Accounting and tax firms often use older search engine optimization (SEO) tactics or hire SEO professionals who are well-meaning, but ill-equipped to deliver great results. When these firms fail to see results, they understandably assume SEO is a scam.
But a well-executed SEO campaign becomes a tool you can use to build your firm’s brand and improve your leads. Before you invest in SEO, you must understand how it works so you have the proper expectations of your campaigns.
The difference between SEO and PPC
There’s a good chance you’ve used ads on Facebook or Google to get more clients. With paid ads, also known as pay-per-click (PPC), you’ll create an ad, and pay Facebook or Google to show the ad to your target audience. Ads are great because they offer precise targeting features and a relatively fast timeframe to see results.
SEO, however, is different. Instead of paying to show up in Google, you create and optimize website content based on questions and keywords people search for on Google. If you have the best answer for a query, Google will show your content or web page higher in search results. Often, it takes search engines a few months to categorize your content and rank it on the first page. But once your content ranks in the top five results, you earn free traffic from Google. As long as Google deems it the best answer for a query, you’ll gain traffic and possible leads from that content.
Here are some of the mistakes made across all professions, including tax and accounting:
#1. Falling for promises of fast or guaranteed rankings
It’s easy to mistake confidence for competence. Even an amateur SEO professional can confidently promise first-page rank every week just to get your signature on a $5,000 monthly retainer. And although it’s certainly true that a website can rank faster in less competitive industries or niches, it’s less likely to happen as more companies engage in SEO.
Instead of chasing promises of instant first-page rankings, watch for a consistent uptick in rank position. Even if algorithm adjustments cause your site to drop to the second or third page of search results, a sound SEO strategy will ensure your website bounces back up in a couple of weeks.
#2. Hiring the cheapest option instead of the best option
Technology has enabled us to work with people all over the world to do great things. As a result, it’s common practice in the SEO industry to outsource tedious work to contractors overseas who do great work at a lower rate than U.S. professionals. That’s not always the case, but I’ve seen it happen more often over the last few years.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with paying a lower price to optimize profits. However, it can become a problem if you, as a client, receive poor SEO results. To avoid this, look for red flags during your call or meeting with a prospective SEO professional. In particular, watch out for unnecessary jargon. If someone can’t explain their ranking methodology to you in clear language, keep looking. After all, how is an SEO professional supposed to report to you on their activities if they can’t translate the jargon in a way you can understand?
#3. Adopting a “rank at all costs” mindset
Desperation kills common sense. Too often, SEO campaigns focus on cramming keywords into every available space on a page, or getting backlinks from any and every website possible. But slapping keywords haphazardly on your website—known as keyword stuffing—confuses people and decreases lead conversions. Similarly, purchasing backlinks or accepting backlinks from uncredible places can result in poor long-term SEO performance, especially since Google frowns on link schemes.
Instead of trying every new hack or trick, align your SEO efforts with Google’s mission to organize the world’s information and make it as accessible as possible. On a less grandiose scale, you can achieve this on your firm’s website by doing the following:
- Create a website that loads fast and has a great user experience.
- Organize your website so people can easily navigate it.
- Publish high-quality content on your blog and social media that answers questions for your target audience.
- Optimize your website content so it can easily be found by Google.
- Focus on providing great service to each client so they leave reviews and praise you on social media.
There are a lot of details within each of those steps, but I can always dive into those in another article. Meanwhile, use the above three steps as a general framework for staying focused on what matters during your SEO campaigns. This way, you won’t get distracted by shiny new SEO tactics, or get impatient when your ranking drops one or two spots.
#4. Thinking what’s worked before will work forever
To say SEO practices change a lot would be an understatement. Did you know that Google updates its algorithm between 500 and 600 times a year? Many algorithm updates are minor, harmless tweaks that improve or test new features. But other times, Google pushes out substantial updates, such as Google Page Experience and Google Passage, that dramatically alter how your website ranks in search engines. Search engine algorithms change constantly, and as they change, the methods you should use to rank will evolve.
SEO professionals constantly refine their methods as they study search engine results pages to determine whether an update will impact a client’s keyword positions. If you’ve hired an SEO professional, allow them room for experimentation based on sound reasoning and research. Otherwise, you’ll remain stuck with outdated SEO practices.
#5. Not realizing SEO is a doorway, not a destination
Many firms pursue SEO rank under the false belief that ranking higher will automatically bring lead conversions. However, unless you’re an SEO company, most people won’t convert just because they saw you first in search results.
The real goal of SEO is the chance to answer a question for, or present an offer to, your target audience. It’s a general marketing rule that most people interact with a brand seven times before buying from them. The value of SEO is this: The more times a customer sees your content in search results, the more likely they’ll click through to your website. As this happens repeatedly, you’ll start building credibility and trust with clients. But remember your offer or content will win them over—not your position in search results. SEO is just the medium to get people’s attention; it’s up to you to build an offer that wins them over.
Fixing your SEO mistakes
As a firm owner, you can use SEO to generate an enormous amount of inbound traffic to your firm’s website without the pay-to-play constraints of paid ads. However, to accurately assess your progress and results, you must have the proper expectations of SEO. With realistic goals in place, you’ll be able to use SEO as a powerful marketing channel for your firm.