Writing compelling copy for your website is essential to converting users to clients. That compelling copy not only includes what appears on your website’s pages. It also includes the content behind the scenes: metadata.
Metadata is data about data. For example, your Word document has metadata that lists the author, the date the document was last updated, and the size of the file. Website metadata relates to data about your web page and helps search engines figure out the content and purpose of your web page.
Website metadata encompasses three distinct items:
- Title tag. This is the overarching title of the page, from a search engine’s perspective.
- Meta description. This is a summary about, or enticing tidbit of information from, the page itself.
- Meta keyword. This is the term you prioritize above all others for this page.
Why Website Metadata Matters
When a user searches for legal services online, the first content they come across exists on search engine results pages. The content that appears in the results listings is your website’s metadata—more specifically, your title tag and meta description.
Your website’s metadata is the first piece of content that your prospective clients read about you. Make a good first impression!
Your website’s metadata also plays a role in how search engines index your website. There is no definitive answer as to how much weight Google, Bing, and other search engines place on your title tags and descriptions, but it is clear that they carry weight.
How to Write an SEO-Friendly Title Tag
Title tags are a key place to input your main keyword for each page. Incorporating your main keyword or key phrase here shows search engines that your title tag and the corresponding page content correlate to one another.
It is also a good idea to include your firm name or an attorney name from a branding standpoint.
Additionally, for local search purposes, consider including a geographic term (city, county or state) that helps users immediately identify where you are.
Remember to keep your title tag short. It should be no more than 78 characters for mobile search, and no more than 70 characters for desktop search. Character length can shorten further, however, as search engines use pixel length, not actual character count; some characters (e.g., “o”) take up more space than others (e.g. “i”).
Finally, write a unique title tag for every page on your website. Duplication, no matter how much, can negatively affect your indexing and rankings.
4 Tips for Writing Compelling Meta Descriptions
- Write a unique description for every page on your website. This is the only real SEO rule when it comes to meta descriptions. Everything else falls under basic marketing rules.
- Keep your meta descriptions short. If your description runs over a certain number of characters, search engines will truncate the content or cut off the end of your message. For instance, while recent Google updates leave room for up to 200 characters, Google is still truncating many descriptions after about 160 characters.
- Focus on clickability. Tell users what they can expect to see when they visit that particular page, give them an insight into your personality, or wow them with a particularly impressive service-related item. Your goal is to entice users to click on the link to visit your site.
- Always include your phone number. You should always include your phone number in your meta descriptions. You never know when a user may feel compelled to reach out to you after seeing your listing a search results page. You gain a significant advantage by not making a user dig for your contact information, especially in situations where a user is performing their search due to an immediate or dire legal need.
Interestingly, Google has no problem rewriting meta descriptions that they feel are irrelevant or not descriptive enough. Your takeaway: Do not spend too much time worrying about exact wording.
Ignore Meta Keywords
Gone are the days of inserting many terms into the keyword field for each page on your website. Search engines no longer use that field to rank your website content. Instead, they look at the page content, the title tag, and numerous other factors in determining how to rank you for certain terms.
Certain SEO plugins score your content based on the term you place in the keyword field. With that score come recommendations for improved optimization, such as incorporating the keyword into a sub-header or the title tag.
The problem with this grading system is that the SEO plugins can only see where you use a term verbatim. It does not take into account alternatives or derivatives, both of which are essential for a properly written SEO content page.
My alternative to using the keyword field is to create a spreadsheet where I can keep track of keywords for each page, as well as derivatives and related long-tail keyword options.
The Best SEO Plugins for WordPress
Many law firms run their websites through the user-friendly WordPress platform. But many firms are unaware of the necessity to install an SEO-focused plugin to manage their metadata. If your firm falls into this camp, you can easily remedy the situation by installing a free third-party plugin on your site. Here are my top recommendations for SEO plugins:
To add one of these SEO plugins to your website, log in to your WordPress dashboard. You will see Plugins in the list in the left-hand column. Hover over Plugins and choose Add New.
From there, you can use the Search plugins field in the upper-right portion of your screen to find one of the plugins listed above (or any other SEO plugin of your choice—there are many.) You will need to click Activate under the plugin after you have installed the plugin to have it accessible on every page.
Using Yoast SEO
I use Yoast SEO to manage my website’s metadata. I’m going to walk you through updating that data through the Yoast SEO plugin.
To access the metadata for any given page, navigate to that page within WordPress. Scroll down the page, past the visual editor and page settings. There you will find the Yoast SEO plugin.
To edit the title tag and meta description, click on the Edit snippet button.
Click in the SEO title field to remove the automated title generator and type in your uniquely created title tag. Do the same in the Meta description field.
You’ll notice that the plugin has a tracking bar underneath the title and description fields. This bar helps you to keep your metadata within the recommended character counts. As you type, the bar shifts from orange to green, and then to red if you go over the recommended count. When you are done filling in these two fields, click on the Close snippet editor button.
Website Metadata Matters
Your website metadata offers you a great opportunity to compel users to either visit your site or call you directly from the search engine results page. For this reason, take great care to create unique title tags and meta descriptions for every page on your website.
To keep track of your metadata keywords, download our Small Law Firm SEO Planning Worksheet.