The dos and don’ts of SEO in 2019
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is often a common topic of conversation on Any Answers. Here, James Martini – deputy editor at our sister company, PracticeWeb – answers seven of your FAQs.
Back in the 1990s, most firms sold accountancy services to clients through word of mouth, supplemented by business cards and a listing in the Yellow Pages.
Times have changed and a sophisticated understanding of SEO is critical if you want your practice’s website to stand out from the crowd.
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SEO is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results.
Is it true that SEO can take at least six months before you start to see actual results? How long does it take for SEO to build?
There’s no guaranteed time frame when it comes to seeing results from SEO, and there are many variables to consider.
For example, an authoritative existing website undergoing SEO improvements is more likely to see quick results as the pages and content on the site may already be indexed and valued by Google to some degree.
On the other hand, it can take a long time for new-build websites to see results. In that context, well-built sites targeting the right keywords, with longer-form content, stand a better chance.
What is the most effective way to ensure my company name comes out on a Google search? Is using AdWords the only way?
With the right advice or knowledge, your company name should be able to rank organically without needing to pay for AdWords to obtain visibility.
Containing the target keyword phrase you’re trying to rank for alongside your branding in your HTML title will help your site in that regard.
For instance, the keyword ‘contractor accountants’ followed by a separator and your branding/company name: Contractor accountants in Bristol | Tucker & Co.
If you have a new website that lacks authority with Google, AdWords can be a good way to get relevant traffic – but as soon as you stop spending, that traffic will drop off.
AdWords will give you visibility in search results for however long want to pay for it, but it’s organic results you want to target in the long run.
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How many blogs should I be writing each month? Does it matter if I use duplicate content?
SEO helps good content get found, and well-written, longer-form content designed to match distinct user intent fares particularly well.
Examples of user intent so far this year could be ‘What is MTD?’, ‘Changes to IR35’, or ‘Which version of QuickBooks do I need?’
Relevant keywords should be used to go after that user intent. Include them naturally and in context, though, because Google will penalise ‘keyword stuffing’.
A page of around 2,000 words is in the sweet spot for long-form content, and the correct use of headings, links and keywords will help it rank and bring in organic traffic.
Be aware of duplicated content, both on your site and other sites, as it can be harmful to your Google ranking unless it is no-indexed.
What benefit would a Google My Business page have?
Local search terms dominate localised search results, and they are becoming more and more important.
Think of consumers who search ‘accountants near me’ or ‘accountants in Nottingham’, for examples of these local search terms.
The information you put into Google My Business (GMB) appears on the first page of the search results – often before organic listings.
It’s vital for any business to have an up-to-date GMB page, displaying its name, location (with separate profiles for multiple offices), contact details, website, and opening hours.
GMB tells consumers what they need to know. It’s free, it’s easy to use, and it links to Google Maps. You have nothing to lose, and a lot to gain, by sorting your listing.
Does it make a difference if the site is mobile-friendly?
Last year, Google launched its mobile-first indexing which meant the version of your website viewed on a smartphone is the primary version used to determine rankings.
The mobile website should have the same web address and use the same code across all device sizes, resizing accordingly.
Google down-ranks slow-loading websites so don’t be surprised to see your organic ranking tail off if your site features oversized images, for example.
A mobile-friendly site also provides a good all-round user-experience, and that can positively reflect the professionalism of your brand.
How do I know what to put for headings, metatags and so on?
Each web page should have one ‘Heading 1’ or ‘H1’, which is usually the title of a service or blog post, and should include your target keywords. ‘R&D tax credits’, for instance.
There are no dark arts as far as headings go, just use them as signposts to enable your audience to scan for content that’s relevant to them.
Each web page also has a meta description. This should be a concise description of no more than 155 characters that gives an overview of the page.
Meta keywords are outdated in 2019. They won’t help your website boost its rankings and could potentially hinder your SEO by looking spammy. Don't use them.
Should I go on an SEO course and teach myself?
There are plenty of SEO sharks out there who will take your money, find hacks, shortcuts, and unethical tricks to make your website rank.
If you have the time and inclination to learn about SEO, you should absolutely do it, if only to quality check the advice you’re getting.
Learning SEO may even enable you to do in-house SEO for your company, saving time and money while delivering measurable results.