U.S. Accounting, CPA Firms Need Much Help with SEO

I just released a new study called, “When Will SEO and Accounting Firms Add Up?” It was produced by with World Synergy,  Online Marketing Coach and the Internet directory Accounting Firms and CPA Firms.

Get a FREE copy of the accounting study today.

Or, check out this excerpt from the Executive Summary of the 39-page report:

Most accounting and CPA firms have a long way to go if they want to aggressively use search engine optimization (SEO) to connect with prospects and help their bottom lines.

Our analysis of 200 accounting firms (100 large and 100 small) shows that most firms do little to have their web sites found among natural search engine results.

It could be that they’re enormously successful with old-school and other marketing tactics. Or, maybe not. CPATrendlines reported that “revenues at the typical CPA firm are up 1.7%,” according to the 2011 Rosenberg MAP Survey.

At least for large accounting firms, the news is worse, according to Accounting Today. In its “Top 100 Accounting Firms 2011” report released in March 2011, Accounting Today used this apt title: “Waiting for the thaw.” The widely regarded report overview sized up the financial health of the industry this way: “The accounting profession … entered a cold snap in 2009 that has lasted right through 2010, and still seems to have The Top 100 Firms in a deep freeze, stuck in a second year of declining revenue, partner and staff figures.”

In a fiercely competitive world, accounting firms should be doing everything within their power to connect with their target markets and improve their profitability. With SEO, they could make some inroads on their own or rely on the wisdom of consultants.

Clearly, accounting firms get business from traditional marketing and favorable word-of-mouth. In other words, if an individual or a business has concerns about existing accounting professionals, they may ask friends to suggest alternative experts.

On the other hand, millions of people search for accounting firms every month through the Internet. They locate them through search engines, directories and other services. Some people may simply want help with an individual tax return. Others may be looking for help setting up a business or need long-term advice with growth plans. Either way, potential sales may be missing if no one knows the accounting firm exists.

Here are highlights from our study:

  • Among small accounting firms, 62% use the vital page title on their home pages, but 38% don’t include any keywords and 82% get poor or fair marks for a lackluster strategy that sometimes has a single, shoot-for-the-moon keyword (if any at all).
  • Sixty-eight percent of small accounting and CPA firms have no search engine presence even for keyword phrases related to their local cities.
  • Small accounting firms do use a keyword in their domain name 66% of the time – a huge advantage if coupled with other strategies.
  • Only 20% of large accounting firms use a keyword in their domain names.
  • Large accounting and CPA firms use the home page title 57% of the time, but 43% don’t include even one keyword and 63% earn poor or fair ratings for not using keywords or barely mentioning one.
  • Astonishingly, 55% of large firms lack a search engine presence – either for national keyword phrases or local search terms tied to their headquarters.
  • In contrast, nearly four in 10 large accounting firms (39%) participate in paid search despite missed opportunities with SEO.
  • The small accounting and CPA firms we looked at don’t appear to embrace paid search (only 2% demonstrate any interest).
  • Sixty-three percent of small accounting firms have fewer than 25 inbound links (43% fewer than 10). But 57% of large firms have at least 501 inbound links (43% have 1,000 or more).
  • Small accounting firms don’t seem interested in social media – 83% apparently don’t use it in their marketing; but 73% of large accounting firms promote one or more social media profiles.
  • Unfortunately, with small and large accounting and CPA firms, web site social media references often are displayed at the bottom of the web site pages.

Perhaps accounting executives simply don’t understand SEO. In some cases, they may be leaving web site development and marketing opportunities to others who fall short or don’t try hard enough in the first place.

Given the pages we looked at, it’s very apparent that SEO is viewed as a one-time exercise – if it’s implemented at all. At the same time, scores of pages among small and large accounting firms are loaded with identical page titles starting with the home page across dozens or even hundreds of pages. In other cases, page headers merely mimic page titles with no thought to modifying them for SEO purposes.

And yet, both small and large accounting firms have the right conditions for successful SEO strategies – given the age of their web sites, amount of content on many of the web sites, number of web site pages and text headers that could easily be updated. The influential page titles can be modified as well.

Get the CPA study today.