By Hugh Duffy
Your Web site should be a profit center for your accounting practice and generate a steady flow of qualified leads. If it is not, then something is wrong....
What most accountants really want to know, first and foremost, is how their investment in a Web site can be used to recruit new clients. After all, at the end of the day, every expenditure needs to have some payback to justify itself.
Over the last 10+ years, most accounting firms that reside in a competitive market location created Web sites that were little more than online brochures. Calling cards, if you will. These types of Web sites would be nothing more than text on a page with no photography and poorly written content. Just the information and not pleasing on the eye.
Thanks to higher connection speeds and increased familiarity with the Internet, all of us were gradually introduced to Web sites that were rich in content, photography and graphic designs that were pleasing to the eye. Today, if you want to attract new clients, you should maximize your online potential. Whether you decide to design (or redesign) a Web site yourself or use an external resource to create one for you, you’ll want to concentrate on several key components.
Don’t Ignore Search Engine Optimization. You really may be tired of hearing about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), but you simply cannot avoid implementing SEO on your Web site IF you really want to reach prospects. Of course, some accounting firms have done quite well building their business the old fashioned way with networking, but nowadays, that kind of activity isn’t going to be enough to find prospects and convert them to clients.
Technology is useful when it works – and in the case of SEO, it works very well. The simplest way to think of SEO is to think about a spider web with your firm smack dab in the center of the internet. Like a spider who spins a web in the right location, SEO ensures your site shows up at the top or very near the top of the search engine results page, consistently.
Here’s a simple exercise. If you haven’t ever searched in Google, Bing or Yahoo! for your accounting firm, try it – but try it in three ways:
- Search by the words, “accounting firm” and your local city or area. Now you can see that there are many more results.
- Search by the words, “best accounting firm in” your local city or area.
- Search by the words, “accounting firm for small businesses” in your local city or area.
Does your firm show up on the first two or three pages?
If you were a prospect who wanted to find an accounting firm in your local area, which firms are you more likely to contact – the ones that show up near the top of the page or your firm that shows up on page 9?
When done properly, SEO works like a charm by delivering quality traffic to your Web site, which, in turn, gets your phone to ring. The process of SEO generally takes 6-12 months to work effectively and, like fine wine, gets better over time.
Pay up for Pay-Per-Click Campaigns. Another great way to find clients is to conduct pay-per-click advertising campaigns. If you think advertising is only for the big dogs, think again. With pay-per-click campaigns, you decide how much you want to spend per month. When you reach that amount, the campaign is no longer available until the beginning of the next cycle.
It’s a fact that people are more likely to click on a listing shown in two places on the results search page, so if you create a combination of SEO and pay-per-click campaigns, you’ve just doubled your chances of having a prospect ask for more information.
Get Your Firm and Web site Listed in Google Places, Yelp, Yahoo Local and Other Directories. To generate more awareness of your accounting firm, you should get your practice listed in Google Places, Yahoo Local, Bing Business Portal, Yelp and other online directories. This is a free service. While it takes some time to get validated and fully complete each site’s listing requirements, this exercise is more than worth the effort.
Leverage Complementary Tools: Newsletters and Social Media. Again, thanks to advanced technologies, many tools are available that will complement your Web site; the key is to use these tools to drive traffic to your site. Here are a few ideas:
- Distribute an e-mail newsletter: If you think a newsletter is just about content, think again. The real value to an e-mail newsletter is the referral base it generates through existing relationships. The best way to do this is encourage clients and friends to pass your newsletters along to their friends, colleagues and even family – anyone who may qualify as a referral source.
- Integrate social media into your Web site: Your Web site should integrate with social media applications such as LinkedIn and others you use. Something as simple as incorporating an icon button for LinkedIn on your home page increases the likelihood that a prospect will find you.
- Start a Blog. All of us have something to say, so why not say it on your Web site? Sure, blogs are plentiful, but they are also especially helpful in helping impart important accounting-related information. Don’t be shy; even if you think you can’t write something on a regular basis, try it and see what kinds of results you get.
Interesting, well-executed Web sites are no longer unattainable. In today’s always-on environment, prospects expect their professional service advisors to be savvy and smart. As a result, a Web site is a great place to demonstrate your abilities.
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