Some accounting firms have teams that think about strategy constantly; and all their strategic plans are linked, meaning the marketing strategy must align with the overall strategy and goals of the firm. Conversely, smaller firms may not have these teams. High-level strategy sessions occur less frequently at firms with a one- or two-person marketing team. Let’s take a look at Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy on a smaller scale – for the smaller firm. It’s an area where marketing can flex its strategic-thinking muscles and have a significant and measurable impact on the success of the firm.
What is SEO?
Simply put, SEO is improving your internet content to increase online visibility. But, SEO was a thing long before the internet became widely available to businesses. In the pre-internet days, the phone book’s Yellow Pages were the Google of the times. The strategy used by many businesses was to name their company with a word starting with the letter A (double or triple A, if possible). This is because the structure of the phone book was alphabetical by industry. It was common to see names like AAA Accounting, Aardvark Tax Services, or ABC Bookkeeping.
Moving on to the internet age, SEO follows the same concept of the phone book strategy mentioned above. Google is the new phone book, which we now call a Search Engine. The structure of content on the internet is not alphabetical by industry like the phone book, but based on things like content quality and length, keywords, and more. So, the strategy you must now employ needs to get your content to appear more frequently and ahead of others. The search engine’s algorithm ranks your content and positions you accordingly in what it returns to the online researcher. However, as I mentioned earlier, your marketing strategy should be linked to your overall firm strategy.
How do you Build Your Small-Firm SEO Strategy?
To start building your strategy, schedule some time with your managing partner and have them list the top three strategic goals of the firm over the next three years and why the firm is taking this route. Have them explain why they are targeting these goals so you clearly understand the direction in which your leadership is going. Then look at your current marketing goals to see if they align with the firm’s goals. If not, you must realign your strategy with the firm’s. Think about what needs to rank higher on search engines, and what may rank lower.
Let’s look at an example. If one of your firm’s top three strategic goals is to recruit top talent from the experienced CPA market, you now must research the keywords used by this audience when searching for opportunities and employ them in your strategy. You’ll need to support those keywords with quality content such as videos, articles, blogs, and verified links to credible sources—all with the firm’s goal in mind.
Write blogs, white papers, etc., that discuss recruiting, or at least use related keywords you researched. Create video content aimed at attracting top talent. Talk about your firm culture, advancement opportunities, and thought leadership. Join established hashtag communities that align with these new goals. All these things, and others, in tandem help drive your SEO in the desired area, while aligning with your firm’s strategy.
What are the Current Trends?
No keyword stuffing. In the beginning of SEO, firms would load up on keywords everywhere on their website and in their content to rank higher when people searched for that specific term (i.e., Tax, Payroll, Bookkeeping, etc.). This worked great 12 years ago, but search engines have become more sophisticated, and algorithms have become smarter. Today, it’s more of a liability to have over-used keywords. Make your content read more naturally. In the words of one online expert, “write content for people, not algorithms.”
Use links to drive your rankings. Content length is no longer a key to high-ranking search returns. Rather than writing a long piece of content, use links to other credible sources to establish your point. This not only shortens your content but also increases your SEO ranking because of your connection to other quality and credible content.
Content is king, but so is data and metrics. Follow-up regularly to determine the success of your SEO strategy. Like the managing partner, have your own three-year goals and revisit them quarterly, understanding that a change in direction of SEO strategy may take months to see results. Use your favorite metrics tools to secure insight from the data and share it with the managing partners so you are all on the same page. It demonstrates how their strategy is being conducted at the marketing level and shows the value of having marketing at the strategy table.
This was a short article, but I hope it gave value to the small-firm marketing manager. SEO strategy is an effective way to put the firm’s ideas in motion in the online and digital world.
About Eric Elmore
Eric R. Elmore is the marketing and brand manager for Drucker & Scaccetti, a tax-focused accounting firm, in Philadelphia. He has more than 20 years of experience working with professional service firms helping them communicate to the world who they are, what they do and why it is of value to targeted audiences.