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SEO: Beyond the Keyword

     -     Sep 19th, 2013   -     Accounting Marketing, Search Engine Optimization, Social Media Marketing   -     0 Comments

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) often gets labeled as a process that is strictly about keywords for your website. In the early days of SEO this was actually true. All one had to do is identify the right keyword mix and then simply rank well for those keywords. The rest would happen automatically. However, those times have changed. Most accounting marketing professionals are unaware that keywords are becoming so irrelevant that Google doesn’t even consider keywords in its ranking algorithm anymore. The fact is, there is no ‘right’ formula for SEO that will be guaranteed to give you perfect results.. SEO is a strategic process, not formula based, and just like any strategy – it is best developed based on the specific needs of your firm.

SEO Best Practices – CPA Firms Try to remember the following when you are engaging in an SEO strategy for your firm, you may be surprised at just how little keywords actually impact your rankings.

1. Audience Perspective – When you write content, or put a website up on the Internet, its for your target audience (business owners, CFOs and others), not search engines. In other words, you are trying to engage clients and prospects not search engines. Try to think about your website, and the content you are providing, from your target audience’s perspective. Instead of thinking about what one or two keywords are most likely to appeal to your target, think instead how they may phrase their search when entering it into search engines.

Consider how most people use search engines. Rather than typing in one or two words to find the content they are searching for it’s more likely they will use a long string of words. For example, most people won’t type in “cpa nonprofit audit preparation”, rather they may search the phrase, “CPA Firms in Atlanta that provide nonprofit audits”. Just take a look at your own personal search history as an example. It’s unlikely you query by keyword, rather you search for a question/answer query. Put less emphasis on the actual keyword as a data point, and instead think about the person who is typing the phrase. Remember, depending on your audience their level of sophistication will vary. A CFO will have a greater understanding of technical accounting terms than a small business owner. Keep nuances like this in mind as you consider your audiences approach and who you are trying to attract to your website.
2. Social Media + Search – The way your social media strategy is played out has a real impact on your search rankings. Always include some medium of information sharing, do your very best to facilitate this among your readers and prospects. And, though it won’t affect you adversely, don’t be such a lazy lump on your social media accounts. Posting a blog once a week isn’t going to cut it, include as part of your social strategy, a plan for engaging with other businesses in the community and your followers – become a part of their conversation. Let’s face it, nobody likes an empty sales pitch, so engage with someone – share articles of interest that someone else wrote, be an informant and an advocate on behalf of your prospect.
Remember, above all, that social media supports your SEO. Here is how the cycle works:

  1. Quality content gets published.
  2. Content gets shares, links, and likes.
  3. Website gains subscribers while social profile gains fans and followers.
  4. Thriving community supporting website grows.
  5. Reputation reinforced through social media and SEO as authoritative brand for the niche.
  6. Website gains authority in search engines.
  7.  Sustainable stream of users discover site organically.
  8. And repeat.

 

3. Content Content Content – You’ve heard it a hundred thousand times by now, but it needs to be said. The best, #1 proven way to get more and more qualified traffic and better rankings is to create content worthy of reading. Your website is a living organism, and you should spend time helping it grow and expand. Once the service content is covered, consider developing thought leadership type content such as articles on the newest regulations, legislation, emerging trends or results of a recently conducted survey.

You MUST have great content, it must be engaging and surprising and exciting. Boring marketing messages need to take a backseat to engaging your readers. Think about the kinds of articles you enjoy reading on other websites and blogs and analyze why you enjoy them. Then consider how you can develop a similar strategy to execute those kinds of messages on your own website. Do not waste your time salt and peppering keywords into your content, if your content is genuinely focused on a topic relevant to your firm – the keywords will naturally be there. Good writers are worth their weight in gold. If you are boring and uninteresting, hire someone who is not and have them write for your website.

What’s the most effective SEO strategy to date? Great content, period.

4. Data Matters – Data is part of seeing that your strategy is working. Stop focusing on the keyword reports, and instead rely on key performance indicators to show results;

  • How many landing pages you have developed?
  • What is the bounce rate of said landing pages?
  • What keywords are driving traffic to those pages?

5. You aren’t trying to talk to the entire world – Google in particular has become very savvy at displaying places and local listings relevant to a search query. Try not to forget that your firm probably isn’t looking to capture the attention of the entire world – what you really want to focus on is the population within your target market. If you are located in Miami, Florida – you probably aren’t trying to reach prospects in California.

What we’ve observed in Google search results is that many users heavily gravitate to a ‘Places’ listing – regardless of the placement of said listing within the results query (Meaning the rank of a places listing is irrelevant). Ensure that your firm has set up their Places page with Google – it’s easy, and a great way to improve your rank and ensure you are popping up in the relevant local search queries.

Things to remember –

  • Be consistent in your listings – If you are on ‘Main St.’ in one database, but on ‘Main Street’ in another database, you will have conflicting search results. Make sure any and all listings are the same.
  • Optimize that Places page on Google, fill in the categories – this will only help you!
  • Do you have any reviews? Source some. Ask your clients to write reviews for you on Yelp!, LinkedIn, Yahoo!, Google – anywhere. Reviews are excellent boosters for your search results, not to mention a testimonial will go a long way toward getting prospects to contact you for relevant work.

So, Search Engine Optimization has come a long way from being keyword focused. Sure, Keywords do have their place – but great content will contain those keywords naturally. Focus instead on sharing, interacting, and creating content for your website. Your prospects are performing a search hoping to find answers to their questions, anticipate their needs and be the answer to those questions.


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