Why having multiple domain names does not help your accountancy firm’s SEO

SEO and multiple domainsWe’ve been told for some time that domain names (the URL for your website) are important for search engine optimisation (SEO) – but is this true?

SEO is a term and concept that is very much a hot topic right now for accountants – and also an extremely misunderstood one.

Within the past week, I’ve been asked at least three times by accountants and others whether it wouldn’t be wiser to buy additional domain names, or even to copy their existing website and place it on another domain.

I’ve also had a few accountants who are talking to us about a website ask, “Does the site include SEO?” and then a few seconds later say, “I actually have no idea what that is, but I know I’m supposed to ask.”

You’re absolutely right that it is important, if you’re going to have a website and see new leads come in.  But what you don’t know about SEO could potentially harm your new lead possibilities, so it’s time for a little re-education.

SEO, Misunderstood

SEO is a constantly changing creature.  (It’s like a chameleon, but one whose colours are monitored regularly by Google and the other search engines.)  What you knew about SEO a year ago – or even a few months ago – has probably changed significantly.  And what you heard was good practice in an SEO or online marketing seminar a few years back, might well be very bad practice now.

Multiple domains is an example of this.  Previously, the advice was, buy lots of domains.  Get accountantsinlondon dot com, or speicalistaccountants dot co dot uk (I’m spelling these out because I’ve just made them up, but I’m sure people use them).  There was good reasoning behind this advice, because in the past Google would give more credence to your site – and move you higher in the search engines – if the words in your domain name matched the keywords throughout the site.

Google’s algorithms change constantly

Google is constantly adapting and changing its algorithms – the complicated reasoning it uses to determine which sites it will display when someone enters particular search terms.  It used to be that if you were an accountant in London, and you had ten different domains including those words, all of those ten sites would be given higher priority than just the one site.

That is not the case anymore.

Google has gotten smart, very quickly.  It has recognised that the spammers and hackers and “black hat SEO” guys (this is a new term I just learned recently, it basically means those who use unethical practices to get their sites found) were using multiple domain names and getting better rankings when, in actuality, the person searching did not want to find those wretched sites – they wanted a genuine accountant in London who could help them.

Now, the new elements to watch out for are whether your site is ‘ethical’ and ‘relevant’.  It doesn’t matter if you have ten different domain names if your site is clearly in the unethical category.  And if you have excellent keywords in that domain, but the site itself isn’t relevant to the searcher’s needs, you’ll get dropped lower in the rankings.

Multiple domain names could actually harm your rankings

This is the point, actually: not only will having multiple domains do nothing for you, they will also potentially harm your search engine rankings.  If Google realises that you are trying to ‘buck the system’ by buying up extra domains and directing them all to one site, or even worse, producing the exact same content elsewhere on the web, you will be moved much lower in the search engines as a result.

Because spammers have been doing this for years, Google recognises whether your content is unique, relevant, and authentic, and having multiple or copied sites will only harm you in the search engines.

Keep blogging, and keep the content unique

Your best bet is to keep blogging  on a regular basis.  If it’s genuine, unique content, then Google will recognise that you are a genuine company able to help poor Google-wandering souls, and will reward you accordingly.  Remember, though: if you are using generic content that has been prepared for many accountants, it’s not going to do you any good if you simply publish it as-is.  You don’t have to rewrite it completely, but change the title (preferably to include keywords that are relevant to your firm), add a specialised intro, change a few words here and there, and add a closing sentence unique to your firm.  You’ll have a much better chance of being seen as unique if you actually are.

If you want to make strides in this area, I would invest in a proper SEO/keyword analysis which will tell you what words to be focused on to get more traffic to your one main site.  There’s no point in blogging your life away if you are using the wrong words, or if your keywords are in the wrong places.  If you have a WordPress site, use the Yoast plugin to direct your SEO (but I would still strongly recommend getting an analysis done, or you might be spending massive efforts in the wrong places).

Attend our upcoming SEO webinar for accountants

To address this and other SEO myths, we’ll be running a webinar in September, “SEO, Defined and Delivered”.  We will address accountancy firms in particular, and tell you about some of our clients who are already reaping the benefits of good SEO.