When you are considering your marketing strategy for developing your client base, you may get all kinds of approaches thrown at you as the best way forward.
Like accounting, marketing can be riddled with jargon which makes it hard for busy practice owners to engage. It’s a shame and not the fault of accountants, so we’ll cut through some of it for you.
We’ll look at two pieces of terminology, two marketing approaches, relating to getting traffic to your website – of course with the ultimate aim of winning new clients.
The terms are:
- SEO – which stands for search engine optimisation; and
- PPC – which stands for pay-per-click.
We’ll help you appraise which is better for building your brand in the long term.
What is SEO and how can it help my accountancy practice?
In one sense, SEO is not a conscious choice. If you have a website, the search engine spiders will be crawling over it and their algorithms deciding where it should rank in any given search.
But deciding to pursue an SEO strategy to get your website found on relevant searches IS a conscious choice. So what does it involve and why do it?
Search engine optimisation means following a set of practices to persuade Google (or the search functionality of any other website) that you have the most relevant results when people search for certain keywords.
Although “keywords” such as “accountant” or “tax return” are important, optimising your site goes far beyond just words. It includes the technical quality of your website and how it links, or is linked, to other parts of the Internet.
Its size, how often it is updated with content and how well-maintained it is will all play a part.
Technical quality encompasses just about every aspect of your website, from the copy to the coding: its architecture, how quickly it loads, imagery and alt text (image labels) and so on.
Search engines can see who is linking to your website, and if they themselves are a credible site (have good domain authority), that will boost your own credibility.
To put it simply, almost every aspect of your web presence will play a role in how easily you are found on search engines.
Take a professional approach to your website and over time you will carve out your rightful place in the rankings.
This will involve activities like:
- Ensuring your website is technically well built
- Researching what keywords you want to rank for
- Developing content around those keywords on a regular basis
- Encouraging good quality backlinks from reputable websites
- Maintaining your website so that it stays in good functional order
The good news is that all these activities are well-aligned with what it takes to build a good brand anyway. So by actively engaging with search engine optimisation you will naturally enhance your brand.
Therefore, pursuing a good SEO strategy cannot be anything other than good for business (we stress the word “good”, as trying to game the system – known as black hat SEO – will damage your rankings and brand in time).
But it is important to remember that any search engine has only a limited number of spaces on page one of its search results, and a staggeringly high percentage of people don’t look any further than page one.
In fact, latest research shows that 67.6% of all clicks happen on just the first five organic results on page one (organic being those results attained through SEO rather than PPC).
This means that in a crowded market, even with good SEO, you may not get onto page one. Enter PPC.
What is PPC?
PPC, short for pay-per-click, is a paid advertising model that can get you straight to page one. But it will cost you, compared to SEO.
Instead of following a set of practices to build up your reputation with search engines, you simply bid on the keywords you wish to be found for and go straight to page one amongst the listings which have “Ad” next to them at the top, side or bottom of the page.
How much you pay for will depend on many variables, including your budget, the quality and relevance of your adverts and the track record of user engagement.
We say “simply bid”, but it is more involved than that.
For PPC to be a success you need to follow a proper process, so it is best to work with experts.
Therefore, you will be paying both a budget for clicks and for the expertise of managing the campaigns.
When you know what you are doing, it is a numbers game where you can directly trace expenditure all the way through to your return on investment – which if you get it right should be considerable. Therefore, it is unhelpful to frame PPC activity around cost – yes you require additional budget, but it should accelerate growth compared to SEO alone.
It is also easy to mistakenly think of PPC just in terms of being found on Google searches, especially when you are comparing PPC to SEO. PPC is a much broader discipline which encompasses remarketing (using cookies to follow visitors to your site around the Internet, repeatedly showing your adverts), Google Display Network, Facebook, Amazon, video ads and the list goes on.
When might SEO and PPC be used together?
You do not need to think in terms of SEO and PPC being mutually exclusive. They can work well together if you want to grow quickly, or consolidate your position. You will probably find that they complement each other, with a professional approach to SEO helping PPC; and the rigour of PPC conversion rate optimisation (CRO) helping you refine your whole website and how it is found on the web.
As you can see, both SEO and PPC are viable ways to grow your accountancy practice.
We believe that developing your SEO should be ever-present for any business, as it underpins so much of your digital presence. Over the long term it will make a powerful impact on your practice. But if it is short-term results you need or you are already doing SEO and want more, and you have the budget to do it properly, then PPC is a proven way to do this.
As specialists in helping accountancy practices grow through digital marketing, we can help you develop an SEO or PPC strategy. Please get in touch with us to find out more on how we can help your firm.