It Takes a Lot More Than a Website to Be Found Online
These days, there are so many armchair online marketing experts out there that it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction. This is especially true in the world of CPAs, EAs and tax accounting professionals, as they tend to have “free advice” from experts and clients alike.
The fact of the matter is that, like tax laws, online marketing can be a complicated and malleable process. While it can certainly be intimidating, one thing we’ve found over the years is that simply understanding the basics can eliminate a lot of the fear involved. It can also provide you with a helpful road map to get the most out of your digital marketing efforts.
Case in point: You’ve heard the phrase “just launch any website, and they will come” so many times that it MUST be true; right?
Time and again, a friend or relative is a “web designer” who can easily put together a WordPress or other template-based website and hand it off to an accounting pro. What many people fail to realize is that building a website and getting it to actually rank on search engines such as Google are two completely different things. ANYONE can build a website ― getting visitors to that website is something else entirely.
A huge number of variables affect something as fragile as traffic:
Was the website built correctly in the first place?
Did the designer use unique meta titles and descriptions?
Did the designer submit a site map when launching the site?
Is the content set up in the way that search engines actually want, versus someone just stuffing in random keywords and calling it a day?
Does the site list the name of your firm, its address and its phone number on EVERY page?
Does the site load as quickly as possible?
Is the site optimized for smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices?
All of these on-page SEO elements make up a STARTING point for getting your website ranked. Even if the answer to every one of those questions is “yes,” you could STILL fail to get the results you need. The rest of it ― the off-page elements listed below ― are the true keys to building the type of online presence that will be easily found for years to come.
The Importance of Five Star Reviews.
By far, one of the most important assets that CPAs, accountants and tax professionals have in particular with regards to getting found online are their existing customers. Using review testimonials strategically on your site is one of the single best ways to take satisfied clients and turn them into your best salespeople in an instant.
Online reviews check a lot of boxes, all of which help tremendously in terms of visibility. For starters, they build trust like nothing else. Because the reviews come from a third party and not from either you or the copywriter on your payroll, they’re seen as impartial and thus are naturally persuasive. OF COURSE, you think you have the best accountant firm in the area. But if 100 satisfied customers do, too... suddenly, that will turn into 110, 150 or 200 customers and beyond before you know it.
According to BrightLocal, an incredible 68 percent of customers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business in particular more than they would through other means. Make no mistake: This is one important tool for expanding your visibility that you literally cannot afford to overlook any longer.
Location, Location, Location.
Because the internet allows us to communicate on a global scale, many people make the mistake of assuming that the physical location of your business no longer matters as much as it did 10 or even five years ago. In reality, this couldn’t be more incorrect: The actual location of your office matters because implementing local SEO best practices is one of the key ways to drive traffic right to your virtual door. In many cases, they can be MORE effective than traditional or broader SEO approaches.
Never forget that mobile devices allow search engines to know PRECISELY where a user is standing during that search. Because of this, Google won’t return the highest rated accountant firm in the country when someone searches for “best accountant.” Google will return the highest rated (or most visible) accountant firm IN THAT AREA because that is what matters most to that person at that time.
In order to put the power of geo-locations to work for you and to use Google to your advantage, keep a few steps in mind:
Always create a location-specific landing page and, above all else, make sure it includes all of the information Google cares about with regards to your business. This means it should overview your services, your contact information, your office hours and more.
DO NOT keyword stuff. Gone are the days where you could rank highly for a search term just by making sure five or six relevant keywords appear as many times as possible on your page. These days, keyword stuffing will actually do a whole lot more harm than good.
Provide relevant content. Try to solve a problem your audience is having. Try to provide advice. Design content for the searcher, not the search engine.
Always claim your Google “My Business” listing for every location. By far, this is one of the most crucial methods to use to be found locally.
Consider virtual locations. Even if you don’t have a physical address in a particular area, you can still rank highly by using a virtual office for client meetings and other related business activities. Keep in mind, however, that P.O. boxes do NOT count.
Get People Talking: Generate Consistent Mentions of Your Brand Online.
If you’re not familiar with the concept of NAP, you should be. It’s an acronym that stands for “Name, Address and Phone Number,” and it is a CRITICAL factor in local SEO for companies like Google and other search providers.
People often refer to occurrences of NAP data around the web as citations. A citation is when your NAP data shows up on directory sites like TaxBuzz or Yelp, newspaper articles, blogs posts, etc.
Social Media Is No Longer an Option. It Is a Requirement.
As of 2015, more than 3 billion internet users are on planet Earth. More than 2 billion of them have active social media accounts. Let that sink in for a moment. If you’re able to successfully harness social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and more to your advantage, you’re looking at perhaps the most powerful way to connect with your clients and prospects in a meaningful and intimate way.
When you engage in social media, you don’t just make it easier for your clients to find you ― you make it easier for them to connect. Establishing a connection means that you’re more likely to increase retention, which builds brand loyalty at the same time. Additionally, social media prowess also helps your brand rank higher in search. This means that you must work hard to get all of the mentions, likes, followers and activity that you can.
Social media is also a powerful way to get your content in front of your audience in an on-demand way. As a communications tool, it is a marketing platform, a customer service face, AND a way for someone to discover your business all wrapped up in one.
If you’re operating under the assumption that Twitter is something “just for those kids these days,” don’t let anyone tell you that you’re right: You’re wrong.
You Are an Expert. It’s Time to Start Acting Like It.
Something that is particularly important in the financial services industry comes down to the fact that at the end of the day, the service you’re providing is an inherently complicated one. Most taxpayers (and to be honest, even most small business owners) know that the tax code and accounting in general can be daunting.
Because of the sheer volume of white noise going on, people seek out experts and influencers who they believe can be trusted as valuable sources of information.
That means you.
If you’re an expert at your craft (and you should be), you need to leverage this fact to your advantage to get noticed. You need to not only be visible, but also network with media, bloggers and other influencer contacts. The more people start talking about you, the more inbound links you’ll generate. These are massive, massive green lights for search engines that your brand should be ranked “above” other experts.
So how do you get known, you ask? Thankfully, the answer is pretty straightforward.
Commit to blogging. Start posting helpful advice on social media. Start hosting webinars in your spare time. Be an interview subject to anyone who will ask. Start making your own helpful videos.
All of this takes time, yes, but remember the old saying that “slow but steady wins the race.” Once you build an expert reputation, you won’t just have higher visibility. You can command higher fees, work with the clients you want, and maintain a much more successful practice in one fell swoop.
All of this is to say that it takes a whole lot more effort than just simply putting a page on the internet to drive people to visit your website. There are SEVERAL keys to making an impact online, all of which are equally important, and all of which will require a great deal of work and strategy. By following these guidelines as you develop and hone the strategy that works for you, you’ll find yourself getting the best results before you know it. Remember that short-term results may feel nice, but they’re fleeting. Long-term strategies give you the staying power you need when you need it the most.
Ready to get your online marketing strategy in place? Are you too busy to do this on your own? Give us a call today to schedule an appointment and speak to one of our digital marketing experts. We’re here to help!
Lee Reams II
I am a marketing junkie who has spent the last 20 years developing and executing "best in class" word-of-mouth marketing campaigns. With over 10,000 happy clients I think we are on to something. The explosion in web marketing and social media have redefined the way independent professionals market their practices. Follow my blog to see if you can take some of our actionable ideas to market your own practice.