What is Search Engine Optimization?
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the volume and quality of traffic a website receives from search engines.
While search engine optimization sounds simple and easy to do, it takes considerable planning, knowledge, work and takes time to deliver results. As more and more businesses employ search engine optimization into their internet marketing strategy, the more competitive it becomes.
Search engine optimization is mostly technical in nature, combining source code programming with business marketing, web site architecture, visual presentation, persuasion copy writing, and some other disciplines woven into the fabric of a website. Because of the work involved, virtually all web site developers do not factor search engine optimization into the construction of your website because it’s hard for the client to visibly see and would drive up the cost to develop the website.
When most people think of SEO, they assume it's referring to the keywords on their website. And don't get me wrong, SEO does have to do with keywords. But, they are only a very small piece of the puzzle.
I like to explain SEO by breaking it down into five categories:
Content: This is the part of SEO that most people are familiar with. It has to do with building a website that has strong keywords that relate to the site and correspond directly with what prospective searchers might type into a search engine when searching for someone who provides the accounting, tax, or business consulting services you do. It also takes into account the quality of the content. Is it well-written and containing substance?
HTML: The next factor that impacts the SEO on your website is the HTML factors. This is something that's done when the pages of your website are built. It has to do with following best practices for page title tags and meta descriptions and optimizing your images and providing alternative tags.
Architecture: The architecture has to do with how your website is coded and built. Is the site responsive (meaning it works on all devices)? Is the site optimized so that it loads quickly? Are the links and URLs structured properly?
Other Factors: There are other off-the-page factors that can also impact your SEO that many people don't realize. This has to do with the reputation of your website. Search engines don't want to send its searchers to untrustworthy websites, so reputation matters. Things that impact this include the authority of your domain: have you owned it a long time or was it recently purchased and you don't know who was using it before? Are there spammy ads or pop-ups on the site? Is the site loading from another country. Do other reputable websites link to your website? If you have a Build Your Firm website, most of these factors are things we can't control at the onset, but we will provide suggestions and coaching if necessary to improve your "other factors" for SEO.
Local SEO: Local SEO (also called local search) is becoming more and more important to your overall online presence and can play a large role in your website's SEO. Local search refers to your presence on local listings like Google Business and Yelp. Other sites might include Yellowpages, Angie's List, Facebook, Foursquare, etc. Claiming your business on local search sites directly improves your website's SEO as your physical address is tied to your website. Local Search is typically not done by the website developer but instead by the business owner. At Build Your Firm, we provide helpful guides to our clients on how to claim their local listings.
How does SEO work?
Now that you understand all the factors of SEO, let's cover how it exactly works on your website.
When your site is built, most of the factors we discussed above can be built into your site by your website provider. Most website developers will charge you extra for SEO. Other providers may offer you a do-it-yourself guide to doing your own SEO. I don't typically suggest you attempt your own SEO. Since proper SEO is a labor-intensive and detail-oriented process it's not something most accounting firms should try to tackle on their own if they want it done right.
Once your new website has been made live, it's on the internet and the search engines will begin crawling and indexing it. What this means is the search engines are "reading" the website to understand what the site is about. For example, if your website is for an Accounting Firm in Detroit, MI, and you offer accounting, bookkeeping, tax, and payroll services, the search engines can detect and index you for that type of content. That way, when someone searches for "payroll in Detroit" or "Detroit accounting firm" it knows that it can serve your website as one of the results.
The search engines will also start indexing your website for the other factors we discussed such as its reputation, its architecture, and its HTML. If someone searches for Detroit Accounting Firm and some of the sites are well-designed, well-coded and have a good reputation, it is more likely to show these sites over Detroit accounting firm websites that are out-dated, not well-designed, etc.
Other Factors that Impact SEO and Your Placement in the Search Engines
Once your website is optimized for the search engines, there are other factors to take into account that can impact your SEO and help you get to the tops of search engines quicker.
- Local Search: As mentioned above, your local search is an important piece of your overall SEO. At Build Your Firm, we suggest you claim your business on Google and Yelp. Once completed, it's recommended that you submit your business listing to a local listing manager such as Moz Local.
- Online Reviews: Once you've established yourself on your local listings, the next thing we suggest is obtaining online reviews for these locations.
- Blogging: The major search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo are giving very high priority to websites that regularly offer a steady stream of fresh, relevant content produced by a blog. Adding a blog to your website can act as another way prospective clients can find you and help elevate your domain's reputation.
Understanding the Search Results Page
The last thing I want to cover is the search results page you see when you search for an accounting firm on the internet. There are three main types of results the seach engine pages will show you.
Paid results are ads that people pay for to show up at the top of the page. This is called PayPerClick (PPC) advertising.
Local results are what's referred to as the "local pack," you can only show up here if you claim your listing on Google Business. If you're not set up on Google Business, you cannot show up in this spot OR on Google Maps.
Organic placements are the results that show up due to the SEO of the website.
SEO can definitely be confusing to understand since there are so many moving pieces. That's why it's best to opt for a website provider that offers SEO Websites for Accountants, like we do at Build Your Firm. That way, most of the heavy lifting is off your plate and you know someone is doing it for you, and doing it right. If you have more questions about a website with Build Your Firm give us a call today at 888-999-9800.
By Kallie Branciforte
Kallie Branciforte is the Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Manager at Build Your FIrm, a practice development and marketing provider for accounting firms. Visit www.buildyourfirm.com/ or call 888-999-9800.