Accountants have enough responsibility on a day-to-day basis. Digital marketing strategies and accounting SEO probably isn’t a priority for many of them. Or they may already understand the importance of SEO and just don’t know where to start. Don’t let the stress of it force you to make hasty decisions that may not get you the results you are after.

Keep reading to learn what accountants NEED to know about SEO. 

Your potential clients are searching for you online, and they’re using a search engine to find accountants and firms that are a good fit for them.  Naturally, you want to optimize your online presence to attract more website visitors and leads.

There are some common misconceptions about accounting SEO that often steer accounting firms in the wrong direction. And for those who believe these misconceptions, it can be very difficult to understand why your SEO isn’t working the way it should be. The thing these misconceptions all have in common is the fact that they DON’T work. Understanding accounting firm SEO will save you time, energy, and money.

A Huge Dilemma With Accounting SEO

To succeed in SEO, understanding user behavior for accounting firm websites, and the journey that your potential clients are on when seeking an accountant. What does it look like to have someone realize a need for an accountant, to find your firm online, and then contact you?

Let’s use an accounting firm in Sacramento specializing in small business for our example. Which path will your prospective clients take to becoming a paying one?

This is how most accounting firms view it:

  • The potential client becomes aware of their need for an accountant.
  • They visit Google.
  • Because they’re in need of an accountant, they conduct a search for “accounting firms in Sacramento” or “best accountants in Sacramento.”
  • They find your website because it showed up on the first page of Google.
  • They contact you from your website.

The scenario above is a common view of how many accountants think SEO works. They really don’t understand how their potential clients conduct a search online. It’s not as much of a straight path as many people believe it to be.

Let’s break down three common assumptions from the example above.

  1. Potential clients know they need an accountant before they Google one.
  2. Clients conduct basic keyword searches to find an accountant.
  3. Your potential clients search for accountants directly.

There’s also an assumption that these potential clients are using a laptop instead of a mobile device. And not having a mobile-friendly website will pile more SEO problems on your lap (but that’s a discussion for a different blog post).

If you’re implementing SEO strategies that stem from the misconceptions above, you’ll be adding unnecessary expenses.

When SEO Isn’t Working How Accountants Want it To

If your accounting firm’s SEO strategy is based in any of the misconceptions we outlined above, you are probably already frustrated by the lack of results because you are missing some of the SEO basics for accountants.

It isn’t uncommon to for many accounting firms to outsource their SEO campaigns when they become overwhelming, or when they don’t fully understand how SEO works for accountants. Often, these “SEO specialists” they hire claim that they can resolve all of your accounting firm’s SEO challenges.

But the problem with this practice is that many of these “specialists” employ SEO strategies for accountants that are similar putting a band-aid a the wound without treating it first.  They can make it appear that your SEO obstacles have been overcome, but these methods do nothing to help your business grow long-term. Similarly to how you’d clean a wound before covering it with a band-aid, you must first go back to the basics and care for your SEO strategy from the outset.

Otherwise, you’ll end up spending way too much money and time for too little returns on your investment.

How SEO Actually Works For Accountants

Let’s break down these assumptions a bit more using the accounting firm in Sacramento as an example.

Assumption 1: “Potential Clients Know They Need an Accountant Before They Google One”

The path from becoming aware of the need, to finding an accountant, to contacting them is rarely a straight line. And most of these potential clients actually aren’t aware of their need for an accountant before they start searching for one.

Let’s say someone who owns a small business is unfamiliar with accounting and needs to file taxes for their business.  They’ll go to Google and create searches along the lines of, “filing business taxes” and related keyword phrases such as “small business tax rate” and “first time filing taxes.”

Before searching for an accountant, they DO know that they have a problem that needs help solving.  And in today’s market where potential clients are more informed and have access to so much information, you must earn the right to be seen.  This means providing value by publishing informative content that addresses the problems that your potential clients have. This is highly effective for improving your lead generation and will save you both money and time.

Assumption 2: “Clients Conduct Basic Keyword Searches to Find an Accountant”

Consider the search for “Dove Soap Walmart.”  This is extremely broad.  It’s possible that this type of search is conducted when someone wants to know if a store carries what they’re looking for.  But if they need more specific results, their search will be much more detailed.

Imagine the different results you’d get by searching for “Dove Soap Walmart” versus “Dove Men’s 2 in 1 Shampoo and Conditioner Walmart Sacramento.”  The second search is going to produce more specific results.  Google will tell you if any of the Walmart’s in Sacramento have that type of shampoo and conditioner.

People don’t want mountains of search results to sift thorough. Their time is valuable, and they want a quick, accurate answer. This certainly applies to your accounting firm.  Your potential clients are less likely to search “Accountants in California” and scan through thousands of results. They’re more likely to have specific problems and questions that need solving.

Potential clients could ask questions like, “How to file business taxes” or “What are the top business tax deductions?

These are specific questions that someone wants answers to.  And when they search with these questions, Google will try to provide the most relevant and useful content for them.

Providing quality content on your accounting firm’s website and blog will help you attract more potential clients and save you costs.  Your content should address your potential clients’ problems and provide solutions for them.  This will help you build trust and credibility.  You’ll begin to establish a valuable relationship and encourage your readers to contact you when they need your services.

Assumption 3: “Your Potential Clients Search for Accountants Directly”

Your potential clients will search for accountants differently than other consumer products. They’re looking to solve a more important need in contrast to a simpler need for shampoo and conditioner.

That Dove shampoo and conditioner is a consumer product and is going to be a simple purchase. This person already has an idea of what they want and where they can get it.

Choosing an accountant is a more complicated and labor-intensive process.  Your prospective clients want to be sure that you’re the right accountant who can help them solve their problems. Given the complexity of the decision making process, your potential clients won’t be searching for you in the same way they’ll search for simple consumer products.

An Example of How Potential Clients Find Accounting Firms Through Search

Here is an example of how to properly use SEO for your accounting firm:

  1. A potential client conducts a Google search for: “What are the top business tax deductions?”
  2. Your accounting firm wrote a blog article on this topic providing a lot of value (common business tax deductions, accounting best practices, tips for the next tax date). You write the post with their perspective in mind, making it relatable and easy for them to understand.
  3. This potential client reads your blog, and it’s given them an answer to their question. Now that they’re reading your accounting firm’s blog, they visit more content on your site and invest more time on it.
  4. When what you’ve written is informative and useful, the potential client begins to trust you. Your content shows them that you understand their accounting needs and you can offer them value.
  5. They contact you when they’re ready to use your services. You nurture your relationships with potential clients until they find a need to move to the next stage in their buying journey (ultimately, becoming a customer).

The phrase “tax deductions” in step 1 above is a keyword phrase that is related to your firm.  But competing for rank with the word “tax deductions” alone is challenging (especially for a small firm or accountant).  So how do you rank for a popular keyword phrases like “tax deductions?”  Add it to a long-tail keyword (and use these keywords strategically on your accounting firm’s website and blog posts). Coming up with marketing ideas for tax businesses can seem daunting, but remembering how users behave on your firm’s website will go a long way.

When developing digital marketing strategies for accountants, remember that the more specific your keywords are, the less competition you’ll have for those terms. You’ll also be able to attract more qualified potential clients this way.

What Accountants Need To Know About SEO

Accountants can get frustrated when implementing SEO because they think having a website presence online is enough to attract potential clients.

This perspective can lead to added costs of money, time, and possibly your firm’s online reputation.

Some SEO companies and marketers who sell accounting SEO advice will explain to you that SEO is too complicated to tackle alone. And when an accountant thinks SEO is too confusing or doesn’t understand user behavior on accountant websites, they could make a hasty purchasing decision. Many of these companies won’t help you build a successful online presence long-term.  And we don’t want you to waste your time and cash on gimmicky tactics that don’t work.

This hasty decision could damage your presence online. Be wary of SEO marketing companies that use tactics that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. They try to cheat Google’s algorithms to receive metrics that appear beneficial short-term, but don’t move the needle long-term.

These tactics are tempting. Just be aware that many of these strategies are temporary fixes and a quick boost (remember the band-aid analogy?). Your firm could be faced with severe consequences when Google’s algorithms catch to those tactics, leading to reduced rankings and a ruined online reputation. Some accounting firms will then try to fix their SEO challenges with another SEO company–starting a vicious cycle.

By putting yourself in your potential clients’ shoes, you can prevent you from wasting money and time on marketing for CPA firms. Before deciding that your website has a problem that needs repairing, make sure you understand the main SEO principles and how your buyer persona operates.