There is a big misconception of how online marketing really works. Some professionals think they just put up a website and clients will come. While that may work in very small markets, anyone with competitors realizes that online marketing is much more complicated. We work with thousands of CPAs, accountants and tax professionals throughout the country. We have taken a very intimate look at what works and why. As technology continues to disrupt the way things used to be, progressive accountants are starting to get onboard with these modern strategies. These are the professional firms that are dominating page 1 of the search results. According to Moz.com, there are 8 main categories of factors that determine how the search engines rank your brand. This is based on a survey of the most successful digital marketers on the planet.
- My Business Signals – 14.7%
- External Local Signals – 15.5%
- On-Page Signals – 21.0%
- Link Signals – 18.3%
- Review Signals – 9.8%
- Social Signals – 5.8%
- Mob Signals – 6.9%
- Personalization – 8.4%
We have found that after we get a website published and live, we already have the on-page and my business signals nailed down. The remaining items are the differentiators. First, we are very biased. We own and operate TaxBuzz.com. We created this vertical directory to help our clients safeguard their reputations and showcase their expertise. This website directly impacts your brand’s visibility based on five-star review factors and for inbound link signals. Our guest posts on TaxBuzz.com literally move websites up the search ladder. Our review campaigns and processes to attract reviews have catapulted professionals to the top of page 1. Whether you call these marketing techniques disruptive compared to the old days of Yellow Pages ads or not, the new marketing shift works. The question you have to ask yourself is not why but when you are going to jump onboard. We have developed the following chart to help illustrate the many factors successful tax accounting firms are using to grow their businesses. It includes the many best practices we have tracked that are the most effective. The big must for any busy professional is the automation part. I am not putting these in order of importance. They are all necessary items in modern accountant marketing. Leave one out, and it is like your Porsche having a flat tire. Reputation Management – We have helped thousands of accountants take control of their online reputations. Whether with Yelp or our own TaxBuzz.com, making reviews part of your day-to-day practices is crucial for success. This is probably the most disruptive of new technologies. You can no longer hide your flaws or lack of responsiveness. Sitting back with your head in the sand does not work. It is much easier to build up a library of five-star reviews than respond to a negative review that could throttle your referral pipeline. Think about it. If someone refers a prospect to you, the first thing they do is Google your name. The kiss of death is a poor Yelp review coming up before your website.
Responsive Website Design – With mobile taking over from the desktop computer, it is not a matter of whether you can upgrade your accountant or CPA website to a responsive design but how quickly you can do so. Basically, you want one website that looks good on all screen sizes. When you go responsive, you want to limit the amount of navigation on your site. In an era of 15-second attention spans, your website better communicate what you do and why I should work with you very quickly. Perhaps now understanding why a bunch of five-star reviews should be displayed prominently on your website starts to make sense. Add in the latest Google algorithm change of April 21, and your old site may not even show up on the first few pages of Google mobile search results.
Content Marketing and Blogging – Building up your brand authority and showcasing your expertise are paramount to your success. An accountant’s expertise, opinion and advice are powerful assets that should be shared with your audience. The best way to reach this audience is by sharing your brilliance through your blog. Make sure you distribute this knowledge through your social networks to get the best results. Over time, Google will index your blog articles and reward you as a leader in the field. The search engines feed off of fresh content.
Local Directories and NAP consistency – There are literally hundreds of online directories that can display your business information. There are two issues to address: 1) you need to make sure that your Name, Address and Phone (NAP) are consistent across the web, and 2) you want to make sure your practice is listed in all of the quality directories. We have found that local directories can provide a competitive advantage in a search.
Social Media – Accountants now have the ability to reach out and communicate on a personal level with their target audience on a daily basis. This is a game changer for tax accountants engaging in prospecting and increasing their reach. Each social media platform works slightly differently and needs to be addressed uniquely. The best part of social media is that it provides free advertising: satisfied clients talk about your practice, and this is the strongest form of word-of-mouth marketing. Be careful to share tips and firm info rather than trying to sell. That is the fastest way to get your posts ignored.
Inbound Marketing / lead management – Most accounting firms do not have a process in place to manage new leads. They usually don’t track leads or ask prospects how they heard about them, or even worse, they delay in responding to new inquiries. The #1 factor to concentrate on is being responsive. Our marketing platform sends out a text each time someone inquires from your website forms. According to Harvard Business Review, responding to leads within an hour generates 7x the conversions. The faster you respond, the more likely someone will be to stop looking.
Email newsletters – This is the proven practice builder year over year. According to Constant Contact industry open rates for accountants average around 18%, while ClientWhys users push 30% +. Your newsletter should be used to update clients on breaking news, planning strategies and life events. The actual benefits are from off-season consultations, higher retention rates and higher client satisfaction.
Portals and online appointments – One of the earliest big technology gains was found in the elimination of paper and printing, toner, folders and offline presentation methods. Clients expect easy access to their files. It makes it more convenient and cost-effective. Utilizing tools like online appointment setting and reminders increases lead conversion and reduces no-shows. It is all part of your overall client satisfaction.
Tax accountants are starting to make big investments in order to obtain client queries from the Internet, and they should be responding at web speed. What is holding them back? Factors include lack of a process, slow acknowledgment of inbound leads and dependence on old-world marketing processes. It’s already evident that most accounting practices need new tools and processes to meet the demands of the online age.