Class of 2019: A good website beats a perfect one
In an ideal world, we’d all have unlimited resources and build beautiful, comprehensive websites from day one. In practice, if you’re on a budget or pressed for time, starting with modest aims is better than never starting, as Ray Newman, head of content and insight at PracticeWeb, explains.
For new accountancy firms, getting a website set up is just one of a number of priorities competing for a share of that startup budget.
Add to that a sense that your website has to be an all-singing, all-dancing masterpiece if you’re going to compete, and you’ve got a recipe for inaction – maybe next year, eh?
If you don’t have any website at all, it’s always better to get something live now, even if it’s not perfect, than put it off.
Matthew Goude, one of AccountingWEB's Class of 2019 (and a PracticeWeb client) launched his firm, ZincBooks, earlier this year. Getting a decent website up and running quickly was a priority, and has paid dividends:
“I had a new lead come through this morning via a Google search for a local accountant. If the website wasn't live or looked poor in the eyes of the visitor, he wouldn't have picked up the phone to speak to me.”
For one thing, having some kind of presence allows you to take ownership of your web address, or URL, and start building its authority.
The evidence is that Google gives preference in search rankings to older URLs and that a six-month old domain will probably score less well than one that’s been active for a year.
The difference might be slight but, to reiterate a point one of my colleagues made recently, SEO is all about marginal gains and if there’s a slight advantage to be had for minimal effort, you should take it.
Prioritise sectors and services
The easiest way to keep down the cost and time required to get a website live is to keep the structure minimal.
Instead of launching on day one with landing pages for every possible accountancy service, and targeting a vast range of business sectors, pick the services you’re most keen to sell and the clients you most want to attract.
Three of each is a reasonable starting point.
Not only is this efficient but it can also help you stand out against the competition: ‘We work with tradespeople, professional drivers and private security firms’ is a stronger, clearer message than ‘We work with anyone and everyone’.
In other words, being constrained by budget and time can force you to make better, sharper decisions.
Measurement and iteration
Another benefit of starting out with a modest site is the opportunity to make incremental additions and improvements based on the behaviour of actual users.
If you add one or two new service or sector pages each month, not only have you given yourself a more manageable task but you’ve also got time to craft that content to incorporate keyword research and information on user behaviour from Google Analytics.
For example, if you start with three sector pages but find that ‘Accounting for professional drivers’ is getting three times as much traffic, you might want to build on that with additional pages titled ‘Accounting for taxi drivers’, ‘Accounting for delivery drivers’ and so on.
Developing the depth and breadth of your website content over the course of a year also allows you to hone your website copy quite precisely, focusing on one decision at a time, in response to intelligence.
Let’s say a firm based in Stockport launches with the technically correct homepage heading ‘Accountants in Greater Manchester’. Six months later, keyword research reveals that ‘Accountants in Cheshire’ has far higher search volumes behind it. At which point, they might decide that being technically correct is less important than being found and change the heading to ‘Accountants in Cheshire’ or something similar.
If you’re really smart about it, you can even invest in things like:
- A/B testing – putting together two versions of a page and serving them to different groups of users to see which performs better
- Heatmapping – using software to see where on the screen users are hovering and clicking and making changes accordingly
- User testing – watching real people use your website and observing their expectations and frustrations.
If you’re not 100% sure of your website, you don’t have to promote it in the first instance – it’s fine to let it exist while you work on it.
If it generates traffic under its own steam, great. Otherwise, it’s unlikely to do any harm sitting there gathering authority and proving the bare existence of your firm to the world.
For all that, I’m not advocating getting a bad website. It needs to meet a basic minimum standard in terms of professionalism, clarity and quality, even if it isn’t comprehensive or elaborate.