Any time is a good time to make much-needed updates to your website, especially late fall into the beginning of busy season. Chances are you have a website, but have you optimized it properly? Do you understand how search engine optimization (SEO) can help prospects find you?
What is SEO and Why Does it Matter?
SEO is the process of improving your website’s visibility and ranking on search engines. I’ll only refer to Google in this article, but if you’re committed to optimizing for all search engines, you’ll want to learn the differences between them and how to optimize for each one. SEO can be done on-site with updates made directly to your website, or off-site by obtaining links to your website from other sites. The tips I’m sharing are specifically for on-site optimization. However, a truly competitive SEO campaign will include on-site and off-site upgrades.
Research shows that between 75 percent and 91 percent of web surfers don’t click past the first page of search results on Google when browsing for information, so if you end up on anything past page one, there’s a good chance you won’t be seen. Optimizing your website well enough to organically rank on the first page of search engine results, meaning you didn’t pay Google to be displayed on page one, provides increased impressions on your website at virtually no cost. In addition, according to SEO consulting firm Digital Harvest, SEO provides one of the highest return on investments of all digital marketing strategies, second only to a properly executed retargeting campaign: Advertising to visitors who left your website without taking any action.
SEO also facilitates targeting, or putting your website in front of your ideal clients. Arguably, the most important goal of SEO isn’t getting more clients, but the right clients who are in your niche and fit best with your organization’s culture. These clients will be far more likely to stay with you in the long term, compared to those who only somewhat fit and are more likely to switch to a different provider. In addition, targeting allows you to reach individuals who have a higher buyer intent, meaning they’re closer to purchasing your services.
For many tax and accounting professionals, SEO is probably an afterthought. Often, just having a functioning website is good enough – and honestly, that used to be the case. However, now that search engine results are so competitive, SEO must be a key part of your lead generation strategy if you hope to attract potential new clients online.
We at Pure are in no way SEO experts. In fact, we are just like you: providers of a service trying to deepen our client pool. However, we’ve realized that being a firm of the future means getting serious about our lead generation strategy. We’ve recently devoted a great deal of time to learning about search engines, and updating our website to increase traffic and generate high-quality leads. Although we’re still learning, we are happy to share some of the things we learned along the way.
As you read along, try not to feel overwhelmed. You don’t need do everything perfectly or even do it on your own. Partner with your website developer to make these upgrades, or hire an SEO specialist.
5 Ways to Optimize for Search Engines
Before jumping headfirst into SEO, you’ll probably want to do some research on the topic. Unfortunately, a deep dive is outside the scope of this article, but I recommend you learn how Google grades websites, and what can help or hurt your search ranking. It may also be helpful to create a buyer persona – a detailed, semi-fictional representation of your ideal client – to help you predict what your target audience will type in the search bar when looking for your services, also known as search intent. Armed with this information, you’ll be able to make more informed and effective SEO upgrades.
#1: Be intentional about keywords. Often considered to be the most important SEO upgrade, using specific and relevant keywords in your website’s content is critical to high search rankings. When someone performs a search in Google, the engine crawls the web to find close matches to those keywords and attempts to display the most relevant sites. This is where your ideal client’s search intent comes in: Your website should contain the keywords that closely match what a prospective client would type in their search bar when looking for your service.
Use a keyword planning tool such as Google Keyword Planner, and choose the best keywords for your organization, niche and geographical area. Find five to 10 unique and descriptive (and ideally long-tail) keywords with a moderate to high average monthly search volume, and sprinkle them throughout your website’s content. Avoid keyword stuffing – cramming as many keywords into your website as possible – at all costs! Google can tell when a website is overusing keywords, which actually will end up hurting your ranking instead of helping. It also doesn’t make for a positive user experience.
#2: Keep it simple. When search engines crawl the web, they scan your website to determine its contents and whether it matches a user’s search. Therefore, you want to be sure it isn’t difficult for crawlers to navigate or understand. A messy or convoluted website is a sure way to lose ranking priority from Google, as is having pages without clear and relevant headings. Use an intuitive site structure and optimize each page’s header tags to clearly define its contents. For more advanced SEO, you may also want to link your website to Google Search Console and upload a sitemap to further improve your website’s readability.
You’ll also want to keep your URLs simple and self-explanatory. Use URLs like “www.mysite.com/about” instead of “www.mysite/learn-more-about-mysite” or “www.mysite.com/Ud3zs4G8xfm1s0q.” This makes for a better browsing experience for visitors and helps Google better understand the contents of your web pages.
#3: Optimize images. Much like optimizing your page headers and URLs, optimizing your website’s images helps search engines “see” what your images contain.
Start by strategically renaming each of your images using carefully selected, relevant keywords. Be as descriptive as possible, separating each word with a hyphen and avoiding non-essential words like “the” and “a”. Then, add descriptive text to the alt text and title fields of your images to further improve your images’ readability.
#4: Make your website mobile friendly. Not only do mobile users account for about half of the world’s web traffic, but Google actually penalizes websites that aren’t mobile friendly. Many website creation tools offer built-in responsive webpages that help automate this task and require less manual finessing. The bottom line: Don’t ignore mobile. You can use Google’s free mobile-friendly test to help determine whether your site is accessible to mobile users.
#5: Polish your Google My Business listing. There’s a lot of SEO work you can do to your Google My Business page to help improve search visibility, especially when it comes to Google Maps. I recommend you start with these four tasks:
- Verify all business information is correct and complete.
- Write a detailed and engaging business description using relevant keywords (again, avoid keyword-stuffing). Google gives you 750 characters, so use all of them!
- Include images of your team, and the inside and outside your building. Google also allows you to upload videos and 360-degree tours. Take full advantage of the ability to upload media, and as mentioned above, optimize your images.
- Solicit as many reviews from your clients as possible.
Take Small Steps Now
That was a lot of information, I know, but I encourage you to keep an open mind. Focus on small changes each day that will bring you closer to an optimized website. For example, start by renaming all of your images, and then move on to asking your website developer to simplify your URLs. A small step is still a step in the right direction. Once you’ve made these SEO updates, I encourage you to continue your optimization efforts. Always be improving!