When a potential customer needs to find an accounting firm in your area, what do they do? Chances are, they turn to Google. They search for firms nearby, read reviews, and look at photos to get a sense of your business. If they’re comfortable with your company, they get in touch. But first, they have to find you—and that’s where local search engine optimization (SEO) comes in.
What Is Local Search Engine Optimization and Why Does It Matter?
“Local SEO” refers to the strategies that help people in your area find your company online. It’s similar to general SEO, but it’s targeted to your specific location to ensure that you show up in location-based search results in search engines, directories and maps. After all, when a person in Toronto wants to find an accountant, they probably aren’t going to search for “accounting firm.” Instead, they’re more likely to search for “accounting firm Toronto” or head to Google Maps to look for accounting firms nearby. If your web presence is optimized for local searches, it’s easier for that customer to find you. As an accountant, you probably depend on customers who live within driving distance and local optimization helps you get these people in the door.
Imagine that you run an accounting firm in Edmonton. Sally is searching for an accountant, so she goes to Google and searches “small business accountant Edmonton.” Your company is optimized for local searches, and pops up on the first page of search results. Your company also shows up in Google Maps, complete with hours of operation and positive reviews from your customers. Your top competitor, on the other hand, doesn’t do local SEO. That company doesn’t show up in the search results and, on Google Maps, its contact details are incorrect. Your competitor’s lack of local SEO means that you’re more likely to get Sally’s business.
How to Do Local Search Engine Optimization
General SEO focuses on your overall business and website including terms specific to your niche. When you use local SEO, it’s important to optimize your web presence as a whole because local searches return a variety of items. These include your:
- Official website
- Customer photos
- Google Maps location
- Google Business listings
- Other Directory listings
- Customer reviews
- Entries on review websites like Tripadvisor and Yelp
Optimizing your presence in each of these places makes it easier to bring in new clients or customers.
When Google is deciding how to rank and display companies in local searches, it looks at relevance, your distance from the person’s search location, and the prominence of your company. To make sure that you meet these three criteria, you can follow these steps:
- Register your business in Google My Business and claim any existing listings
- Make sure that you enter accurate contact information, location details and hours
- Upload photos
- Respond to reviews
- Conduct keyword research
- Update your website and social profiles with original content on a regular basis
- Build links to your website
- Track your analytics
Register, Claim and Verify Your Business Listings
The first step in local SEO is to make sure you’re in control of your business listings on the internet. Google My Business is a great place to start. After all, more than 92% of Canadians use Google to search the internet. After creating an account, you can enter your company’s name and address to create a listing. If Google or another person already created a business listing for you, you can use Google My Business to claim it.
Before you can take control of the listing, you must verify that you’re the owner. This is important because it prevents anyone else from changing your listing details. Google allows you to verify your business by mail, phone or email. If you’ve already registered your website on Google Search Console, you might be able to verify your listing instantly.
Don’t stop with your Google listing; you can also claim your listings on review websites such as Yelp or TripAdvisor. Local business directories are also a great way to boost your local SEO. Not sure where to start? Search for “accounting firms in [your city]” and see what directories pop up. Then, create or claim a listing for your business.
Make Sure Your Business Information is Accurate
Once you’re in control of your listings, it’s time to make sure the information is accurate. Fill out every section of your listing — after all, the more complete your entry, the easier it is for Google to match you with the right searches. Pay special attention to your:
- Physical address
- Website URL
- Social media profiles
- Phone number
- Hours of operation including holiday hours
- Business type
To bring in the right customers, it’s also a good idea to provide specifics about your accounting services. If you specialize in accounting for small businesses or tax accounting, include that in your profile. This helps attract customers who need your specific services.
When you have a business listing, Google allows you to upload photos of your business. Why does an accounting firm need photos? It creates a visual connection and helps potential customers find your office. More importantly, it reassures customers that you’re a professional, respectable company — something that’s very important when people are entrusting you with their finances. You can also add photos to your Yelp, TripAdvisor and social media pages to accomplish the same goal.
Manage Customer Reviews
When a customer searches for your business, Google returns some important pieces of information: your average customer review score, star rating, and the number of Google reviews. Your rating and reviews show up on your Google My Business listing. If customers are using Google Maps, your stars and rating show up right under your company name. A great score can motivate customers to choose you over a competitor; a bad score can do the opposite. If you don’t have any customer reviews, that’s not unusual because customers don’t always think to review accounting firms. To encourage your customers to leave reviews and ratings, you can add links to Yelp and other review sites on your website. Alternatively, you might send an email to past customers requesting a review or add the link to your electronic invoices.
Once you have reviews, it’s time to start responding. Take time to thank every reviewer for their feedback. If someone leaves a negative comment, don’t ignore it. Instead, it’s a good idea to apologize and explain how you’re going to fix the problem. This shows that you’re responsive and committed to providing the best service.
Conduct Keyword Research
Once your listings are complete, it’s time to optimize your website and social media profiles for local traffic. Before you can do that, you need to know what keywords local customers are searching for. That’s where keyword research comes in. You can find great keywords by:
- Running a survey to find out what keywords people would search for if they needed accounting help in your area
- Asking your existing customers how they found your business
- Using keyword research tools such as Moz and SEMrush
Keywords for accounting firms tend to be fairly straightforward. You might be using “accounting services” or “accountant” plus the name of your city or region. If you offer specialized services such as corporate accounting, include those specialties in your keywords.
Update Your Website and Social Profiles
Once you have local SEO keywords in mind, you can use them to update your website and social media profiles. Create landing pages for your website, and optimize them for local searches. For example, if you run a tax accounting firm in Vancouver, you might make a page called “Tax Accounting Services in Vancouver.” If you have an Instagram page for your business, you could change the “Name” field to “Vancouver Tax Accountant.” It’s also important to make sure that your company’s name, specialty, address, hours, and contact information are up to date on every page and profile. Other ways to optimize your website and social media profiles for local searches include:
- Publishing original content, such as blog posts and social media captions, using your location-specific keywords
- Using your location and business type in hashtags on Facebook and Instagram
- Tagging your company’s location on Instagram posts
- Editing your website content to address the needs of local customers
- Auditing your website SEO to make sure it includes local keywords
Build Links to Your Website
Backlinks—links to your website from other websites — are one way to improve your SEO. This trick also works for local SEO, which entails getting local links from websites in your area. To boost your local backlinks, you might:
- Write articles for local financial blogs or newspapers, and include a website link in your bio
- Ask local businesses to link to you from their Resources page
- Sponsor local events; sponsors often get links on the event website as well as the organization’s website
The more backlinks you have, the more prominent your business looks to Google. Prominent companies get higher rankings in local searches.
Track Your Search Analytics
You’re optimized for local searches—now what? Local SEO is an ongoing process, so it’s important to keep tweaking your online presence. Tools like Google Analytics allow you to see where your web traffic is coming from, and which keywords are working well. If you notice that “tax accounting Toronto” is bringing in new clients, you can add that phrase to all of your profiles. If Instagram is sending quite a few visitors to your site, start posting and hashtagging on Instagram more frequently.
By constantly adjusting your local SEO strategy, you can bring in more local clients. If you’re feeling overwhelmed regarding how to get SEO traffic, there are SEO consultants who can get you on the right track and help you save time. As a result, you can focus on sealing the deal with potential customers. Save even more time by managing all your work in one place: Collaborate with clients, stay on track and grow your firm with QuickBooks Online Accountant. Sign up for free.