SEO For Accountants: Buyer Beware – 3 Things You Need to Know About SEO
In this series of articles, I’m sharing with Accountants and Business Advisors a methodical step-by-step process for using SEO—Search Engine Optimisation—to improve the return on investment an accounting or CPA firm gets on their new website.
In short, effective SEO for accountants enables you to get a lot more good quality prospects to your firm’s website, so you can generate inbound leads.
I’ll also share with you how to avoid being burnt by un-strategic, low-quality SEO providers.
In Part 1 of this series, SEO FOR ACCOUNTANTS: HOW WEBSITES FOR ACCOUNTANTS GET IT RIGHT, AND WRONG, I explained that getting a new website live—despite the euphoria of that milestone—is just the starting line. You then need to invest in getting traffic—website visitors—to your website.
SEO is one of the best ways to achieve that. Any business that:
- Has a website, and
- Expects that website to generate leads
…should invest in SEO ongoing. It’s that simple. Not investing in SEO is like not bothering to water or look after your garden after spending a lot of money on the initial landscaping.
Having said that, choosing an SEO provider is like navigating a money-sucking minefield. Most people in business receive unsolicited emails like this on virtually a daily basis:
We have looked at your website and can see that it is not ranking well in Google.
We are specialists in online traffic solutions to companies who require an instant boost in visitors to their website. Our SEO service is high quality and most of all, affordable.
We also offer guarantees for our SEO services that you’ll appear on the 1st page of Google.
And the unsolicited blah blah blah continues…
Two things about emails like this:
- Unless they are mind readers, they have no way of knowing how well your website is ranking in Google because rankings are in relation to specific keyword phrases, and these SEO providers do not know what your target SEO phrases are;
- If these SEO operators were any good at SEO they’d be getting plenty of their own inbound leads already and would have no need to resort to these spammy outbound marketing techniques of sending unsolicited emails to strangers!
Tip: You can screen these emails out of your inbox forever by setting up a Filter (Gmail) or Rule (Outlook) so that any email you receive that starts with ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ goes straight to your Spam/Junk folder.
As I covered in Part 1 of this series your first step was to do your Keyword Strategy and Research. This is where you decide on the phrases you want your website to rank well for.
Step 2, the focus of this article, is to ensure you understand three things about SEO for accountants:
1. On-Page SEO for Accountants = Things done on your website
There are two broad categories of SEO activities:
- On-Page and
This SEO terminology can sound a little ‘techie’ at first, but it’s all quite straightforward. And if you want to cost-effectively use and delegate to an SEO provider, it’s important you understand these SEO basics.
On-Page SEO refers to things that are done directly on your website, whereas Off-Page SEO refers to things that are done on other websites to create links to and credibility for your website.
You SEO your website, not just your home page
Firstly, don’t think solely about getting your website’s home page to rank well in search engines. Your home page is just one of many web pages on your site.
It’s best to think about SEO on a page-by-page basis across your entire website. You can have many different pages on your website that are SEO’ed for different, specific phrases. It’s not all about the home page.
For example, if you have a number of different target markets or niches—or different services or divisions—you cannot have your home page rank well for a range of SEO target phrases. Create specific pages across the site that target different phrases.
The many doors into your website
As an analogy, think of your website as a department store or building that has many different doors—and each web page on your site is a different door. Your home page is just one of those doors. Don’t get so caught up on your home page’s SEO that you neglect to have dozens of pages on your website working hard for you—ranking well—in Google.
SEO for accountants — Ranking factors
Search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo use SEO ranking factors including:
- Is your website secure and easy to access?
- Does the web page load quickly (especially on mobile devices)?
- Is the web page easy to view and navigate on a mobile?
- What’s your domain’s age, URL wording, and authority?
- Has the content been optimised for search engines?
- Has the website’s structure and platform been optimised for search engines?
- Does the website give a good user experience?
- Are there lots of links to the page from credible websites and directories?
- Has the page been shared frequently on social platforms?
- Is it easy to discern verified information about the business’ identity, location, and contact details?
The first 7 items in the list above are called On-Page SEO because they all involve doing things directly on your site.
On-Page SEO for accountants — examples
A smart SEO provider will leave no stone unturned as each month they make improvements to your website that improve its rankings. Common specific On-Page examples include:
- Improving how quickly pages load by optimising images so that they are made much smaller in file size without making them any smaller or lesser quality
- Ensuring each web page has a tailored Title that is well-worded, includes the page’s target SEO phrase and is not so long that it gets cut off when displayed in Google’s search engine results pages. Titles contain the text that is displayed as the main clickable blue heading in the search engine results pages. It’s common for pages to lack useful titles — things like ‘ABC Accountants – Home’ instead of something helpful like, ‘ABC Accountants | Accountants for Tradies and Service Businesses
- Likewise, missing or poorly worded Descriptions can be optimised to include the target SEO phrase and related words, and be written in a way that entices people to click through to the website from the search engine results page. The description is the paragraph of grey text beneath the Title in the search engine results.
- The words used in a web page’s URL (the words in the web link) are crucial too — this is important when first publishing a web page or blog post because Google (and humans, your prospects) take notice of the words in the URL for their relevance.
- The words used in a page’s headline—called “H1” for Heading 1—is important. Note that the Title and the H1 heading do not need to have the same wording. They have different purposes: The Title needs to rank well and get people’s attention in the search engine results pages so that they click through, whereas the H1 heading is the headline at the top of the web page, being read by someone who is already on the page. Titles generally need to be matter-of-fact and descriptive whereas H1 headings can be more creative (and longer) than Titles.
- The words used in H2 (Heading 2), H3, H4 subheadings are also cues taken by search engines to get an idea of a page’s topic and focus.
- Likewise, the formatting of paragraph text affects your SEO. For example, Google takes notice of which words have been given bold (‘strong’) emphasis. Can you see how judicious formatting of a web page or blog post with the use of the target SEO phrase words within H1, H2, H3 headings and in strong emphasis helps you optimise a web page or post to rank well for a particular phrase?
- A word of caution: Keyword density—which is how often a phrase appears on a web page—is taken into account, but it hurts a page’s Google rankings when ‘keyword stuffing’ has been done. This is where a shoddy ‘black hat’ SEO operative or SEO amateur artificially uses a phrase too frequently. Google is wise to this and will demote your web page in its rankings if it detects keyword stuffing. Simply use the target keyword phrase naturally throughout a page or article and the keyword density will be ‘just right’ and not ‘over-optimised’ as it’s called.
As you can see, across a website’s many pages and the various types of On-Page SEO activities that can be done, there’s no shortage of tweaks that can be done on your website. And each tweak helps. It all adds up.
However, a savvy SEO team each month will not focus solely on your On-Site SEO…
2. Off-Page SEO for Accountants = Things done on other websites
In the 10-point list earlier of types of SEO ranking factors, the final three points related to Off-Page SEO. These are activities done on other websites, not on your website. To repeat them here for you, those factors were:
- Are there lots of links to the page from credible websites and directories?
- Has the page been shared frequently on social platforms?
- Is it easy to discern verified information about the business’ identity, location and contact details?
Link building is a big part of SEO. This is where the SEO team gets another website to link to specific pages on your website. These third-party sites can include:
- Other business’ websites and blogs
- Business directories
- Bookmark sites
- Social platform profiles
- And many others
Link-building is a labour-intensive but valuable process.
The number of social shares a web page receives is influenced by:
- How ‘shareworthy’ the content is, and
- How easy it is for readers to share, through social share widgets on the page.
Verified business information
Your business listings on Google My Business and Facebook are important, as are reviews on these platforms. It’s a common mistake we see with accounting firms’ SEO where they have not thoroughly or thoughtfully completed their Google My Business account information. This is a wasted opportunity, seeing as these listings are free.
Generating positive reviews by asking your happy clients to provide a review—and then being able to provide them with the simple instructions and link to do so—will help your Google rankings and online visibility.
3. Your SEO provider should be experienced in your industry
A bad SEO provider can ruin your website. Sure, Google rankings are important but there’s no point in ranking well in Google if when people go to your website they are turned off by what they see.
The SEO providers who will most likely wreck your accounting firm’s website:
- Are not specialists in SEO for your profession or industry — For example, they do things and make changes on your website that might be appropriate for a retail or hospitality business, but not for a professional services business such as an Accounting or Business Advisory firm.
- Use old-school ‘Black Hat’ techniques such as keyword stuffing and other techniques where they are trying to trick Google. Such tricks work for a little while—when they first start being used—but when Google updates their ranking algorithm to counteract these tactics, web pages that were ranking well get banished overnight, being buried many pages deep in the search results.
Why industry experience matters
Here’s an example for you. There’s an Adelaide-based Accounting firm that hired a cheap SEO provider—one of the Dear Sir/Madam spruikers—that was:
- not a specialist in SEO for accountants,
- not from within the country or culture and
- who used Black Hat SEO tactics.
This firm’s website’s home page went from having a good home page headline and core message—one that would have impressed a website visitor—to reading as if a virtual assistant with a poor grasp of English wrote it. The firm had instructed the SEO provider to help their website rank well for ‘business accountant Adelaide’ and so the shoddy SEO provider proceeded to ‘keyword stuff’ that phrase into the home page like this:
Welcome to Business Accountants Adelaide (which is not their business name)
We are business accountants in Adelaide. We love helping businesses in Adelaide because as accountants in Adelaide we have helped many Adelaide businesses.
And the keyword-stuffed verbal diarrhea continued down the page.
Not surprisingly, the website’s effectiveness tanked. It may have been ranking well and getting more traffic, but effective digital marketing is about traffic and conversion: The website visitors have got to like what they see, read it, scroll through, click on things and engage with the site.
Providers who focus on delivering SEO for accountants and advisors specifically will not make these mistakes.
What you have learned so far in this SEO for Accountants series
You’re becoming savvy to SEO and how to avoid shoddy SEO operators. On the positive flipside of that, you’re learning that to effectively harness the power of SEO for your Accounting firm’s website and to know how to intelligently select, delegate to and manage an SEO provider you—in future—will be asking them questions such as:
- Which SEO phrases are you targeting?
- What have you based that selection of phrases on?
- Is your SEO approach mainly On-Page, Off-Page or a blend?
- Which On-Page SEO activities will you focus on?
- Which Off-Page SEO activities will you focus on?
The next article in the SEO for accountants series will address: STEP 3: PUBLISH SEO-SAVVY BLOG CONTENT
PARADOX digital marketing support packages all now include SEO Implementation. If you’d like to have a chat about your business’ SEO or digital marketing need more broadly, you can book a time with one of our Digital Marketing Advisors here.