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How does SEO Work on Your Website?

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by Hugh Duffy

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Asking for a simple definition of how SEO works is sort of like someone asking you for a simple explanation to the new tax reform. You might respond something like, "well...it's complicated." In order to understand how SEO works, you first need to fully understand what SEO is.

What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is the process of improving the volume and quality of traffic to your website by ensuring that your website is showing up organically in the search engines when someone searches for the services you provide.

When most people think of SEO, they assume it's referring to the keywords on their website. And don't get me wrong, SEO does have to do with keywords. But, they are only a very small piece of the puzzle.

I like to explain SEO by breaking it down into five categories:

Content: This is the part of SEO that most people are familiar with. It has to do with building a website that has strong keywords that relate to the site and correspond directly with what prospective searchers might type into a search engine when searching for someone who provides the accounting, tax, or business consulting services you do. It also takes into account the quality of the content. Is it well-written and containing substance? If you have a Build Your Firm website, we do this part for you.

HTML: The next factor that impacts the SEO on your website is the HTML factors. This is something that's done when the pages of your website are built. It has to do with following best practices for page title tags and meta descriptions and optimizing your images and providing alternative tags. If you have a Build Your Firm website, we do this part for you.

Architecture: The architecture has to do with how your website is coded and built. Is the site responsive (meaning it works on all devices)? Is the site optimized so that it loads quickly? Are the links and URLs structured properly? If you have a Build Your Firm website, we do this part for you.

Other Factors: There are other off-the-page factors that can also impact your SEO that many people don't realize. This has to do with the reputation of your website. Search engines don't want to send its searchers to untrustworthy websites, so reputation matters. Things that impact this include the authority of your domain: have you owned it a long time or was it recently purchased and you don't know who was using it before? Are there spammy ads or pop-ups on the site? Is the site loading from another country. Do other reputable websites link to your website? If you have a Build Your Firm website, most of these factors are things we can't control at the onset, but we will provide suggestions and coaching if necessary to improve your "other factors" for SEO.

Local SEO: Local SEO (also called local search) is becoming more and more important to your overall online presence and can play a large role in your website's SEO. Local search refers to your presence on local listings like Google Business and Yelp. Other sites might include Yellowpages, Angie's List, Facebook, Foursquare, etc. Claiming your business on local search sites directly improves your website's SEO as your physical address is tied to your website. Local Search is typically not done by the website developer but instead by the business owner. At Build Your Firm, we provide helpful guides to our clients on how to claim their local listings.

How does SEO work?

Now that you understand all the factors of SEO, let's cover how it exactly works on your website. Especially if your website is new, you're probably anxious to have your new site out there and start getting new leads from the internet!

When your site is built, most of the factors we discussed above can be built into your site by your website provider. Most website developers will charge you extra for SEO. Other providers may offer you a do-it-yourself guide to doing your own SEO. We don't typically suggest you attempt your own SEO. Since proper SEO is a labor-intensive and detail-oriented process it's not something most accounting firms should try to tackle on their own if they want it done right. At Build Your Firm, we believe a website that isn't optimized for the search engines isn't doing the work it could be, so we build all our websites with SEO at no additional fees.

Once your new website has been made live, it's on the internet and the search engines will begin crawling and indexing it. What this means is the search engines are "reading" the website to understand what the site is about. For example, if your website is for an Accounting Firm in Detroit, MI, and you offer accounting, bookkeeping, tax, and payroll services, the search engines can detect and index you for that type of content. That way, when someone searches for "payroll in Detroit" or "Detroit accounting firm" it knows that it can serve your website as one of the results.

The search engines will also start indexing your website for the other factors we discussed such as its reputation, its architecture, and its HTML. If someone searches for Detroit Accounting Firm and some of the sites are well-designed, well-coded and have a good reputation, it is more likely to show these sites over Detroit accounting firm websites that are out-dated, not well-designed, etc.

How Long Will it Take for My SEO To Work?

This is a great question!

SEO is the most powerful component to your website. When done right it can be the difference between a site that's bringing you active leads and one that's lost on the internet never getting seen. But, SEO is a slow growth tactic and something you need to stick with to see the benefits. It does not happen overnight.

Typically, when a new site goes live it takes, on average, 4-6 months for the search engines to crawl the site and index it for the searches. Sometimes, this happens quickly and sometimes it can take a little longer. It depends mostly on the area you live and the competition in the search engines. For example, someone in a less populated suburb with less competition from other accounting firms is more likely to start showing in the search engines quicker than a firm in a major city with a lot of competition.

Other Factors that Impact SEO and Your Placement in the Search Engines

Once your website is optimized for the search engines, there are other factors to take into account that can impact your SEO and help you get to the tops of search engines quicker.

  • Local Search: As mentioned above, your local search is an important piece of your overall SEO. At Build Your Firm, we suggest you claim your business on Google and Yelp. Once completed, it's recommended that you submit your business listing to a local listing manager such as Moz Local.
  • Online Reviews: Once you've established yourself on your local listings, the next thing we suggest is obtaining online reviews for these locations.
  • Blogging: The major search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo are giving very high priority to websites that regularly offer a steady stream of fresh, relevant content produced by a blog. Adding a blog to your website can act as another way prospective clients can find you and help elevate your domain's reputation.

Understanding the Search Results Page

The last thing I want to cover is the search results page you see when you search for an accounting firm on the internet. There are three main types of results the seach engine pages will show you.

Paid results are ads that people pay for to show up at the top of the page. This is called PayPerClick (PPC) advertising.

Local results are what's referred to as the "local pack," you can only show up here if you claim your listing on Google Business. If you're not set up on Google Business, you cannot show up in this spot OR on Google Maps.

Organic placements are the results that show up due to the SEO of the website.

SEO can definitely be confusing to understand since there are so many moving pieces. That's why it's best to opt for a website provider that offers SEO Websites for Accountants, like we do at Build Your Firm. That way, most of the heavy lifting is off your plate and you know someone is doing it for you, and doing it right. If you have more questions about a website with Build Your Firm give us a call today at 888-999-9800.

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Hugh Duffy, BYF CEO and Co-Founder

Hugh is the consummate marketing coach for accountants and takes pride in the impact that it has on their practice, and lives. Hugh has more than thirty years of marketing experience. Since 2003, he has been teaching accountants on how to improve their marketing and make more money from their accounting practice.