These days, virtually every company in every industry and market niche is online. This makes finding products and services a great deal simpler for consumers, but it also ramps up the competition for businesses competing in the same segment.
Which ones generally come out on top? In the past, it was the companies offering the best products or services. Considering the role the internet plays in our lives, that’s not necessarily the case at this point. Now, the typical winner is one of the businesses showing up near the top of prospects’ Google searches. Sometimes, the ones with the most to offer never even get a chance to prove themselves.
SEO makes all the difference. Those using this practice to their fullest benefit rank highly with the search engines, and the ones falling short slip quietly into oblivion. How does an accountant fall into the former category rather than the latter? SEO for accountants and CPAs is the solution.
SEO in a Nutshell
SEO, or search engine optimization, involves using various tools and tactics to propel a business to the top of search engine results pages. SERPs are the lists generated when people perform inquiries on specific products and services.
Digging a Little Deeper
Not to be confused with paid advertising, also known as search engine marketing or PPC, SEO revolves around organic search results. These are the ones brought up in the SERPs because of a list of elements factored into Google’s algorithms. Certain distinct ranking factors affect where you or your accounting firm appears in prospects’ searches.
- Page Loading Speed:Consumers have come to expect instant gratification when searching for businesses online. If a web page takes longer than three seconds to load, more than half of internet users will move on to the next business in their search results. Google takes note of this and sends slowly loading pages further down in its SERPs.
- Mobile Responsiveness:Almost two thirds of online searches now take place on mobile devices, so websites that aren’t mobile friendly don’t rank as well as those that are. If you’re not set up for mobile, either via a responsive website design or separate sites for desktop and mobile, other firms in your area could easily outrank you.
- Website Domain:Domain name is the basic online address of your website. Those having been in existence for a few years or more tend to rank higher than new ones. URLs relevant to your firm’s name and/or industry will help boost your search position as well.
- Links:Links to and from your website to other relevant sites are vital to visibility and SERP ranking. These can be businesses in satellite industries, those going to your social media presences and linking back to your website and links from one webpage to another within your site. They help build credibility, authority and visibility as far as Google and consumers are concerned.
- Content:Content could be considered the most valuable element of SEO. It’s all the written and visual aspects on your site and offers countless opportunities for using keywords, or the terms prospects use when searching for products and services.
- Technical Aspects:This field covers all the underlying elements of your website. Internet users and website visitors won’t actually see them, but they’ll see their results. In fact, in some cases, these aspects can help decide exactly what visitors are able to see. Coding has a drastic impact on everything from how your website loads to which information appears in some Google searches.
- User Experience:All these factors affect how users view your site. If they have a bad experience, they’ll move on to your competitors; otherwise, they’ll stay with you to learn more and further convert to faithful clients. At the same time, Google’s algorithms and web crawlers have a sixth sense for knowing how prospects respond to your site. If the response is positive, this will play into your ranking accordingly.
These are basic, general aspects of SEO for any business. Now that we’ve laid the foundation, it’s time for a more in-depth discussion. SEO for accountants and CPA firms entails these fundamentals, but it also takes a more industry-specific approach.
Specific SEO Needs for Accounting Firms and CPAs
When it comes to CPAs and accountants, local SEO is the key to success. You’re looking for clients in your vicinity rather than on a national or global scale. This means those nearby prospects need to be able to find you regardless of the search terms and formats they’re using.
First Things First
As a business in search of local clients, being listed in all the right online directories should be one of your top priorities. Sites like Google My Business, Yahoo Local, Bing Places and Yelp make your business more visible to prospects and search engine web crawlers while building credence in the eyes of consumers. Being listed on ChamberofCommerce.com is also recommended because the Chamber of Commerce is the oldest and most trusted business networking portal out there.
These sites aren’t quite as important for link-building efforts as they were in the past from an SEO perspective, but they’re still effective for forming connections among businesses and consumers. Be sure your company name, email, phone number and address are exactly the same across all these sites for maximum effectiveness. Don’t forget to categorize your firm appropriately as well since this helps make you visible when users search these sites for your services.
If you’re already listed on all these sites, check all your citations for consistency. Numerous other business listing sites may be available in your area.
To find out if you’re overlooking any opportunities, consider using a tool like Whitespark. This citation finder allows you to enter your country, state, city, industry and the search phrases under which you want to be listed. From there, it brings up a list of directories that are relevant to accounting and other more specific services you offer.
Content Reigns Supreme
After making sure you’ve taken advantage of all the business listings at your disposal, it’s time to start thinking about website content. This is your number-one opportunity for SEO on numerous levels. For one, it’s where you’ll be using the bulk of your keywords designed to attract web crawlers and, in turn, human viewers.
As we mentioned earlier, keywords are the terms consumers use to find companies offering the services they need. They’re also the phrases you need to use to find prospects searching for the service you offer. Of course, not all keywords are created equally.
You may be leaning toward keywords like accounting services or CPA agencies. They’re short, direct and relevant. Though this may sound like exactly what you need, it’s really not. Sure, an endless line of local prospects will be searching for them, but you’re not the only company in your niche.
Ideally, the best keywords for your firm would be a bit less general in nature. On the most basic level, you’ll want to add your location to those keywords, such as accounting services in Charlotte, NC or CPA firm in Dallas, TX. When Google finds these on your home page, it’ll index your website for them and bring them up in local searches.
No doubt, you offer different services within this broader category, and you want to rank well for those, too. Trying to cram all those services and their related keywords onto a single page would have the opposite effect.
Instead, it’s important to reserve those more general keywords for your home page and create a separate one dedicated to each service you offer. For example, you might create a page for small business accounting services in Dallas, one for tax preparation in Dallas and another for payroll services in Dallas. If necessary, you can use additional pages to branch out even further, such as QSR payroll services in Charlotte or boutique shop bookkeeping services in Charlotte.
Overall, the more general a keyword is, the more difficult it is to rank for because more accounting firms are competing for notoriety. As you narrow down those parameters and get more specific with keywords, competitors gradually decrease. You don’t want to target only extremely precise keywords or very vague ones. Maintaining a nice balance between the two will work out in your favor, though.
Filling in the Gaps
Keywords need to be part of your content, but they shouldn’t make up the bulk of it. Both written and visual content on your webpages must be relevant to the keywords you’re using. The targeted terms simply give you a strong foundation around which to build content.
Keyword density refers to the number of keywords in relation to the number of other words in your written content. Some experts say this isn’t really significant, but most insist it does affect search ranking. Generally speaking, you should have no more than a one-percent keyword density, which means having one keyword for every 100 words on a page. Any more would be considered spammy, and that’s a negative as far as Google is concerned.
Written content should be informative for readers and offer them answers to any questions they may have regarding the service they’re researching. Although Q & A pages are effective options, other material can serve the same purpose without being so straightforward. Longer content with at least 1,000 words has been said to rank higher than short spiels, and truly meaty pieces with a lot of good, relevant information will always outrank meaningless chatter.
Outside the Box
All the previous points have been geared toward on-page SEO, but your online presence doesn’t end with your website. Off-page SEO is equally crucial to visibility. This would include your social media sites, bookmarks, business profiles, linkbacks on other websites and anything else that points to your company but isn’t on your actual webpages.
Other Elements Your Online Presence Should Include
In the accounting field, certain additional features are vital to your online presence. Some of these will appear on your firm’s website whereas others are included in off-site SEO.
“About Us” Pages
Since prospects are looking to determine whether you’re qualified to cater to their accounting needs, providing an “About Us” page is essential. This should detail your firm’s history, services and experience.
Don’t hesitate to provide individual photos and bios of your staff members. Mention their credentials, industry experience and even a couple lighthearted details about their personal hobbies or interests. All these facts will go a long way toward connecting with viewers and building trust. Link out to any professional profiles they may have as well, such as those on LinkedIn.
Reviews appear on numerous consumer-oriented sites, but having actual customer testimonials on your website boosts your credibility. Don’t be shy about asking satisfied clients to leave reviews. Link to their business websites as well. Doing so will help prove the review is real rather than a made-up advertising ploy. At the same time, it’ll provide additional exposure for you and your clients alike.
If you’re not creating blog posts on a regular basis, you’re missing out on several opportunities, such as keyword use and link building to name a couple. They’re also perfect ways of providing information for viewers without seeming overly promotional.
Other resources, such as tax preparedness checklists for startups and free downloads about the importance of accounting consultancy services are helpful as well. Include calls to action for these because they’ll make viewers more likely to dig deeper into your website. Google notices them as well.
Contributions to Other Websites
Though blog posts on your own website are vital, providing guest posts for other sites relevant to your industry can be equally beneficial. That being said, finding the right sites to send content isn’t easy. Blogger outreach tools, like Pitchbox and Traakr, can be invaluable in seeking out the best opportunities for being a guest blogger.
This road runs both ways. Having accounting experts, small business owners and other noteworthy people provide guest posts for your site will help improve your rank and build your authority.
Consider looking for forums relevant to the services you provide as well. These are also useful areas for increasing visibility, reaching new segments and building links.
All Things Considered
Some elements of search engine optimization are universal, but SEO for accounting firms requires a more specific approach. Aside from that, your company isn’t identical to any others in your niche, so your needs are even more unique and precise.
Numerous aspects go into an effective SEO strategy, not the least of which are link building, content, keyword use and underlying facets like coding. They all factor into how Google views your firm’s online presence and how prospects see your company.
Demand for your services is constantly growing, and you’re the most qualified accountant in your area to provide them to clients. With SEO geared specifically toward the needs of your industry, you’ll be far more likely to have a chance to prove it to them.