7 mistakes to avoid with your accountancy website

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Mark Lee shares his tips to help you gain maximum benefit from your website, without spending a fortune.

Whenever I have cause to speak with an accountant for the first time, I look them up online and check out their website. If it stands out positively in some way I often compliment them on this. All too often however I find myself offering constructive observations.

As I frequently find I’m saying the same things, this article focuses on what I consider to be the seven most common mistakes. This list is longer than a similar one I shared a few years ago and which is referenced in the related reading list at the end of this piece.

Before I offer my view on an individual firm’s website, I typically ask if it’s doing its job. My view is of no value as compared with the real target audiences. These will typically include prospective clients, influencers and, sometimes, prospective staff. 

In the vast majority of cases an accountant’s website is a key way of attracting new business. And if it doesn’t do this they sometimes give up – assuming that no website could work for them. I doubt that is true. Equally, if you are already getting as many new clients as you want, and they are agreeing to pay your fees and asking you to do the sort of profitable work you enjoy, then all is well. Don’t change anything.

Here then are the 7 most common observations I make and which can help explain why an accountant’s website isn’t doing all you want it to:

Failing to make it easy for prospects to find what they want

I don’t agree with those marketing people who claim you need to keep people on your website for as long as possible. They encourage you to include far too much content which can be confusing or distracting.

I believe you need to make it as easy as possible for the right people to recognise quickly whether or not they want to contact you. And then make it easy for them to do this using whatever approach they prefer – so offer them a choice eg: phone, email, live chat or appointment. It’s what THEY prefer that matters, not what YOU prefer – unless you can afford to be choosy.

Failing to say who YOU are

So many accountancy sites have an ‘about us’ page that contains a pretty generic description of what could be almost any other firm in the UK. All too often the websites of smaller firms don’t say anything about the person running the firm. Why not?

Most people are more likely to get in touch if they know who to ask for or who they are contacting. My pet hate is contact@ or [email protected] style email addresses.

‘We ing’ all over the site

Visitors need to know if they are on a website that offers services to people like them. And then they can decide whether you are the type of accountant they want to engage.

It’s much easier to engage visitors to your site if you talk about them first rather than if your home page talks about you and your style, approach and background. That’s all secondary. So check out how often you say ‘We this’ or ‘we that’ on your site. Experts tell us it should be less frequent than the number of times you address readers through referencing them as ‘You’.

Leaving a website untouched for years

I’ve seen dozens of accountants’ websites that were fine back in the day. But they are now probably generating less business than they did previously. That may be fine if you less need for the website to pull in random enquiries. The question though is whether you are missing out on referrals and recommendations as people checking you out online are not enthused by what they see?

It’s much less expensive these days than it used to be to get a freshly designed website (eg: using a wordpress template). This has the potential to better engage visitors who otherwise give up or quickly ‘bounce’ off to a more modern looking and easy to use accountant’s website.

Listing too many ‘specialisms’ (in alphabetical or random order)

Better to list them in order of interest and expertise. And to keep the list short. By definition it is rare to ‘specialise’ in a dozen or more services and across all the sectors in which you have clients. Such a claim only really has any credibility if the firm has a number of partners with different specialisms. If that’s the case then why not make this clear so that the claims are more credible?

Pretending to be bigger than you are

If you are a sole practitioner or small firm what sort of clients are you keen to attract? Big companies that need larger firms? Business people who want to engage a firm where there is adequate backup when their partner is on holiday? Anyone who can be easily misled into thinking your firm is bigger than it is? That doesn’t strike me as a good start to a business relationship.

If you are a one-person firm, why not say this up front? What are you afraid of? You’re not alone as the vast majority of accountancy firms in the UK are one-person practices. Build on this and evidence your promises of personal contact and attention. Include a decent quality headshot so that prospects can see the sort of person you are.

Omitting to clarify ‘why you?’

I referenced this earlier. We are all different. It’s such a shame that so many firms’ websites read as if the names of the firms are interchangeable.

Why do clients choose to engage you (rather than another firm down the street)? What do clients like about the way you service them? How do they benefit from your style and approach? What makes you stand out and how does this benefit clients? Can you share stories and case studies that prospects can relate to?

Prospective clients may be searching online and have just stumbled across your site which they then compare with others that came up during their search. Other prospects may have been recommended or referred to you. These people are simply looking for confirmation of what they were told. Does your site provide this?

Related reading

Mark Lee FCA is consultant practice editor of AccountingWEB and helps individual accountants who want to be more successful in their practice or career. He is an authorspeaker, mentor and debunker. He also facilitates The Inner Circle group for accountants and created the Successful Practice Pack for accountants. His website is: www.BookMarkLee.co.uk

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I agree

with 5. The two I don't agree with is "we ing" all over the site and "why you".

Most Accountants are similar and offer similar services. So yes they are interchangeable. There appears to be a bit of contradiction with "why you" and "we ing" as far as waffle is concerned.

My website is just a point of contact, tells people who we are, what we do and how to get in contact with us. What more does an Accountant's website need? The client will make up their mind when they meet you not from a website. I do agree, however, if it's a crap website then people won't bother getting in touch.

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i love the lists of specialities
All 20 of them, jack of all trades master of none

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I too always

Look at an accountant's website when a new firm comes onto my radar.  I am surprised by how many small firms don't actually have a website and googling only turns up a Yell listing.

I also dislike those sites that give no indication of the size of the company and contain no names or photos.  As a potential client I would want to have the opportunity to exercise my prejudices and see if the partners have hair gel and open neck shirts or grey hair/no hair and wear ties!

Depending on my needs as a client, I would want to know the size and dynamic of the firm.  One man and his dog a few doors away may be perfect.  Alternatively, if I want specialist tax advice a one man band who does everything is unlikely to be my choice (unless they specialise in my line of business).

My other pet hates are:

Sites that show the BBC news headlines.  Why was this ever a good idea?

Sites with interactive tools working out company car benefits and the like.  I don't see the appeal to either existing or potential clients.

The words 'pro-active' and/or 'added value' appearing anywhere on the site.

'Goodies' type advertising (remember them?).  'we can do anything, anywhere, anytime'

Those that say, 'we specialise in SMEs'.

Pictures of lots of smiley good looking people with five figure dental work and designer clothes (catalogue models and out of work actors) pretending to run businesses.

Perhaps Mark could reveal recent website content that gave him a WOW factor.

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Headshot

"Include a decent quality headshot so that prospects can see the sort of person you are".

You can see the sort of person someone is from a headshot? I thought that this just shows you what their head looks like.

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@mwnglol

Not sure if you're being pedantic or are genuinely confused.  

For more on the value of a good headshot see this earlier article on AccountingWeb: Does your headshot give the right impression?

Mark

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Not pedantic

I guess I'm just different. If I was looking for an accountant and their website had a headshot of a grumpy looking old codger, it wouldn't affect my decision.

Admittedly if they had a swastika tattooed on their forehead I wouldn't choose to do any business with them, but aside from such extreme examples I can't imagine a photograph having much influence on a business decision.

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Many people operate very diferently

The absence of a photo will often work against someone when they are being compared with another accountant who looks like the sort of person the visitor would like to do business. It's human nature - for most people anyway.   

Some younger people would prefer to deal with someone whom they think could relate to them and equally some older people. A photo can help make this more obvious from the outset.

Related to this is the difficulty in not knowing, without a photo, whether the accountant is male or female (some female clients would prefer to deal with a lady accountant).  It's not always obvious - even if they include their name on the site. 

I've also come across accountants from a specific ethnic, religious or cultural background who tell me they haven't put a photo on their site to avoid putting off anyone with a different background. The logic here escapes me. Surely it's better to avoid having to deal with people who feel like this? Let them see who you are. You may also find it easier to attract others who share your views/background.

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Photos on the site

We've done some focus groups with business owners which does suggest that business decision makers (at least within SME), have a preference for websites which showcase the team and it's talent - including professional photography. There also was a clear preference for those sites where the photography had a consistent style across different staff members.

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Cheers

Just reviewed and updated mine

www.ttca.co.uk....  its tops...have a look at it

 

I was looking at  www.moorestephens.co.uk

 

You know what... on the front page it doesnt tell you wnat they do...no where does it say accountants or Auditors etc ..maybe everyone knows what they do??

 

Keep it simple most of the clients are ;)

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Blimey Tom ...

Tom 7000 wrote:

Just reviewed and updated mine

www.ttca.co.uk....  its tops...have a look at it

 

I was looking at  www.moorestephens.co.uk

 

You know what... on the front page it doesnt tell you wnat they do...no where does it say accountants or Auditors etc ..maybe everyone knows what they do??

 

Keep it simple most of the clients are ;)


... If I was your wife I'd be worried, are you single handedly trying to balance out gender inequality in the workplace :o)
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Thoughts

Very nice article Mark I particularly agree with your sentiment on how important it is to reflect the issues that a potential client may have and then reflect that back in your web copy.

Then I would highlight the issue that many accountants have and that is imagery. Unfortunately in the service industry we do not have wonderful product images and the like so firms need to highlight heritage, location, people, or service specific images rather than use the generic stock photos so often found in accountancy. 

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@ Tom 7000

Nice photo but I reckon half your staff have got made up names, e.g. Bugler, Dicker, Prodger, Rutter-Butcher, Frisby and Tift.

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Readers' Digest?

Rod Wilson wrote:

Nice photo but I reckon half your staff have got made up names, e.g. Bugler, Dicker, Prodger, Rutter-Butcher, Frisby and Tift.

Not to mention McManners! And, Tom, it's about time you rephrased "...accounts completed within 30 days of passing your records..."

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Mobile

The word mobile does not currently appear anywhere on this page.

Having a website which is not responsive for viewers on a phone is THE biggest mistake one can make nowadays. That this did not make Mark's list is something of a surprise to me.

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Mobile

Adrian Pearson wrote:

The word mobile does not currently appear anywhere on this page.

Having a website which is not responsive for viewers on a phone is THE biggest mistake one can make nowadays. That this did not make Mark's list is something of a surprise to me.

I'm inclined to agree with you Adrian. Being mobile friendly is very important. It's just not something I have been thinking about when speaking with accountants on the phone sitting at my office desk looking at their websites via my macbook. 

Having said that, I am aware that the Tax Advice Network website is not mobile friendly but this doesn't seem to have reduced the number of searches carried out on the site or the number of enquiries they receive. Still they are planning to move it to a mobile platform later this year. Who knows, maybe they'll see an upswing in searches and enquiries. So I'm not sure it is true to say that failing to ensure your website is mobile friendly "is THE biggest mistake one can make nowadays"

Mark

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Mobile and views

Mark et al - the mobile aspect is really important from a usability point of view.

Proliferation of devices, platforms, screen sizes etc makes the need to accommodate lots of different factors really important - not just mobile phones.

Having a Responsive website is the best way to accommodate - that is one that organises the content on any given page depending on the device/screen being used. This means the best impression, and the desired ordering of content can be guaranteed. 

Most websites these days will be built in this way (or should be).

By not thinking about mobile you are missing out on providing a good experience to an increasingly significant amount of traffic - e.g. users clicking links from social media, text messages, from emails sent to them, or casual searches - all while on the move. 

There is an impact on google rankings - a good overview here from PracticeWEB  - although I agree this is more of a mobile boost, than a overall deficit (you decide).

Demanding a decent experience for your full range of users is a key demand from your website supplier.

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Thoughts

 

I never thought about the names before... McManners is so weird anyway I always have to spell it out. I have got a pal called John Crook FCA who might be reading this and I did come across an FD once called Nick Fiddler ...

 

Do we think 30 days is too long should it be 14?

 

Most people say ...ooohhhh I like the idea of the tax deductible jackets...shows you are thinking about it.

 

Lots of Girls...you just hire the best person for the job irrespective...dont you? That reminds me I need to add Michelle on and thank you PWC for training her so nicely :)

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Crappy Job?

Tom 7000 wrote:

Do we think 30 days is too long should it be 14?

30 days is fine - it's the having to pass their records that I think needs rephrasing. Or maybe I've just watched too many Carry On films.

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I think ...

... in 2015 much less than 50% of internet access is by desk top and lap top machines!

However, I would be interested to know how much business access is by mobile or other devices.

You need to know your market, if the majority of business mobile access is by subbies and trades-persons and you are after £1m+ t/o companies who predominantly access via desk top it is not that important.

As stated above though any new site should automatically be mobile friendly, but if you have an old site it may be worth updating.

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I have

never given my mobile number to clients nor will I. Once you start doing that you become a slave to work rather than a mutual benefit. I really don't want phone calls from clients out of office hours. I will do work evenings and weekends but that is by my choice not panic phone calls that turn out to be a a waste of time. Clients need parameters, that way there is a mutual respect.

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Used to

have my mobile number on my card.  Never had anyone take advantage.  Still have the same number and many of the same clients and still no 'abuse'. You can of course prog the client's numbers in so you can see who is calling before you answer!

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Web sites

Many people concentrate on websites, most people never address the problem, how do i get people to look at my website in the first place.

 

Also now everyone has a website we are all back on even terms again. 

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Not all websites are created equal...

AndrewV12 wrote:

Many people concentrate on websites, most people never address the problem, how do i get people to look at my website in the first place.

 

Also now everyone has a website we are all back on even terms again. 

 

Perhaps, but some are considerably more equal than others.

A website may now be an established part of the presentation toolkit for firms, it doesn't necessarily follow that they are therefore 'job done'. 

Easy to drift into opinion on what makes a good website from here on in (and see much of above).

Getting traffic to your site is the other side of the coin, I'm sure @MarkLee will have some great ideas about that too, but one of the easiest ways to think about it is that it should be an extension of your networking. Offline and online networking and marketing are totally symbiotic. 

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The easiest thing ...

... is to have a cheap payg phone for clients and turn it off when you don't want calls.

However, I would rather have clients calling and turn the personal one off to stop the wife hounding me!

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