Why Google’s local search results is an opportunity for small accounting firms

By Chad Brubaker, CEO, www.emochila.com

If you are a small local accounting firm looking to grow your business, you want to be found on Google when someone enters a search into Google for an accountant in your area.
 
People tend to search for an accountant within the context of a particular location. A small business owner in Austin, Texas, will be looking for an accountant based in Austin. Thus, it's crucial for CPAs and accountants to rank prominently in local search results. In this case, "Austin CPA."
 
Just a few weeks ago Google made some important changes to its local search results that will affect how accounting firms will be found on Google. Google released Place Search, a new search that blends local search with organic search. You will notice that businesses with a Google Place Page seem to have gained higher visibility. In addition, Google Map has moved into the right sidebar. 
 
Previously, if you searched for a city-specific phrase, like “Accounting Firm San Diego,” Google displayed the local map on top, then the local results followed by the organic results. Paid ads were and still are listed in the right column and directly beneath the search bar. But now the Places listings seem to have gained higher visibility in the top rankings, pushing down the pure organic results.
 
This is a great opportunity for local accounting firms. If you are an accountant based in San Ramon, California, and a person types "San Ramon Accountant" in Google, you want to be at the top of the results page. Local accountants with Google Place Pages will be listed first and will be highlighted by the Google pin-drop icon. Google has made it easier for people to find local businesses.
 
What exactly is a Google Place Page? A Google Place Page is a Web page tied to Google Maps that lists information, whether is a business, a neighborhood, or a landmark. It can include a link to your official Web site, photos, directions to your office, and other details. Google has made these pages more robust recently, and business owners now can advertise special offers.
 
Click here to view an example of Emochila client Wagner & Co.'s Place Page. If you type "Accounting Firm San Diego" into Google, you will notice that the firm is listed first in the search results.
 
How will these changes affect accountants? It is still too early to know exactly how this will play out, and search engine optimization (SEO) experts will continue to debate how this blend of organic and local will affect search rankings. But there are a few things that we recommend accounting firms do:
 
First, optimize your Google Place page. You should claim your Google Place page at www.google.com/local/add/businessCenter. It is really easy and takes five minutes to do. Log in with your Gmail account. Enter the details about your business, including your Web site URL. You will then need to verify that you are the business owner. Make sure your listing is complete and accurate. It is important to ensure that your business location is entered correctly on the map so users can find you easily. You can drag the map marker to your exact business location. You can include images and videos to help your listing stand out. This will help your ranking when Google crawls and indexes your Web site.
 
Secondly, don't underestimate Reviews and Testimonials. Google uses reviews and feedback to improve search results. On your new Google Place page, users can review your business and make you stand out further in the search results. Google also is surfacing reviews from third parties including Yelp, CitySearch, and InsiderPages. Encourage your own happy clients to review your business on your Google Page and these other Web sites.
 
Thirdly, continue to improve SEO. It still is very important to continue to optimize your Web site. You can do this by building links that go to your Web site, submitting your site to all the major search engines, and submitting your site to directories in order to gradually bring up your ranking. Launching a blog also is a great (and cost-effective) way to drive traffic to your Web site. If you post to your blog at least once a week and provide valuable content to your readers, this will keep people coming back to your Web site for fresh content.
 
Overall, these changes seem to favor local businesses and represent an important opportunity for small and medium-sized accounting firms. Remember, SEO takes time. But Google’s investment in local search should help users find your business more easily in the long-term.
 
About the author:
Chad Brubaker, Emochila president and CEO, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley. He has worked as a developer for several Web-based companies and as an Internet security consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP. Clients included Daimler Chrysler, American Airlines, WellPoint Networks, Unocal, and Transora.
 
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