In virtually every SEO software tool I’ve used, warnings popup when there is no meta description present on a page. Warnings also pop up in Google’s own Webmaster tools showing website owners that the meta tag is missing its content. This might lead attorneys to believe that not having a meta tag on every page of their site is a bad thing. It’s not.
The video below features Matt Cutts explaining that it isn’t necessary to have meta descriptions on every page of your site. Check out the video for yourself and you can also read our interpretation below.
One of the main take-aways is that not having a meta description doesn’t signal anything bad to a search engine. They will simply generate a description for you if it isn’t there. The thing you do want to avoid is having duplicate descriptions across the pages of your site.
Duplicates of anything on your site can signal to a search engine that the content may already be indexed.
Search engines can automatically generate rich snippets (typically based on user search queries) for SERPs. The issue for attorneys arises when the content a search engine chooses isn’t necessarily the best.
That brings us to the true value of the meta description. It is a chance for lawyers to market their pages in search. Having keywords for the page they are associated with is important however a meta description should also be compelling and offer searchers a reason to click through to the page.
You won’t always have a goal for every page of your site. Your practice area pages and perhaps blog post pages however are a different story. Those are (or should be) designed to draw people in and get them to call you or complete some other action. For these pages, it’s important (as Cutts points out in the video) to make a hand-crafted description that will make people want to click through to the page.
Lawyers should use their knowledge of searcher intent to craft their meta descriptions on pages that will have them. In other words if you know (or have a pretty good idea of) what your potential clients are looking for when they use certain phrases, deliver that in your meta description.
For example pages meant to rank for location-based searches for terms like “personal injury lawyer + city” might have a paragraph about the attorney serving that particular region or city. If it is discovered that searchers using the phrase “family lawyer + state” typically want to know about divorce proceedings involving children, a sentence or two in the meta description about that topic might help improve click through rates.
Naturally it’s very difficult to gauge what any give person using a search engine really means when they are typing in phrases but you can often get close.
Overall if you scan your site and discover that some pages don’t have a custom description, it isn’t necessarily cause for alarm. If the pages that don’t have the description aren’t essential to your marketing in search then it probably isn’t worth the time to craft a description for them, especially if there are lot of them.
How do you approach this topic? Do you like to have a meta description on every page? Join in the conversation by commenting below.