By Hugh Duffy
Differentiating yourself from your competition is an important strategy for any business trying to grow. For this reason, I've always recommended CPA firms identify their niche - the industry or area of accounting they serve tied to their geography - and become recognized for that niche through the Internet. Liz Daniel, for example, specializes in accounting for construction firms.
The next step in the process of becoming known for your niche is to proactively seek recognition for your expertise within your own circle using social networking. This concept is not new, but Google now provides tools that increase your ability to reach potential clients.
Google Authorship is helping small- to midsize business owners improve SEO, develop a personal brand tied to their business, improve click-throughs, and increase lead generation from the Internet.
What Is Google Authorship?
Google Authorship allows writers to claim their content and enables search engines to find more content written by the same author.
It's directly tied to your Google+ account. You may have been getting invitations from friends and family to join Google+. Do it. Essentially, Google+ is another social networking tool, part LinkedIn, part Facebook, and part Twitter. Even though you might think you don't need another social media application to keep up with, Google+ has unique advantages. The more people you tie to your Google+ account, the stronger your brand reach will be.
A Google+ account is based on your Google profile. According to Google, the purpose of the profile is to help shape what you see when you search your own name. Google+ has a lot of other great features, like easy file sharing, free "hangouts" (which are like video conferences), and more.
Firms have taken the steps to tie their Google Authorship (via their Google+ Profile) to their website, get higher click-through rates, and gain greater exposure to more of their content.
For example, the Google search engine results page for the phrase "construction accounting firm in Miami" brings up Daniel's listing in Figure 1.
You'll notice that Daniel's entry shows up first in the nonpaid search engine rank. Her photo appears with the entry, making the content personal and ensuring she's recognized and credited for her work. The headshot draws the eye and attracts clicks, providing even greater exposure to more of her content.
The Value of a Face
You may ask: Why not put my logo in? My answer: People trust people - especially in the accounting industry. Accountants are trusted advisors, not faceless logos.
As an accountant, the value you provide comes from your knowledge and experience as well as the services you offer. People want to know and trust their accountant. Your picture tied to the content on the web begins to facilitate that trust.
Google Authorship provides communications "person to person" via Google+. Search engine results frequently arise with a company rather than an individual. Using Google+ to tie your content to your identity - or your personal brand - puts a name and a face on your firm.
Benefits of Google Authorship
- Search engine prominence: Google Authorship is particularly powerful when people are doing non-branded searching. For example, a prospective client needs help with his or her QuickBooks accounting and searches for a local CPA. Google Authorship helps your entry stand out from the rest. Notice the image and the listing in Figure 1. This makes it easy for potential clients to get a sense of the firm and the accountant before they even arrive at your website. Essentially, you're increasing the power of the search engine results.
- Higher click-through: Google Authorship isn't designed to increase your search engine ranking; it's designed to increase traffic to your website by increasing click-through rates and making them stand out from other search engine results. Again, having your face tied to the search engine results really creates a sense of trust with the viewer, making them want to read your content.
- Brand credibility: Demian Farnworth, in his Copyblogger post on Google Authorship, claims that "The recognition that you have a Google+ account and a headshot beside your search listing is going to separate you from the faceless content creators." By taking advantage of the Google Authorship and your profile, you are tying your personal brand to your firm. Again, it goes back to the face behind the company.
Setting It Up
Google provides basic instructions for how to set up the authorship feature, outlined below.
- Join Google+.
- Set up your profile. Make sure you have a profile photo with a recognizable headshot.
- Make sure a byline, containing your name, appears on each page of your content (for example",By Hugh Duffy").
- Make sure your byline name matches the name on your Google+ profile.
- Verify you have an e-mail address on the same domain as your content. This is fairly simple if you're publishing on your own site. If you're publishing on a third-party site, go to the Google link above for more information.
Content Is Key
Google Authorship can only do so much. Your search engine results and click-throughs don't guarantee credibility. You must have good content that reflects what your audience needs.
With Authorship, Google can judge who that content is coming from when deciding how valuable it is. David Gould said it best: "For users, this reinforces the idea that the result is reputable: this link isn't just the result of robotic SEO manipulation, but rather it's from a human being who we can learn more about. Knowing that at least some minimal verification has gone on creates a trust factor with the user."
Running an accounting business is an effort unto itself, and marketing your practice for growth adds another level of complexity. Google Authorship, Google+, LinkedIn, blogging, and SEO - you may feel like calling it a day and relying entirely on personal referrals.
Yet, referrals are possible through social media and the Internet. The beauty of these efforts, especially Google Authorship, is credibility. Tying your profile to your website makes a difference in search engine ranking, click-throughs, and growing your reputation as an expert in the field.
Learn more about Google+, Google profiles and Google Authorship through these articles:
- How Google Plus Works
- Google+ Community Page on Google Authorship and Author Rank
- Google Authorship Presents Branding Opportunities for SMBs
- Why Google Plus Is an Inevitable Part of Your Content Management System
- Why Google+ Is the Best Social Platform for Content Marketers
About the author:
Hugh Duffy is cofounder and chief marketing officer of Build Your Firm, an accounting website design and accounting practice development firm. Hugh teaches a series of Accounting Marketing Workshops; provides Accounting Marketing Webinars and manages outsourced marketing for accountants. He can be reached at (888) 999-9800 ext. 151 or at [email protected].