In 1991 the internet, as we know it was born. It’s been said the first known online purchase was a pepperoni pizza from Pizza Hut in 1994. Businesses started developing an internet presence in the mid 1990s because it became obvious consumers would start doing research online before choosing service or product providers. You got the memo years ago. You have a website for your accounting firm. What should it do?
Let’s leave the obvious one until last. Here are five basic functions you should expect from your website:
Online Business Card — You want your site to provide basic information about you and your business. Assume someone is searching for a local accountant in your area. They will want to know who you are, the qualifications you hold, where you are located and how to contact you.
Tell Your Story — Now we get into marketing. If they have gotten a result set of several accountants in the local area, you want your site to differentiate you from other CPAs, without needing to have a direct voice conversation to make those points. This logically includes how long you have been in business, the services you provide, certifications you hold and specialty areas.
Be Easy to Find — Keywords count. Ideally, you want your website to appear on the first page of a Google search. It’s been said 91 percent of users never go past page 1 of search results. You want to take steps to be one of the first sites in the results, although people running ads may place higher.
Provide a Communications Channel — People are busy. Not only don’t they want to make calls, studies show millennials spend 18 hours a day interacting with online media. (Don’t they work? Sleep?) You need a way they can reach you, smartphone in hand, without actually making a phone call. This means e-mail. Social media, too.
Ability to Connect Via LinkedIn (or be followed on social media) — LinkedIn gives you the ability to enter articles, links and other posts what will appear on their continuous daily feed. It also provides a communications channel. If they are interested enough to want to connect, you should make this easy.
Three Additional Services That Would be Cool to Provide
Be a Site That Pushes out News — AccountingWEB.com and other sites engage with members by sending e-mails linking to current stories. If you have educational content you write or buy prewritten, this gives you the opportunity to push out information. Obviously it’s not daily. It’s the online newsletter strategy.
Library of Past Articles — You have now established yourself as a thought leader, a source for timely tax information or practical advice. Prospects may have recalled an article they scanned and deleted. Later, they want to see it again. That’s available on your website.
Give Enough, but Not Too Much, Information — You want to create an environment where they realize they need you. For example, you might include a calendar highlighting important filing dates or deadlines. That’s valuable. You don’t want to provide forms allowing them to do it on their own, without your involvement. Consider the legal consequences if they followed your “advice” and got into trouble, without actually becoming a client.
Finally, the One Obvious Thing Your Website Must do
Your website must stay up and running. If it’s your online business card and marketing brochure, it needs to function 24/7.
Here’s my story: While traveling, I receive an e-mail from the fellow who hosts my website on his server. “I need to talk with you about your website. Unfortunately it’s not good news…” His server was hacked. What I thought was my web address was now connected to pornography. He took the site down. When the company that registers the site was in touch, they did some checking of the content linked and said: “You don’t want to go there.” The good news is, I have a new, temporary website up and running. The bad news is that it isn’t as robust as my original. At least it doesn’t connect to pornography.
Author: Bryce Sanders