10 things every accounting firm website needs

No matter if it’s a furniture site website , an online travel portal or law firm, every website needs to have a specific reason for users to visit. Gone are the days of having a website merely to publish your office address and phone number. These days most businesses treat their website effectively as another sales person undertaking business development 24 hours a day.

So what makes your accounting website different to the next? Is it the design, the ability to be found or the features? It’s all of that and more. So start off by asking the question.. What is the main goal of the website? Is it brand awareness? is it to recruit new staff or is it to drive new business? I thought I’d suggest and discuss what the ultimate accounting website might include to be successful and some of the areas that are essential to make sure you stand out from the crowd. 

1. Your accounting services
What services does your accountancy firm provide? Do you specialise in areas like liquidation or forensic accounting?  It’s advisable to list all of your services that you offer in detail like;  business planning, taxation, investment strategies, superannuation advice and lodgement of Business Activity Statements (BAS) to the Australian Tax Office. Whatever the services you provide I’d recommend that you write about them in details (300-400 words on each) opposed to a simple title.  This type of content is rich to the search engines and can help drive traffic to your website. 

2. Your staff.
Be sure to include a section which profiles your staff from the senior partners through to the receptionist. Write a mini biography on each staff member making sure you mention their qualifications and expertise. This type of information is essential in establishing the credibility of your firm to prospective new clients.

3. Careers & Recruitment
In a competitive recruitment market your website should be used to recruit new staff, particularly university graduates. What we’ve found in other industries is to include employee benefits, professional development and training as well as the social aspects of working for your firm. Try to include photos of your office and case studies of previous graduates that have worked their way up in the firm. You may also like to have a positions available section.

4. Online industry tool
No matter what industry, we always recommend to clients to create something different and innovative which will become a traffic magnet for your site. This could be an essential tool, gadget or even calculator which people find handy. Think about something that has a wide appeal to your existing or future clients. What about a company tax or BAS calculator or even a loan calculator to show the weekly repayments. 

5. Case studies
The case studies of your website should be used to highlight your firm’s previous achievements as well as discussing solutions you’ve implemented for these clients. There should be a wide cross section of case studies from small businesses to large enterprises as well as different industries. Be sure to mention the services and solutions you undertook like being able minimise tax, increase profitability or how you provided business planning  for a client that recently expanded its cash flow. Also don’t mention the company name specifically, rather use anonymous language like “a small western suburbs retailer” or a “Queensland ASX listed company”.

6. Lead generation
Apart from having a simple contact us form or simply an email address, have your web developer create a quotation form as a means to lead generation. On this quotation form, you’ll be able to ask prospective clients specific questions which will aid in developing a quote. For larger accounting firms, quotations can even be sent directly to the partner which deals with that service, opposed to being lost in the main company email address.  Be sure not to complicate the quotation form with unnecessary questions, just concentrate on the basics.
7. Have an opinion
The Australian Tax Office regularly releases rulings on issues relating to taxation legislation. What do you know about them? Like most professionals, you’ll no doubt have a professional opinion on the matter and how it could impact or benefit from your clients. How do you tell your clients your opinion? Why not write an article or blog type response on your website and email it to your clients to read. If your opinion is public, you’ll no doubt be found by people searching on the matter. The more persuasive your opinion is, the more people will link to your site, building credibility within search engine algorithms.

8. Content
In the search engine world, there is a saying “content is king”, this is because good content attracts users and traffic. A really important section of your website should be a collection of different types of content like explanations of balance sheets, profit and loss statements, directors' duties to prevent insolvent trading, how to present accounts for the purposes of fundraising as well as articles regarding insurance and protecting your revenues from risk. The type of articles you’ll include will really depend on the audience. If you are moving into a new area of specialisation, this could be a good way to attract prospective clients.

9. Checklists
A useful tool to clients and even prospective clients is a providing a collection of simple checklists they can use for particular tasks. These could be as simple as a checklist for setting up a company through to negative gearing, fund raising or even disclosure requirements. You may even like to offer checklists for personal clients like what tax deductions can be done to margin loan or first home buyer’s grants. As this may require a significant investment of time and resources, you may like to look at requiring people to register with a simple email address to access, providing you a growing database of possible clients to market to in the future.

10. Email Newsletter
No matter what industry you’re in you should be definitely undertaking email marketing on a regular basis to your existing clients and prospective clients. On every page of your website there should be a easy method of signing up to your email newsletter. The main keys to success here is designing a newsletter styled email which introduces readers to the topic, then offer them the ability to click through to the article or content on your webpage, allowing them to read further into your content and possibly contacting you or requesting a quotation on a matter. 

Finally, and apart from the 10 important features mentioned above, I strongly suggest that you invest in some sort of search engine optimisation program on your website. It’s critical that after you’ve invested in significant website, you need to ensure that you’re going to be found in the three main search engines; Google, Yahoo and MSN.