Do you want to know more about basic SEO for accountants and bookkeepers in 2020 and beyond?
The answer is probably yes because you’ll know, it doesn’t matter how excellent your services are, finding new clients doesn’t always come as easily as it should.
Accountancy firms and bookkeepers everywhere are increasing their marketing know-how to help them find their next clients and SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is one of the most important aspects of this.
SEO refers to the techniques implemented to make sure you appear on the relevant search pages on Google and other search engines.
The higher up you rank, the more likely your accounting firm will be found by a prospective client.
The aim is to rank on the first page, and ideally, you want to be the first result.
This is because, according to this study conducted by Advanced Web Ranking the first listing on Google’s organic search results gets over double the amount of traffic, compared to even just the second listing.
Position 1: 34.78%
Position 2: 14.92%
Position 1: 30.91%
Position 2: 15.67%
Meanwhile, just appearing on the first page increases your chance of a click, with a grand total of 92% of all traffic in an average search landing on one of the first page results.
Don’t miss out on potential customers and conversions by staying in the past. Here’s your chance to modernise, digitalise and optimise your accounting business.
Read on to get up to speed with these need-to-know SEO tips for accountants and bookkeepers.
Pick a domain name that works for you
Make it relevant and memorable.
A lot of businesses and accountants, in particular, pick lengthy domain names in order to try and appeal to the masses.
But it’s important when picking your domain to consider the future branding and longevity of your accounting firm.
You don’t see well-known brands with long domains that aren’t instantly recognisable, or that don’t relate to their actual company name!
In order to improve SEO, you may see your competitors keyword stuffing their domain. By keyword stuffing, I mean needlessly putting in keywords to try and rank higher.
For example, www.best-accounting-firm-london.co.uk. This is terribly bad practice and moreover, offers next to no benefit.
You want your clients to recognise you and for your domain to help build brand awareness.
Good choices of domains for an accounting company are:
- johndoe.com (or .co.uk if based in the UK)
- johndoeaccountants.com (or .co.uk if based in the UK)
- johndoeaccountancy.com (or .co.uk if based in the UK)
- johndoebookkeepers.com (or .co.uk if based in the UK)
- areaaccountants.com (or .co.uk if based in the UK)
- areabookkeepers.com (or .co.uk if based in the UK)
Web hosting providers matter
Do your research before picking a host.
Poor hosting can have terrible consequences for the SEO for accountants and result in malware attacks, loss of data, negative SEO rankings, your emails marked as spam and overall, a potential for lost revenue.
When doing your research, check the reviews and testimonials of your potential host. Look for how people rate the customer service in particular – you want to be able to contact your host easily, in case of an emergency.
The host should also be confident and able to share their expertise with you, making sure you get the best fit for your business.
Speak to them. What options do they offer? Shared, VPS (Virtual Private Server), Dedicated and Managed Web hosting, for example. Will they be able to grow with you as your business grows?
If they can answer your questions confidently you too can have confidence in them.
Know your keywords
But don’t stuff them!
After the arrival of the Hummingbird algorithm in the summer of 2013, search engines were capable of understanding and identifying that keywords alone are not enough to rank pages.
Keyword stuffing had become common because of this and it needed to be rectified in order to stop search engines being overrun with inappropriate websites.
What they needed to understand next, was how this data was related, both within the same site and throughout the web.
This is where the most important change within the search landscape occurs: a progression from the ubiquitous keywords to the increasingly important entities.
Words become concepts and search engines evolve into genuine learning machines.
Furthermore, with the introduction of BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) in late 2019, Google can now better understand the nuances and context of words in searches and better match those queries with more relevant results.
HOWEVER, that does NOT mean that the “classic” keyword research is not needed anymore.
Finding the most profitable keywords to support your SEO efforts is still essential and it is no exaggeration that without keywords, there’s no such thing as SEO for accountants.
It’s all in the content
Having a blog or news element to your website is best practice.
Writing regular blogs and updating your website gives you something to share on your social media.
However, the real power of content like this lies in the opportunity to highlight your expertise.
Showcase your thought processes and what makes you stand out against the other accountancy firms.
For simplicity and maximum SEO benefit, place your blog in a subfolder (ie johndoeaccountants.com/blog/).
Not under a subdomain (ie blog.johndoeaccountants.com) or even worse under a totally different domain (ie johndoeblog.com).
Social media has a part to play
Does it help SEO for accountants or not?
As already mentioned, social media is important and a great place to share your blog articles. But how else can social media be used in regards to SEO?
The web is all about building relationships. Social, therefore, goes hand in hand with SEO best practice.
Making sure your website has social media buttons can help spread your brand and business and also make your pages more “shareable.”
Profile buttons link to your respective profiles – so people can find you and follow you.
Sharing buttons help people share something on their own channels, pin an image to a Pinterest board or Tweet something to their own followers.
But can social media actually impact SEO? This experiment by Hootsuite gives a really good and data-packed answer to this question.
Tags, titles & metadata
Don’t fear the jargon.
All of these words probably sound familiar if you’ve been working hard on an existing website, but the overuse of SEO jargon can easily frighten off even the most confident accountant.
For those who aren’t technically trained, here’s a breakdown:
Using <title> tags properly is an important task, for your on-page activities.
These tags tell a search engine how to define and find the content to then use in the results in a browser which are also known as SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).
This is also how social media works out which snippets to show when you share it.
Top Tip: 60-65 characters max (612px width), include some keywords (don’t stuff!), place your brand name at the end of the tag separating with a – or |.
E.g. “John Doe Chartered Accountants Essex | FREE Tax Consultation” or “John Doe Accountants | Pay Less Tax, Increase Your Wealth”
The article you’re reading is primarily targeting the keyword “SEO for accountants” so the meta title used is “SEO for Accountants & Bookkeepers | Smart Marketing Tips.”
Not to be confused with <title> tags, you’ll put headlines in when you’re inputting your text.
These are indicated in the HTML and you’ll see these in your CMS (Content Management System) as H1, H2, H3 etc.
It is important to make sure you use your headlines in the correct order and only ever have one H1 (although Google says that multiple H1s would not affect your organic visibility).
This is because these signal to your website the structure of your page. H1 will be the main title, with your main keywords, H2 will be less important and so on and so forth.
Top Tip: Don’t use headings for aesthetic purposes. Use them in order! You can learn how to use H1-H6 HTML with this guide.
Meta descriptions do not impact Google’s ranking algorithms. However, using this sensibly can be the difference to a customer clicking through to your website, or picking someone else’s.
Make sure this is very specific and relevant to the page, so the customers can know to click!
Top Tip: Keep it under 155 characters will show in the SERPs, use this to promote and celebrate your USPs (Unique Selling Points), but remember to be relevant, otherwise your bounce rate will increase.
Below is the homepage snippet of MCL, an accounting firm in Southend:
In February 2019, Google confirmed that E-A-T is a very important aspect when it comes to the search engine’s algorithms.
It’s mentioned a lot in Google’s Quality Raters Guidelines (QRG). But what does it stand for?
Expertise (E), Authoritativeness (A), Trust (T) – this essentially means sites must be factually correct and of high quality.
But how do you know what is high quality? Google describes a high-quality page characteristic to:
- Showcase a high-quality E-A-T, this includes the publisher’s E-A-T, i.e. how well known is the individual and what else have they written?
- Topics should come from someone with experience and everyday expertise in order to have T – Trustworthy. If the individual Googles your name and they discover you are a cleaner by day, are they to trust your accountancy ability? Probably not. Make sure your LinkedIn and any journals you’ve written for are relevant and highlight you and your skills to the best of your ability.
- Writing for journals (as mentioned above) or other high-quality sites, help you build the A – Authoritativeness. If you’ve written for ICAEW, Accountancy Age or Accountancy Daily, it helps Google (and your clients) know that you have the E – Expertise in what you do.
- The MC (Main Content) must be well written, without errors, grammar mistakes etc. This is good for your SEO but also important if you want to appeal to high-end clients.
- Satisfying customer service, contact and publisher information must be available, especially if you have anything on your website that people can buy/take any transactional information. This helps you build on your T – Trustworthiness.
- Few negative reviews/associations with the page – a torrent of negative feedback about your site will not help you improve E-A-T.
You can read more in the QRG to further your understanding of E-A-T. As it is fairly new, there is some debate about how E-A-T works and how Google algorithmically measures this.
One thing we know for sure is Google has said it is something they consider.
When it comes to asking clients to invest in the future of their home, business or properties, it is always best practice to be an expert, to be a figure of authority and to be trustworthy – so it’s a win-win for SEO and for your accounting business reputation.
Avoid “black-hat” SEO strategies
When we say “black-hat” SEO, we refer to techniques that people used to use to try and cheat Google, to rank high without putting in the real work.
It’s deemed aggressive and it breaks the rules to try and cheat the system.
Nowadays, Google is much smarter and these techniques will not work. Trying them will reduce your organic traffic and could eventually result in penalties against your website.
Examples of these strategies:
- Creating multiple websites that all link to one main one, in the hope that spreading their net will increase the chance of catching something. It will also cost you more and waste your time and resources, setting up and running all these websites. You’re also putting more barriers in the way of your clients reaching the right place. In some cases, we do set up a microsite or landing page to help promote a particular event.
- Keyword stuffing – we’ve already talked about this in regards to the domain name, but throughout your website, stuffing keywords in every way you can, even when it doesn’t make sense will do nothing for you. It will just show an innate lack of SEO and marketing understanding for an accounting firm, and not help you come across as the professional service you want to. This also relates to having high-quality content on your website.
- Purposeful duplicate content won’t work. As per point one, having a johndoeaccountants.com and a johndoeaccountants.co.uk is not good practice. Commonly, you see similar with non-www and www versions of sites. You will be punished (or simply ignored) by Google for having both, so accounting websites must not have duplicate content. 301 redirects are the best solution for www and non-www.
- Adopting a one size fits all approach across your website – this happens a lot with tags. If they are not used wisely, the pages appear almost identical content resulting in cannibalisation problems – this occurs when two or more pages compete for the same set of keywords. The solution is to ensure each page is properly optimised, targeted and specific to closely related keywords that don’t repeat throughout the site.
- Cloaking – this is a trick that makes your user and the search engine think they are clicking one thing when it actually redirects them to something else entirely. This makes the serving search engine look bad, so they really don’t like this.
- Hidden text – unbelievably, people do try to trick users by cramming keywords in the same colour text as the webpage’s background. This way the user experience isn’t affected as they don’t see the words, but it’s thought the keywords will help the page rank. It doesn’t work and it’s terrible practice!
- Link exchange – link farms – buying links – this all refers to any links that are intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking – this is a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
SSL certificates and online security are vital these days, especially with GDPR now.
If you have an e-commerce element to your website or collect sensitive information you have to be able to prove your website is safely storing that information.
An SSL certificate will do this for you.
There are free and paid-for versions and some website host providers include this in a package.
These can be complex to set up, so speak to an SEO expert to avoid any unwanted technical errors in the back-end of your website especially during the migration from non-https to https protocol.
Use Google’s tools
Google has so many free tools that not everyone is making use of. They provide them, so why aren’t we using them more?
They offer you invaluable insights and tips that will help improve your page if you pay attention to them.
Google Search Console – this tool exists to help you improve your organic search performance.
You may gather information about any manual or (some) of the algorithmic penalties you have received, find suggestions for title and meta description tags that could help you improve quickly as well as monitor your mobile usability & AMP issues.
You can also see the number of pages indexed by Google, crawling problems/errors, insights about what people are searching for when they’re reaching your site, submit your sitemap and more.
You can read this guide for more tactics on higher rankings – but this is general rather than specific towards accounting and bookkeeping firms marketing.
Google Analytics – from advanced reports to simpler summaries, Google Analytics offers you insight into bounce rates to mouse tracking.
You should link it to Google Search Console, Google Ads (if you run any paid advertising) and also enable the internal site search tracking (to see what people are searching for on your site).
User & mobile accessibility
Making sure your audience can access your website is best practice anyway but it can also impact your SEO!
In 2015, Google rolled out an algorithmic update which demoted any webpage that wasn’t mobile-friendly.
Non-mobile friendly pages dropped an average of 5 places. It isn’t just mobile accessibility.
Make sure your webpage has alternative text on images, so those with visual impairments can still hear a description of what they could be seeing.
Any videos should always have subtitles. Don’t say “click here” say “read this guide” instead.
As a generation that is moving into the digital, it is integral that EVERYONE has access. Make sure you do your part.
Test your mobile accessibility on Google’s Mobile-Friendly tool – it will also give you tips if you need them to help you improve.
Yet another amazing free tool from Google!
Check your website’s “robots.txt” file
The “robots.txt” file sits in the website’s root (e.g. johndoeaccountants.com/robots.txt).
This tool allows you to restrict search engines from crawling specific pages/parts of your website.
This is also how you block search engines crawling the website when it is under development.
Make sure your website is “crawlable” again once you’ve launched your site – you’ll be surprised how many people make that mistake.
Do not use Flash & <iframe> elements
Adobe Flash is not supported by Apple and iOS devices – so avoid Flash technology.
HTML5 and CSS3 have developed enough to make up for life without Flash.
WordPress themes are much more responsive, there are more options and higher quality for mobile platforms.
Content within iFrame tags don’t help your SEO, so if you have them on your main page, you may find they don’t perform as well as they should.
Save iFrames for secondary or tertiary pages and use your unique, top content for the main pages.
Avoid anything… “annoying”
Time is money and your customers don’t want to waste their time watching a 30-second intro just to get into your website.
You’ll find elements that can’t be skipped or anything that adds a hurdle just to access your website (ads/pop-ups/animations etc) will increase your bounce rate.
Google has been known to penalise websites that feature this element as it is deemed aggressive and can damage the mobile experience.
Mobile-First Indexing (MFI)
MFI is a Google initiative that looks more at the mobile version of your website and weights this as a priority.
Because more and more traffic is coming from mobiles every day, Google has chosen to index the mobile versions when they are available rather than Desktop versions (as it always has historically).
Top Tip: Use Google’s URL Inspection Tool to check how a URL from a site was last indexed.
Page loading speed optimisation
According to several studies, visitors leave sites in much higher numbers when pages take longer to load.
With our shrinking attention spans, a second delay in your web page loading might be costing you dearly.
If you feel overwhelmed with all this technical stuff, just contact me.
Well structured, meaningful permalinks
Sometimes (by default in many platforms) the structure of the URLs can be really ugly and SEO unfriendly.
Have you ever seen anything like this:
If that happens to your accounting firm’s site you have to take immediate action.
These URLs lack any kind of optimised content (keywords) and to make it worse, they are not great from a user experience point of view too.
A clean, well displayed, SEO friendly and meaningful URL is more inviting, gets noticed and helps your business rank higher in search engines.
If your website is built on WordPress (which it should be), don’t forget to set the permalinks (under Settings >> Permalinks).
Top Tip: if your website is already live and you change the structure of the URLs, don’t forget to 301 redirect the old URLs to the new ones – otherwise you’ll end up having 404 error pages all over the place.
Again, if you don’t feel confident doing that, please get in touch.
Improve your user experience (UX)
As an accounting firm, you’ll be focussed on aesthetics.
Don’t let any technical misunderstandings cost your user experience or usability.
Access to the most important pages of your website (services, contact info, quote request) should be clearly indicated within 1-2 clicks away from every page.
Avoid everything we’ve mentioned above: animations, intro pages etc – don’t add hurdles that stop your customer getting to their destination.
Optimise your photos
Another important part of your UX is to make sure your images are easy to navigate (swipe etc) and that your images are optimised.
By this we mean:
- Image size – your photos should be uploaded at the right size to stop your page loading speed increasing. Keep them under 100-150kb. Remember slow load times will impact your rankings!
- ALT text – this is important. Every image must have a logical descriptive ALT text which describes what it is. This is important for accessibility but you can also use keywords to help with your SEO.
- Captions will also help tie your photos to keywords.
- Image filename – in order to further increase visibility on image search don’t forget to assign to each image a descriptive filename (before uploading to the website) using keywords, separated by hyphens (not underscores).
Local SEO for accountants
Having your brand name, physical address and phone number (local landline is best) featuring somewhere on every page – usually this is at the footer.
This information known as (NAP) helps your search rankings if your information is consistent across multiple sites and your Google Business listing etc.
Here’s a list with 22 citation sites for the accounting and finance industry (BrightLocal.com):
Local SEO is about NAP consistency – any inconsistency will rank you down!
Are you based in the UK and need more free business listing websites? Check my full list here!
Top Tip: Get in touch if you want help locating and standardising all of your information everywhere to translate it into the format Google most prefers.
An internal link connects one page of a website to a different page on the same website. In an internal link, the source domain and target domain are the same.
It’s crucial for your SEO to evaluate and improve internal linking strategy on a regular basis.
By adding the right internal links you make sure Google understands the relevance of pages, the relationship between pages and the value of pages.
This is also a good way of keeping users longer on your website, by offering them some recommended additional galleries/articles to check out.
It’s also a great trick for lowering your bounce rate, increasing the dwell time and distribute link equity to your most important pages.
Build quality links back to your website
Acquiring links from quality, authoritative and relevant to your accounting business website is still one of the major SEO ranking factors.
Link building (or earning) is maybe the hardest (yet most powerful) aspect of SEO as these links considered as votes of confidence by Google making your website rank higher on SERPs.
The three essential elements of effective SEO link earning are manual outreach, honest communication and high-quality content.
There are no shortcuts here, no quick gains. All you have to do is build solid relationships with people who can trust you for the quality of your work.
In Brian Dean’s link building guide, he explains everything you need to know to build quality links in 2020 and beyond.
SEO Services for Accountants
If you are beginning your SEO journey as an accounting and bookkeeping business in Essex or anywhere in the UK, this simple SEO guide for accountants is all you need to get the ball rolling.
Top Tip: SEO is a marathon, not a sprint.
The days of SEO being a game about outsmarting algorithms are over. Today content strategy and valuable, sustainable strategies are essential, not just tricks and links. – Adam Audette, Chief Knowledge Officer, RKG
Hope you found this accounting firm SEO guide useful.
Contact me today to discuss your campaign and see what I can offer you to expand and grow your business via SEO.