- How to Choose the Best Website Designer
- How to Keep Your Website Up-to-Date (Without Doing It Yourself)
- The 5 Features of a Profitable Website
- Acquiring Clients with Your Website
- How to Optimize Your Site to Get More Clients
- Helping Prospective Clients Find You
- Getting Listed at the Top of Google
- How to Get the Best Clients for $5 a Day
How to Choose the Best Website DesignerPosted on May 12th, 2010
Numerous companies provide websites for accountants. Use this guide to help you determine what’s most important in a web designer – and what you need to watch out for.
Look for These 7 Features in a CPA Website Designer
1. A wide variety of modern designs
Make sure your website designer provides lots of design choices – at least 100, and not just the same 5 or 6 styles with different colors. You should be able to customize your site or build it from the ground up, or, if you’d rather, choose from stock styles. Make sure your website designer allows you to see all their design options before you sign up.
2. Lots of content
The company you choose should be able to load your website with tons of content, at least 1,000 pages. Also, be sure a good portion of these are customizable, and that you can add your own pages if desired.
3. Web tools
A high-quality website design firm will offer web tools at no extra cost. There are lots of tools out there, but these are the most important:
- emailed newsletter for your clients (make sure the designer emails the newsletter and doesn’t just put it online)
- email accounts and shared calendars for your firm
- secure file exchange, which allows you to store and transfer files that you need to share with your clients
- financial calculators – a wide variety of them
- tax organizers – and they should be customizable
- integrated blog
4. Flexibility in who can make changes
You want a company that will be happy to make changes for you, or will allow you to make changes to the content of the site yourself. You also want to make sure there’s no extra charge for making changes – so that if a member of your firm makes partner, for example, you can up this information without a penalty.
5. SEO, SEM, and other marketing efforts that go beyond just the website
Although a professional CPA website is an important part of marketing your accounting firm, in today’s high-tech world, just having a website isn’t enough. SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is a process that gets your website listed near the top of the search engine results. SEM, or Search Engine Marketing, is the pay-per-click ads on the search engines.
Be sure your web designer offers SEO and SEM, and that they are knowledgeable about marketing in general.
6. Free trials and guarantees
Several companies offer free trial periods of 30 or 60 days. Some also offer guarantees: if your website is not profitable, you get your money back. (Just be sure to read the fine print on the guarantee. For some, you need to supply so much documentation that it’s not worth the trouble.)
Any website designer worth their salt will have testimonials from satisfied clients – preferably clearly displayed on their site. If you don’t see any, that’s a warning sign.
Avoid These 3 Pitfalls
1. Hidden fees
Some website design companies look like a great value – until you look closely and see they’re charging for features you assumed were included in the package. Watch out for these hidden fees:
- setup or design fees
- extra charges for web tools, like calculators and newsletters
- extra charges to make changes to the site
- extra charges for more than one email account for your firm
- a fee for enough space in the secure file exchange to make it usable (the secure file exchange should have at least 250 MB of storage space as part of the base package)
2. Need to sign up before you can see designs
Several website providers only allow you to see their styles once you sign up for their service. If you end up not liking the designs, you’re out of luck. You should go with a company that clearly displays all their site styles before asking for a commitment from you.
3. Contracts that lock you in / annual commitments
Choose a website designer that doesn’t require you to sign a contract. It’s also preferable to go with a company that bills monthly, rather than yearly. Look for a firm that allows you to cancel your account at any time and with no penalties.
With a little research, you can find a website designer for your accounting firm that’s affordable and transparent, and that provides you with a dynamic website that will attract new clients and retain existing ones.
How to Keep Your Website Up-to-Date (Without Doing It Yourself)Posted on May 11th, 2010
When you search for a website designer for your CPA firm, pay attention to how they charge. Do they charge a one-time fee? Or do they charge you on a subscription basis, either yearly or monthly?
Here’s why you should pay monthly…
One-time fees might buy you a design only – with no content.
If the website designer charges a one-time fee, it could mean they provide a design only, and don’t act as webmaster. They may build you a beautiful website but with very little or no content. Even if they do populate your site with some articles and information, they probably won’t keep it updated. It will be your job to make changes to the site yourself.
Pay a subscription fee and get more support.
Companies that provide websites for accountants on a subscription basis will usually serve as your webmaster. This means they will keep your content updated and fresh. And a website designer who acts as webmaster is more likely to include a monthly newsletter in your subscription – which is becoming more important.
Monthly is better than yearly.
Website designers who charge on a subscription basis are what you want. But which type of subscription should you choose – monthly or yearly?
A monthly fee is preferable. Most designers who charge monthly will allow you to cancel your service at any time, with no penalties. If you pay yearly, you may be locked in to the full year, even if you decide to shut down your site.
Watch for hidden fees.
Some website providers with low monthly fees might look like a great value – but when you take a closer look, you find they charge for tools you thought were included, or that they leave out certain services altogether.
Read the fine print. Make sure the following important services are part of the base monthly fee:
- emailed newsletter (emailed is critical; a newsletter that’s only available online is largely ineffective)
- enough space in your secure file exchange – at least 250 MB
- enough designs to choose from – at least 100 truly different designs
- customizable pages
- at least 1,000 pages of content; more is better
- free trial period of 30 or 60 days
- ability to add or remove pages
- web hosting and email for your firm
Monthly fee with no setup or design fees? It does exist!
It may sound like a lot, but you can get high-quality websites for accountants for a monthly fee and no setup or design fee.
Don’t settle for a website designer that charges a one-time fee, a yearly fee, or a monthly fee with additional fees for setup, design, or basic tools. Go for the designer who provides all the tools, content, and support your accounting firm needs for one monthly charge.
The 5 Features of a Profitable WebsitePosted on May 10th, 2010
Websites for accountants can be stale and boring – or they can be modern and up-to-date. Guess which kind is the most profitable for your firm?
Here are 5 features that make your website truly useful for your client, which means more A-list clients for you.
1. Emailed Newsletter
A newsletter is a great way to keep your name out in front of your clients. The helpful tips and information included in each issue also create trust and goodwill – so your clients will feel good about retaining your services.
A newsletter is also important for attracting new clients. Direct mail experts say it takes 9 times for mail to make an impact. When the small business owner decides she needs to hire a professional, she is more likely to call the accountant who sends her monthly tips and news than the random name from the yellow pages.
You definitely want your newsletter to be emailed. Clients are not likely to check the website for the latest issue.
2. Fresh Content
You want your clients to see that you’re an expert in the field. Keep up your reputation by staying current with the latest tax laws and financial policies. Maintain your clients’ trust so they have no reason to stray.
Furthermore, to rank higher in the search listings, “content is king.” The more relevant, freshly updated content, the better.
3. Web Tools
Here are the critical web tools for websites for accountants. These tools will ensure that your website covers any and all client needs.
- financial calculators – lots of them
- customizable tax organizers
- online accounting / QuickBooks services
- online payroll
- email accounts for everyone in your firm, with calendars and instant messaging
4. Client Portal
A client portal is a quick and easy way to share files with your clients. You upload important documents and forms to a secure portal, and your client logs in and downloads them. No need to email, fax, or courier papers back and forth.
Project your firm as the professionals you are. When clients experience the ease of the secure portal, they see the value of working with your firm.
5. Selling Pages, with Calls-to-Action
Potential clients want to know why they should choose you for their financial services. A detailed answer will make them confident about their choice. Your website should have at least 20 pages that describe your services.
Each page should also have a call-to-action – an offer for a free consultation as an incentive for them to contact you now. Don’t let clients slip away. Give them a reason and a clear method for getting in touch with you right away.
Bonus Tip: Start a Blog
High-quality websites set themselves apart with blogs. A blog gives your firm a unique personality. It lets new clients get to know you and your current clients feel connected to your firm. This personal touch can make all the difference to a client. It gives them one more reason to stay with you.
A blog is also important for ranking high in search listings. Google loves unique content, so the more you blog, the better you’ll rank in your area. This will make it easier for people to find you and is an important part of successful marketing.
SEO and SEM: Vital for Your Website
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is critical to the success of today’s websites. This is the process that gets your website to rank higher in Google, Bing, and Yahoo listings. A higher ranking makes it much more likely that potential clients will find you. Without SEO, many potential clients can’t find you – and it won’t matter how useful your website is.
SEM, or Search Engine Marketing, is also key. These are the pay-per-click ads, or sponsored listings, you see when you search for a company. These ads don’t cost much – you only pay if they click – and are a great way to target your audience.
When you take the important step of building a website for your accounting firm, make sure to squeeze all you can out of it. Include the 5 features listed above, and consider using SEO and SEM to make it as profitable as possible.
Acquiring Clients with Your WebsitePosted on May 9th, 2010
Websites for accountants are more than just 21st-century business cards. They are now a critical part of any company’s marketing plan.
With some research and planning, you can take your website to the next level – and see your business grow, too.
Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is the process that helps your website get listed near the top of a Google search (or Yahoo and Bing). It’s the key to getting noticed in today’s web-based business landscape.
SEO is done through on-page optimization – using keywords in strategic places – and off-page SEO – getting links to and from your site.
Effective SEO means more exposure – which leads to more prospects. And more prospects means you can be selective about which clients you take – and command higher fees.
Search Engine Marketing (or Pay-Per-Click Ads)
SEO can take weeks or even months to get results. Search Engine Marketing, or SEM, can start to work right away.
These are the pay-per-click ads and sponsored listings that come up when you do a search in Google, Bing, or Yahoo. These ads are far more cost-effective than traditional advertisements because they’re only seen by people searching for accountants in your area. You don’t pay to get your ad in front of people who might have no need for your services.
SEM is even more cost-effective because, as the name implies, you only pay when someone clicks.
Email Marketing System
Offering a newsletter to your clients and prospects is becoming a necessity. Your newsletter will live on your website – but be sure to email some teaser text to your list once a month.
Giving away free content – what your emailed newsletter will do – is called content marketing. This is a highly effective method that establishes you as the expert in the field.
This part of your marketing plan is great for attracting new clients. When a prospect receives your emailed newsletter once a month for several months, he will think of you when he needs financial services.
Calls to Action / Conversions
Your website can be beautifully designed, fully SEOed, and loaded with helpful tools. But if it doesn’t convert your prospects – if it doesn’t turn prospects into clients – it’s failing.
Marketing research clearly shows that calls to action are a critical part of conversions. A call to action tells the visitor to your site what you want them to do next. An example of a call to action is a click button with the text, “Click Here to Learn More.” Calls to action can also use incentives: “Sign Up Now for Free Consultation.”
Hundreds of thousands of individuals and business owners turn to Accountant-Finder.com every year to find an accountant. Take advantage of this service and sign up for a free listing. Listing your practice in this directory is an ideal way to get clients to come to you.
Even better, link your website to the listing. Make it easy for prospects – people searching on accountants in your area – to click through to your site. The easier it is, the more likely they’ll visit. The more visitors to your site, the more clients you get (especially if you have strong calls-to-action).
There are so many social media sites – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and thousands of blogs. And new ones crop up every day.
It might be overwhelming, but don’t ignore social media sites. They allow you to easily get your name out in front of hundreds of potential clients at once.
And because you can link your page to these sites, they’ve become a crucial part of SEO.
Testimonials fall under the heading of “social proof.” They are vital for any company’s site, but particularly on websites for accountants. People need to trust their financial advisors – and it’s far more effective to let your clients sing your praises than it is to praise yourself.
With so much focus on links and content for SEO, it’s easy to forget about images. A site has to be interesting for a visitor to stay. Images – photos and other graphics – are a great way to grab a reader’s interest.
But graphics are also important for keywords. By putting keywords in the images’ file names, alt tags, and title tags, you can aid the SEO for that page.
How to Optimize Your Site to Get More ClientsPosted on May 7th, 2010
Websites for accountants are common these days. How do you stand apart from your competitors?
In the world of online marketing, it’s all about SEO.
SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is what helps your firm’s website get listed near the top of a search on Google, Yahoo, or Bing.
Keywords describe what your company does. For an accounting website, the most important keywords are the following, in order of importance:
- Tax Preparation
- Tax Planning
Make a list of which words best describe your firm. Add in specifics: both “accountant” and “Dallas accountant” are great keywords. Your list should include 20 or 30 words and terms.
The text on each page of your website should include one or two of the most important keywords for that page. Place them in your headlines and in the first 50 words of the text on that page.
Caution: Do not “overstuff” your page with keywords. This used to work in the early days of Google, but it’s no longer good practice. Write the text for the reader, not the search engines. If your page is about 400 words, include the keyword about 4 times – a 1% density.
You can’t see meta tags when you read a page on the Web. They live in the HTML code. They help the search engines determine what your page is about.
They are less important now than they were 5 years ago – but they do still matter.
There are 3 kinds of meta tags: Page Title, Keywords Tag, and Description.
The Page Title tag is what appears at the very top of your web browser, above the URL. For instance, for this page, the Page Title is “Optimize Websites for Accountants.”
The Page Title should include one or two of your keywords. The Page Title should not be an unreadable list, but it’s more for the search engines than the reader.
Search engines only read the first 7 or 8 words of your Page Title. You can make the title longer, but be sure your keyword is placed in the first 7 or 8 words. Better yet, make your keyword the first or second word of your Page Title.
List the one or two keywords for that page in the Keywords Tag. You can add in a few more, but make sure they are relevant to your page. This tag has become less important, so don’t worry too much about what you put in here.
The Description Tag text is what appears under the link on a Google search listing. For this page, the description is “Learn the secrets of SEO for websites for accountants. See how keywords, meta tags, and domain names can make or break your CPA firm.”
Unlike the Page Title, this tag should be written for the reader. Put in a keyword or two, but also focus on how to entice the reader to click on your link, not the one above or below it.
A trick is to “invite” the reader to come to the page. Use phrases like “Check out these tips,” “Come take a look,” and “Learn the secrets of.”
Your domain name is what appears after the www in your Web address or URL. For this website, the domain name is websites4accountants.
Many accounting firms want their domain name to be the name of their company. But in fact, your domain name should be conceived for the search engines.
For instance, www.smithandsmith.com does not describe your company. It won’t help the search engines discover what you do. But www.dallasaccountant.com will give your firm a huge boost when someone searches for an accountant in Dallas.
SEO for your accounting website isn’t hard. Work a little on the page and see your page rank climb. (more…)
Helping Prospective Clients Find YouPosted on May 5th, 2010
When a startup business or new homeowner needs an accountant or financial professional, do you want them to choose you?
First they have to find you.
You’re competing with dozens of websites for accountants. To help prospective clients find you easily, you want to be listed near the top of the search engines – Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
Follow these 4 steps to help you score with the search engines…
1. Fresh Content
The search engines love websites for accountants with lots of fresh content – text and graphics. In the world of online marketing, “content is king.”
Try these methods for bumping up your content:
- About Us. Every accounting firm should have an About Us page (also called a Profile or Bio Page). Keep it current, and include your keywords, your name, your location, and what services you offer. And don’t forget the pictures!
- Welcome Page. Your Welcome Page can enjoy frequent updates if you add a section for current news, weather, and images.
- Blog. Blogs are increasingly important in today’s business world. They help your clients get to know you, and they also have SEO benefit. A frequently updated blog equals fresh content – and a win with Google.
3. Incoming Links (Backlinks)
Think of links as votes. The more sites link to yours, the more votes your site has. And the more votes your site has, the more credible and important you are in Google’s eyes.
The best backlinks come from big, reputable sites – especially .edu or .gov domains. But don’t worry. Any kind of backlink is a lot better than nothing. Ask your friends and colleagues to vote for your site by giving it a link on their site.
Relevant links are best, so be sure to hit up your fellow financial professionals.
2. Outgoing Links
The search engines also like it when you link to other sites. Link to your friends and colleagues – and don’t be afraid to link to the bigger sites, too.
Write a blog post about an accounting article you read and link to it. Link to a news story on your welcome page about tax season. Or include a resource page with links to other financial and accounting services.
4. Get Out There!
The best way to look like an active site – which Google loves – is to be an active site!
Make a habit of visiting blogs, forums, and social media sites. Get out there on the Web and let people know about you. The search engines will love it.
And when that startup business owner needs an accountant, it should be you he calls.
Getting Listed at the Top of GooglePosted on May 1st, 2010
If you’ve got a website for your CPA firm, congratulations. Websites for accountants are a vital tool for building up clients.
But how do you get your site listed at the top of a Google search? Search Engine Optimization, or SEO – the process of on-page and off-page work that places you higher in the organic search results – can take weeks or months to get results.
And if you’re not at the top of the search engines, chances are you won’t get the clients you want.
Don’t despair. There’s a quick and easy way to get your CPA website listed at the top of a Google listing – in just a few minutes.
Google Local Search
When searching for a local business, 82% of people use online search methods over traditional ones, like the Yellow Pages. CPAs stand to benefit from this over other businesses because clients want a local CPA – not one in the next state over or across the country.
Be where your prospective clients are looking. Sign up with Google Local Search.
When you sign up with Local Search, you’re listed above the organic search results. Only the sponsored listings – which are paid ads – rank higher.
It’s Easy to Get Listed
Google Local Search is the same as Google Maps.
You won’t be listed unless you have a gmail account – so sign up for one at gmail.google.com. It’s free!
Tips for Sign-up
- Include a physical location, not a mailing address.
- Use a generic email, not a personal one.
- Include a short description. Use keywords and phrases that match typical searches – like “CPA,” “accounting,” or “tax preparation.”
- Upload photos of you, your staff, and your building.
Seek Out Reviews to List Higher
The downside to Google Local Search: Google only lists 10 local businesses – no matter how many there are in the area. In a city, it can be a challenge to stay within those 10.
This is where reviews come in. Any review will help your listing, whether positive or negative. Ask your clients, friends, and family to review you.
- Offer a coupon for a free consultation to anyone who writes you a review.
- Write the review and email it to your best clients, asking them to cut and paste.
- Offer to write a review for other local businesses if they write one for you.
Signing up with Google Local Search is a great way to get your CPA firm listed at the top of the search results.
And when you’re at the top of the listings, clients will find you – not your competitors.
How to Get the Best Clients for $5 a DayPosted on April 30th, 2010
Your clients are looking for you.
They’re on the Web every day, sifting through websites for accountants to find a CPA firm in their city.
If you’re not advertising on the Web, they might not find you – even if you have a website.
The good news is, pay-per-click ads let you advertise on the Web for dollars a day.
Pay-Per-Click Provides High ROI
Pay-per-click (PPC) ads – like Google Adwords – are the sponsored listings you see at the top and on the right when you do an Internet search.
They’re better than ads in the newspaper or a listing in the Yellow Pages for two reasons: they’re highly targeted, and they’re inexpensive.
If you place an ad in the newspaper, you’re reaching hundreds of thousands of readers – but only a small fraction of them are looking for an accountant.
PPC ads only run when certain keywords are typed in to the search engines (like ”Buford GA tax preparation”). This means your ad is only being seen by people looking specifically for a firm like yours.
In fact, once folks see your ad online, nearly half – 46% – pick up the phone to call you.
As the name implies, you only pay for your ad when someone clicks on it.
The total cost varies depending on your location, the keywords you bid on, and how many clicks you get. But the average cost for a CPA firm is around $150 per month.
This can mean a healthy return on investment. Let’s be conservative and say your PPC ad brings in 3 new clients who each pay $1,000 annually for your services. That nearly doubles your investment.
Let the Pros Handle It
It’s not rocket science, but running a Google Adwords campaign does take time and some expertise. Your best bet is to go with a website provider who can set up and monitor the ads for you.
Choose a website provider with certified Google Adwords Professionals on staff. When researching providers, look for “Search Engine Marketing” services. This is the broad term for PPC ads.
Picking the Keywords
You want a campaign that targets your specialties and services with as many keywords and phrases as possible. Website providers who offer SEM know which keywords are tested to be most effective.
Writing the Ads
It takes skill to write an effective ad. Some wording works better than others. Experts in SEM work with you to achieve the best results – adjusting your ad as the results come in.
Monitoring the Budget
Google Adwords Professionals monitor your ad campaign to make sure it stays within your budget.
Say you want to spend no more than $50/month on your PPC ads. Your provider stops the ads when the cost reaches that number. You can “set it and forget it.”
Advising on Strategy
If you bid high, you get higher positioning and more clicks. If you bid low, you get lower positioning and fewer clicks – but your clients are potentially more motivated. Providers who offer SEM determine which strategy is best for your firm.
Consider starting a PPC ad campaign. A reasonable investment in time and effort connects you with prospective clients who are actively looking for you.
It’s the smarter way to advertise.