6 SEO Tips for CPAs
Last month we talked about getting started in search engine optimization (SEO) and the importance of having the right tools at your fingertips for SEO. This month I want to focus on six specific tips that you can do right now to increase the ranking of your website in search engine result pages (SERPs). Any one of these tips could be a post on its own, so I’ll stick to a high-level summary. If you have any specific questions, feel free to ask them in the comments or email me directly. Some of these tips may require a technical solution, so be sure to consult with your webmaster before making any changes if you’re not comfortable doing them yourself.
- Have great content. Gone are the days of link directories, hidden keywords, keyword-stuffing and even Meta tagging keywords. Search engines, like Google, now rank websites based on the quality of the content. Websites that are updated often and contain fresh, new material will rank higher on SERPs. Be sure your content is also unique! Your website should never have more than one page with content that is a duplicate. Adding a blog to your existing website is an easy way to provide your visitors that updated content. Just make sure you’re updating the blog on a regular basis and targeting your content to the right audience. The AICPA offers a member guide to blogging on its website which can help you launch your own blog.
- User experience. Having great content will keep visitors on your site longer and coming back for more. Search engines now monitor how much time visitors spend on your site and how often they return. Those factors feed into how your site is ranked in SERPs. Another user experience factor that impacts SERPs is site load time. That’s right, that cool flash website you have isn’t helping your search results. The average website takes six seconds to load. That may not sound like a lot, but based on industry observations, any website that takes more than three seconds to load will reduce your rank in SERPs. Optimally, your website should load on average in 1.5 seconds or less. You can check your site load time using this free tool or Google Analytics which recently incorporated site speed into their metrics reporting.
- Socialize. There’s a bit of a debate in the SEO industry about how much impact social media has on your SERPs. Regardless of how much it influence it has, the point remains that social media does influence your SERPs. Don’t believe me? Look at this SERP for Twitter and whose accounts appear higher in the SERP.
Making sure your content is shared on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ is a simple task. Just include social media share buttons, like those at the bottom of this post. But getting your own social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and YouTube will help spread your website and content. The more users that share your content on social media properties, the greater the chance it will positively impact your SERPs. The AICPA offers member guides to social media which can help you get started.
- Link building. Another factor search engines take into account when ranking your website are links to your site and the authority of the domain it comes from. Government (.gov) and education (.edu) sites are among the most official and can really boost your search ranking when they link to your site. Obtaining link backs from other domains, such as .com and .org, is beneficial as well. The more quality domains that link to your site, the higher ranked your site can become. Work on developing relationships with other sites in your industry and clients to encourage link sharing.
- Tag it. Just like XBRL, you can tag your web pages’ content to control how it appears in SERPs. At a minimum, every page must have a unique page title and meta description. Search engines use every bit of this information to rank your site. Only the first 65-70 characters of page titles show in search results depending on the search engine, so keep your title short and descriptive. Your meta description character limit also varies by search engine, the average is about 150 characters. These two simple tags control the hyperlinked text and the description below it in SERPs, so it’s extremely important to include. You should also tag your images with “alt” text. This will help your images show up in SERPs, which can drive additional traffic to your website. If you want to challenge your tagging skills, explore schema.org. It offers microdata tags for most everything: events, products, movies, people and the list goes on. Google has already started using the tagged microdata in SERPs. See below for some examples.
- Know your audience. Last, but certainly not least, is to include your keywords everywhere. Make sure your page titles, descriptions, image alt text, URLs, content, anchor links, headlines and so forth contain the keywords you’re targeting. But what keywords do you use? You want to make sure you are using the same keywords potential visitors will use to find your site. There are a number of free keyword lookup tools that can help you target your content.
Bonus tip: Make sure you’re using search friendly URLs. In the above image the first result is from a search for “Fat Sal’s,” a pizza place near my apartment. Note how the name of the restaurant is also in the URL. This is an example of a search friendly URL. If your URLs are coded by your content management system, or in some other way, change them. You want your URLs to be as searchable as the content on the page.
That’s it for now. If you have any questions about SEO, share them in the comments. Also keep an eye out for our SEO member guide and a future blog post on optimizing your website for local search.