Digital Marketing Strategy for Accountants: Where Does Your Website Fit into Your Overall ‘Marketing Machine’?

By Posted in - Public Blog on October 18th, 2016 0 Comments

website marketing for accountants

This article originally appeared in the 2016 edition of the GOOD, BAD, UGLY® benchmarking report for accountants in Australia produced by Business Fitness. You can learn more about the GOOD, BAD, UGLY www.gbuhq.com.


Context: Practice Paradox (‘PARADOX’) are specialists in digital marketing and marketing content for accountants, supporting hundreds of accounting firms globally. PARADOX does not provide websites for accountants, but we do fix them—and they are always broken (ineffective from a measureable marketing perspective) when they first come to us. We fix and optimise websites through detailed website audits, search engine optimization (SEO) and consistent publishing of blog content to your site.

Why did you spend money on your website? What is the purpose of your website? Take 10 seconds to write that down now. Just one sentence will do.

The purpose of my website is to: __________________________________________

You’ve done that? Good. Your answer will make this article far more valuable and actionable for you.

We recently surveyed 142 accounting firms with that question, “What is the purpose of your website?” and the most common responses included:

  • Get our name out there / Raise brand awareness
  • Look professional / Build our brand
  • Show we’re different from other accountants
  • Provide information / Explain who we are / Explain our services
  • Generate leads / Get people to book a complimentary consultation
  • Get more clients
  • Don’t know / Not sure

And guess what? From a pragmatic marketing perspective, these objectives are un-strategic and useless because they do not direct your website strategy or provide a clear means for measuring your website’s effectiveness.

The real objective of your website

Here’s the measureable objective of your website, in a nutshell:

To grow your email marketing database with targeted prospects

That’s it. Simple. Measureable. Valuable.

Here’s a screenshot that Ben Walker of Brisbane accounting firm Inspire CA sent in to us from their marketing automation CRM (Infusionsoft, which we put them onto) showing us their marketing database list growth over the previous 30 days:

CRM contacts screenshot

Ben was going through our online Modern Marketing Academy at the time and had started to do blogging and to create ‘lead magnets’ such as eBooks and other downloadables on his website, and so when he saw this list growth he was pleased to see his marketing machine starting to work just as we’d advised it would.

Why is that list of 90 new contacts so valuable?

Well, imagine if in the last 30 days you’d met 90 people who were interested in what you and your firm did, and were happy for you to communicate with them via email so you can continue to share valuable tips with them on how they can improve their business or financial affairs.

It would be fair to say that would be a ‘hot list’.

Why permission-based, inbound marketing is modern marketing

And note that it’s not a bought list. It’s a grown list. Ben had been advised by a previous coaching club service he was in before he switched to become a PARADOX member, that he should go out and purchase a list of businesses and then email them and direct mail them. Wow. That’s old school marketing! I was shocked at how out of date that advice was. Apart from it being illegal to email people who have not opted in to your list, it’s old-fashioned outbound marketing. As U.S. business author Seth Godin terms it, this style of marketing is ‘interruption-based marketing’. It interrupts people who never asked to hear from you.

Modern marketing, on the other hand, is permission-based.

And that’s what this list is. It’s a group of people who sought you out—they found your website—and who are interested enough in what you have to say and what you provide that they gave you permission to keep in touch with them.

In the ‘marketing machine’ model we teach accountants in our Modern Marketing Academy, we call your marketing database ‘Your Hopper’: It’s the funnel at the start of your marketing machine, and consistent list growth—where targeted leads join your list each day—is a precursor and catalyst for your marketing success.

It’s what you feed into your marketing machine.

Then, using email broadcast systems (such as MailChimp or Campaign Monitor) and marketing automation (such as Infusionsoft) you can gradually educate and nurture your marketing database of clients and prospective clients with tips, articles and invitations to your events such as seminars, workshops and webinars.

Your Marketing ‘Conveyor Belt of Influence’

Your educational marketing content is the ‘Fuel’ for your marketing machine and we call these multiple touch points of value-adding communication your ‘Conveyor Belt of Influence’. It’s another component in your marketing machine.

Your Conveyor Belt moves your email subscribers from being people who are starting to get to know you, to people who eventually know, like and trust you.

A percentage of them will become warm, pre-educated, easy-to-convert leads. They’ll come to you. This is the beauty of inbound marketing. People line up at your door. You don’t go door knocking with old-fashioned outbound marketing.

And that’s why your website—and having a very clear and measureable objective for it—is a crucial cog in your marketing machine. But your website won’t be a useful marketing tool for you if all you have are vague, non-measureable objectives for it such as “getting your name out there” and “raising brand awareness”.

So… do you know your current email marketing database size? Do you know how much it grew by last week? Last month?

You should, because if you’re not tracking this crucial front-end of your marketing machine, you’re not focused and your marketing will meander along, remaining ineffective.

Focus on the two lead indicators, not the lag indicator

Interestingly… from a marketing metrics perspective, your email marketing database size is actually a lag indicator. You cannot directly change it. It is the result of other things that are upstream from it. And these are the things you can directly impact:

  • Your website traffic: The number of people who visit your site
  • Your website’s conversion: The percentage of visitors who opt in to your list

webiste traffic multiplied by conversion equals marketing database growth

Ask yourself:

  • Do you know what your website’s traffic was last month?
  • Do you know how that compares to the previous month?
  • How does that compare to your target website traffic?
  • Is website traffic a metric in your monthly management reporting?

Here’s a screenshot from the Marketing Metrics Dashboard we built for a PARADOX member who subscribes to our SEO Implementation service:

Organic visits trend

We started doing their SEO in February. In July their website had grown to 1,914 ‘visits from organic’. To explain this SEO ‘geekspeak’ term:

  • organic traffic is the number of people who discovered the website through searching Google, Bing etc. Other types of website traffic include:
  • direct traffic where people click on links in emails or type the web address directly into their browser; and
  • paid traffic where people click on links in online advertisements such as in Facebook, Twitter or news websites.

Imagine if almost 2,000 people wandered into your office’s foyer last month, having a look around because they’re interested in what they can learn from you and what you can do for them. This is, in virtual terms, what is happening for the firm in this example. (And this firm, by the way, just won the Queensland Xero Accounting Partner of the Year, and is a hot favourite to take out the Australian national award at Xerocon later this week, as of the time of writing. If that happens, they will be yet another PARADOX member to win this prestigious award.)

Keyword strategy and SEO-focused blog posts

What’s happening with this firm’s website, is that people are searching Google on ways to grow and improve their business, or deal with a challenge in their business or personal affairs, and they’re finding this firm’ site because it has SEO-focused blog posts. This means the blog posts (articles) are intentionally targeting specific phrases that they know their target market (prospective clients) are searching on.

Do you know:

  • The keyword phrases you are targeting with your website?
    • Where are these documented in your business’ systems or wiki?
  • How competitive (difficult, costly) it is to rank well for these phrases?
    • You want moderate to low competition for your target phrases
  • The volume of searches per month for these phrases?
    • You want moderate to high volume for your target phrases
  • Your website’s current Google ranking for these phrases?
  • How you rank for these phrases compared to your competitors?

If you were marketing savvy, you’d know all these things and have specialists—like us—working to improve your website’s performance. Making accountants marketing savvy is a large part of what we do at PARADOX. Until you’re savvy to these concepts and terms, you cannot direct and intelligently delegate to marketing and SEO specialists. We bring accountants up to speed with these modern marketing concepts and metrics, and then provide the done-for-you marketing services to implement the strategies and build your marketing machine.

Why not all website traffic is born equal

A note on website traffic: While you want a high volume of traffic (lots of website visitors), you don’t want just any traffic. You want targeted traffic, which is why your keyword research (we can do this for you) and your targeted keywords are so vital.

We’ve observed that website traffic generated by broad search terms—such as ‘accountant [suburb/town name]’—and by paid traffic (online ads) tends to attract people who are more price sensitive because they were in ‘shopping around’ mode.

On the other hand, traffic generated by specific ‘long tail’ phrases that relate to specific issues, challenges and strategies tend to attract people who are on a mission to solve a particular problem, and price is not at the forefront of their mind. They’re less price sensitive.

You might be wondering, in relation to the 1,914 ‘visits from organic’ example earlier, whether that’s a good volume of visits? What sort of traffic do other firm’s website typically get in a month?

We know based on Google Analytics data from firms when they first come to us, that many accounting firm websites get under 50 and most get under 100 ‘visits from organic’ per month. If they were a retail store, they’d be deathly quiet. And out of business. What a wasted investment.

So what’s next here in your objective of building a warm and growing marketing database?

What’s website conversion? And why does it matter?

Assuming your website is attracting a sufficient volume or targeted traffic, you need to ensure your website is converting those visitors into email subscribers. (There are other types of conversion goals too, such as getting people to connect with you in social media, watch a video, register for a webinar and so on, but growing your email list is the most valuable conversion goal on the front end of the marketing machine.)

Questions to ask about tour website’s conversion effectiveness:

  • Do you know your website’s conversion goals?
    • Tip: If you don’t, you have spent considerable time, energy and money building a website that has no clear goals and no way of measuring its effectiveness in achieving those goals.
  • Are your website’s conversion goals set up in your Google Analytics account?
    • This sounds ‘techie’ but in reality it is a straightforward concept and process. It’s just a matter of entering which things on your website—which sign-up webforms, which videos etc.—you want website visitors to complete or click on. We can do this for you.
  • What is your conversion rate percentage of visitors to each of these conversion goals?
    • Being crystal clear on your website’s conversion goals then allows you—with the assistance of Conversion Rate Optimisation CRO) specialists—to tweak and test your website’s layout and design to improve your conversion rates. This is like a savvy retail operator who scientifically designs the layout of their store and merchandise to get customers to turn a certain way when they first walk in the store, then ensures they walk past and notice certain merchandise and sections of the store. None of this happens by accident. It’s intentional design. The same applies to your website’s design and conversion.

Now that you understand that the objective of your website is simply to attract and convert targeted traffic, you can make it happen. You can measure and manage.

Other website metrics you should know

Traffic and conversion are two simple metrics to gauge the effectiveness of your website. There are others such as:

  • Bounce rate: The percentage of website visitors who come to your website but then leave your site without clicking through to any other pages.
    • A high bounce rate is clear evidence of a broken website. Many firms have a bounce rate in the vicinity of 60 to 80 percent when they first come to us. Your bounce rate should be less than 20%.
    • To use an analogy, if your website traffic is like the flow of water into a bucket, your bounce rate is how many holes your bucket has in it. Why invest in an expensive website and in generating targeted traffic to it if you have a ‘leaky bucket’ and all that traffic is just trickling away.
  • Time on page: This is how long people spend on your web pages. A low time on page (e.g. under 30 seconds) indicates your website is more like a brochure than a useful cog in your marketing machine. People are just flicking through it like a catalogue, and not taking the time to actually read and absorb your content. You’re unlikely to be educating or influencing them.
    • Once you start to effectively blog, your website’s time on page should increase beyond two minutes and eventually past three minutes. If you are blogging and your time on page is low, this indicates that your content is not engaging and you need to use copywriting services to improve your articles. (This is what we do as part of our Blog Article Service for accountants.)

Why accountants can be great at modern marketing

As an accountant, one of the great things about marketing is that it is very numbers driven. It’s measurable. There’s a structure and science to it. Once you learn these principles you’re empowered to consistently grow your business.

Further resources

If you have questions or comments about this article, feel free to contribute them in the comment section below. We’d love to continue the conversation with you.

This article is just the tip of the iceberg on the topic of websites and content-driven marketing for accountants, so have a look through our blog and you’ll find other articles including (just Google these phrases):

About the author

Michael ‘MC’ Carter is CEO and Founder of PARADOX — MC’s an award-winning entrepreneur, innovator, marketer and holder of international patents. He’s founded consulting firms, medical device ventures and software companies, including Business Fitness where he was a Co-Founder in 2001. MC, in founding PARADOX, was the first mover globally in the digital marketing and social media marketing space specifically for accountants. PARADOX members and graduates of the Modern Marketing Academy are amongst the fastest growing and most awarded accounting firms internationally.

For more information visit www.practiceparadox.com.au or email [email protected]

This article originally appeared in the 2016 edition of the GOOD, BAD, UGLY® benchmarking report for accountants in Australia produced by Business Fitness. You can learn more about the GOOD, BAD, UGLY www.gbuhq.com.

Comments are closed.

X