pages with identical descriptions. Search engines discount duplicate content, even if it’s just in the meta descriptions.

Even though all your pages might have technically unique content, if they all have the same description this is a sign to search engines that your pages are generally the same and perhaps not so deserving of a place in the spotlight. For this reason, each page should have it’s own unique description.

Explain How Your Page Helps

The best meta descriptions tell the user right away how they can benefit from visiting the page. Remember, though, the description is about the individual page, not your firm’s entire web site.

For example, if a person is looking for information regarding statutes of limitations in a certain state, a description saying, “We have the highest win rate of any criminal law firm in the state” is not telling a person why they should click on the result they’re seeing.

Descriptions should be very specific to the content of the page. For the example above, the description should read more like, “A statute of limitations determines how long after the fact a crime can be prosecuted. This chart details the 10 most commonly prosecuted crimes in FL.” This description quickly explains what a statute of limitation is and tells the reader what additional information they will find if they visit the page.

Obviously, with only 155 characters of space available, you have no choice about being clear and getting right to the point.

Take Some Tips from Your Competition

Putting together unique descriptions for many pages at one time can be difficult. It doesn’t take long to run out of words when you have to do more than just a few.

If you’re having trouble coming up with interesting copy, run some searches using keywords from the pages you’re working on and look to the first few results for inspiration. You don’t want to steal or duplicate any descriptions that you see, but they should give you some ideas for different words or phrases you can use. Trying to see from someone else’s perspective is a great way to remove writer’s block.

Overall, writing good meta descriptions is not difficult. If you keep these five tips in mind as you move forward, you really can’t go wrong. Above all, honesty and accuracy are the key ingredients. If your descriptions are accurate and you tell users right away why your page is valuable, you shouldn’t have any problem pulling in plenty of new leads from the search engines.

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