Top website marketing tips

AccountingWEB’s marketing discussion group has been exploring how to use their websites to generate new business. This article summarises their most effective suggestions.

Most recent conversations about marketing have quickly focused on the online options. According to David Ellis from QualityImpact, more than 80% of prospects look for what they want online, so having an online presence is essential for any accountancy firm that wants to grow.

While the website is probably the starting point for many firms’ marketing activities, discussion group leader Maxxy doesn’t think there is a straight or certain choice between on or offline marketing. What really matters is knowing who your target audience is, and the kind of firm you want to be.

David Winch advised that visitors typically only stay on a website stay for less than 30 seconds - and often much less as what they most frequently want to see are a phone number and email address.  So consider how your site can make an immediate impact on the visitor during the short time you have their attention.

Content sources
As AccountingWEB has shown, relevant content can attract an audience - and help increase your ranking in the all-important search engine results. A blog can be a relatively low-key way to post content, or you could use RSS feeds to pull in news headlines from sites such as this one.

The accountancy marketing industry has expanded rapidly alongside the internet, and as well as paper marketing materials, you can now get pre-packaged websites, including news and content updates from the likes of our sister company, PracticeWeb.co.uk.

Attracting traffic
Once you’ve created a compelling website, you need to attract visitors to it. You can do this yourself with diligent blogging and social networking, but if you haven’t got the time for that, there are other ways to do this - either paying for a service like Google AdWords that positions you prominently alongside relevant keyword search results, or search engine optimisation (SEO) that does a similar job within the search results themselves.

Or you can take up listings in directories such as Yell.com. But for all the blandishments of their salespeople, you never really know how many leads they’ll generate until you’ve tried them.

Search engine optimisation (SEO)
Academic papers are devoted to unravelling the algorithms that drive search engines, and there are many specialist providers, including several who frequent the AccountingWEB discussion group.

“There is a mess of things that can be done here,” said David Ellis from QualityImpact, but perhaps their simplest piece of advice was: “Make sure whoever is designing your site has an excellent understanding of SEO.” This will ensure the best organic rankings and minimise monthly SEO costs.

If you can adapt the concept to accountancy and the services your firm provides, the people within it and the specialist topics you want to promote, you’ve made the first steps towards doing SEO yourself. Further advice is available on AccountingWEB and other sources.

Stock imagery
For business type pictures, Accountantwebsmiths recommend iStockPhoto.com website, or searching for "stock photography" or "royalty free photos" on Google.

“For pictures of your local area, stock photos might not be varied enough so you could try flickr and contacting the person who shot the photo you like and want to use.”

Housekeeping
Being good accountants, the compliance issues surrounding company websites cropped up in the conversation and were answered by pointers from the OUT-LAW websit.

Security
One subject that should not be overlooked when creating a website for your firm is security. Many website designers know how to make them look good and perform well in search results, but they are often keen amateurs who may have a sketchy knowledge of security. The best advice here is to question your suppliers about their security arrangements and compare 2-3 different suppliers. If necessary, seek advice from a service that has some IT security credentials (or at least a passing knowledge of BS 7799 ‘Information Security’). Twynham’s previous articles on website security may also help:
Web security Part 1: How safe is your site?
Part 2: Anatomy of a hack: It only takes a few minutes
Part 3 - How to secure your site?

Know what you’re trying to achieve
Getting security right is a question of getting and following good advice, but when it comes to marketing, Mark Orr quipped, “All the answers are right and they are also probably wrong.”

CaseWare UK managing director Shez Hammil offered the following advice based on his experiences as a software sales and marketing executive: “Get a message, and be consistent in delivering [it] across different platforms. Once you have defined your market, and come up with a varied range of marketing approaches, stick with it!”

 

Further reading

Continued...

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Comments
NetAccountant's picture

Thank you

NetAccountant | | Permalink

@John, thank you for the summary of the interesting discussions we had in the marketing forum and the two mentions.

Regarding the SEO vs PPC debate, if I had to choose one, I would favour SEO in the long run because it offers some advantages over PPC:

  • The CTR (Click Through Rate = number of people who click on your website link / number of people who viewed the result page) is higher on "organic" listing (rankings issue from SEO) than it is on PPC;
  • There is a good chance that your website will maintain his positions after you've finished investing in SEO (although SEO should be an ongoing process); With PPC as soon as you stop paying you will stop getting visitors from this source of traffic;
  • Despite focussing on search engine, a side effect of SEO is to create more traffic sources via the links you get on other website (through link building); PPC as a "similar" effect if you use the "advertising network" rather than only the "search engine" to display your ads, but as with point 2 above - traffic will stop once Adwords stops, which is different from SEO;

One final comment regarding the cluster of pages mentioned above: a blog is a great way to get those additional pages without "cluttering" your website as many blog using wordpress allow (encourage?) deep linking to those blog pages. Deep links (links to internal pages) are usually the more difficult ones to obtain, and having a blog makes this task - a lot - easier.

Websites are an ongoing investment

kevilsticks | | Permalink

Good post. Your website is (or should be!) available 24/7/365 and is likely to be the first impression potential clients get of you. Given the figure of 80% of prospects searching on line first (so that's 80% of people who have already decided to buy!) it makes sense to get it right. Take the time to find a web designer with a track record, checkout some of their previous work, talk to the businesses they've already worked with and preferably use a local one (if you're based in Kent then find a web designer in Kent) who is prepared to come and sit down with you to work out exactly what it is you are trying to achieve.

Once your site is up and running don't neglect it either. Most web designers will offer to do updates for you, at a price, but these days you should really be ensuring that the website has a "Content Management" system that lets you update the site whenever you want without going back to the designer. It doesn't take a geek to do it now either, a modern CMS will facilitate site updates without an html tag in sight! But be careful, there are some good and some pretty awful examples of Content Management systems around so get a trial run before you commit.

Your website is an investment in the long term so you need to feel comfortable that you can work with the web designer over the long term.

Kent Website Design from http://www.esum-web-solutions.co.uk

Bob Harper's picture

Trash the template    1 thanks

Bob Harper | | Permalink

For firms interested in Websites I have written a report called Trash the Template.

I recommend firms buy a bespoke Website with NO content because this forces you to think and get involved.

Firms that are serious about a building and securing a profitable and sustainable practice need to think very carefully and start being more involved with market - it is not enough to abdigate the responsibility to a Website company or telemarketing firm.

A new Website allows firms to consider their positioning strategy and getting their people involved in practice development. 

If you want a copy of the report email me bob@portfoliomarketing.co.uk

Bob Harper

Portfolio Marketing

PS - I only send reports, I do not follow up with a sales call and you need to ask to be on the newsletter.

Trash the template - 2    1 thanks

kevilsticks | | Permalink

I agree - The actual components of your website will be similar to those of your competitors in the same way that you both produce accounts. What differentiates you from them is WHO you are, not WHAT you are so it pays to work with a web design company that will sit with you to discuss not just your products and services but your ethos and aspirations too. There are two elements to your website before you write a single word of copy, Design and Construction. Make sure the site will be professionally designed so that it matches your branding and make sure it will be constructed to W3C standards so that it works in all browsers and your carefully put together copy, including relevant keywords, doesn't get lost in the bad code!

And finally, if you are going to be putting the content in yourself (and you should be insisting on this so that you can keep the site up to date without having to pay the designer for every small amendment) make sure you test drive the CMS ("Content Management" system) before going ahead. There are some really bad CMS examples out there which are nigh on impossible to use but there are some VERY good ones too. The CMS is your only access to your website (unless you are coding it from scratch yourself) so take the time to check it out before going ahead.

Kent Web Design from www.esum-web-solutions.co.uk

waynemorris's picture

5 Key Website Design Points    1 thanks

waynemorris | | Permalink

Hi, great article. Here are some additional points to consider if you want you attract prospects to engage with your website:

1. GOAL: Two simple goals:

First, establish trust and credibility and demonstrate value within your target market.

Second, get the prospect interested enough in what you have to say that they give their contact information.

And heres how you do it…

This could be a name and email address or, even better, a full address and phone number.

2. Make the opening view of the website totally compelling.

The screen that your prospects see first should get their attention immediately and pull them in. For example: A place for an attention-grabbing headline that addresses your target market’s top problems.

Just enough space for you to have some compelling copy that shows that you understand your market’s top problems, including solutions and benefits.

3. An offer in order to capture your prospects’ contact information right away.

There should be a mechanism and an offer to capture your prospect’s information as soon as the home page opens. Offering a free white paper, free e-newsletter, or copy of a free interview with a recognised opinion leader in your target market.

Include at least one testimonial that instantly builds your credibility. If there is room, and if you haven’t done it through the above tools, include a statement or brief hook that differentiates you from your competitors in a compelling, meaningful way. i.e. USP.

4. Create the website to be prospect-centric, instead of you-centric.

5. Provide plenty of free, valuable information and offers on the site.

Wayne Morris is the author of Best Practice, a leading marketing and sales programme for accountants available for trial. He is also the creator of MMP, the revolutionary marketing system that turns any existing accountant into a “go to” firm.

He works exclusively with accountants and can be contacted via Matrix Tax one of the UK's leading tax specialists.

This is great post!! I've

Tom_Miles09 | | Permalink

This is great post!! I've been thinking of starting to an online Business that includes social media advertising.. I got tips and advices from http://www.bolem.net/