What is SEO, & Why Should Tax Preparers Care?
Websites are Competing for a Position on the First Page of the Search Engine Results
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process organizations use to increase their visibility on the first page of a search engine’s unpaid listings. Generally, websites at the top of a search receive increased traffic and improved exposure for their products and services.
But optimizing a web site is hardly an easy matter. There are more than 150 different search engines. Each uses its own system to rate websites, and each will yield a different set of rankings for any given site. Even were the firm to concentrate on only the top four search engines in the US – Google, Bing, Yahoo!, and Ask – it would have to deal with four entirely different optimization systems. Finally, the search engine providers are painfully aware that search engine optimizers are trying to “game” their systems to improve their clients’ ranking, and tweak their systems on a regular schedule to prevent this.
It comes down to this: some 750 million websites are competing for a position on the first page of the search engine results. In an environment that is constantly changing, organizations need a comprehensive marketing program that includes traditional marketing (direct mail, advertising, word of mouth, and appropriate discounts); a social media strategy to address Facebook, Pinterest and YouTube; Search Engine Optimization; and additional value-added services.
There are professionals in the field of SEO who make this happen for their clients, but you aren’t ready for their level of service, and can’t afford it.
Instead, your accounting or tax preparation firm should focus on the five basic steps that will provide the best results for the smallest investment of the firm’s limited resources:
- Use Effective Title Tags and Descriptions. These are HTML codes placed at the top of the web site in the form, “<title>The title goes here in the code </title>.“ This information shows up at the top of each page in the web site. Also in this area is a description of 200 words or less. Together, these elements will look like this in your HTML code:
<meta name=”description” content=”Drake Software is comprehensive, all-in-one professional tax software. With Drake you can prepare any tax return, personal or business, federal or state. Drake also includes all states with income taxes, as well as many cities and localities. Learn about all the features, and how Drake saves you time and helps you process more returns.” />
<meta name=”title” content=”Drake Software – The Professional Tax Solution – Income Tax Software” />
Rule: The Description and Title Tag are the single most important elements in your web site optimization.
- Use Effective Key Words. There are certain words that will enhance the site’s appeal to its specific target audience. These “key words” should be included on the web site, either in the “metadata” or in the content of the site.
Rule: The right key words will help match client needs with your services and help them to feel that they are at the best site to solve their problems.
- Put the firm’s address at the bottom of each page.This includes the name of the firm, its address, its telephone number, and its email address. This information has to be consistent in every reference; if it is not uniform, you will confuse the search engine and lower your ranking.
Rule: If you make it difficult to contact the firm, clients and prospects will simply move on to the next site.
- Collect and use referrals. Sometimes called citations, these are references to your site on another web site. When search engines first began to use this criteria to rank websites it was poorly implemented. Web managers were trading referrals with little or no thought as to how these made sense – such as trading links with a furniture store or taxi service. The best referrals for an accounting or tax firm will come from other service firms – legal, payroll, bookkeeping, human resources, etc.
Rule: Use referrals, but use them judiciously.
- Focus on the content, not the design. While the design of the website is important, fresh and compelling content will bring both existing and prospective clients to the webpage.
Rule: The more people that visit the site, the better the site will rank in the search engines.
Remember that these are just the initial steps in an SEO process, and that eventually the firm is likely to need a higher level of SEO support. Having built the basic foundation for the program on these five steps will demonstrate the firm’s commitment to an SEO strategy and begin to yield some preliminary results on which to make a base for further SEO investment.