How to Set Up Your Content-Based SEO Strategy in 4 Steps
This probably isn’t news to you, but if you want to stand out in today’s saturated accounting market, there’s one big Thing you need to do: pick a niche and own the hell out of it. This means building out a solid SEO digital marketing strategy that revolves around a primary topic—typically, a mix of your ideal audience and your unique approach to business.
Most firms are terrified of a niche accounting firm marketing strategy, for a variety of reasons: they’re afraid to exclude potential clients, they’re afraid to mess with something that’s “working” (even though their definition of “working” is really “getting by”), they’re afraid of change in general.
But some firms—like yours, since you’re here—are ahead of the game, in that they’re already on board with the proven value of niche marketing. They only have one remaining obstacle: they have no idea how to do it.
If that’s you: you’ve come to the right place.
Understanding SEO Changes
The process of influencing search engine results with your website content, in order to attract high quality leads (in other words: SEO) is something that’s constantly changing, and most firms are unable to keep up. For example, many of them are still focused on keywords—sprinkling the right phrasing all over their website pages in hopes of catching Google’s eye.
But the Google of today is much more intelligent, and this Google is far more interested in topic clusters than keywords.
Think about the way people search in Google these days. They’re no longer plugging in 3-4 keywords generally relevant to the question they’re trying to answer—they’re plugging in the question itself, however long and complex it might be.
This is good news for you! Let me tell you why.
Back in the keyword-driven SEO days of the past, if you wanted your firm to rank high in Google for selling a business, you’d have to sit down and brainstorm all of the possible combinations of words applicable to that topic, like:
- sell my business
- sell your business
- sell my business fast
- selling my company
- how to sell a business
- small business for sale
Then, you’d have to sprinkle those phrases all over your website pages, ad nauseam, even though it inevitably hurt the flow of your content. If you were really serious, you might even create separate pages for each phrasing variation, making it easy for Google to recognize a perfect match.
Luckily, Google is smarter now. In today’s SEO world, you can effectively target a topic and attract search engine traffic from all wording variations of that topic, using just one single page and without disrupting your content flow.
Step 1: Identify Your Topics
The first step in building out a niche-driven SEO strategy is identifying primary topics within your niche. You need to come up with 2-4 topics that define your point of view, representing the work your team does best, your unique blend of experience, and what makes you different from the next firm.
These ideas are the cornerstones of your firm.
Maybe you’re all about Cloud Accounting or Onboarding for Start-Ups. Maybe you’re into the nonprofit sector or you’ve had a lot of clients in dentistry, insurance, ecommerce, or the restaurant industry. Maybe you specialize in personal business coaching, on topic of basic accounting services.
What areas really light you up, while also aligning well with your firm’s experience, skills, and interests?
To jumpstart the brainstorming process:
- Map out client pain points. Which ones rise to the top? Which are more obscure, often overlooked until it’s too late? Which are not being addressed by most competing firms?
- Interview your clients. (A survey is a great way to do this.) Why did they choose your firm? What makes them want to recommend you to their friends? You’ll probably be surprised by some of the answers!
- Jot down 5-10 major topics you’d love for your clients to associate with your firm. Are you all about accounting for small business? Do you happen to have several clients from the same industry? Does your team have unique experience that aligns well with certain services?
- Write down your top three services. If you could only offer three things, within your niche, what would they be?
From here, you should be able to carve out a few cornerstone topics, similar to the examples above. These should be topics your ideal clients are already looking for, written in the language already in their heads, so that just finding your content feels like an “ah-ha!” moment for them.
And if you can only think of one topic? Props to you: your niche is a hell of a lot stronger than most firms’.
Step 2: Create Your Cornerstone Content
Now, the real work begins. You need to spend some time (and money) creating online assets that center on your cornerstone topics. These are big pieces of content—think “guides”—that cover your topics at length (at least 2,000 words).
Don’t think of this is terms of keywords you want to rank for, but ideas you want to own in your prospects’ heads. You want to look like the expert in your topic areas, which you can achieve just by writing specifically and thoroughly about those things.
Once you’ve written your cornerstone content (and, ideally, hired a writer to edit it for readability and flow), you need to optimize it for Google.
Here’s what you do:
- Make sure the pages housing your cornerstone content have click-friendly title tags that express the full ideas you’ve written about. “Definitive Guide to Business Valuations” is much better than a keyword-focused approach of “Business Valuations.”
- Give your cornerstone pages custom URLs that include the full topic.
- Wrap the topic titles in H1 tags at the top of the page. This is something Google looks for specifically, and it’s an easy fix that many firms are still missing.
- Wrap the guide titles in H2 tags, immediately below the H1 tags.
- Make sure you’ve covered the topic in detail, rather than speaking broadly and generally about it. Don’t worry about “giving too much away”—your ideal clients will still want your help. This is about building trust.
- Place a compelling call to action at the end of the page. What exactly do you want prospects to do next (and what are they going to be ready to do) after reading your guide? Set up a consult? Fill out a needs assessment form? (Just please, not “Learn More.”)
Step 3: Create Supporting Content
Once you have your primary assets ready to go, you need to start writing blog posts that point to and promote them. This should be a mix of content you create for your own blog and guest posts on other websites (that link back to your own).
For this content, you’ll want to target “long tail keywords,” or phrases consisting of four or more keywords.
For example, if your main topic is business valuation, your supporting content might include articles with titles like:
- 11 Ways to Determine What Your Business is Worth
- How to Increase the Value of Your Business
- Doing Your Due Diligence When Selling a Business
- The Best Business Valuation Formula
Having this supplemental content around the same general idea will build relevance around the topics you’re trying to rank for, and it will make it easier for Google to understand what your niche is.
As you create your supporting content, don’t forget to link it back to your cornerstone asset page. Internal links influence how individual pages rank on Google—in this case, multiple pointers to your guide will help Google recognize it as particularly important.
Your supporting content’s job is simply to drive traffic back to your cornerstone asset page, and your cornerstone asset page’s job is to convert that traffic into clients. (This is why that call to action at the bottom of the page is so critical.)
Now, some tips for optimizing your supporting content:
- Create a catchy and clickable title tag, which includes relevant keywords.
- Write a short and concise custom URL that includes the same keywords.
- Make sure the blog post title is wrapped in an H1 tag.
- Don’t forget to bury a link back to your cornerstone page somewhere in the content.
- Include 1-2 external links (ideally, to other content on your website, but could also include content outside of your website) that go into more depth about a particular detail.
- Try to write blog posts of at least 500 words.
Step 4: Earn Supporting Links
The last step is going to require some real hustle from you and your team. Most accounting firms completely ignore this step and forgo the opportunities it presents, which is very unfortunate.
The final step in building your SEO strategy is garnering links to your website from outside sources. Anytime anyone shares a link to your site, whether it’s on social media or on their own sites, it’s wildly beneficial to your SEO.
So how do you get others to share your content?
Guest posting is the most obvious route: you offer a unique article to a relevant website in exchange for a back link. This benefits them, because they’re getting (hopefully well-written) free content that’s relevant to their audience, and it benefits you, because you’re getting the exposure to their audience in addition to the back link.
Other ways to earn supporting links include:
- Mentioning and linking to other businesses in your articles. Businesses are always looking for content to share, and they’re often happy to share something that mentions them specifically (assuming the mention is positive).
- Collaborating with people outside your firm on a blog post. Interview a prominent business figure within your niche, send out a brief questionnaire and gather responses, or even interview your clients. (Don’t forget to ask for permission to publish their responses.) Those people are likely to share the resulting article, even if you don’t explicitly ask them to.
- Praising your competitors (while highlighting your differences). If you’re differentiated enough, you won’t be afraid of your competitors—in fact, you’ll celebrate them, and happily reroute prospective clients who would be better fits for them. Share work your competitors are doing, and they’re likely to return the favor. Going a step further, you can help people connect with the experts in various niches by publishing a mapping list, while simultaneously positioning yourself as the expert in your own niche.
Some firms are great at getting content published in industry journals, but they fail to get anything published online. This is a mistake. You need to focus your efforts on content opportunities that are going to drive traffic to your website, and therefore, to your firm.
This is where the niche-driven approach quickly falls apart for many firms. If you don’t have a firm niche, you’re going to struggle to generate meaningful supporting links.
This final piece of the puzzle won’t happen overnight—it takes time to get your foot in the door with industry publications and to build mutually beneficial relationships with relevant businesses. I won’t sugar coat it: it’s a shit ton of work. But if you keep neglecting it, you’re going to get left behind.
Luckily, you don’t need gobs of links from external sources. A handful of mentions from the right networks will be gangbusters for your SEO, and ultimately, for your firm’s bottom line.
Good luck, and as always, drop us a line if there’s any way we can help.