Getting your firm’s website to rank consistently high for key search terms takes hard work, patience and care, whatever you might hear from quick-fix SEO merchants.
But there are some tweaks you can make without huge amounts of effort that, if not decisive in their own right, can give your search performance a bump.
In general, all of these fixes contribute to keeping things tidy, consistent and complete – something accountants, of all people, ought to appreciate.
Use keywords, titles and headings
This might seem obvious but if you’re hoping to rank for, say, ‘accountants for farmers’, you’ll want to use that phrase and near matches in page titles, headings and sub-headings.
You’d be amazed how many webpages on practices’ websites don’t use the word ‘accountants’ anywhere in the copy, never mind the headings. It’s so easy to do because you know what the subject is, and perhaps you’re even sick of typing the word over and over again.
It can also be tempting to go for something witty or oblique because, well, it's fun to write, isn’t it? But Google, clever as it is, hasn’t yet got the hang of interpreting puns or pop culture references.
If you want to generate leads via search engines, squash that creative impulse, resist the urge to be coy or subtle, and state clearly what you mean.
Link key pages from the main navigation
The navigation bar, or ‘navbar’, usually appears at the top or side of your website and provides users with an easy way to get to the most important pages with a click or two.
Google knows that the most important pages are typically linked from the homepage and so a link from the navbar means the content it points to is more likely to rank in search results.
So (sticking with the same example) if accountancy services for farmers are a key part of your business model, make sure you’ve got a ‘accountancy for farmers’ page that’s linked from the navbar.
Fix your Google My Business listing
If your business goals include targeting local clients and you don’t have an up-to-date Google My Business (GMB) listing, you’re missing a trick.
Some people find it a bit fiddly. Others are wary – ‘what if I start getting bad reviews?’ But the fact is that Google reviews, like it or not, is one of the few third-party review sites that people trust. What’s more, its results are now so tightly integrated into Google search results, and Google Maps, that businesses which are listed gain an immediate advantage over those that aren’t.
All you need to do in the first instance is claim ownership of your listing and make sure that the information is accurate. Make sure the postal address, web address, phone number and office hours are all correct. At the same time, also ensure they’re consistent with how they’re displayed on your website and anywhere else. Google likes consistency and this may well give you a little boost in terms of credibility.
People expect HTTPS
Look in the address bar in your browser and you’ll see a web address beginning with either ‘http’ or ‘https’. HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol and the additional S in the latter case stands for ‘secure’. And these days, if your site doesn’t use HTTPS, Google may down-rank it.
HTTPS promises a secure connection between a user’s browser and your website’s server.
Your in-house IT team or external website provider should be able to handle setting this up for you, if they haven’t already.
There might be a slight dip in ranking immediately after the change but it usually bounces back quite promptly.
Optimise your homepage
The single most valuable bit of real estate on your website is the homepage – the hub around which everything else revolves and the entry point for most users. With that in mind, you should prioritise the sectors you most want to engage, and the services you’re most keen to push, in the content and layout of your homepage. In practice, that might mean placing information about these sectors or services higher up the page, using headings and subheadings to give them prominence.
People are sometimes reluctant to do this because they worry it might suggest to clients that they only offer those services or work with those sectors. As long as all your sectors and services are linked from the navbar, though, this shouldn’t be a concern.
One bad habit to avoid
Keyword stuffing – repetitively cramming in key search terms even if it makes the copy confusing or ugly – no longer works.
It’s not only a turn-off for users and a signal of amateurism – it’s also ineffectual because Google is too clever these days to fall for it.
There’s even a risk that you’ll incur a penalty and see your website disappear from the rankings altogether.
Keep things tidy, keep them consistent and state yourself clearly. If your users can find what they need and understand what’s on offer then the chances are you’ll keep Google sweet too.