What impression do you get when you look at your accountancy firm's website? If your site is acting as little more than an online placeholder for the business, it's time to take action. Remember, your website is likely to be the first experience of your firm for potential clients, so it needs to create a great first impression.
Your website should help to attract new business, while also appealing to your existing client base. But if your site is slow, difficult to use and doesn't adapt well on mobile devices, it could be doing more harm than good.
So, what does make a good website? With years of experience in building websites specifically for accountants, we've compiled our top five must-haves that every accountancy website needs…
1. Secure your site with https
Https, or Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure, is an internet communication protocol that uses encryption to protect the transfer of data between a web server and the user's web browser.
Websites that use https give visitors confidence that the site is trustworthy and their personal data will be secure. Conversely, data shared via unprotected http sites can be intercepted fairly easily by hackers, potentially revealing information about the behaviour and identity of the user.
As an accountancy firm, clients trust you to look after their confidential, and often sensitive, business and financial affairs. When they visit your website, they expect the same level of confidentiality and protection. So, if your site isn't secured by https, you risk undermining the integrity and reputation of the firm.
What's more, Google now penalises sites that haven't switched from http to https, highlighting them as 'not secure' in the URL bar – it goes without saying that this is not a good look for an accountancy business! Plus, sites without the protection of https are also likely to rank lower in the search results, thereby reducing their visibility to potential new clients.
2. Make your site responsive
With website views from mobile devices now surpassing those on desktops, businesses need to adapt to users' changing browsing patterns and behaviour – and that means making your site responsive.
A responsive website adapts its layout to suit the device on which it's being viewed, whether that's a desktop (or laptop), tablet or smartphone.
If you've ever looked at a shrunken version of a desktop site on a mobile phone, you'll know that the constant horizontal scrolling and frequent zooming in and out is far from ideal. However, a responsive site eliminates these problems to provide users with the optimum browsing experience. Content and messaging appear streamlined, menus are easily accessible and text can be read without the need to zoom.
Plus, images are automatically re-scaled to a size appropriate for the particular device and screen size, whether that's a 27-inch desktop monitor or a 5-inch smartphone. By adapting images in this way, mobile-responsive sites allow users to still enjoy the same high-quality browsing experience they've come to expect from a standard desktop.
And that's not all. Responsive websites are also viewed more favourably by Google, meaning that mobile-friendly sites are likely to rank higher in the search results than their non-responsive equivalents.
Crucially, a site that looks good on all devices can expect to see an increase in website traffic and potential new business.
While some firms choose to offer a separate website specifically for mobile devices, these usually have less content and fewer features than the main website. However, going down the responsive route means there's no need to restrict content and information, plus you won't have to worry about maintaining multiple websites for different devices.
3. Focus on local SEO
When looking for an accountant online, most people will enter a location as part of their search enquiry (they might Google "accountants in Cambridge", for example). If you want to appear in the top results for that area, you'll need to pay close attention to your site's local SEO, or search engine optimisation.
It might sound obvious, but make sure you state your address clearly on your website, as search engines will factor this into the local SEO rankings. Better still, add a specific 'location' page with your name, address and phone number (NAP), along with an embedded Google (and Google street view) map and location pin.
Citations are another important factor when it comes to boosting your local SEO. A citation is any online reference to your NAP and, according to a study by David Mihm, they can account for up to 25% of the local SEO factors used by Google. Citations usually occur on local business directories, so adding a listing to websites such as accLOCAL, Yelp and Yell can work wonders for your local SEO.
Of course, your website content also plays a vital role in enhancing your performance in local search enquiries. Your home page copy should reference your location and, if possible, take this further by mentioning local landmarks or perhaps local clients you've worked with. Just make sure that all references to your NAP are consistent throughout the site.
Finally, if you haven't already done so, it's worth setting up a Google My Business (GMB) account. GMB is a free online listing tool that enables businesses to share key information with potential customers on Google Search and Google Maps. Moreover, GMB listings appear first in the online search results, even ahead of the traditional SEO rankings. Sign up here or read more about GMB on our blog.
4. Optimise page speed
Web page speed and performance can have a significant impact on the quality of a user's browsing experience. In today's fast-paced digital age, speed is vital.
According to research by Google, 53% of people viewing a website on their mobile will abandon their visit if the site takes more than three seconds to load (i.e. display all of the content on a given page). So if your website is performing too slowly, you risk losing visitors and potential new clients.
A slow website can also have a negative effect on your search engine ranking. Google now takes page speed (including mobile speed) into account when determining a site's position in the search results. Sites with an optimum page speed are likely to rank higher than their slower counterparts.
5. Ensure the website reflects the firm's corporate identity
Your corporate identity helps to distinguish your firm from other rival accountancy practices in the area. As the online face of the business, your website needs to reflect your firm's brand identity.
When someone visits your site, they should be able to understand the brand and what makes the firm stand out from the competition. Your website should embody your branding/ company ethos on multiple levels, from the type of images used to the colour scheme, tone of voice and content.
For example, if you want to position yourself as a relaxed and approachable firm of accountants, your content should be written in a jargon-free, friendly tone that reflects the business's informal approach. In this case, a 'Meet the Team' page with funny or quirky soundbites from team members can also help to create a down-to-earth and approachable feel (check out our own Team page if you need inspiration!)
Leave it to the experts
If your website already has all five of these must-have criteria, that's great. However, if your site is lacking some, or all, of these attributes then it's time to seek help.
And that's where we come in. accSYS have been designing, building and maintaining websites for UK accountants for over 15 years. We currently manage around 1,300 websites for accountancy firms just like yours.
All of our websites incorporate the top five elements discussed in this blog, so you can be confident that your site will provide users with an enjoyable and secure browsing experience, whether that's on a desktop or a mobile. We also take the time to get to know your business and what makes it tick, meaning your site will showcase your accountancy firm and the brand to its full potential.
We understand that maintaining a website isn't always an accountant's top priority, so we're here to take care of the hard work for you. Find out more about our accWEBSITE offering.