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2018 Metadata Best Practices For Law Firms

Jun 12, 2018 | by Emma Hanes | Google
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One of the top ways users find websites is through search engine results. Therefore, your law firm’s exact appearance in search results is incredibly important for attracting users. Luckily, webmasters can specify which information - called metadata - can both appear in search engine results and inform search engines about your website content. Not all metadata is created equal, and there are numerous best practices to abide by to get the most out of your metadata. 

What Is Metadata?

On a website, metadata is a set of information (or data) describing what the website and the specific webpage is about. Metadata is used by search engines like Google to help understand digital content and as a short summary to be displayed in search results. Two types of metadata appear in search results. The first is a meta-title, and the second is a meta-description. In the example below, “5 Google Analytics Filters You Should Be Using | Stacey E. Burke” is the meta-title and  “Dec 4, 2017 – There are five Google Analytics filters that need to be put in place to ensure your website data is accurate.” Is the meta-description.

Metadata is incredibly important for the user experience and for search engine optimization. So far, 2018 has seen some pretty big changes in metadata, and law firms who want to stay a step ahead of their competitors need to make sure they are abiding by best practices.

Meta-Descriptions

Webmasters everywhere were delighted when Google increased the meta-description length in early 2018; however, after several months Google decided to revert to shorter meta-descriptions again. For best practices, meta-descriptions should be between 120 and 150 characters in length. You should also be sure to include a short explanation of the webpage, the name of your law firm, and a call to action. You can include rhetorical questions, your phone number or email address, and phrases such as “free consultations” or “over twenty years of experience” to help entice users to click on your webpage in search results.

Meta-Titles

Like meta-descriptions, meta-titles were also given an increased character count earlier in the year, only to later be reduced again. Meta-titles should be between 50 and 60 characters and should contain the page name and your law firm name, provided you can make it fit within the character limit. A good rule of thumb is to make the first part of your meta-title the name of your webpage, followed by a separating character like a dash “ - “ or a bar “ | ” followed by your firm name. It should look something like this:

Bonus – Alt-Text

Alt-text doesn’t appear in search results, but it is an important type of metadata that can help your website rank. When you use multimedia, like photos, graphics, and videos (and you really should use these on all webpages), you can actually fill out numerous different metadata fields. While it can be time consuming to fill out all of the fields, you must at least complete the alt-text field (bonus points for filing out the the title, caption, and description fields). Your alt-text field should be filled out with the phrase you want your page to rank for in Google. Something like “Houston car accident lawyer” or “best estate planning lawyer” will work nicely. The rest of the fields should be filled out with synonyms for the keywords you used in your alt-text. You want to use as many synonyms as possible, as this will help you rank more often and higher in search engine results.

Wait, Why Isn’t My Metadata Showing Up?

Google doesn’t update changes to metadata, even though they are made in real-time, until it discovers them. Google constantly scans the Internet, analyzing pages and updating its database of search results; but it could take some time before Google finds metadata changes. While you can do things to help speed this process along, it can still take up to six months or longer for Google to find and update your metadata in search results.

There’s Actually No Guarantee…

So you’ve updated your metadata, Google has found and accepted your updates, and your metadata still isn’t showing up correctly. Why? Well I’ve got some bad news for you. At the end of the day, Google decides exactly how and what it will show in search results. According to digital marketing industry stalwart Moz, if you keep your meta-title character limit between 50 and 60 characters, you can expect approximately 90% of your titles to display correctly in Google search results. Google might decide to give certain search results more or less characters than the limits I’ve described, and in some instances, Google will completely override your specified metadata and choose its own metadata from your website content.

If you think there’s no point to completing website metadata fields, you’re wrong. Although you can’t control how your metadata will display in all search results, you can control how your metadata will display in most search results. Proper titles and descriptions can greatly increase your click-through rate, which means more traffic for your website.

Getting Help With Your Metadata

Metadata isn’t a “set it and forget it” type of activity. Google and other search engines are constantly evolving and changing, requiring law firms to continually update website metadata. If you don’t have the time or don’t know where to begin, contact the search engine optimization experts at Stacey E. Burke, P.C

Sidebar 1293 180228 staceyburke About Emma Hanes

Emma Hanes has written content for dozens of attorneys and law firms with a variety of different practice areas. Her work has been featured in the Texas Bar Journal, the Top 10 Blog Posts from the Texas Bar Today, and SmallLaw's Pick of the Week.


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