Local SEO for Accountants – The Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization

Imagine having a steady stream of accounting clients knocking on your door, without spending a single cent on marketing. Yes, it’s possible with one of the most effective digital marketing strategy available, with the power of SEO.

What exactly is SEO? SEO refers to Search Engine Optimization, which is the process of ranking your website on search engines so that you generate organic traffic.

Simply put, when you optimize your website according to certain best practices, this helps you rank more highly on Google (hopefully on their first page). When that happens, you get more eyeballs on your brand, and more people clicking through to your site. This gets you more leads, which gets you more clients, which gets you more money in the bank.

Want to learn more about SEO for accountants, and how you can generate more leads and clients using SEO? In this mega guide, we discuss:

By the time you reach the end of this guide, you’ll be an (unofficial) expert on SEO. Let’s jump right in!

3 Reasons why accountants should invest in Local SEO

Before we dive into how to optimize your site to rank on Google, let’s take a look at the various benefits that accountants can reap when you invest in SEO.

1. SEO helps you generate more leads

As discussed earlier, SEO drives more traffic to your site. This, in turn, helps you generate more leads whom you can potentially close as clients.

2. SEO helps you build authority

Optimizing your site to rank involves creating high quality, informative blog articles (and other content) that bring value to your website visitors. This helps you build authority and thought leadership, and distinguish yourself from your competitors. 

3. SEO helps you compete in the digital world

If you operated an accounting business a few decades back, you would have been competing primarily with firms in your immediate vicinity. But today, thanks to the Internet, your prospects and clients have a plethora of options at their fingertips. Basically, you no longer get “first dibs” on clients who are located near you.

Personally, my accountant is based in Birmingham, which is 2.5 hours away from where I live. But it doesn’t stop there — some business owners and companies go so far as to outsource their accounting to firms in other countries. To remain competitive in this digital world, you’ll need to be easily found online.

How to Develop a Well-Rounded SEO Strategy?

To develop a well-rounded SEO strategy, you’ll have to place equal emphasis on on-page and off-page SEO. 

Google User Search Intent
With on-page SEO, the goal is to optimize your website so that it’ll rank on search engines. When people think of SEO techniques, they mostly think of on-page techniques, such as:
  • Optimizing on-page elements including page title, meta description
  • Structuring your website in a user-friendly manner
  • Reducing your website load speed
  • Linking articles and web pages internally

Basically, you’re making it easy for SEO crawlers (the programmes used by Google and other search engines to collect data from the internet) to understand your website. This, in turn, allows Google to recommend your site when users search for relevant keywords and terms.

While business owners and those optimizing their sites for SEO typically focus more on on-page rather than off-page strategies, off-page SEO is equally important. In a nutshell, off-page SEO involves promoting your website via external sources. For instance, to improve your site’s off-page presence, you might:

  • Set up a Google My Business page
  • Engage in link-building
  • Promote content on social media
Got it? Great. Let’s jump into the on-page strategies you can use to optimize your website.

On-Page SEO: Optimizing Your Website to Rank on Google

On-page SEO basically consists of two things: conducting keyword research to find the best keywords for your business, and optimizing your website to rank for those keywords.

In this section, I’ll walk you through how to do both of these things.

Keyword Research

With keyword research, the first step is to understand the different types of search queries (and discover which search queries indicate intent). Once you’re familiar with the concept of keyword intent, we’ll move on to discuss how to identify keywords.

Keyword Intent

The vast majority of online search queries fall into one of these three categories:

  • Informational, where searches are performed to answer questions or glean information
  • Navigational, where searches are performed to locate a specific website
  • Transactional, where searches are performed to aid some sort of purchase
Accountant SEO Strategy

Here are some examples of different search queries:

Informational Search Queries:
  • "How to optimize a website for SEO"
  • "Twitter login"
  • "London weather in March"
Navigational Search Queries:
  • "Twitter login"
  • "Facebook business manager"
  • "HSBC contact us"
Transactional Search Queries:
  • "Buy Halloween costumes online"
  • "Buy cheap Halloween costumes"
  • "Insurance quotes for first time drivers"

Now, before we talk about where keyword intent comes in, let’s first discuss what “intent” means. Here, intent refers to commercial intent, and if Customer A searches for a high intent keyword, you can take it to mean they’re likely to convert (as a lead, or a paying customer).

Putting this into context: if you can focus on optimizing your website to rank for high intent keywords, this increases your chance of driving high-quality traffic to your site. I’m talking about visitors who are likely to enquire about your accountancy services, or even sign up as a customer.

So, how do you identify high intent keywords? As a general rule of thumb, transactional keywords tend to be high intent, and navigational and informational searches tend to be low intent. This is fairly straightforward; if someone searches for a keyword in conjunction with the phrase “buy” or “quote”, this is a good indication that they’re ready to make a purchase.

Finding the Keywords

Now that you’re clued in on the different categories of keywords, and how these relate to keyword intent, let’s move on to discussing how to identify keywords.

First up, come up with a list of keyword ideas with Google’s Keyword Planner. If you don’t already have a Google Ads account, you’ll have to sign up here first before you can access the tool. (Don’t worry, you don’t get charged unless you actually start running ads).

Once you’ve logged in to your Google Ads account, click on “Tools” from the top panel, and click on “Keyword Planner”.

Google Keyword Planner

Next, click on “Find keywords”, and prompt Google using a word, phrase, or URL related to your business. In this example, I’ll use the phrase “London accounting firm”.

Find New Keywords

Make sure your location is set accurately (UK instead of US), and then review the keyword ideas displayed below.

Keyword Ideas UK

The two factors that come into play here are monthly searches and competition. With monthly searches, you’re shooting for as high a number as possible. With competition, you want to target a keyword that shows “Low” or “Medium” competition.

If you’re not 100% sure what the competition column refers to, this is basically the amount of competition you’ll face if you’re running a paid ads campaign (and bidding on a particular keyword).

Even though you’re NOT running an ad campaign, this metric is still relevant to you — if a keyword is highly “desirable” and gets a ton of bids in Google Ads, you can assume that people are also optimizing their websites to rank for that same keyword. This means you’ll have to up your game, and do an even better job at targeting that keyword.

Bearing this in mind, make sure you strike a balance between monthly searches and competition. You don’t need to target keywords that drive an extraordinary amount of traffic; it’s more important to make sure that your chosen keywords are feasible to rank for.

Once you’re done with Google’s Keyword Planner, the next step is to expand your keyword list by digging up your competitors’ keywords. To do this, you can use SEMrush, which is one of the best keyword research tools out there.

To get started with SEMrush, simply plug your competitor’s URL into the search bar and select “Domain overview”. In this example, I’ll use Glazers Chartered Accountants, which is an accounting firm located in London.

SEMrush Dashboard

Using the drop-down list on the top left corner, select the right country.

SEMrush Glazers Accountants Overview

Then scroll down to the section titled “Top Organic Keywords”, and click on “View full report”.

SEMrush Glazers Accountants Top Keywords

Here, you’ll see a full report of all the keywords that your competitor is ranking for (organically). To filter by Volume, click on the “Volume” drop-down list. You can either choose from a predetermined range, or enter your own figures.

SEMrush Glazers Accountants Organic Research

To filter by keyword difficulty, click on “Advanced filters”. From here, set “KD” to be “less than” a certain number (I typically go with 70). 

SEMrush Organic Search Advanced Filters

With these filters in place, you’ll be left with a streamlined list of potential keywords that you might want to target.

SEMrush Organic Search Volume

From here, have a quick look at the keywords, and eliminate any unsuitable keywords. If there are any brand-specific keywords in the list, for instance, you’ll want to give those a miss. It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to fully optimize your page for a competitor’s brand, and doing this wouldn’t make sense.

On top of that, keep an eye out for low-converting keywords that include terms such as “free”, “cheap”, “careers”, “jobs”. For example, the “accounting careers” keyword in this list is likely to bring you traffic from people who want to work at your company, not traffic from leads, so you’ll want to strike this off your list. Running in the same vein, the keyword “offshore company” isn’t relevant to an accounting business, so again, strike that keyword off your list.

SEMrush Remove Unnecessary Keywords

If you want to learn more about a particular keyword, click on it in order to be redirected to an overview of the keyword.

For instance, after clicking on “accounting firms in London”, here’s what I see:

SEMrush Accounting Firm London Keyword Overview

There’s an overview of the organic search volume associated with this keyword, and when I scroll down, SEMrush also suggests phrase match keywords and related keywords that I might want to consider.

SEMrush Phrase Related Match Keywords

To get even more ideas, take each of these keywords and plug them into a tool such as LSIgraph.

LSIgraph Example

Check it out:

LSIgraph Accounting Firm in London

Before deciding which of your competitors’ keywords (or related keywords) you want to target, be sure to evaluate their content (and the other content that’s ranking for that keyword). This will allow you to get an idea of the “baseline” that you’ll have to hit.

If I Google “accounting firms in London”, for example, here’s what I get:

Google SERP Accounting Firm London

Now, you can see that there are several listicles that feature the top 30 to 60 accounting firms in the UK. If I want to create content that’s level above that, I might have to feature, say, 70 or 80 firms in my list, and add more details about each firm on top of that.

Obviously, such a blog post would take a ton of time and effort to create, so I’d put this keyword on the backburner, and look into other keywords that might be easier to rank for.

Quick aside: If you’re just getting started with SEO and you don’t want to pay for a tool like SEMrush right off the bat, another good option is SimilarWeb.

Creating High-Quality Content

Now, some people think that SEO is about churning out a bunch of 500-word blog posts, but it’s really about producing the best possible content that you’re capable of. Here’s the thing: 2 million blog posts are published every day, and if you’re not creating high quality content that’s immensely valuable to your readers, you probably won’t get much traction.

How do you create high-quality content? Firstly, make sure you produce content that’s highly specific, actionable, and goes in-depth. You want your content to be rigorous and substantial, as opposed to fluffy and generic. If possible, aim to have each blog post be 2,000 words or more.

Word Count vs. Organic Traffic
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Also, structure your blog posts in a way that’s easy for your readers to consume. Bold key concepts and insights, use short sentences, and use bullet points wherever possible. I also recommend having a maximum of 5 lines per paragraph; it’s quite the turnoff to click through to an article, and be greeted by a wall of text.

Optimizing On-Page Elements

There are several things that you can do to optimize your on-page SEO elements. Here’s a quick breakdown for your reference:

Website Structure

Create silos to link to internal pages within your site.

URLs

Use your keywords in your URLs, and have these be short and sweet (according to Google, URLs between three to five words rank the best.)

Sitemaps

Create sitemaps to help Google crawl your website more effectively.

H1 Tags

Use your keywords in your H1 tags (your blog post title, if you’re using WordPress).

H2 Tags

Same thing as H1 tags – just use your keywords in your H2 tags.

Meta Descriptions

Use your keywords in your meta description. This doesn’t directly improve your search ranking, but it helps your listing to stand out and improves your click through rate, which then positively impacts your search ranking. 

Image Alt Tags

Use your keywords in your image alt tags.

Schema Markup

Add schema markups to your HTML.

Alright, let’s explore each of these elements in greater detail.

First, a great way to structure your website is to “silo” it, or to use category pages to link out to individual pages. This makes it easier for Google’s crawlers to understand your website; it also makes it easier for visitors to explore your site and discover related content.

Here’s how silo-ing works: say you’ve got an “Accounting Services” page on your site. On this page, make sure you have 300 words or so of unique content, and link to 2 to 3 internal pages within that content.

On top of that, also link out to all of your other related pages below that. For instance, you can link to:

  • accounting-services/bookkeeping
  • accounting-services/corporate-tax-filing
  • accounting-services/annual-return-filing
  • accounting-services/adminstrative-support

With each of the above pages, do the exact same thing. Add a few paragraphs of content, and then link out to all your related pages below that. For instance, on your “Bookkeeping” page, you can link out to the pages or blog articles you’ve published on bookkeeping, including:

  • accounting-services/bookkeeping/best-practices
  • accounting-services/bookkeeping/basics
  • accounting-services/bookkeeping/mistakes-to-avoid

Next up are your URLs — but I’ll skip those, because there’s nothing else to mention here. (Just use your keywords and keep your URLs short; that’s basically it).

Moving onto your sitemaps: a sitemap is essentially a list of all the pages that visitors can access on your site. They’re exceptionally important for new websites, which might not have been properly crawled or indexed.

The easiest way to generate a sitemap (assuming you’re on WordPress!) is to use a plugin such as Google XML Sitemaps. To learn how to submit your sitemap to Google, read this guide (Ctrl + F and search for “Submit your sitemap to Google” to jump to the relevant section).

Moving on, there are your H1 and H2 tags (the title of your post and H2 sub-header) and your meta description. Make sure your keywords can be found in all these places. As for your image alt tags, you can input these from your Media Library in WordPress. Just click on a specific picture, then enter your keyword into the “alt text” section:

Accounting Image Alt Tags

Finally, there’s your schema markups, which is code or microdata that allows you to display rich snippets (ratings, dates, links, etc) below your page title. Here’s how a website that uses schema markups looks on Google:

Featured Snippet Example
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With schema markups, you can draw attention to your listing on Google, and entice more consumers to click through. Schema markups also help Google understand your content, which increases your chance of ranking highly. To learn how to create schema markups, check out this guide by Neil Patel.

Off-Page SEO: Promoting Your Website Externally

Now that you’ve optimized the various elements of your website, the next step is to focus on promoting your website, and distributing your content.

Google My Business

You’ve probably stumbled across Google My Business pages before, but you might not have known what these were called. Basically, these are mini-sites that appear in the “Map” section of Google results for local businesses:

Google My Business Map Example
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Obviously, the goal is to get your Google My Business listing to appear as often as possible when your target audience searches for a relevant term. How do you do this? Well, Google states that businesses with complete and accurate information are easier to match with the right searches — so the more detailed your Google My Business page is, the more visible this page will be on Google.

If you haven’t already done so, go ahead and claim your Google My Business page, and make sure it’s verified by Google. Then complete each of the following steps to build up your page:

Name, Address, Phone (NAP):

Enter your business name, address, and phone number (NAP), and make sure that this is consistent with the existing information that’s listed online. If you want to emphasize the fact that your business is local, list a local phone number instead of a toll-free one.

Categories

List your primary services and any secondary services that you provide as well. Your primary service will probably be “Accountant” or “Accounting Firm”; your secondary service (if any) might be “Financial Audit”.

Description

Describe your services, and talk about what sets you apart from your competitors. Note that you’re not allowed to include URLs, HTML code, or content about special promotions or offers. For a full list of do’s and don’ts, check out Google’s Business Description Guidelines.

Hours

List your hours of operation. You can also set “special hours” for days when you have unusual hours, such as holidays and special events.

Images

Add your business logo, a cover photo, and additional photos to make your Google My Business listing more enticing. If you have candid photos of you or your team interacting with your clients, those will work great; steer clear of using overly-posed, “corporate” photos unless absolutely necessary.

Videos

Videos are a great way to engage your consumers, so if you have a video about your service, be sure to upload this to your page. Your video has to be less than 30 seconds long, and in 720p or higher resolution.

PRO-TIP : Once you’re done filling out your Google My Business page, don’t just forget about it completely. Instead, check in every month or so, and make sure that your business information is still accurate and updated.

Why do you need to keep an eye on your Google My Business page?

Well, anyone can suggest a change to your business listing, and Google sometimes implements the user-suggested edits without notifying business owners. Of course, you’d hope that you’re not subject to random pranks (or, say, competitors trying to sabotage your business) – but I recommend erring on the side of caution, and checking in on your page every now and then.

Link Building

With link building, you’re essentially getting as many backlinks (read: links that point from other websites to yours) as possible. This helps you drive more traffic to your site. 

Follow vs. No Follow Links

Backlinks can be categorized into follow and nofollow links. (Follow links are also sometimes called dofollow; they’re the same thing).

Here’s what a follow link looks like:

<a href=“https://www.jimmysaccountingfirm.com”>Jimmy’s Accounting Firm</a>

And here’s what a nofollow link looks like:

<a href=“https://www.jimmysaccountingfirm.com” rel=”nofollow”>Jimmy’s Accounting Firm</a>

Follow links contribute to your SEO, and help you rank higher on search engines. Nofollow links, on the other hand, do NOT have any impact on your SEO.

That said, don’t just concentrate on getting follow links – if your proportion of follow to nofollow links is suspiciously high, then Google will catch on to the fact that you’re trying to game their system. When this happens, they’ll probably slap you with a Google Penalty.

Citations

SEO citations are basically online references that detail your business’s name, address and phone number (NAP), amongst other things. Here’s an example of an SEO citation:

Jimmy’s Accounting Firm, 48 Marlborough Crescent, South Molton, EX36 6QJ.

On top of referencing your basic NAP information in your citation, you might also want to include a domain-based email address that your customers can contact you at.

Remember, it’s important that your citations are consistent throughout, so you’d be better off linking to a general email address (eg hello@jimmysaccounting.com) as opposed to linking to different email addresses (eg quoteme@jimmysaccounting.com and support@jimmysaccounting.com) from your different citations.

Why are citations important? Simple — the more citations you have, the more this conveys to Google that you’re a reputable firm that deserves to rank highly in search results.

There are various ways to get citations online, but one of the simplest methods is to get your business listed in local or industry-specific directories. For accountants in the UK, here are some directories that you can check out:

  • Yell
  • Yelp
  • FourSquare
  • Bing Places
  • 192
  • Scoot
  • Thomson Local
  • HotFrog
  • Opendi
  • FreeIndex
  • The Sun
  • TouchLocal
  • UKSB Directory
  • CityVisitor
  • The Independent

Guest Posts

Finally, you’ll also want to look for guest post opportunities, which will give you more backlinks. Make sure you’re approaching sites which allow follow or dofollow links, though — as mentioned earlier, if a site links to you using a nofollow link, this doesn’t benefit you in terms of SEO.

So, how do you go about writing and publishing a guest post? Here, I’ll break it down for you:

Step 1: Identify a list of sites that accept guest posts.

Step 2: Approach a site and tell them you’d be happy to contribute a guest post to them.

Step 3: Assuming they agree, confirm the topic and get them to send overwriting guidelines.

Step 4: Write and send over the post. Include one or two backlinks to your website.

Step 5: Most websites will do the editing on their end, instead of requesting for you to revise your draft — so just wait for the post to go live, and that’s that.

Once you’ve gotten the go-ahead from a website, it’s usually a pretty smooth-sailing process. But how do you find sites or publications that accept guest posts in the first place?

The first method that you can use is to simply Google these sites. Here are some search terms that you can use:

  • [industry / keyword] + "write for us"
  • [industry / keyword] + "guest post guidelines"
  • [industry / keyword] + "guest post opportunities"
  • [industry / keyword] + "contribute"
  • [industry / keyword] + "this is a guest post by"
  • [industry / keyword] + "this is a guest post contribution"

If you know of any industry experts or influencers in your field, you can also Google for guest posts written by them, then approach the same sites. For those utilizing this technique, you’d use the following search terms:

  • [influencer name] + guest post
  • [influencer name] + guest column
  • [influencer name] + guest blog

Tracking Results & Continuous Improvement

The key to experiencing success with SEO lies in tracking your results, and fine-tuning your strategies accordingly. Don’t worry — you don’t need to invest in any fancy tools or software to do this. Simply using Google Analytics and Google Search Console will do the trick.

Setting up Google Analytics and Google Search Console

You probably already have Google Analytics set up on your site, but if that’s not the case, sign up for a Google Analytics account, and install and activate the Google Analytics Dashboard for WP plugin. (For those not on WordPress, just Google the name of your website builder + “Google Analytics” — you’ll probably find an app, tool, or tutorial that can help you set this up).

Google Analytics Example
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Alright, onto setting up Google Search Console. To do this, you’ll have to:

If these sound like Greek to you, just click on the respective links; these will redirect you to the official Google guides that will walk you through the process.

What metrics to keep track of in Google Analytics

At the very least, you should be tracking the traffic that you get on your website, as well as your website’s conversion rates (ie: how many percent of your website visitors do you convert into leads, or paying customers).

That said, it’s also good to keep an eye on other metrics and information, including:

  • Sources of incoming traffic: this tells you which channels or referring links drive the most traffic to your site.
  • Pages per session: are your visitors clicking around and checking out your website, or are they leaving almost immediately upon landing on your site?
  • Average session duration: similar to the above -- are your visitors spending time to consume your content, or are they quickly leaving your site?
  • User demographics and interests: are you attracting the right crowd to your site? If, for some reason, you notice a ton of 18-24s visiting your site, you might have to rethink your SEO strategy.
  • Most popular content: keep an eye on what content is well-received on your site, and use this information to fine-tune your content ideation process.
PRO-TIP : You can keep track of your most popular content using Google Analytics, follow this guide here.

What metrics to keep track of in Google Search Console

Once you’ve set up your Google Search Console, you’ll be able to access several reports, including your Landing Pages Report, Countries report, Devices report, and Search Queries report.

There’s a ton of useful data in each of these reports, so I recommend trawling through them to understand how your website is faring. If you don’t have time to review all four reports, though, you’ll want to hone in on the Search Queries report — this lists the queries that generated impressions of your website URLs in Google’s search results.

As Google puts it, this report helps website owners understand the correlation between how users search and the relevancy of their pages to those queries. I recommend reviewing this report at least once a month; doing this will provide you with insights about how to optimize your content.

Additional Metrics to Keep Track of: Search Result Ranking

Obviously, you’ll want to keep an eye on your search result ranking, which indicates whether your SEO efforts are working (or how well they’re working).

Now, you’ll be able to access an “Average Position” metric from your Google Search Console, which looks something like this.

Google Search Console Performance
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If you want to identify your top-ranking keywords, go ahead and sort your data by position.

For those of you who want to quickly check whether a specific keyword is ranking on Google, without pulling up your Search Console, you can simply plug your keyword directly into Google and search for it. Remember to use an incognito search, so your previous browsing history doesn’t affect your results.

Looking for Help with SEO?

Want to rank on the first page of Google and get more leads and enquiries for your accounting firm? Get in touch with SinFa Digital Designs and find out how our local SEO services can help you!

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