6 Must-Know Trends in Search Engine Optimization
A prominent online presence for your business requires more than publishing your website and forgetting about it, which we could get away with up to about five years ago. To be seen today, your site must be optimized for search engines, and this is called SEO – search engine optimization.
SEO is one of the most underutilized marketing opportunities in the accounting industry. And, yet, accountants who have implemented it often overpay for SEO services. We see a tremendous number of mistakes in SEO application in the accounting industry. Hopefully, this article will help to provide some insight into, and an update on, SEO.
SEO has substantially increased in complexity in recent years, even months. Here are six trends affecting SEO, and correspondingly, your online marketing results:
1. Local search. Now that cloud solutions, such as QuickBooks Online, are popular, many accountants want to market to everyone in their home country because they can serve them virtually. In most cases, this is a costly mistake. You will get far better results when search is designed based on your office location.
Local search can include many steps:
- Claiming your Google Business page.
- Setting up your business on Yelp and Bing.
- Listing your business in dozens of the online directories available.
- Including local cities in your keywords.
- Adding the Google map to your website.
- Getting listed on Apple maps.
- Ensuring your contact page includes your office location, or at least mailing address if you work out of your home.
- Collecting reviews on these local directory sites.
You can still let prospects know you accept clients on a national basis using text on your website, but you will want to have your site optimized for a specific location to get the best result.
2. Social media. Being active on social media impacts how your website ranks in search results. Social media is a natural marketing channel for accountants because it’s a way for them to build their reputation and demonstrate their expertise.
When people engage in your business’ social media, your “authority” level goes up. The Google search algorithm likes businesses with “authority,” and ranks them higher. Social media allows for you to have followers, engagement and visibility, all of which impact your rankings. Most social media strategists recommend spending three to four hours per week on social media once a strategy is developed.
3. Structured data (markup). When you can label data in a way that’s meaningful for search engines, they can make sense out of how to rank your site better. Assigning a label to content on your pages in the HTML code, using a markup language, allows SEO experts to do this so that their sites rank higher.
The types of things that are “labeled” include websites, businesses, events, videos, people, articles, blog entries and companies. Once these items are marked up, the search engines can find them and categorize them more accurately. Most SEO experts believe that Google and other search engines are giving preference to items that are marked up.
4. Secure site. When you visit certain sites, the URL changes from http to https. This means the business has installed a security certificate on the site.
Accountants who are the utmost in trusted advisors should also have the utmost in trusted websites, which means installing an SSL certificate. It’s just congruent with our brand to do so, and it helps rank your site higher in the search engines.
An SSL certificate comes with different features; the vendor we use has about 15 different kinds. We pay roughly $99 per year per site, and it costs us a few hours of webmaster labor for us to order it and get it installed on our private web servers. Most commercial hosting providers have automated solutions that you can purchase.
5. Link authority. Google rewards your website when it has a large number of external links pointing to your website from other sites. This is called link authority, which increases your ranking in search results. Some of the ways you can have third parties linking to your site include:
- Vendor partner links, such as your Find a ProAdvisor profile.
- Published articles on blogs, magazine websites and news sites.
- Social profiles, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and others.
- Membership profiles, such as the Better Business Bureau, your chamber of commerce and professional associations.
- Awards, such as Top 100 ProAdvisors.
- Directory listings, such as Yelp, Google for Business and Bing.
- Community site postings, such as posting on Own It, Intuit’s® community site for small businesses.
Link authority is not necessarily a new trend, but it’s too important not to mention. Actively maintaining and pursuing external links will help your site rank higher.
6. Voice search. Siri, Alexa and other voice technology have their own search algorithms, and your site may not rank the same in voice searches as it does in browser searches. It’s still early for voice search in the accounting industry, but you may want to ask your SEO consultant to keep an eye for when it starts to become important for the accounting industry.
As you can see, SEO has become quite a bit more complex and technical than in the past. It’s best to outsource this solution and to make sure your webmaster or SEO consultant is current with these new developments.