For the majority of people, if they’re in need of an accountant, they’ll be turning to Google. That means that you’re going to want your website to appear as high as possible when they start searching. And that means you need to take advantage of search engine optimization, or SEO.
SEO is a dense and technical topic that can get very complicated. But if you want to take a shot at some of the basics in SEO yourself, this list should help with the highlights.
Just follow these 11 steps and you’ll be on your way to higher rankings and more traffic!
Choose your target keyword
A keyword is basically a search term that you’d like to rank for.
For a CPA, a target keyword might be “accountant”. If you target this keyword it’ll increase your chances to rank for searches like “my city accountants” or “small business accountant”.
Naturally you may want to rank for as many different searches as possible. But SEO is very competitive, so focus is key.
If you aren’t focused you’ll be sending Google lots of different signals about what your website is about. And that can make it harder to determine what you should actually be ranking for.
Choosing a target keyword to focus on will concentrate all your SEO signals. Which should increase your chances to rank well for that specific search term.
Now while you may want to choose “accountant” as your target keyword, it’s better to pick something a bit more focused so it’s less competitive.
For “accountant” that’s especially the case because a lot of the search results are for jobs, salaries, and education. You don’t want to compete with those. You want to target people looking for your service.
If you focus on a particular service like bookkeeping or cross-border tax, that can be easier to rank for.
Then add in the city so it’s clear to Google where you’re located. Google usually gives local results for people searching for accountants. So making your location clear is important.
Ultimately, you want to choose a target that isn’t too competitive and that has decent search volume. Meaning people are actually searching for it.
Let’s say you specialize in accounting services for bars. Do bar owners actually search “accountant for bars”? Or do they search “small business accountant”. Base your target keyword on what people actually search.
Finding the right target keyword can get somewhat complicated. But you can use a free tool like Ubersuggest to get a rough idea of search volumes and competition to get started.
Choose a domain
Your domain is the main part of your website’s address – the part before the “.com”.
Choosing this can be as simple as using your practice’s name. But you may want to consider another option. Using a keyword rich domain.
Generally speaking, if the domain has certain keywords in it, it’s a strong signal to Google that it should be ranking for those searches. That can be very helpful for SEO.
The value of using a branded domain, like your firm’s name, is that for those that already know you it’s easier to remember your website. But it does very little for SEO.
The main problem with keyword rich domains is that they’re usually not available. Because of their popularity, they’re often all taken. But you can use a domain search tool to find one that hasn’t been scooped up.
If the one you want is “for sale” chances are someone bought it knowing that they’re highly desired domains and is hoping to sell it. While you could buy one of these, you can always try a few variations of the desired domain. Maybe pluralizing a word, or adding “of” or “the” can produce one that is available.
Also since accountants tend to be local searches, be sure to use your city in the domain.
Now you might be wondering if I use a keyword rich domain, then how will people find me if they search for my firm’s name?
Domains can rank for many different searches. How well it ranks depends on several factors, including the competition.
The competition for a search like “my city accountants” is bound to be high. A lot of domains are trying to rank for that.
But, there’s often very little competition for your name, especially if it’s a unique one.
So it’ll be easy for you to rank for your name even if you haven’t optimized your website for it.
If you still can’t decide though, I performed an analysis of 70 accounting websites to see what helped them rank which might help you choose.
Choose a website platform
You’ll have plenty of options if you want to build your own website.
If you want something quick and easy, and/or aren’t particularly tech-savvy, you can go with popular options like Wix or Squarespace.
If you want something a bit more flexible and better suited for SEO, you may want to use WordPress.
Like I mentioned when talking about marketing for accountants, WordPress is extremely popular, very well supported, and especially good for SEO.
And with the advent of drag-and-drop page builders like Elementor, you don’t need to be a web developer to get started.
Build out page structure and URLs
For SEO purposes you often want each page to target a distinct keyword. That means you don’t want two pages competing for the same keyword. And you also don’t want the same page targeting multiple keywords.
Not only is it sub-optimal for SEO, but it can lead to a poorer user experience.
If you have a lot of different services, like bookkeeping, tax, audit, and outsourced CFO services, it’s better to put each of them on it’s own page.
That way each page can focus on targeting the appropriate keyword.
That’s often better than having a single page target all of them at once, or simply targeting the generic “accounting services”.
Separating them means if a person searches for “tax accountant” they’ll be given a tax page. It’ll be exactly what they were looking for, and they won’t have to search through a long list of services.
And remember the points about having a keyword rich domain from above? Well that also applies to a degree for other parts of your URL.
That means it’s best to give pages names that are short, and target your keyword.
“/tax/” isn’t as good as “/tax-accounting/” if what you’re trying to do is focus on people searching for a “tax accountant”.
Optimize title tags
Every page has a title tag which is the title that appears in the tab at top of your browser. It’s also the headline for your result in a Google search.
It’s a strong signal to Google of what the page is about, so make sure it’s optimized.
That means putting your target keyword in there, and minimizing any other fluff keywords that will “dilute” the focus.
Also putting your target keywords earlier in the title tag implies a greater importance for those keywords. So if you’re going to put your firm name in the title tag as well, then try to put it at the end.
Additionally, be sure to respect the 60 character limit. Otherwise your title tag will be truncated in the search results, which isn’t a good look.
Optimize meta description
The meta description is the little paragraph of text that appears beneath the search result headline.
While this doesn’t directly influence SEO, it does impact whether a person is going to click on your result. Which is the whole point.
So try to write something that will grab the attention of a searcher and make you stand out against your competition.
You can do a Google search for your target keyword to see what others are writing for their meta descriptions.
Including your target keyword in the meta description is also a good idea, since it aligns you with the searcher. After all, you’re talking about exactly what they were looking for.
Again, respect the character limit so it isn’t truncated.
Optimize content for keywords
Google will try to read the content on your website to get an understanding of what it’s about. In the past this meant that keyword-stuffing was a powerful trick to get your page ranking. You’d simply include your target keyword as much as possible to make Google think that’s all you were about.
Of course that doesn’t make for a good user experience, and was pretty easy to abuse. And with time Google has become far more sophisticated at determining what a page is about. So keyword stuffing doesn’t really work anymore.
That being said, the keyword should still be there to some degree.
After all, how likely is it that a page should rank for “tax accountant” if it doesn’t say “tax” or “accountant” anywhere on the page?
There’s no optimal keyword density you should be targeting though. So just focus on making it user friendly, and that’ll often align with what Google thinks is a valuable result.
Also, be sure to use terminology that’s related to your topic. Google can tell that what words are topically related. So they can reinforce signals indicating what you’re about.
For example, if you include words like “IRS”, “filing deadline”, and “Form 1120”, those are strong signals that support a keyword like “tax accountant”.
Include trust signals
A bounce rate is the rate at which people visit your website and leave without any interactions.
Bounce rates are likely ranking factors for Google. But more importantly, they can mean your website isn’t doing a good job of giving your visitors value.
As such, it can be a good idea to add some trust signals that can lower your bounce rate.
Some examples are certifications and awards that show off your expertise to visitors.
It’s a lot more impressive to see “CPA with 20 years of experience, and 3-time winner of the Minnesota State Fair Pie-Eating Competition”, than nothing.
Social proof is also hugely beneficial. It shows that there are other people who have worked with you and who are happy with your service. And that’s very helpful in making a visitor feel like you’re a good choice.
So be sure to include a section or page that shows off your clients, and some testimonials about why they loved working with you.
Remember, for the average person, it’s very difficult to know if an accountant is any good. As far as they’re concerned, all the results on Google are just accountants, and there’s no real way to tell them apart. So showing off your expertise and happy customers goes a long way!
Build conversion path and tracking
Ultimately the main purpose of your website is to create more leads for you. That means you should set up tools to measure how successful your SEO efforts are. As well as to see how people are interacting with your website so that you can optimize it over time.
There are tons of tools that you can use to improve your SEO. But the 2 core ones you must use are Google Analytics and Google Search Console.
Google Analytics will give you tons of data about where people are coming from to your website, and what they’re doing. Setting it up is usually pretty simple but will vary depending on the website platform you chose.
Google Search Console will help measure your SEO efforts. It’ll tell you how well pages are ranking and for what searches. Setting this up is usually pretty easy once you have Google Analytics set up.
Build GMB and business listings
One of the most important factors to get your website to start ranking is to have backlinks. A backlink is essentially having another website link to one of your pages.
Google looks at backlinks as “votes” from other websites indicating that it’s a valuable website.
The topic of backlinks can get quite complicated, and building backlinks is a whole endeavor unto itself.
But for the purpose of getting started, we’ll do the absolute basics. And that means getting links from business directories.
Some of these might be free, others paid. But there’s usually plenty of free ones that you can have your company and website listed on. These links can give your new website a boost to start ranking.
You can use a tool like Ahrefs’s free backlink checker to look at some of the directories that your competitors are listed on. Then you can go and make an account and list your own website on those directories too.
Additionally you’ll want to make your Google My Business listing. This is the listing that allows your business to appear on Google Maps. I talk more about it in my marketing for accounting post.
But the gist is that it’ll allow you to link to your website, and give Google a strong signal about where you’re located. That way, you’re more likely to appear for searches that are given local results, like “accountant”.
Content is an incredibly powerful marketing tool to use. It can help acquire leads through a variety of channels by providing useful information to your target audience that not only helps them but gets them to engage with your brand.
Not only will they become aware of you, and your expertise, but they’re more likely to do business with you because you’ve already given them value.
Plus there’s a lot of topics that a potential customer will be searching for that your home page or services page won’t be targeting.
For example, a business owner who may eventually be in need of a tax accountant, may search “property tax rates” for their county. Having content that addresses this search can help expose that person to your brand. And that can lead to them potentially working with you down the road.
To see this strategy in action you can look at the estimated traffic per Ahrefs for Bench.co, an online bookkeeping service. Only 4% of their traffic goes to their homepage. 4 pieces of content drive more traffic than the homepage, and make up 25% of their total traffic!
Not only does the content bring you potential customers itself, but it can help your overall SEO. That means you can rank better for broader terms like “tax accountant”.
As you can imagine, content marketing is also a dense topic and there’s a lot of strategy that goes into success. But if you want to get started, you can think of some topics that may be of interest to your target audience, or questions that you frequently get from clients. Then you can search those in Google and see if there are any good results already addressing the question. If not, or if you think you can do a better job, that’s a good place to start.
If you’re just getting started with your practice, or just starting to consider marketing for your accounting firm, following the above guide can help point you in the right direction. But if you’re too busy to learn a whole new set of skills yourself and think your time is better spent elsewhere, then hiring a specialist is probably worth it. Just send me a message, and I’d be happy to discuss how I can help you grow!