Wrong SEO bait? When accountants’ website strategy goes wrong
Following on from our previous post Measure what? Websites for accountants common SEO mistake… picture this.
A young boy decides he’d like to get into fishing. He buys the fishing gear: rods, reels, plenty of accessories. In fact, he spends a lot of money, by his standards, on getting set up. (Anyone who’s into fishing knows there’s an endless array of gear available!) Yet despite all of this effort and investment this budding young fisherman continued to come home after many hours of fishing, empty-handed. What added to his disappointment was that he would see other people catching fish all the time. So why weren’t the fish biting for him? What was he missing?
The very same thing applies to websites for accountants. Stay with me on this…
Then one day his father suggests he asks a local fisherman his advice on which bait to use. The experienced fisherman happily shares not just the bait to use for the local fish species, but also the size and types of hooks to use, how to best set up the ‘rig’ (the sinkers, swivels, knots to use and so on) as well as the best times to fish in relation to the moon and tides.
These were all aspects that previously this novice fisherman was blissfully unaware of.
So with some newfound knowledge and just a fraction extra investment in a few different hooks and sinkers, what happens next? BAM! On his very next fishing outing the young boy comes home with a bucketful of fish. He’s rapt. Smiling from ear to ear. Fishing had gone from an expensive frustration where he was giving up hope, to something he was loving for the first time because he could see there was an art and a science to attracting the fish. Predictably.
This is a true story. About my 8 year old son at the time. And here’s the parallel with websites for accountants…
Accountants and their shiny new websites
At PARADOX we see this all the time. An accounting firm comes to us after they invest a lot of money in an impressive new website—they appear to have all ‘the gear’ so to speak in terms of website tech—but ‘the fish’ aren’t biting. The website is not attracting new leads. It’s not generating a return on the investment. Just like our young fisherman, it’s become an expensive frustration.
But what type of fish are they wanting to attract? Most firms will take anything that’s biting. “Anyone with a chequebook and a heartbeat,” as a firm once shared with me! That’s a bad strategy. In fact, it’s evidence of having no strategy. (That’s why we teach strategy to accountants in Module 1 of our Modern Marketing Academy. Strategy is always the starting point.)
Next, what ‘type of bait’ are they using? In our fishing analogy, the choice of bait made all the difference. And so it is with websites.
The right bait: Strategic SEO keywords
The bait for websites—what will determine which types of website visitors you will attract through ‘organic search’ (see previous post)—is called SEO keywords.
Your SEO keywords are phrases that should be based on:
- your strategy, and
- keyword research.
You then engage SEO experts to ‘optimise’ your website and specific web pages on your website so that search engines rank your webpages well—such as in the Top 3 on Page 1 of Google—for these specific SEO keyword phrases. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is one of the biggest ROI activities you can invest in for your business, provided you have a website that converts visitors. (See mention of the ‘leaky bucket’ in our previous post). The conversion effectiveness of a website is addressed by what’s called CRO: Conversion Rate Optimisation. We have specialist SEO and CRO providers in our PARADOX Preferred Network who we can refer you to. Just get in touch.
So how do you choose which SEO keywords to target?
Tips for choosing SEO keywords for your website
First, here’s what NOT to do:
- Don’t target single words such as only “accountant”
- Don’t target phrases that don’t get a high enough volume of searches
- Don’t target phrases that are highly competitive (unless you want to invest a lot on SEO services to rank well)
What does volume and competitiveness mean? And how do you find out the volume and competitiveness of specific search phrases? Good questions.
There are free tools such as the Google Keyword Planner and even the Google Suggest feature within Google Chrome is an extremely useful (and simple!) way to identify phrases people are searching on. (Using tools like these are skills we teach in our Masterclasses and member-only webinars in the Modern Marketing Academy and the soon-to-be-launched Modern Marketing ImpleMENTOR platform.)
Once you have a specific SEO keyword (phrase) in mind, you can use our Free SEO Report Card tool to see how well a particular page on your website is optimised (‘SEO’d’) to rank well for that phrase. The page (website address) you enter into the form can be your home page, a specific static page on your website (such as a page about a particular service you provide) or even a specific blog post. And you can enter a competitor’s webpage too, to see how you compare.
You then receive a complimentary report with a list of what is working well for you and what needs improving on that web page and across your website in general. It’s valuable information.
But it’s not nearly as valuable for you if you enter something un-strategic and useless in the keyword field. And this is what prompted us to write this blog post…
Inept attempts at specifying SEO keywords
We have analysed the hundreds of SEO keywords submissions we’ve received to date in our free SEO Report Card tool and we found:
- 71% were un-strategic and useless
- 18% were mildly useful
- 11% were strategic and useful
Before I list some examples for you, imagine a person who has a problem they are searching Google for information, resources or services to help them address it. Imagine too, they are an ideal prospect for your accounting firm. Try to guess what they would enter into Google to search on. Would it include any of these real-life examples entered by accounting firms into our Website Audit Tool…
The un-strategic and useless
Ask yourself, who would search Google on just the word ‘accountant’? Accountant where? For what? Similarly, who would search just on the word ‘strategy’? Strategy for what? Even for relatively specific terms such as ‘smsf’ and ‘superannuation’, what is it specifically about these topics that a person would be searching on? Do they want SMSF advice? SMSF setup? Administration? A guide on SMSF investment strategies?
And the same applies to choosing ‘xero’ as an SEO keyword. Do you want your website to attract people who want to read a review of Xero compared with other accounting packages? Or someone looking for a Xero bookkeeper? Or Xero training? Or Xero addons? There are many possible Xero-related searches.
Clearly one-word SEO keywords are too broad and vague. Useless.
The mildly useful
Among the 18% of the SEO keywords entered that we deemed to be ‘mildly useful’, examples include:
- business advisory [town name]
- xero [city name]
- automate accounting
- business coach
But really, these are also too vague. The mention of the town/city name (actual locations are removed above, to preserve privacy of those who have used our Website Audit Tool) helps to make the phrases more specific than simply ‘business advisory’ or ‘xero’, in those examples.
Here are some examples from the 11% of SEO keyword entries into our free SEO Report Card tool to date that are actually useful:
- accountant [suburb name]
- medical tax accountant
- small business accountant [town name]
- smsf property [region name]
The ‘accountant [suburb name]’ phrase above is only of use as SEO keywords if the suburb:
- Is large enough so that there are enough monthly searches each month
- Is not so large—e.g. a capital city name—so that thousands of people are also vying to rank well for that same phrase.
You want to target SEO keywords that have moderate to high volumes of searches each month, with moderate to low competition.
The phrase ‘medical tax accountants’ is very specific. That’s good. However the search volume is low. But it’s on the right track. Using Google Keyword Planner we can see that the phrase ‘accountants for doctors’ gets 17 times as many searches as ‘medical tax accountants’. Clearly a better choice for focusing your website’s SEO on, if doctors are one of your target markets.
The ‘small business accountant [town name]’ phrase above is better to target for SEO than ‘accountant [suburb name]’ because it specifies the type of accountant—we all know there are many varieties of accountant—but note that the same proviso applies to the town name as to suburb name earlier: it should be not too large (not a major capital city), and not too small (not a tiny regional town).
Why is it better to be more specific with ‘small business accountant’ rather than just the broader ‘accountant’ which in theory would get a higher volume of searches? Targeting. If you’re targeting small and medium-sized businesses, you don’t want individual tax return enquiries. And that reminds me of a quick story…
In the early days of PARADOX, I was at a conference dinner when a somewhat belligerent Gold Coast accountant (I think he’d had a few too many drinks) sitting next to me—after he heard that I advised in the online and digital marketing for accountants space—accosted me with, “Oh, online marketing is a waste of time for accountants. All our website ever generates for us is price-sensitive tyre kickers that waste our time.” He said it loudly and confidently and then leaned back with a smug look on his face.
My reflex response—with everyone at the table now leaning it to see how I’d reply to his verbal ambush was—”Well, shit attracts flies.” (I’d had a couple of drinks myself.)
If your website is attracting low-value, un-targeted enquiries, then you need to look at your website’s content and SEO.
Shit attracts flies.
Stop attracting flies.
And it all starts with:
- strategy, plus
- keyword research, plus
- SEO-savvy content on your website such as blog posts and landing pages targeting specific SEO keywords, plus
- off-page SEO including social media, directory listings and raft of other activities that improve your website’s rankings for your SEO target keywords.
What have been your experiences in getting your website generating targeted leads for you? Share your experiences and feel free to ask questions in the Comments below.