Many accountants, CPAs and bookkeepers have become familiar with the concept of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). The ability to influence where and how a firm’s website appears in various Google searches creates an interesting opportunity. Just imagine – a business owner searches tax planning help and your website appears #1 on Google. It’s awesome and an exciting possibility for many.
While the end result is easy to imagine, it’s the journey of getting a website to that position, which may seem overwhelming to many. While SEO can be challenging there are some basic errors that every business owner (accountants and CPAs included) can avoid ensuring their website is in the best SEO shape possible. While some of these are more obvious than others, avoiding them is important to maintaining a good standing with Google and attracting quality prospects to your site.
Poor or Duplicate Content
This is one of the most common mistakes that accounting firms make with SEO. The reality is Google and other search engines value unique content. This means that firm’s need to go the extra mile to publish information that extends beyond a simple review of the latest audit standard update, tax changes or court ruling and the impact on taxpayers. It means time and energy needs to be spent on understanding the needs and issues of the prospect and then developing content that addresses their challenges and concerns. The truth is this is hard. Accountants go into the profession (most of the time) because they enjoy numbers, financial analysis and working with taxes. They don’t make their career choice so they can become authors. While it’s not necessary to become a semi-professional writer, it helps with SEO immensely when a firm publishes content that takes a new and different angle on a topic. As an aside, please don’t believe that purchasing canned content will resolve the issue. Unless a firm spends time on customizing it, search engines are able to tell when one article is used by multiple firms. It can lead to duplicate content issues which opens the door to other problems.
Neglecting Local SEO
Since most accounting firms are looking for new clients in a specific geographic area it’s important not to neglect local SEO. This type of SEO ensures that the firm ranks well for geographically centered searches. While there are many steps to success in local SEO efforts, the low hanging fruit rests with geographical term rich keywords. If your practice has an office in Fresno, then you should be using Fresno based keyword terms such as Fresno CPA firm, Fresno Accountant or Fresno bookkeeper. Another easy step you can take to ensure the practice is well positioned for local SEO is to create a listing on directories such as Google Places, Yelp and others. While your clients may not use these tools frequently, they are critical to success in local SEO.
Website Not Mobile Friendly
Many accountants are surprised to learn that a mobile version of their website is very important to SEO. In fact, when Google detects a search is being conducted on a mobile device (phone, tablet, etc), it only returns results with websites that are mobile friendly. In other words, they view the desktop site as a separate entity from the mobile site. For this reason, it’s important to ensure the firm’s website is mobile friendly. If not, reach out to your web developer or company and find out what it will take to make that happen!
Not Using Custom Meta Data
Many accounting firms are unaware that each page of their website should have a custom meta title and description highlighting what the content on the page is about. All too often, firms just use the same generic title and description for every page which is usually just the name of the firm and a one sentence statement. This is poison for SEO simply because Google and other search engines look at the meta data to understand what the page is about. If every page has the exact same title, then how can it distinguish between the content on your site? Take the time to modify this information to ensure they reflect the actual subject matter of each page. This will go a long way to pushing your site up in the rankings.
SEO is a micro-marketing specialty and like anything else takes time, energy and effort to improve. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t make progress by sticking to the basics and avoiding common mistakes. In fact, there are many accountants in the marketplace that are doing very well with SEO, so why not you? By avoiding these common errors, you will be pushing your firm ahead of others in the marketplace.
Brian Swanson is the Chief SEO Strategist at FlashPoint Marketing, where he helps accounting firms optimize their online strategy. www.flashpointmarketing.biz. You can also follow him on twitter @bswan775.