Mentor and Speaker for accountants BookMarkLee
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Should accountants be blogging?

1st Jun 2015
Mentor and Speaker for accountants BookMarkLee
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The idea of blogging is not new but it is still a minority sport among accountants. Do those who blog find it’s worth the effort, asks Mark Lee.

Plenty of accountants have their own blogs. Most seem to use these sporadically to share tax and related news stories that may be of interest to prospective clients.

The primary objectives of having a blog are typically one or more of the following:

  • Improve search engine ranking (so your website appears higher on page one when someone searches for an accountant in your area or for one with expertise in an unusual topic)
  • Distinguish you and your website from those of accountants who don’t blog (and so help lead to more clients)
  • Reinforce your expertise in specific topics (and so help lead to more clients)
  • Direct more web traffic to your website (and so help lead to more media enquiries and PR as well as more clients when they are ready to change to someone new)
  • Generate content that you can use to keep in touch with prospective clients, introducers and influencers (and so help lead to more clients in time)

In the interests of full disclosure I should admit that I have been a regular blogger since 2006. I enjoy it. In this respect I am in a similar position to many of the marketing gurus who blog and then encourage accountants to do so too. The difference being that I blog for accountants and have never encouraged accountants themselves to become bloggers. 

Many of the larger firms have long had blogs. In their cases though the person responsible for the blog is rarely an accountant in practice. It’s much more likely to be someone in the marketing team. And given the size and profile of larger firms I would tend to agree this makes sense and should make it easier to ensure the blog is kept up-to-date.

The extent to which larger firms, their partners and staff might benefit from having a practice blog can inform the choices made by smaller practices. One point to note of course is that larger firms have more potential contributors and issue more press releases which can be copied to the blog.

Persistent smaller practice blogs

Bainbridge Lewis in Brighton commented on the 2011 article and explained why they blogged. They still do now although far less frequently than they did in 2011 when they posted 43 items. (21 in 2012, 12 in 2013 and 17 in 2014).

Caplan Associates in Watford were referenced in the 2012 article and continue to be enthusiastic bloggers (about once a month although the pace has picked up again recently).

CheapAccounting.co.uk – Elaine Clark’s online firm and franchise has gone from strength to strength in recent years. She continues to blog extensively, and, I would suggest, evidently enjoys doing so.

Mitch The TaxMan – Mitch Young, now a partner at Nyman Libson Paul, started his personal tax blog some years back. Through it he evidences his fascination with tax and his desire to help his clients. The blog has raised his profile with the media and I am sure it also contributed to his promotion to partner, aged just 29, and his subsequent moves to first one and then a second London firm.

Not such ‘great’ examples

I note that a number of those who challenged my less than enthusiastic view in previous years are no longer in practice or no longer blog.

I have also looked back at the 6 blogs featured in the 2012 piece, referenced as ‘great’ examples above, by someone who knew the marketplace well:

  • One blogged infrequently in 2012, about once a month in 2013, 3 times in 2014 and only twice so far in 2015. Hardly what you might call ‘committed’.
  • One has posted just 23 items to their blog. None are dated, thus disguising how infrequently they add new items. Many of them seem to be copies of press releases or client testimonials.
  • One posted just 5 items in 2012, 3 in 2013 and 3 in 2014.
  • One was a US firm where the marketplace operates quite differently to the UK.
  • The other 2 are still regular bloggers in the UK (and one of these is the CheapAccounting.co.uk blog I referenced earlier). But that’s just 33% of those featured as ‘great’ examples.

Many other accountants’ blogs referenced in comments on the earlier articles seem largely to have disappeared. There could be many reasons for this of course.

Conclusion

I happen to agree with those who advise that a well written and focused blog can, over time, help an accountant to stand out from their competitors. And this may then lead to more business and to more PR coverage.

A focused blog however, is just one of many ways in which an accountant can stand out. Blogging is not for everyone and, to be worthwhile, it probably needs to form part of a well planned marketing strategy.

What I have long challenged is the blanket advice that every accountant needs a blog. Loosely translated this typically means the advocate is suggesting that accountants should pay the advocate to write blog posts for them.

Given the relatively low proportion of successful accountants’ blogs it is self evidently true that a blog, of itself, does not guarantee practice growth or success. It has never been true that you MUST have a blog – regardless of what some marketing gurus have argued.  

What is fair to say is that, if you want to grow your practice, you will benefit from developing a well thought through marketing strategy. And, depending on your objectives, on your focus and on your interests you may conclude that blogging could be a useful element of that strategy. 

You should then review this theory over a period of time. This may require you to test different approaches to blogging, to experiment with the type of content you write about and to experiment with the style you adopt.

You might also try writing blog posts yourself and compare this with the impact of outsourcing the origination to someone who understands you and what you are seeking to achieve.

Mark Lee is consultant practice editor of AccountingWEB. As a speaker and mentor, he also facilitates The Inner Circle group for accountants and is Chairman of the Tax Advice Network.

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Mark Lee 2017
By Mark Lee
01st Jun 2015 13:03

The 'further' reading referenced at the end of the article

2010: How to run an effective corporate blog  This contained ten top tips that are as true today as they were five years ago – if you have decided you want to start blogging.

2010: Do blogging and accountancy really mix? This article, written by an internet marketing expert, looked at ways in which accountants could use blogging to engage with the online community.  It offered a positive yet theoretical perspective. Yes, accountants can blog, but it didn’t consider if there was real value to doing so.

2011: Is blogging good for business if you’re an accountant? This was my first piece on the topic and referenced the ‘blogging and accountancy mix’ article from 2010. I concluded that the answer to the question was a qualified ‘Yes’; blogging can be good for business if you’re an accountant. However I was quite clear that many of the hoped for benefits would be hard to secure and that there might be easier ways to secure the desired outcomes.

2012: 6 great accountants’ blogs  This AccountingWeb blog post was written by a marketing company that produced blogs for accountants.

2013: Time wasting marketing ideas for start ups   I identified blogging as one such time wasting idea and noted that: “There are plenty of people trying to encourage all accountants to start blogging. I am doubtful though that many start-up practices can point to their blogging as having been an effective marketing activity. See: 5 blogging myths for accountants

I’d love to hear from accountants who have been blogging for some months or years. Do you write the pieces yourself? Has the exercise helped you achieve your objectives? Have you reaped any unexpected benefits?

 

Mark

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By plummy1
01st Jun 2015 13:32

Has proved invaluable.

Mark,

Although we are not strictly accountants but capital allowances claims specialists I would like to advocate blogging as a way of driving traffic to your website. 

There are tools which can help you establish what prospective clients are searching for on search engines such as Google. This can give you very good ideas on what to write about to give people the information they are searching to receive. If you use a website platform such as Wordpress it is easy to then ensure these blogs are ranked highly by Google.

I know I have been shot down in flames before for criticising the general poor quality of many accountants websites. However I still maintain that opinion, although I do appreciate that accountants maybe looking to achieve different things with their websites.

John. 

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By Alex997
02nd Jun 2015 10:06

Worth it - but less than it use to be

Goringe Accountants have one top ranking accountancy blogs (<click to check out) in the UK and it is something that we certainly value and will continue with.  However in recent times Google seems to be less and less interested in sending traffic to the blog articles, despite all the SEO optimization efforts we put in.

Bing and the other search engines on the other hand seems more and more interested but given Google have 90% of of the search engine market, this doesn't account for much sadly.

Google seem to be promoting their own content a lot more these days (knowledge graphs, ads) so that the top ranking results for queries are almost at the bottom of the search page!  I think this is the top factor for our blog's decline.

We actually find doing guest blogs on sites like Sage or Intuit, although frowned upon by Google as non-organic linking, actually gives good RELEVANT traffic - which after all is what everyone is really after.

I wrote a piece about a year ago on our blog about how we've optimized our site for both customers and search engines: http://goringeaccountants.co.uk/goringe-accountants-website/ - may be of some use to your readers.  I personally have spent a huge amount of time and effort on the site, so unless you have deep wallets to get someone else to do it for you, it's not for the faint hearted.

Alex

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By plummy1
03rd Jun 2015 10:22

Good Website

I like the website Alex997 . Very good design in my opinion.

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By Alex997
03rd Jun 2015 10:52

Negative connotations of the word 'blog'

plummy1 wrote:

I like the website Alex997 . Very good design in my opinion.

Thanks John! - lots, and lots, and lots of polishing on a daily basis.  We get about 1/3 of all our new enquiries via our website right now, all with very positive things to say about the site design and content. 

What continues to confuse me profusely though are some of the other top ranking other sites in Google, which have almost no content, no links, and web design from the dark ages.  Bing seems to be doing a much better job these days of displaying quality results, but still a small uptake here in the UK.

Anyway...

From some of the comments above, I think there is a certain level of negative connotation for the word 'blog'.  Some see it as a personal daily diary - which I agree is not of much commercial use, but we see it as a way to demonstrate our expertize by writing high quality informational articles. 

I've actually been tinkering with the idea for a while now of changing all mention of the word 'blog' to 'articles'.  Perhaps I will ...

 

-Alex

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By tre cool
02nd Jun 2015 10:22

Should accountants be blogging?

The short answer is yes.

Blog and be damned because if it's good enough for Caitlin Jenner (Kardashians) then it's cool for accountants to blog.

Thank you and good morning.

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By why always me
02nd Jun 2015 10:34

tre cool

I would have thought if a karashian doing it, should be enough for sensible people to leave well alone

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By tre cool
02nd Jun 2015 10:44

Kardashian

My dear chap,that's rock'n'roll !

But whatever floats your boat as they say.

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By Ian McTernan CTA
02nd Jun 2015 10:36

Better things to do

I have better things to do than blog- such as reply in my usual way to articles such as these!

For some, dependent on your target market, it can be an invaluable tool and is worth investing the time and effort into to drive traffic your way.

For me, no thanks.  It's too much like those that twitter a lot or post numerous updates on Facebook every day.  I don't care if you just headed off to the gym (but the burglar is grateful for the information).

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By Albasas
02nd Jun 2015 10:52

Blogged Up Frustrations

I'm a fan of the monologue myself. Although no one in the core audience may reply or comment its just the nature of this form of communication. Is there anybody out there? Yes, but getting involved in technical and frankly to most the tedious debates about accounting standards and tax law is not an area for those not so well versed in the esoteric and elitism to be found within the accountancy and tax industry / profession. That's what we do and hopefully take from it what we can and understand. Blogging is particularly well suited to this kind of activity. Whereas some blogging has evolved into social networking. A term that implies a more 'chilled' and relaxed approach and not talking shop all the time. In short you wont get fans but possibly plenty of admirers.....    

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By AndrewV12
02nd Jun 2015 11:13

Yes im in

I dont do it myself, but i know I ought to.

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Richard Sergeant
By Richard Sergeant
02nd Jun 2015 11:39

Really useful, Mark

Quite like this one.

I think you pretty much nailed it - and the comments later about generating relevant traffic are spot on.

I think the principles you cover here are pretty much the same for any business.

There are some good examples out there of accountants tying it neatly into social media too, and I think when done with a purpose and a sense of 'wanting to' can actually create an positive effect over and above pure number of reads.

Bravo..

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7om
By Tom 7000
02nd Jun 2015 12:48

One a week on various forums

Will get you maybe 3x new clients a year

 

cost benefit analyisis anyone?

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By justsotax
02nd Jun 2015 15:56

@tom...but you need to do

twitter, facebook etc etc at the same time....although after all of that not sure you will have time to do the work....cynical about the benefits...yep...

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By John Abbott
03rd Jun 2015 09:00

Accountants should definitely keep blogging. Sharing free tax info could be very beneficial for small companies that cannot afford to hire a big accounting firm. Besides, those blogs are a source of hidden trends and malpractices news. So, keep sharing lads!

 

 

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By Patrick _Hudson
10th Aug 2017 19:58

While some blogs may be gone or less active there will always be others to pick it up.

As long as you can add value to prospective or current clients, especially in the small business accounting space. The answer is definitely yes.

For one, accountants can be so much more than just "bean counters" and can even act as a business partner to overcome both growth and financial challenges.

A blog allows accountants to showcase their expertise not just in number crunching but other areas as well for which most people wouldn't necessarily seek an accountant. For example raising financing for a startup.

The folks at BrooksCity a London accounting firm, recently setup a blog (https://brookscity.com/blog/) with one goal in mind.

Helping small business owner make sense of (you guessed it) running a small business. Some interesting posts will be featured shortly.

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