SEO Tips for Lawyers | Mastering title tags for better website traffic and conversions
It's time to take care of your law firm website's meta tags, starting with the all important SEO titles
“Part One” of an upcoming series of “SEO Tips for Lawyers” featuring the importance of meta tags.
Act on this simple SEO tip to improve your law firm's search marketing (SEM) results.
It's easy to do with a small amount of effort.
This is cornerstone search engine optimisation (SEO), designed to:
- better your web page rankings in Google search results; and
- enhance click-through rates for more traffic and quality leads.
That means, more qualified leads and prospective clients landing on your law firm website.
Though it may sound technical, like a lot of SEO, it's actually quite simple.
Read on to find out how to make it happen.
Let’s get started by clarifying what meta tags are and why they matter to your law firm’s online marketing efforts.
Meta tags explained, simply
Meta tags are snippets of text that describe a web page’s content. They help tell search engines what the page is about. The “meta” stands for “metadata” (data about the content on your page).
As a visitor to a web page, you won’t see the meta data. They’re hidden in the page’s source code.
Here’s an example of what a meta description tag looks like:
<meta name="description" content="Leading superannuation and insurance law firm specialising in all super and insurance matters; TPD, income protection, death, terminal illness claims, financial advice disputes." />
This code sits in the head section of the page's source code, right at the top of the page. It begins with the opening code <head> and closes with </head>. The meta elements contained within are some of the first things (amongst many), that search engines "read" when scanning a web page.
Take this law firm's homepage, for example:
This is what the first few lines of its source code look like.
For this homepage, the head section is 131 lines of code. It includes many different meta tags.
Quick Tip: View your own page's source code, right-click anywhere on the page. Select “View Page Source Code”.
Meta tags are one of the most basic elements of SEO
To rank well in organic search, where the bulk of online business begins, pay close attention to meta tags. There are many types of meta tags which web developers can use to enhance your web page's performance.
Some meta tags are very important. These include title tags, meta descriptions, alt tags and canonical links. Others are of relative importance to your unique SEO needs, like no index and no follow tags. And there are others that have lost a lot of their relevancy. This is the case of the once central keywords tag.
The choice of meta tags for your web pages, beyond the essentials, depends on your unique SEO strategy.
Today, the focus is on the title tag as one of the most valuable meta tags for SEO. The title tag, when optimised, can have a direct impact on how your page ranks and converts.
So let's look at what title tags do in a real world organic search scenario.
How potential clients for your legal services can land on your website
Imagine an ideal client. Let’s call her Patricia.
Patricia had a car accident last week. She’s suffering from injuries and a good friend has suggested she talk to a lawyer about compensation.
Now, legal representation is a mystery to Patricia, so her first port of call is Google.
“93% of all online experiences begin with a search engine”(Nine Stats)
(Good reason to take advantage of the SEO benefits of blogging to your law firm’s online marketing strategy!)
In the search box, she types “car accident lawyer”. She doesn’t type Adelaide, where she lives. She doesn’t need to because Google will take care of serving up results that are geo-located to her local area.
And with this, Google's algorithm will show a list of relevant results.
Patricia’s in a hurry, so she’s only going to look at the first page of the search engine results page (SERPs). And because she’s just researching at this point, she’s not interested in ads. Instead, she scrolls past them and focuses on the first organic results.
This is what she sees:
One of the data sources Google uses to deliver these links and snippets is the SEO elements encoded on each of the destination pages (elements you have inserted). Particularly relevant are the title tags (framed red) and meta descriptions (framed blue).
Now, imagine Patricia is in a hurry, looking for an immediate alignment with her query. Of course, we can’t presume to know how Patricia’s brain will process the information. But let’s assume, in scanning the results she wants instant clarity. Let’s say her eye catches the first result.
When we look at the title link it is an exact match for the page’s actual title tag. The summary text too, matches almost exactly with the page’s meta description.
Motor Vehicle Accident lawyers | Personal Injury Specialists
Motor vehicle accident compensation lawyers for South Australia. Our lawyers specialise so you ll get a solicitor highly experienced in MVA claims.
It’s easy to read. She sees the words “lawyer” and “injury compensation”, which is what she needs. It’s a South Australian law firm. And she feels good to read “you’ll get a highly experienced solicitor”. It looks professional. It feels authoritative.
The snippet matches Patricia’s search intent.
It's what she’s looking for.
And that click is marketing gold for your law firm. It’s a hot prospect landing on your web page in search of legal representation. And the SEO elements on the destination page are a significant reason that has happened.
So let’s dive in and look more closely at how this works, looking specifically today at the title tag's role.
The SEO marketing power of title tags explained
Like all meta tags, the title tag is a code placed in the head section of your web pages source code. The code looks like this:
<title>Motor Vehicle Accident lawyers | Personal Injury Specialists</title>
For optimal performance, every page on your site should have an optimised title tag (and meta description).
This code gets “read” by search engines. The data is used to help inform the link, title and snippet included in a SERP, like in the examples above.
How to add a title tag to your law firm’s web pages
To add a title tag, you can code it directly into the page’s source code. This does, however, require coding knowledge and can be a fiddly process. But there’s an easier way to do it.
Most modern websites should include SEO software that allows you to easily add the essential meta tags as you publish or edit pages. That’s certainly the case with Social Hive’s optimised websites for law firms.
This is how easy it is in the backend of a Social Hive website.
All you need to do when publishing a page of content is add your title tag in the SEO field provided, update and it’s done!
The value impact of title tags for ranking and click-through-rate
The title tag of a web page must be an accurate and concise description of a page's content. It’s a major factor helping search engines understand what your page is about.
In search results, the title is often the first impression people have of your page and firm. And when done correctly, title tags can directly influence the ranking of your page.
“well-written optimized titles and higher rankings still do go hand in hand”
(Search Engine Journal)
Like the visible title on the web page (the H1 headline), the title tag’s job is to attract attention. It has to communicate an immediate value to the reader. It should compel them to click on the link. Or, if they need more convincing, it should draw them to the descriptive snippet.
In that first instance, they'll size-up your authority, professionalism and value. It's important not to miss that opportunity to convince and convert.
A title link in a search result is always a branding opportunity, too. A poorly written, confusing one looks unprofessional.
Where title tags can appear online
Title tags are used in three key places affecting your online marketing efforts:
1. Search engine result pages
Your title tag determines (with exceptions) your display title in SERPs.
Even if your site ranks well, a good title can be the make-or-break factor in determining whether or not someone notices it and clicks on your link.
2. Web browsers
Your title tag is also displayed at the top of your web browser.
This acts as a placeholder, especially for people who have many browser tabs open. Unique and easily recognisable titles with important keywords near the front help ensure that people don't lose track of your content.
3. Social networks
Some external websites use your title tag to determine what to display when you share that page. This is the case with social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. It's also the case with sites like Reddit and RSS feeds.
Such is the case with this post via Twitter:
In this instance, the title tag of the destination page is an exact match for the post's title which is truncated near the end.
Original title tag:
Financial services industry overdue to deliver reform on codes of conduct | Maurice Blackburn Lawyers
Of course, some like Facebook advertising options, have their own meta tag functions. This lets people set unique titles and descriptions to the context of the social media posting. But if they’re not used, the original page’s meta tags will automatically appear.
And beyond these three locations, you can also see title tags influencing how page content is rendered on SERPs. As Google's search offering becomes ever more complex, new results are appearing all the time.
Take a look at this SERP for the keyphrase search, “drunk driving charge need a lawyer”.
Here you can see a number of different results including, a "Featured Snippet" and "Question & Answers".
How to optimise your title tags for SEO and better search user experience
As we’ve seen, title tags are an important part of search engine optimisation. They're critical to the user experience, too. If they’re clear and concise, they’re easy to spot. They can quickly channel attention to the main points of value.
And that’s essential when capturing the attention of an overwhelmed searcher. In a few seconds, your ideal client has 10+ organic search results thrown in their face. Not to mention the paid ads and other elements screaming out for attention on any given SERP.
Spending time optimising title tags then, is a high-impact SEO strategy.
Here are some ways to write good title tags:
Optimal title length
There is, in fact, no hard-and-fast answer to the question, “How long should my title tags be?”
As a general rule, you can be sure a title tag of 50 to 60 characters in length will display most, if not 100% of its words. But not always.
What is, in fact, more relevant than character length is pixel width. Google's maximum width is currently 600 pixels. This can and often does change from time to time. The width can also vary between different search engines (e.g. Google, Bing, Yahoo).
This is relevant because not all characters take up the same amount of pixel space. A “w”, for example, uses more space than an “i” or “n”. ALL CAPS, too, take up a lot of space. They’re not advisable for your meta tags for this reason (plus the fact they’re very hard to read online).
The net result of a title tag that's too long for the allowed space is a truncated title. If Google truncates your title it will add an ellipsis (“…”).
A truncated title can look messy. It may chop off vital information you intended searches to see. So make sure you front-end load the most valuable information.
Longer titles might work better for social sharing or blog style pages. This is the case if you’re targeting long tail keyword phrases.
Things also get “complicated” when factoring the different devices people might be using. There’s a difference in displays between desktops and mobile devices.
Take a look at this desktop search for the keyword search "car accident lawyer" in Adelaide.
Then look at the same search on two types of mobile phone.
See the difference!
Optimal format for title tags
Like the previous point, there’s no hard-and-fast rule here, either.
Having said that, making it clear and concise means it should be structured with the end user fully in mind. There are formats that work well time-and-again. For example, Moz, a respected SEO authority, suggests a formula like this:
Primary Keyword - Secondary Keyword | Brand Name
You can see this functioning here:
The destination page for this example has exactly the same wording in its title tag:
Car Accident Lawyers Brisbane | No Win No Fee | Carter Capner Law
This works well in this example. But there is a risk that your title tag will fail to stand out. Many law firms use this format and this often leads to SERPs with indistinguishable titles.
In the following example, all organic results use essentially the same formula.
There's no title that stands out with a quick scan. This puts all weight on the meta description to do the "heavy-lifting" of getting the click.
So think about how it will appear sitting on the page with your competitors' results.
Do a quick search of your targeted keyword to see how your competitors’ snippets appear. Then consider modifying your title tag to include a unique value proposition. Work it so it stands apart from the crowd.
Another SEO authority, Yoast, uses a long-tail model which gives this type of outcome. Take a look at this example:
Here the destination page's title tag reads:
I tripped and fell on a footpath. Can I make a claim? - Andersons Solicitors, Adelaide Lawyers
It has been truncated slightly but renders well in in the SERP, standing out with its unique position.
The important thing to remember is, make the title easy to scan. It has to be readable, clear, concise and value packed, all in a split second.
Add keywords but don’t spam
The days of keyword stuffing are well behind us for content creation. Stuffing keywords into content can lead to penalties for poor value content. And that includes your meta tags.
Emphasise the user-experience and scanability. Make it easy to read and comprehend in a split second. Too many keywords can confuse and distract.
What's more, search engines have become much better at interpreting variations of keywords. There’s no longer any need to pile on variations.
Front-end load your keywords, too. A well placed, relevant keyword is always a clear and concise way to show value and attract attention.
By positioning the keyword at the front of your title tag, it will still show if words get cut off the end.
SEO evidence suggests title tags beginning with keywords have more impact on rankings. Choose your keyword, rather than your brand, to open the title.
Give every page of your law firm website a unique title tag
Don’t use the same title tag for lots of pages across your website. They may cause Google to think you have duplicate content across your site which can lead to a site penalty in rankings.
Unique titles help search engines understand that your content is unique and valuable. They also drive higher click-through rates.
Will my title tag always appear in search results?
The short answer is, no.
Sometimes Google will display titles that don't match your meta tags.
This generally happens when Google thinks the existing title tag doesn’t answer a user’s specific query well enough. In this instance, Google may look for a title that better suits the query in the destination page's content.
This might sound frustrating but it can be a positive thing. What Google is doing is matching your page to a number of other related keywords. That can only bring more traffic to your page.
Now there is a little “hack” you can add to your page to help mitigate the risk of horrible titles appearing in search results. Heather-Lloyd Martin, master in SEO copywriting, tells us:
“When you write your page copy, try to include a benefit statement or call-to-action near the front instance of your main keyphrase (which is typically in the fist paragraph).”
You can add a series of similar keywords to the opening paragraphs too, to help the process.
In this way, if Google does resort to pulling content snippets from your page’s body copy, you’ll already have tailored it to look clear, concise and value-laden.
This does, of course, demand a greater level of input on your part to optimise your pages. But it’s worth it.
Better quality content and SEO, whichever way you look at it, can only lead to improved performance in search and conversion online.
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