Most accountancy firms now recognise the importance of SEO in helping to increase their website's ranking on search engines such as Google. However, from our conversations with accountants, it's become clear that there are still many misconceptions surrounding SEO best practice.
Here we debunk some common SEO myths to help you understand what really matters when it comes to boosting your firm's presence online.
Myth 1: I only need to optimise my homepage
It may come as a surprise, but your homepage is not the most important page on your site. Of course, you'll need to optimise your homepage, but your SEO efforts shouldn't stop there. Every page should be optimised for the content of that page. Why? Because users will be coming to your site for many different reasons, meaning that the homepage won't always be the most relevant page to their enquiry. For example, if someone is searching for information on “payroll services”, then your payroll page will be the most important in that instance.
Myth 2: Adding a list of locations means my site will be found for all of those areas
It's often thought that simply listing a series of locations on your website will help it to appear in the search results for all of those areas.
For example, an accountancy firm with an office in Birmingham might be tempted to list Solihull, Sutton Coldfield, West Bromwich, Dudley, Coventry, Wolverhampton and Walsall in the hope that Google will think it's based in those locations too. But Google uses many sources of information to work out where a firm is based, not only your own website, as it wants to confirm that you match the location being searched for.
Plus, this approach doesn't lead to a great browsing experience for visitors. If someone is looking for an accountant in Dudley, for instance, they're unlikely to want to use a firm in Birmingham.
Myth 3: All types of meta tags are essential for SEO
Meta tags are snippets of text that appear in a website's HTML source code and help search engines understand what the page is about. There are various types of meta tags and many SEO agencies still believe that you need all of them to succeed. In reality, this is not the case. While some types of meta tags do help with SEO, others, such as those listed below, may no longer be necessary.
- Keywords meta – Google stopped reading this tag in 2009 after people abused the tag by over-stuffing it with often irrelevant keywords in an attempt to increase their search ranking.
- Revisit meta – This is used to command search engines to revisit a page after a certain amount of time. The major search engines now disregard this tag so it has no value for SEO purposes. Instead, it's better to leave it to the search engines themselves to decide how often to read your site.
- Robots meta – This tag provides a handy way of telling the search engines that you don't want them to index a particular page and/or follow any links on that page. Contrary to popular belief, however, there's no need to use the robots tag to tell Google to index every page and follow links – search engines will do this by default.
- Distribution meta – This tag was designed to indicate to search engines whether you wanted a page to be available globally or whether you wanted it to be restricted. Like many other tags, it's fallen out of use in modern-day SEO practices.
With some SEO agencies still endorsing the above as “must-haves”, it's no wonder that there's a lot of confusion surrounding meta tags.
In fact, many of the free SEO audits offered by agencies will mark your site down if it doesn't have these tags. But bear in mind that they usually do this to make it appear as though your website is underperforming. So, if you use a third party to analyse your site for SEO, be prepared to be told that you need the tags above (and others).
If you're in any doubt, visit Google's list of special tags that it currently understands – if a tag isn't shown here, then it's unlikely to be recognised by other major search engines.
Myth 4: I need a meta description added so that it shows in the search results
While Google does read this tag, it only sometimes displays it as part of the “snippet" in the search results.
Google will try to generate a snippet description that matches the search. It can use content on the page it is ranking and even content on other pages that link to the page it is ranking.
From our tests, which we carry out regularly, the snippet shows the content of the meta description about 3 or 4% of the time for common searches (such as “Accountants in xxx”). However, this number can go up for more complex technical searches where the intention of the search isn't clear.
The meta description isn't used for ranking purposes so including “key phrases” in it will not help the page rank better in the search results.
Myth 5: I need a robots.txt file
A robots.txt file tells the search engines which pages of a website it shouldn't visit (or 'crawl'). The file can also be used to indicate the location of the XML sitemap to help the search engines index the webpages on the site.
However, contrary to popular belief, most sites don't actually need a robots.txt file. That's because Google will usually find and index the important pages on your site automatically. Plus, if there's only a couple of pages that you don't want the search engines to index, then you can easily use the robots meta tag to achieve this (see point 3 above).
Myth 6: I need to get to the top of the results for “Accountants” or “Accountants in the UK”
Many firms will mention this without thinking about the clients that they are trying to attract. Yes, you may be able to service clients from across the UK, especially if you are using cloud-based accounting packages, but does the typical business or individual want an accountant at the other end of the country (or even the other side of a major city)?
Google has spent a small fortune in matching search results to searchers' intention and they've found that people look for professional services in their immediate area (using the term “neighbourhoods”). This is why they try to show local results first. Bear in mind that Google tends to know where you are based as shown at the bottom of a Google search.
For more information on local SEO, read our blog post – How to set up your accountancy website to maximise local SEO.
Confused by SEO? Leave it to the experts…
SEO is an essential part of maintaining a website, but it can also pose a real headache for many firms. The good news is that our SEO service is included as standard for our accWEBSITE customers, meaning you can sit back and leave the hard work to us!
The optimisation process varies from site to site, but it typically includes a full SEO analysis of your website, improvements to the site's internal links and external links and modifications to the wording and code on particular pages. We'll also monitor your site to check how it's performing on Google, making any adjustments as necessary.
If you'd like to read more about SEO, visit our blog post – What is SEO? An introduction to search engine optimisation for accountants.
As experts in websites for accountants, we have a wealth of SEO knowledge and experience. We understand how to get the best performance from your site, so contact us today to find out about our accWEBSITE service and how we can help your firm.
All the information on this page is correct at the time of writing and is based on both our experience and tests that we carry out on a regular basis.