The recent Google changes and how they affect the SEO rankings of your accountancy firm

keywords SEO SEO rankings.

Getting to the top of Google.

Being found online.

All of these things may seem like an unexact science, a bit of a mystery to the uninitiated.

Well, to make you feel a little better, it’s a bit of a mystery even to the initiated. The experts are still reeling a bit from the recent changes rolled out by Google which have changed the game a bit when it comes to SEO, and ensuring that the right people find your website when they’re looking online.

Are the recent Google changes good?

For the most part, these are good changes. Google has made them with businesses in mind, in that they want to reduce what’s called “black hat SEO” – the guys who successfully get their sites to the top of Google, but we all wish they wouldn’t.  Spammy content.  ‘Keyword stuffing’.  Bad backlinks.  If none of these mean anything to you, that’s okay.  The short version is that Google wants to deliver good, ethical, and real websites to the good, ethical, real people looking for them, and the new update has been crafted to help do this.

Of course it doesn’t do it perfectly, and the ‘black hatters’ are already hard at work to sneak in the search-engine-back-door, but there are a few things you should be aware of for the SEO of your accountancy firm.

Keywords are critical.

I’d like to put this one in flashing, neon lights if I could.  You absolutely must know what keywords you should be using if you’re going to be doing anything when it comes to SEO.  Starting to blog?  Use the right words in the right places.  Paying for Google adwords?  Craft your ad with the correct terminology, in the right order.  Creating new landing pages?  Title them properly.  There is a massive difference between “accountants London” and “sole trader accounts London”, and it could be the difference that gets you more business (or less).  Having the correct page titles can change the online game entirely.  An image named “IMG_002” will have far less impact than one titled “Sole trader accounts”.  (Although, as a side note, you can’t just do this randomly – your site will be flagged by Google if you begin to title all your images with your keywords, regardless what the image is of.  Be ethical. Be relevant. If it’s an image of a train, don’t call it “management accounts London”.)

When it comes to keywords, it is tempting for accountancy firms to simply choose words you think are relevant.  Doing this means it is very likely you are either 1) picking words that all the other accountants are using, or 2) choosing words that matter to you, but not to your prospective clients.  Either one is going to affect you very negatively when it comes to SEO.  Please, please get a simple SEO analysis done. They’re not expensive – we offer them for about £400 – and the impact it can have on everything you do online is huge.

You probably should consider investing in Google Adwords.

This is the big change with Google’s recent algorithm update.  One of the things Google is attempting to prevent is the companies who have nothing but time, and so they spend hours and days and months stuffing their sites with certain keywords.  Now, that doesn’t help if you’re not paying at least a little.  You don’t have to invest hugely in adwords, but the days are quickly disappearing when you could simply have great content and beat out the ‘big guys’ who have a larger marketing spend.  And remember that what your website looks like, and what it delivers, is critical when it comes to adwords.  Those who click on your ad are extremely discerning, and you must be specifically relevant.

Content is still king.

Even if you are using the best keywords and paying for Google ads, you’ve still got to have great content on your website.  The people who come to your site – however they come, whether it’s from a Google search or a social media link or an email or a referral – are still trying to decide if you are a worthy accountancy firm, and one that fits with their needs.  And it’s more important than ever in relation to Google adwords, because if your ad for “sole trader accounts” leads to a home page that has the usual accountant bumph (ie, “Welcome to our website” – “XYZ Accountants have been in business since 1412”), they’ll leave in seconds, and all your time and effort and money has been wasted.  Create good, clear, relevant landing pages that relate directly to the search that is made.  If one of your keyword phrases is about IR35 for contractors, you need a landing page that is specifically about this, with a clear call to action that is relevant to contractors (not just a generic email newsletter, or broad tax advice).  And to help your website to be identified by Google as ethical and relevant when it comes to IR35, it would help if you’ve been blogging on that topic for a few months.  Choose your niche areas, your FAQ’s, your hot topics – and stuff your website so full of content that when your prospects are searching for a particular phrase or keyword or question, they find it answered on your accountancy firm website.

It’s more important than ever to use Google Plus.

When Google Plus came out, I was one of the first to scoff at it, and be unimpressed with Google’s effort to create a “replacement Facebook”. It certainly isn’t that, but although Google Plus is (in my opinion) pretty useless as a communicative tool, it happens to be very good for SEO.  (This is, of course, because Google makes the rules, so they can rate their own social media engines as being more relevant and more valuable than any others.)  My recommendation is that you get a HootSuite account, and whenever you create good content, share it on multiple platforms.  Share it to your Facebook business page, your Twitter account, your LinkedIn company page, and definitely your Google Plus page.  Ideally, you’ll be sharing things a little bit differently to each platform, but even if you share the exact same post to all at the same time, you are still far ahead of those who are only using one platform.  (And as a complete aside, you may as well give up on your strong-armed position against Facebook. There are over 1.19 BILLION active users on Facebook every month.  Active users.)

And may the best firms win!