Optimizing Your CPA Firm for Local Search
More than 167 million people will shop online this year. Social commerce sales are expected to total $9.2 billion by the end of this year and could climb to $14.25 billion in 2013 and $30 billion in 2015. Consumers are not just shopping for the latest gadget; they’re buying everything from groceries to professional services, including those offered by your CPA firm.
Here’s an example of a search I did for a CPA in Tuxedo, NY, where I went to high school (you can click on the image to make it bigger). Two local listings appeared, but only one has CPA in the name and neither of them has fully optimized their listings for local search. They both are beaten in the search ranking by directories and local search providers. However, Tuxedo is a relatively small community with just 3,624 people in the town, so the need to optimize isn’t as great. Although if a new CPA firm opened in Tuxedo, they could rule the search results fairly easily.
You need to have a comprehensive marketing plan that includes traditional and online marketing campaigns, including local search engine optimization. Below are some tactics, tools and tips you can use to make the most of your local SEO campaigns.
- Be Consistent. It’s incredibly important in local search that you use the same business information everywhere. This means the same business name, phone number and address. Even the slightest difference will lower your search engine rankings. This includes extensions to your firm name, such as LLC or Inc. If you’re going to use LLC in your firm name, then use it in every listing. Although, many SEO professionals advise not including this information at all, as the structure of your firm may change over time (see the next point).
- Don’t Change Your Name. Not only should you be consistent in the use of your address, and firm name, but don’t change your firm’s name. There are obvious exceptions, such as mergers or an acquisition, but don’t gamble the brand and SEO value your firm name already has. You will end up creating duplicate entries, which will hurt your search rankings. Just as your firm name builds reputation in your local market, so does the name online.
- Check for Consistency. You can enter your business information on yext.com and search all the major local search providers, from foursquare to Yelp. You can also fix your listings through yext. You will want to use this tool to make sure your business name, address and phone number is consistent across all providers. Yext will also check if your listing includes your website, photos and more. Most providers will require you to claim your listing before you edit it (which you should do even if you don’t need to edit it). If the number of local search providers is overwhelming, start with those that will provide you the most benefit. Google your firm’s name (or other local keyword you want to optimize for) and see what local search providers are already ranking high for your firm. Leverage their high ranking and add details.
- Delete Dupes. Depending on how long your firm has been around, you probably have a few different versions of your address floating out there. This may result in duplicate listings with the same provider. Be sure to claim and delete these duplicate listings. Most providers have an option that allows you to flag a location as duplicate.
- Get 100%. In each of the providers, make sure you are hitting 100% complete listings. This means including photos, videos, website address, full location information, descriptors for your firm, social media accounts and so forth.
- Encourage Reviews. Encourage your clients to submit reviews to one or two local search providers. Picking the popular local search providers is a good start, such as Google Places, Yelp and foursquare. You can also use the same method we did in step three, by directing your clients to local search providers that are already ranking high for your name or local keyword.
- Incorporate Microdata. I can talk for hours on microdata and how it is changing search results. In short, microdata is information that is tagged on your website to optimize viewing in search engine result pages. At a minimum, you should tag your firm’s address and phone number in the footer of every web page on your site. Schema.org has a plethora of information on the specific code to use and what can be tagged.
Following these steps will result in better search optimization for your firm. Now let’s take a look at a fully optimized CPA firm listing. This time I searched for a CPA in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where I went to college (Go Blue!). Because Ann Arbor is a bigger city than Tuxedo, I limited the search to a CPA who provides tax services in Ann Arbor.
As you can see most firms have included the full address and phone number. Some have even gone the additional step and optimized their website for local search. There are certainly more optimization tactics that can be done. So if you’re a CPA in Ann Arbor and you’re not listed on the first page of search results, you will want to optimize your listings for local search as there is a lot of competition out there.
Pro Tip: If you’re moving office locations, be sure to update all your listings and your website with the same address. Decide on the format of the address you will use beforehand and include updating your listings in your relocation plan.
Pro Tip #2: If your firm is merging, proactively conduct an analysis of the locations both firms have listed. Determine which will need to be updated and start deleting the duplicates. Because your merger will most likely involve a name and location listing change, its best to clean up and change your listings as soon as you can.
Next time I will talk about the steps you can take to use Google Places to further optimize your local search results. If there are any other SEO topics you'd like to see me cover, feel free to leave a comment or send me an email.