5 Smart SEO Best Practices for Accounting Firmsby
The days of quick tricks to get to the top of Google’s search results are over. Google continues to refine its search algorithm with the overarching goal of providing the best possible search experience to users. This means search results that point users to the websites with the most relevant, quality content.
Is getting to the top of Google really the best marketing strategy for your firm? A recent article by Matt Wilkinson in Accountants Daily, which serves Australian accountants, noted that getting to the top may not provide you with the results you desire. You may get a lot of traffic, but maybe not the kinds of clients you want to work with. Your time might be better spent on other marketing activities.
Many articles on search engine optimization (SEO) best practices focus on technical aspects that provide only incremental improvements. I’m not sure those technical fine-tunings are the best use of an accounting firm’s marketing resources. In addition, Google has a history of penalizing sites that resort to technical tricks at the expense of quality content, so such an approach may backfire.
Instead, I’d like to encourage accounting firms to focus on the same principles that appear to be guiding Google’s algorithm architects: namely, search results that provide useful information and answer questions.
1. Build a great website that focuses on the needs of visitors. Landing at or near the top of the search results is only part of your online marketing strategy. Should a prospect click through to your website, you’ve only got a few seconds to grab their attention while they determine if your website has the information they were looking for. If your website isn’t friendly and useful, they’ll be quick with the back button in their browser.
Include a headline that demonstrates the benefits of working with your firm. Instead of “Welcome to Smith and Company CPAs,” try something like “Your Partner for Success” or “Accounting, Tax, Business Advice – All in One Place.”
2. Update your website regularly with useful content. Google loves sites that regularly add new content, such as blog posts. This alone can improve your search rankings, although it may take several months to happen.
What does “regularly” mean? The optimal frequency is up for debate. Some say at least three or four times a week. Some say once a month is fine. But in my opinion, it’s better to adopt a schedule that’s sustainable than one that will burn you out in a few months.
How long? Some say blog posts of 1,000 words are the sweet spot. But again, it’s best to find a sustainable length that considers the needs of your prospects and clients. And for an accounting firm, many of your blog post readers won’t have the time – or desire – to read 1,000-word posts on highly technical topics. It may be better to give them just the highlights of an issue, and encourage them to call you for more information.
Questions from current and prospective clients are one of the best sources of good topic ideas. If there’s a question you hear over and over, adding a blog post on that topic can save you time and energy. You can simply point to that post as the answer.
Always include a “call to action” at the end of your blog posts. Tell the readers what they need to do next. Do you want them to call your office to get more information or to set up a meeting? Can they set up an appointment online? Should they fill out a form to download a free resource? Tell them clearly what their next step should be.
3. Include keywords and key phrases on every page. For accounting firms, the most important keywords are fairly obvious: accountant, accounting, CPA, and your services – tax, audit, bookkeeping, and accounting.
Repeating keywords several times on a page isn’t really necessary anymore, and synonyms are also just fine. Advances in artificial intelligence mean that Google is getting pretty good at figuring out what pages are about, even if you only mention the keyword once, or if you don’t repeat a key phrase exactly.
If you work with clients in a specific geographic area, you’ll want to mention that. And if your firm provides uncommon specialties, be sure to describe those.
Never sacrifice readability over keywords – your foundation should always be quality for the reader. Use a conversational tone in all your writing.
4. Add keywords to your page titles and descriptions. Page titles and descriptions are embedded in the code for your website. The page title is the clickable link that shows up in the search results. The description is the short phrase that follows it.
Including keywords in your page titles helps Google and users figure out what the page is about. Page titles and descriptions are what gets picked up when a page is shared on social media.
Thoughtful composition of page titles creates inviting reasons for someone to click on that link. If you offer a free consultation for new clients, you might consider including it in the title for your homepage.
Each page of your website should have a unique title. Titles are limited to 70 to 71 characters, including spaces. Descriptions can be up to about 156 characters. You may need your webmaster to help you out with this if you want to make changes.
5. Don’t overlook social media. Google may or may not include links from Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn as a measure of a site’s authority. Some sources at Google have said yes, while others say no. But social media is gaining in importance in the way people evaluate a company. If your prospects are on social media, they may check out your profile there first.
Which ones to focus on? To avoid diluting your efforts in social media, find out where your best prospects spend most of their time. Ask your current best clients about their favorite social media channels.
Each channel has a distinct personality, so it’s best to customize the way you share content to suit that channel. Social media is highly visual, so it’s best to include a graphic or other image with your shares.
These ideas are not only good for SEO, but will also provide a better experience for visitors to your website. A friendly, easy-to-navigate website with useful information will contribute to raising your profile as a trusted expert and will help build relationships.
Following these principles – and avoiding technical trickery – will help ensure that as Google updates its search algorithm to emphasize quality search results, your firm won’t be penalized.
Liz Farr, CPA, spent 15 years in tax and accounting at small firms in Albuquerque, NM. Besides tax returns of all flavors, she worked on audits of governmental entities and not-for-profits, business valuations, and litigation support. Now she's a full-time freelance writer specializing in content marketing for accountants and bookkeepers around...