“Okay, I’m convinced that digital marketing and SEO are worth investing in, but when will that start to pay off?”
At PracticeWeb, we have a rule: if we’ve been asked the same question more than once by clients, we get our heads together and write a guide or blog post about it.
(Bonus content marketing tip: your accountancy practice should be using customer queries to inspire content, too.)
In this case, the question is one that is typically asked by accountants who ‘get’ marketing and are excited by its potential.
Quite rightly, though, they don’t want to keep spending if it’s not delivering the results they need.
The easy route would be to tell people what they want to hear: “Great news, folks! The results will be almost immediate, and seismic.”
And, indeed, that’s what you’ll sometimes hear from unscrupulous types more interested in making a sale than in building a long-term partnership.
We won’t sugarcoat it, though – the most worthwhile marketing activity takes time to move the dials and you’ll have to be patient and hold your nerve.
Which is not to say there aren’t some quick wins worth going after.
Long game vs. quick wins
If your website is a few years old, or you haven’t had a site audit recently, the chances are that it won’t be optimised for Google’s current standards.
We’ve written about some of these specific quick fixes before:
- Is it secured with HTTPS?
- Is it mobile responsive?
- Does the information on it correspond with your Google My Business listing?
If you paid an SEO consultant to improve your site ranking a few years ago when Google was applying different rules, or have come to suspect that recent SEO work wasn’t of high quality, there might be some relatively easy improvement there, too.
Google sometimes applies penalties to websites that it suspects of using dodgy practices to game the search algorithm.
A giveaway that this might be affecting your rankings is when your website doesn’t surface for search terms it ought to absolutely own, such as:
YOUR TRADING NAME + ACCOUNTANTS + YOUR TOWN
One client we’ve been working with was on the 86th page of Google results for their own trading name – a real danger sign.
In that case, the issue was duplicate content. The partners had quite innocently been putting the same blog posts on (a) their main website; (b) a sub-brand website; and (c) partner websites. Google will tend to penalise this behaviour.
Another common cause of penalties is paid-for backlinks – something that was quite common a decade or more ago but which can now put your website in the Google doghouse.
Fixing these issues isn’t easy, exactly, but when the right steps have been taken, and Google have been asked nicely to consider removing the penalty, there could potentially be a fairly immediate improvement in your rankings.
Of course, many of the most common issues can be solved by simply getting a new website – one built with 2020 in mind.
How soon will I see the impact of a new website?
In softer terms, the impact of a new website can be immediate.
Another client told us recently that simply getting an up-to-date website had immediately begun to generate leads for them, as part of a wider marketing strategy including SEO and PPC.
In a competitive local market, it gave potential clients a reason to choose them over another accountancy firm in the same town. They simply looked smarter, more switched-on and more approachable than their rivals.
The best way to measure impact, though, is with hard data. Before you relaunch your website, take a reading of key traffic statistics using Google Analytics.
Here are some key metrics:
- sessions – each time someone visits the website and spends some time there, that’s a session
- bounce rate – the percentage of visitors who view one page then leave the site
- dwell time – how long users typically spend on the site.
Over time, you’ll want to see sessions go up, bounce rate go down and dwell time increase.
Or, to put that in plain English, you want more people visiting, and you want them to be sticking around when they get there.
It’s actually not unusual to see a dip immediately after launching a new website, or changing your marketing strategy, as Google’s algorithms process what’s going on.
Don’t be alarmed if this happens – unless there’s actually some underlying technical issue, you’ll usually see a bounce back within a month or two.
Time to come off the fence: we’d usually expect to see the dials starting to move in the right direction after three months of a new website being live.
If there’s no improvement evident, we’ll be as keen to work out why as the client.
Of course those results will be faster, and more pronounced, if you’re also producing new and improved content, on a more regular basis.
When does content marketing start to pay off?
Assuming your site is well built, properly set up, on an established domain, a new item of content will usually enter the Google index within a few days.
Let’s say that piece of content is a blog post, like this one.
It’s substantial, well written and a genuine attempt to meet the needs of users.
It also links (helpfully, and naturally) to other pages on your website and covers a topic you’re keen to rank for, such as ‘shared farming agreements’ or ‘cloud accounting for popup restaurants’.
All things being equal, you might reasonably expect to see it appearing somewhere in the search results for your specific target keywords within a week or two.
More importantly, it’s also possible that you’ll see an immediate improvement in the rankings for the pages it links to – but maybe not.
Again, it would be daft to give guarantees.
In practice, you’re most likely to see the benefit of content after a sustained campaign of, say, six months, with not only blog posts but also new pages, and ongoing improvements to existing pages.
That’s about how long it took to get one of our clients, Alchemy Accounting, ranking on page one of Google results for a whole slew of target keywords, through a mix of long, genuinely helpful blog posts and new site content.
Those results depend on more than just content, though – they’re also down to a focused SEO effort.
How long before SEO shows results?
Our in-house SEO expert, David Fowler, doesn’t like this question:
“The fact is, it’s out of our control,” he says. “All we can do is be really careful with our analysis, try things that my knowledge and experience suggest might make a difference, and monitor the results. Google might change its algorithm tomorrow, or a competitor might up their investment in SEO, or we might need time to understand a site’s strengths and weaknesses in organic search.
“Different topics and the keywords used to describe them vary in the amount and strength of competition. There are so many variables. I’ve also got a strong suspicion, as have many of my peers in the SEO industry, that Google deliberately delays changes to rankings to make it harder to tell which SEO activity generated what result.”
But, if pushed, he’ll say this: “If I wasn’t seeing a positive movement in search rankings after, say, three months, I’d reevaluate my strategy and change tack.”
The sooner you start…
The faster you start work on a new website or content strategy, the sooner you’ll see results.
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