SEO for accounting firms is more than keywords

page rank

Ranking high in online search results is one of the primary marketing goals for businesses of every kind. As the largest and most frequently used search engine, Google decides who makes the cut and who’s relegated to the lower recesses of search listings, never to be found by most users. And since Google assigns page rank based in large part on the company’s perception of quality, it behooves site owners to learn as much as possible about the factors that Google measures when evaluating the quality of online content.

For years, Google has been telling us that things like keyword-stuffing and gratuitous linking are counterproductive, and that providing well-written, accurate and properly edited content is the best strategy to achieve a high page rank. Basics like spelling, grammar and flow of language are important measures of quality, along with clarity and the overall value of the information provided to readers. That much is widely understood, but what few CPA firms know is that they face a higher hurdle in obtaining a high page rank than many other types of businesses.

Google’s recently updated Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines include special instructions for assessing certain types of content, explaining that Some types of pages could potentially impact the future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety of users. We call such pages ‘Your Money or Your Life’ pages, or YMYL.”

YMYL pages include “Financial information pages: webpages that provide advice or information about investments, taxes, retirement planning, home purchase, paying for college, buying insurance, etc.” Because accounting firms address these and similar topics in their firm websites, including their blogs, they should be aware that the rating guidelines clearly state, “We have very high Page Quality rating standards for YMYL pages … .”

So what does Google consider when deciding which pages are of sufficiently high quality to merit a high rating? Here’s what the guidelines offer:

“A High quality page should have a beneficial purpose and achieve that purpose well. In addition, High quality pages have the following characteristics:

  • High level of Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-A-T).
  • A satisfying amount of high quality MC [main content], including a descriptive or helpful title.
  • Satisfying website information and/or information about who is responsible for the website. […]
  • Positive website reputation for a website that is responsible for the MC on the page. Positive reputation of the creator of the MC, if different from that of the website.”

The guidelines offer more detail about that E-A-T standard as well, reminding raters that “the amount of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (E-A-T) is very important. Please consider:

  • The expertise of the creator of the MC.
  • The authoritativeness of the creator of the MC, the MC itself, and the website.
  • The trustworthiness of the creator of the MC, the MC itself, and the website.”

One more pertinent bit of information that Google provides its raters regarding E-A-T: “High E-A-T financial advice, legal advice, tax advice, etc. should come from trustworthy sources and be maintained and updated regularly.”

Taken together, these instructions serve as a reminder for CPA firms that following the advice they’re hearing from marketers is imperative if they want to perform well in search results. Specifically, it’s especially important for accounting firms to:

  • Focus on offering well-written content that’s accurate and useful for readers.
  • Ensure that their articles include bylines and author bios.
  • Make it a priority for partners and staff to have current, complete LinkedIn pages and full professional bios on the firm website to document individual expertise.
  • Attend to About pages, business listings and other sources of information about the firm.
  • Interact publicly using a variety of methods that demonstrate thought leadership.
  • Maintain and regularly update website content, blogs, social media sites and other places the firm appears on the web.

That’s quite a list, and it only scratches the surface of a complete strategy – but nobody said effective marketing was easy! Putting forth effort in these areas and others brings a host of benefits that further your firm’s growth and lasting success, not least of which is respect from the world’s most powerful arbiter of page rank.

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Sarah Warlick

Sarah Warlick founded Proof Positive Content to provide professional service firms with high-quality content that resonates with their individual audiences. Sarah's writing appears in books, on dozens of firm websites and in Accounting Today, Social Media Today, various professional journals and other leading publications, but usually under another name. Ghostwriters rarely get the glory - their clients do!

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