There was an excellent question posted in the Association of Accounting Marketing LinkedIn group this week and I wanted to share it with you. The focus of the dialogue was around whether a CPA firm should pay an outside provider to conduct SEO or do the work internally. My response is provided below.
The question was….”We are about to update our website and SEO has become a factor in how we will proceed. We are struggling with To PAY or NOT TO PAY for SEO. If you pay for SEO could you share what your monthly range is? Is your SEO geared toward, local, national or international clientele? What do you get for your money? Can you measure if you have you received qualified leads because you pay for SEO?”
To Pay or Not to Pay The general consensus of many accounting marketing professionals I have spoken to is that you should keep it in-house if you are confident in your ability to approach SEO. There are some firms that have very advanced professionals that really don’t need the services of an outside vendor. Then there are firms that don’t have a great deal of knowledge on the topic and would likely not be successful if they attempted it in-house. Finding the Right Provider Finding the right provider is a task to itself and while there are no hard and fast rules, there are a few off the cuff items to offer:
- Consider Industry Experience. Look for a company that has worked in accounting or understands the industry. If you rely on a SEO firm that has to learn about accounting throughout the process you will be at a disadvantage when the more advanced SEO and keyword targeting occurs. Since they don’t know the issues or key phrases, how can they optimize for these terms.
- Beware of Grand Promises. If a SEO firm promises you first page listings on any search engines, do not hire them. While is it likely you will get first page listings on Google it is unethical to make such promises because Google simply does not offer anyone the ability to do this. The old adage, if it seems to good to be true, is definitely applicable here.
- Flexibility. Find a SEO firm that has flexibility and can adapt to a change in the SEO plan. In some instances a new issue will emerge that your firm can leverage, but if the SEO firm rigidly sticks to the plan then you will have trouble responding and proactively positioning your website.
- Check References. Obvious I know, but it is important to talk to the other CPA and accounting firms that have worked with to understand how well they performed. Find out the good, the bad and the ugly. Remember each CPA firm is different so be careful to assess how they will perform based on your needs. We work with firms that have very skilled Marketing Directors in SEO. Approaching them is very different than working with someone who has very little knowledge.
Rates This varies based on how much SEO needs to be done, whether it is on page or off page and the total amount of hours you would like to dedicate each month. I have seen programs for as low as $500 to as high as $10,000. Obviously you are getting different things at each price point. One item to consider is content generation. In SEO “content is king”, so if you don’t have a good content development strategy to keep the site fresh and topic driven then your SEO provider may be able to help you.
If so, then this will of course increase the fees. Tracking It is important to be able to track leads that are generated from SEO efforts. For the provider it is important because it demonstrates the value of their work. For you, as the Marketing Director, it is important because you can take these new leads to your partners and use it as a method for demonstrating the value you are bringing to the firm in terms of lead and revenue generation. In my mind, this is a MUST! However, you should also be looking at other metrics on a month to month basis such as:
- Total # of Visitors
- Average Time on Site
- Bounce Rate
- Traffic Sources
- Top Referring Sites
- Top Keywords
- Keyword Position with Top Search Engines
- Total Number of Conversions
- Change in Ranking by Keyword with Major Search Engines
Note there are several other metrics you should review, but these are the basics that anyone can obtain by using Google’s free tracking software.
Feel free to comment and ask any questions about SEO that you may have. After hosting a round table on the topic with the Association of Accounting Marketing last week, it is clear that there are many in the profession considering the topic with specific questions.