The criteria used for local search results has changed dramatically in the last year. Google has changed their algorithm to include many more factors that the old SEO techniques. If you haven’t changed your marketing efforts to adjust, you might have noticed your organic search results slipping over the last 12 months. I previously had written about the findings published by moz.com that broke down the local search criteria most experts believed were the most important to Google and local search results. I have been watching the trends and the data. This has validated what works best and what you should be concentrating on moving forward.
What can a small accountant office do to improve their marketing results?
To simplify things, I would recommend breaking this down into three ranking factors.
Word of Mouth and Reviews
Directory Listings including Google +
So, a little on how this works.
1) Word of Mouth (WOM) and Reviews–The Web is more social than ever. People like to recommend and share their opinions on a number of things. Today they most likely do it online. This can be found in a number of places, but primarily on Facebook, Yelp, and Google +.
Bottom line, reviews matter.
People that are referred to you will read what others have to say.
Are you responsive? Do you help people? Are you liked?
The more 5-star reviews you have, the more word of mouth. This grows exponentially. I have two clients who have concentrated just on Yelp reviews.
Client A is position 1 and 2 on organic results for his most important keywords, Burbank CPA. With 30 Yelp reviews, his website is position #1 and Yelp review position #2 on Google search. Now who would go further down the list if they saw that type of feedback? Guess who is getting the first call.
Client B is rated one of the top tax professionals in San Jose, CA. If you read down the Yelp reviews, you will see a steady stream of new reviews from prospects who were referred to this professional or found her on Yelp. In the last two weeks she has received 37 leads from her “contact us” form on her website. That does not count the inbound phone calls or direct emails.
These are both examples of how tax accountants who have embraced one of the main attributes of modern marketing are building their practices. Your practice and results should not be much different if you apply these principles. But you have to earn these reviews and word of mouth. Be responsive to your clients’ needs and the rest will play out. Promote your Yelp review listing and encourage feedback. This includes promoting your Yelp listing in your lobby, through your receptionist, website, and email.
2) Social Media—Considering over a billion humans are members of just Facebook alone, you would think more accountants would be embracing the benefits to grow their practices through social media. Many are afraid of it or just don’t understand how it works. Think of Facebook and social media as another push marketing channel to get your message out to clients and prospects; just like your email newsletter. Your followers like or share your posts which puts your brand in front of their friends and followers. Facebook also includes reviews and testimonials that are crucial in getting more clients. There are many ways to gain followers, but try inviting your client base through email first. What stands out from the Facebook sites of our most successful clients is that they are genuine. They add personality to their social media feeds with pictures and stories. Humans connect with this and it makes you more approachable. As with anything you do online, make your Facebook business page credible. Include consistent posts sharing your knowledge that will be a real benefit to your followers.
3) Directories (The most important being Google +) – Well surprise, surprise… Google owns Google + and guess what? They give a big portion of the real estate in local search results to Google + listings. I have already written about the importance of your NAP results (name, address, and phone) on the other 50 top directories. So today I want to focus on Google + and why it matters so much. If you Google, for example, San Dimas Tax Preparation, you will see paid search results at the top, than the 3 top organic searches before Google displays the Google + listings. You will notice the Google + listings have pushed down positions 4-10 of the organic results below the + results. This is making it harder for local businesses to stand out in organic results. You will notice more directories being found higher in the organic results as well.
So what does that mean to your local tax accounting practice?
It means to gain organic result exposure, you need to expand mentions of your brand to the top online directories and especially Google + if you want to get noticed. Issue 1 is claiming your listing. Issue 2 is getting reviews and supplying your Google + listing with fresh content linking to your website.
Oh, but one more thing to make all of this work. Strong calls to action.
All three of these categories are things you should work on to improve your traffic and lead generation. But it may not help if your website is not designed correctly to handle the new traffic. Creating a site that is benefit-driven and includes strong calls to action are the difference makers. Make sure you prominently display your calls to action, online appointment widgets, and newsletter sign up forms. Even testing the words on your call to action forms can affect results.
Next, have a system in place to follow up on leads.
The longer you wait to respond to new leads, the less likely prospects will become clients. The CountingWorks PRO (previously ClientWhys) accountant marketing platform will text professionals as soon as a website visitor completes an online form, like contact us or newsletter sign up. By quickly contacting this lead, the odds are in your favor of adding a new client.
My recommendation is to focus on one of these ranking attributes at a time. Once you have mastered Yelp, for example, move on to developing your social media presence. Don’t go at this half-fast and then say it doesn’t work. It does, and the benefits can be long lasting. Especially as technology and the IRS become bigger competitors to your client base. Time to fight back.
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