The powers that be at Google have very recently released an update that dramatically affects organic search engine rankings for businesses across America. But, how does that affect the marketing of your accounting business?In this article, we cover what the changes are and what they potentially mean for you and those all important search engine rankings. We’ll also include some top tips for how you can take advantage of these new algorithm changes as well.So let’s get into it!
The Vicinity Update: What Was Changed and Why?
Google tends to be pretty vague about what exactly they’ve changed in their algorithms, but what we do know is that tweaks have been made to the following 3 ranking factors:
- Relevance - how much your business profile matches what search engine users are looking for
- Distance - how close you are to the searcher’s location
- Prominence - the determination of how well known your business is in the local area.
Prior to this update, businesses could take advantage of SEO practices to have their Google Business page show up in search results far away from their location. This was good in some respects - it meant that some businesses could extend their sphere of influence beyond their immediate local area. The downside prior to the update was that smaller local businesses would miss out on new customers because they were so far down the pecking order and not displayed in search.Google was a bit unhappy with this conundrum so in a very cryptic statement, they essentially stated that some ‘rebalancing’ changes had taken place. The idea behind the update was to try and make sure that local businesses were given a fair shot at appearing in organic search results. The assumption, of course, is that most people searching for goods and services want to see search results that are close to their location. This makes total sense; if you want to find groceries, and you’re based in Denver, what good are directions to Trader Joe’s in Los Angeles? Similarly, if you have a customer looking for a specific accountant in a specific state, they don’t necessarily want the generic accountant that covers the whole country. They would want an accountant who is an expert on property tax law in Ohio, for example. The update aims to help customers search for what they need specifically within their vicinity. This is great news for all of the very niched down accountants out there — your target (and local) audience will be able to find you with ease.
How do you take advantage of The Vicinity Update?
Google has recommend that small businesses do the following:Enter as much detail as possible.When you’re either setting up or reviewing your Business profile on Google, make sure you have complete data. Make sure to be precise and thorough— including your full business address, your phone number, the services you offer, where you offer those services and any additional fields. In this case, less is more does not apply. More is more here, so if the information is asked for and you have it, fill it in. Be careful not to fall into the trap of ‘keyword stuffing’, because the algorithm seems to flag this, but definitely include more detail than less. Verify Your LocationVerify your business location by claiming or adding your business on Google Maps. This is pretty simple to do and it helps the algorithm recognize your business as a legitimate search result.Keep Your Opening Hours AccurateKeeping your opening hours up to date is important, especially over the holidays, weekends, or irregular business times. Reviewing and checking them periodically keeps Google happy and increases customer confidence. There’s nothing more frustrating than to think a business is open and it isn’t, so be sure to keep those opening hours updated!Keep an Eye on ReviewsGoogle loves it when businesses interact with and manage reviews that get posted on business profiles. Encourage your customers to leave positive business reviews as positive rankings do contribute to the visibility of your business. When you do receive reviews, be sure to respond to those reviews as well. It shows Google and other viewers that you care about your customers!Say Cheese! Add those Photos!Take pictures of your business premises if you have a physical office space and/or include recent professional headshots of you and your team. Consider your Google Business Profile as an extension of your “About Us” page on your website. It increases credibility and customer confidence, and is a great way to add a bit of personality to your profile as well.What happens if my accounting firm does cover several locations?If you cover several areas of accounting expertise across different geographical locations and you want to retain visibility there, then be sure to list those locations in your Business Profile. If you have physical office space, we recommend having separate Business Profiles for each office location and follow the above steps to optimize the profiles.If you still need more of a boost you might need to look into paid ads with Google. This is a whole ballgame, but it might be an option for your business moving if the algorithm change affects you negatively. We hope this article helps you increase your visibility and attract accounting and tax clients who need your valuable services! For extra help with marketing your accounting firm or getting found by tax clients, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team at 1-800-442-2477 or firstname.lastname@example.org.