Doing SEO That Works for Accounting Firms Season 1, Episode 3

Jay Baron: Howdy everybody! I am Jay Baron, founder of Madtown.

Rusty Hall: Hey what’s up folks? Rusty Hall back here for some SEO, and some search engine optimization techniques!

Jay Baron: Yeah, we’re going to talk about, do a little guide or a walk through for accounting firms on search engine optimization here.

Rusty Hall: Some of the good need to know stuff, this is going cover a lot of your basics, as well as some of the more advanced stuff that’s happened to SEO on the last couple years that people may over look or just not know about.

What’s Happening With SEO

Jay Baron: Right? And I think that kind of leads into really what’s kind of happening with SEO right now. There’s a lot of firms, and the competition for SEO’s just become really intense, and we’re having a lot of firms right now, that I would call them, they’re “me too” firms, they’re just follow the basic best practices of getting keywords in there, in their content, getting the headlines right and things like that.

Rusty Hall: And the best practices are the basics are always good stuff to have in there, but that’s kind of the difference of “is this a check in the box” thing, or is this an actual strategy, because you know to really make a strategy out of it, you have to understand how this stuff works, exactly how to use the content, and how to use keywords, and a little bit more in depth about SEO and how it’s changed in the last couple years before you can really say it’s a strategy.

Jay Baron: Yeah, I mean a lot of firms right now, and I worked at an accounting firm for a while, and what they’re doing is they’re really focused on just adding local keywords. I see this with a lot of firms where. I was actually looking at some websites over the weekend where they would say, “Accounting firm, Dallas,” “CPA Firm, Dallas,” and they’d put this all throughout their content, all over the place, and all their title tags, and that’s kind of how their optimizing their websites today, and that’s actually what frustrates me the most: there’s so many agencies out there selling this kind of, I would say, ‘old school’ strategy to SEO that just doesn’t work. Google’s become so much smarter about how we’re searching.

They understand not only keywords and phrases, but they actually understand the people’s. The searcher’s intent behind what they’re actually looking for, and how many keywords you actually have in your content doesn’t really matter anymore.

Rusty Hall: Yeah, and we’ll dig into that in part of this podcast, in the later half. I mean, to be fair, a lot of those firms that are still out there kind of shelling this strategy out? That’s the basic stuff, like your h1 tags, metadata, image alt tags; all that kind of stuff that came around in the 90’s, that’s what search engines were really looking at. Google, and a lot of people don’t know this, but Google’s continually updating their algorithm, they’re continually making improvements to make it more relevant, versus just looking for specific things on webpages like keywords and those title tags, which are still important, but we’re really going to give folks an understanding of how that’s evolved, and what more you need to be doing as we kind of dig into this.

The History of SEO

Jay Baron: Right? So let’s kinda, a good place for us to start, Russ, we might be kind of giving a history of SEO, because I think a lot of firms don’t understand where they’re at right now in terms of the history, and I think once they understand they’ll start to realize, man, our SEO strategy, we’re living in the past right now, which is really unfortunate because that’s where a lot of firms are. You think about early SEO, and I’m thinking early 2000’s and even in the 1990’s is you just do a lot of keyword stuff, and so you’d use, and re-use the phrase several times throughout your content.

1. Keyword Density

I remember doing keyword density percentages, so if you wanted to rank for something like ‘accounting firm, Dallas’ we’d say, “Okay, we need to use that phrase 5% of the time in our content.” You’d stuff all your tags, so your meta description, your meta tags, you’d just fill that. Fill those pages with those keywords, and that was the very early SEO strategy.

Rusty Hall: It was! Back when we were working with things like, boy this is back in the day, like Lycos and Webcrawler and stuff like that, that’s a lot of what those were looking for.

You know, once Google came onto the scene, and I guess part of the biggest revolution was like, 2011 when they rolled out Panda, that’s an update to the search algorithm that kind of shifted things away from keywords, and it really hit hard on a lot of the keyword spammers, the guys that were doing exactly that, they were just trying to go in and pack it with keywords, and Panda was kind of the first change to the algorithm that got accepted that started looking for boy, is this just duplicate spamming stuff, does it have any relevance in the content, and that’s when you started seeing kind of the first nail in the coffin for the keyword spam strategy.

Jay Baron: Yeah, I know. Panda was really their spam, I would call, update. That’s where they penalized a bunch of people for having bad links, for over optimizing their pages. Panda was really their penalization update where they started to really kind of hit at people who were doing some of those practices, and things like that.

It was really frowned upon, because if you think about it, if you over use keywords so that your content, that’s not user friendly! At the end of the day that’s not Google wants to serve their users, they serve what’s actually going to solve the problem, and I think that’s where you see that 2011 it started to evolve, but SEO changed where it didn’t matter really how many times you decided to use the phrases, it was more about where you actually put those keywords on the pages themselves.

I mean, keywords still matter, but it wasn’t. It started to go though kind of an evolution where Google started to understand not only a keyword, but phrases that people were actually using.

2. Started Looking at Phrases

Rusty Hall: That was kind of the evolution of that, right? We were talking about in 2011 when they kind of started that fight, and then sort of flash forward to 2013, somewhere around the hummingbird update, and that’s where we started to see things like Google interpreting search intent, rather than just keywords. It would look for certain combinations of words, it would look for synonyms, or like search terms, things like that, so that even if you were pulling off some sort of keyword spam strategy, it really wasn’t going to do you any good.

Like he just mentioned, it hurts you in the end with these things so one of the things I remember when I was first starting out in SEO, and this was kind of coming around; we were trying to get a handle on it was I’m a huge advocate for just honesty in marketing, right?

There’s tricks to get people to come to your page, right? Once they get there, what happens on that page, and what you’re actually selling them, what you’re actually driving them to, if it’s not true to your messaging and true to what you offer it’s going to come back to bite you, and that’s really kind of what all these Google algorithm updates are kind of aimed at: making sure that you’re honest with your search intent.

Jay Baron: Right? No, I think that’s kind of a great point. If we really look at where accounting firms are at, I think this is kind of where they’re at. They’re using best practices, they’re using the keywords hopefully in the right places, so they’re putting them in the h1 tag, in the title tag, kind of where it matters. Google’s expanded beyond keywords, but I really want to hit home: most accounting firms are in this space, they’re optimizing based on probably 2013-2015 optimization/best practices, and they’re still relevant today, they’re just not really all you need to be doing, they’re really a small piece of the puzzle.

1. Google Understands Search Intent

Really when we talk about the updates Google’s been making is the big update too was in 2015, that’s when they started to implement their machine learning to all this. Google now when you think about where they’re at, they understand just beyond phrases, they start to understand what the actual search intent is, but behind what somebody’s searching so, if I could search accounting firms, they can interpret this as, “Okay, this guy’s actually looking for a CPA firm, actually,” or if I’m looking for business evaluation, how I need to get help with that maybe I’m actually looking for mergers and acquisitions, and those are just examples, but Google search understand by looking at past search data now with their machine leaning.

They understand the intent, then you also have to keep in mind we’re getting longer and longer with how we search. When you think early 2000’s we would actually do 2, 3 keyword searches, and this is how accounting firms optimize their websites for these 2-3 keyword phrases, but now we’re asking Google complex questions versus, “Hey I’m looking for an accounting firm Dallas,” it might be, “I’m looking how to get evaluation for my business, what’s the best way to get a business evaluation,” and things like that where we’re asking these really complex questions, and those are questions that accounting firms want to come up for.

Rusty Hall: Yeah, and that is the difference in how people have just started to use search engines, right? It’s no longer just typing in those one or two words, you type in a phrase like, “Who’s the best accounting firm for my business?” “Who’s the best accounting firm for X,” whatever the vertical may be, but that’s how we started talking, and that’s the machine learning that you’re kind of eluding to is Google’s hip to this, right? They’re using latent, semantic indexing, co-current terms, all these things that it can infer, not only based on what you’re searching, but your past search history, relevant searches in your area; geographically targeted somethings. Yeah, it’s a tough thing to stay on top of, but hey, that’s what we’re here for.

We keep track of this stuff so that you can keep track of the basics and we’ll take you to the next level on those things.

SEO Best Practices for Accounting Firms

Jay Baron: Yeah, so maybe we can kind of maybe dive into now. We just kind of went thorough a brief history and I think firms understand where they’re at. Yes, they’re optimizing on a keyword level, that’s transformed. We don’t want you to think in terms of keywords anymore. We really want them to start thinking about topics you really want to rank for and own, because at the end of the day that’s what Google does.

Maybe what we can do is kind of walk thought some landing page, or on a page level best practices, because those best practices still do matter, and it’s important you get them right. Then we can move on to some advanced tactics that firms have started implementing when they get those best practices right, because I still think firms are just failing at that best practice level, where they’re still spinning keywords and things like that into the content.

Rusty Hall: It’s like anything, right? You have to nail the fundamentals before you can really excel. It’s just like any sport or any hobby that you do, or any business that you’re going into: those fundamentals are always going to be a paramount importance, so you are going to make sure you have those checked but that’s the difference between just having a little SEO and actually having a strategy built around SEO.

Once you have those fundamentals in place, that’s when you can really bring a firm in, and bring somebody in to kind of help you understand what the next advanced step is on that.

1. The Page Title

Jay Baron: One of the first things, obviously, is the page title. We’re talking page title, we’re talking about the title tag, which is what the browser reads at the top, it’s what you see on a search result page, that first headline. You want to obviously get your phrase within that page title, that’s still an important metric about where you rank, but one thing I think firms are missing on is not just thinking about just, “I have to use this, I want to rank for a Dallas accounting firm, so I have to use that right away in the page title because that’s going to decide,” you also got to think about search intents; when somebody’s searching what are they actually looking for? What’s going to entice them to click?

Don’t always think about I need to rank first, sometimes the more engaging page titles, and ranking second and third, can be a lot better than ranking first and not having a really engaging page title.

2. Leverage Google Webmasters to Crawl Your Firm Website

Rusty Hall: Also, remember Google’s really slick at what it does. The crawl bots are great, so if you’ve got your page title, and you thought about those, don’t worry about having it the first thing on there. There’s a couple things you can do, too, as you’re thinking about strategy that Google gives you the tools to do, and they’re FREE. Those are things like GA, right? You can go on, you can upload an x-involve site map, which kind of points Google to the key pages you want people to go to, and then you can have it crawl it, and you can see it like Google sees it; that’s a great way, like you said, you get your page titles down, you get your h1 tags, and you do some of those things.

Go and upload that site map, then have a crawl done and you’ll get some good free, valuable insight just off of those things.

3. Keyword Drive URLs for More Clicks

Jay Baron: As you’re starting to optimize your page, the other big thing is still custom page URLs and we’re not really bringing it up in terms of, “Hey, you’re going start ranking by using that phrase and keywords in your custom page.” That doesn’t matter. What we’re really thinking, again, is search intent and helping the site visitor, or the searcher understand this page is the most relevant to me, so think of it like this: If I’m searching for business evaluation services, that’s what I’m looking for and I find a listing and it says ‘business evaluations’ are in the URL, what I’m really thinking is, “Ah! I just searched for that. This page is going to be relevant to that. This is the right place that I actually want go to,” so I’m more likely to click that link.

We’re not using it saying custom page URLs help you rank, but it is a best practice that people need to follow because I see too many firms, they have really long URLs. They’ll have 10-12 keywords in the URL. I’ve seen some with a thousand characters in the URL just spinning keywords in it, that’s not the point. You want to get the 2-3 main phrases in the URL are keywords, just to again, help the searcher understand this page is going to be relevant to me.

Rusty Hall: Understand this is just a bit of a side note on URL structure coming from the tracking world. We use URL parameter tags and stuff all the time, so we’re already adding a ton of UTM parameters any time, you want to focus on those kind of shorter URLs anyway, and just make sure they’re pointed, they’re the right thing, but don’t worry about tons of keywords in your URL, because you’re going to end up with this ungainly thing that then you’re going to have to run thorough a shortener anyway!

Jay Baron: Yeah, I know personally we only try to add. I will use URLs with 2-4 keywords at the most, including more than that I was, again, it just becomes a mess. Again, you just want it to match to help people see the relevance in what they’re searching more than anything else.

Rusty Hall: I will say, in another sideline leading off a little bit, but on your blog stuff make sure that, that’s part of your structures, like having a subdirectory for /blog, right? And then the title of your blog post in there, and your URL. That’s a pretty easy thing to do that most a lot of WordPress sites are set up automatically anyway, but it just kind of helps people finding them, helps search engines finding them, and it makes it a little more relevant to the content that the people are navigating to on that URL.

4. Headline Tags

Jay Baron: Yeah. Next is really those h1 tags; those are still important. Google still looks at them, and they are still a ranking factor, they’re not as important as they maybe once were, but they still matter. They help the user understand what the page is about when they go to it to make sure I just searched that, I saw this search result on Google, now I’m clicking it and I’m seeing that right away on the page, I probably landed at the right spot, but Google does still look for those h1 tags, and that content, to determine kind of where you’re going to rank.

Rusty Hall: It’s a big part of it, and it’s also in your snippet that’s going to show up on the Google search results, so you make sure you think that as well, not only how you’re showing up in the rankings, but what’s showing up. What’s going to be in that little snippet that Google displays when somebody searches, and that’s where those h1, h2 tags, and all that tagging that you have to do comes in to play as well.

5. Internal & External Linking

Jay Baron: Right. H1 tags are still important, and lastly it’s internal linking. This is where a lot of firms fail. When I go through a lot of firm’s content strategy I’m looking at their blogs, they write blogs and there’s NO links at all. They go nowhere, they’re not directing readers anywhere.

Rusty Hall: Don’t you love that? When you see the online blog that has no links? Nothing supporting, and nothing of relevance to link out to, or back to.

Jay Baron: The worst part is one, when you’re internal linking you’re telling Google about other pages on your website, and the keywords they’re relevant for so that’s important, and #2 you’re giving users a way to go deeper into your content, which is the most important! In some of the studies we’ve done with firms is we’ve determined if somebody lands from an organic search on your blog post page, it’s over 80% of the time they’re not even looking for your main navigation, that’s not how they navigate your website, 80% of the time their navigating your website though internal links, so if you don’t have that internal linking structure your prospects are leaving, they don’t know where to go.

Rusty Hall: We touched on this earlier too, but this is a great time for contextual learning, right? Put those links in the blog post where you’re talking about that topic that you’ve got other supporting data on your website for, that’s when people are reading, that’s when it’s most prevalent in mind, and that’s when they’re most likely to navigate to those deeper pages that you’ve already put on your website. It’s a huge miss.

Some other things on back linking, I’m going to go off here, and Jay’s looking at me, he’s like would you refill your beer already, and cut down on this? I could do a whole podcast just on back linking strategy. I used to work for an SEO company that did a content engine kind of thing, and one of the biggest parts of our strategy was back linking. What a lot of folks don’t know, or maybe if you’re old like me, just don’t remember, is that Google started with a rollout called Backrub that was all about back linking!

That content, if you can get your post, your content shared on other sites if it’s that good, and you’ve got a good back linking strategy, that’s one of the biggest things you can do to improve your SEO right there.

Jay Baron: I don’t want to make this all about back links, it’s changed so much too, over the years, and how you go about it, how you get links; it’s so much harder than it once was. It requires a lot of work, and again, that’s another spot where firms aren’t missing the boat, but until they get these other … Firms are missing the boat, but really until they nail these other areas down it’s still just something they don’t need to worry about too much yet.

Unfortunately, 99.99% of firms have no linking strategy what so ever, they’re not identifying links to get, they’re not interlinking their content in a way, they’re not even externally linking out! That’s another thing too that Google’s starting to look at now is if your content isn’t enough depth, they want you to be sending people to other highly relevant, authority driven pages, and that’s becoming a ranking factor now, so if you’re writing something and you’re not covering it, but you’re sending somebody out to a Wikipedia page that covers it more in depth, Google looks at that and says okay, this blog post is actually relevant because one, they’re covering the topic, and the areas they’re not covering they’re sending people out to actually get help.

Rusty Hall: Some of those you’ll send people out to, right, if it’s an industry relevant blog post or if it’s a professional organization website or something like that, there’s a good chance that if you’re linking your content out, you’ve got something relevant that they’ll link back to you in some of those industry websites and things like that, so just a good thing to keep in mind as you’re thinking about this digging in a little deeper is just ‘where’s this content going to get shared to’ and ‘what supporting content am I going link to when I do these posts?’

6. UX, UI, & Design of Content

Jay Baron: Yep. No. Definitely. You know what, lastly, one thing a lot of firms don’t really focus on is one, having clear content, but two, really spending time to design the UX and what that page should look like, you know? It’s more important than ever now to develop and design pages that people actually are engaging and want to read, because pogo sticking’s a huge issue, because you are a back button away from a million other search results right now.

If you go to a page, it’s not designed well, the content’s hard to read, it doesn’t flow or things like that? That user, they’re going to click back and they’re going to go to the next firm, and they’re going to keep looking because it’s too easy now to go back and find another result because it’s poorly implemented, it’s poorly designed, it’s not user friendly, it doesn’t read well.

Rusty Hall: Yeah, one of the things with Google they also take into account that user experience. Are people staying on the page finding that relevant content that they came there to find? How are you leading people deeper into your website rather than getting a hit on that homepage, or getting a hit on that squeeze page and then people bounce. That’s important to make sure, and that goes back to what we were talking about some of the links inside your posts; make sure you’ve designed that to lead people further in, rather than they get everything they could possibly want answered on one page, no need to dig any deeper, I got it all and I’m going to bounce, so that’s something too that people don’t think about when they’re creating the content a lot of the time is how does this connect with the other relevant content on my site.

Advanced SEO Tactics for CPA & Accounting Firms

Jay Baron: I think that kind of covers the basics. I mean, they’re not basics, there’s a lot of information, but that covers how to optimize your pages, and get those best practices, but now let’s kind of get more into the really advanced stuff, and this is where things are trending, and where firms need to start thinking because again, we kind of covered the keywords and phrases tactics, but again, we want to start thinking more broadly because Google understands search intent now, and what that looks like, and what we’re noticing in the trend really now is don’t think about a phrase, think about a topic you want to own, because think about how we optimize pages now is, now but how we used to and how firms are is they’ll create a page on a keyword level, so you want to rank for business evaluations you have a page for that, but now if you want to rank for ‘how to sell your business’ you have to create a page for that.

People create firms for San Antonio CPA Firm, well now I need to create a page for San Antonio accounting firm, and now I need to create a page for San Antonio Advisory Firm. That’s changed, you don’t need to do that anymore. You can now target several keywords in one page with a more of a topic driven strategy because again, Google understands the intent, so they probably look at an accounting firm. Somebody’s searching for an accounting firm, and somebody’s searching for a CPA firm is almost the same thing. Then there’s hundreds of variations around that, so that’s what understanding topic you want to own, and actually starting not on keywords, don’t start brainstorming keywords, brainstorm fortified topics you want to own, ideas you want to own in your client’s head.

For example, it might be business evaluations is something we do really well, we do it better than every other firm. Think about all the different variations you would have to create for a page in the old school method, how to sell your business, potentially: business fair market value services, maximizing business evaluations. Those are all keywords you want to come up for, you don’t need to do that anymore. Just think about the topic you want to own and start there.

Identify Topics for Your SEO Strategy

Rusty Hall: Again, it’s the natural speech, natural recognition thing. You’re talking about the topic in a way that’s conversational that people are going to search for in that way. Its ultimate evolution is the machine learning thing, where Google suggested search, or related key searches when you’re looking at things like that. There’s one of the most recent updates has been rank brain that Google’s rolled out, and it’s not really clear what’s under the hood on this thing, but we know that the kind of objective is to launch further into the machine learning, and kind of speech recognition part of it. It also takes into account that user experience we’re talking about, so pages that don’t have a really killer user experience where people don’t bounce immediately, and they go straight through.

That’s key to where things are headed and that’s where people’s strategy needs to be headed to get ahead of it.

1. Interview Clients

Jay Baron: I think we can cover on here a little bit is I don’t know what topics I own, obviously that’s an issue. If you’re a full-service firm it’s going be tough to determine that. If you have a niche or a focus it’s really easy to understand the ideas you want to own, but we’ve been going through some best practices to help them really identify how can I actually determine what topics. One thing that we do, and help firms is actually interview their clients so we can do some voice with customer research, we can actually do a survey to their clients and actually use that data to determine what topics and ideas do we actually want to own in our client’s heads through that survey data.

Rusty Hall: This is one of those things too that goes concurrently with what we’ve talked about on previous podcasts is what problems are you actually solving for your clients? This plays in as much to positioning as what you think you’re solving, right? So, do those client interviews. We can help with that, we can figure out exactly what those problem areas are that you’re actually solving for and then kind of target those in your SEO strategy.

2. Map Out Client Pain Points or Services

Jay Baron: Yep, which includes just map out your client’s pain points. Look at the pain points your clients have and turn them into two or three major topics you want to focus on. Don’t think about keywords, we want to own this pain point out in the marketplace and start there, spin it into a topic because that’ll cover all those different areas. Another thing you can do even is just write down your top three services. What are our top three services we want to focus on and turn those into kind of topics for now versus we’re going to optimize for everything that we’re doing.

Rusty Hall: It’s a good chance to put yourself in your client’s shoes, too right, and say okay, well that’s what I’m solving for my client, but how would I search for that if I had that problem? Or you can interface with your clients and be like, how would you search for that if you knew the problem, what would you have looked for, and what method, what language would you have used to search that, and you may be surprised that the keyword that keeps coming up is not the one that you had in mind when you were thinking about we do this, and this is our specialty kind of thing.

Creating a Cornerstone SEO Page

Jay Baron: No, and we can go back to the business evaluations points, so let’s say that’s the topic you want to own: Business evaluations, that’s something you’re really good at. We take the cornerstone asset strategy and what we say is we’re going to try to cornerstone page now, so what this cornerstone page is, is this is your main topic page. This is the page you’re going to use to rank for all those different variations, so what we want to start thinking of is creating this really big page, so maybe 2-3-4,000 words, and we want to cover business evaluations in depth so it’s that topic strategy, but we also need to understand and do the research for okay, if someone searches business evaluations what would they expect to find?

So, if users are expecting to find things like purchase price allocation, maybe good will impairment which are all part of business evaluations, or ways to determine my business value, how do I find a buyer? You need to make sure you’re covering all that content as part of your page because, again, that’s what Google’s looking for is that search intent, and now we’re covering all those different phrases in one page, versus having to create 10 different pages now to cover all those different phrases.

1. Interlinking Within the Cornerstone Asset

Rusty Hall: Covering all that content but also with a good anchor linking strategy in that page, so as people navigate to it you want to have those link anchors to key topics. We’re talking about a big page here with a lot of words, a lot of text, and a lotta information so you’re going to make sure there’s navigation on that page for those specific topics as well.

Jay Baron: That’s where the linking and external linking come into play, like if you’re creating this big cornerstone page and let’s say you’re going to cover how to get the highest value for your business as an example is part of that page, but you can’t cover it in depth, that’s where you can link out to other authoritative websites and you don’t have to cover everything in depth. You want this page to cover the topic broadly and cover all the different points, and then link out where you need to.

Rusty Hall: Right, and I don’t know about Jay here, but I love it when I’m looking for something and maybe there is like a big content heavy page, but my search results take me to a specific part of that page, so I click on a link and it takes me to this specific part in that page that I’m looking for, and that’s kind of the theory too behind just having good anchor linking within these big, content heavy pages that you can be developing.

2. Follow SEO Best Practices

Jay Baron: No, that’s exactly right so what you do then is you’re creating this page and let’s say you get the content done, then from there you’re following SEO best practices so you’re optimizing it, you’re getting your page title done and everything else in it, and then another big thing that Google’s looking at now is they’re actually looking at commonly associated phrases. You need to do research. If you’re business evaluations, let’s just stay on that theme, that’s the topic you’re trying to come up for, you need to go look at other search results in the top 10, 20, or 30 and actually look for other common phrases that exist within that content because Google’s looking at that now. They’re saying hey, when someone searches ‘business evaluations’ we’re finding purchase price allocation as part of that content. That is in the top 30 search results almost every page mentions that, so if your page doesn’t, Google’s going to hit you for that because they’re expecting that to be in your content then if you’re actually trying to rank for it.

Rusty Hall: Associated content, right? Associated keywords and phrases are kind of the idea here. You’ve got to … you’re not going to take it over, but you at least need to be in the ballgame.

3. Creating Sub Topics Around Your Cornerstone Page

Jay Baron: That’s right, so you’ve identified your topics, you’re creating this I would say, corner stone page that’s going to rank for the phrase that’s this broad piece of content. Now you’ve optimized, you’ve optimized, you’re following these practices, you’ve started to add some of those commonly associated phrases. Now what you really need to start doing to kind of really hit this SEO strategy home, and again I know we’re talking about some really advanced stuff here is you want to start covering subtopics around that topic. You could probably think of a hundred subtopics to go around business evaluations, but what you’re doing is this is actually where you’re starting to create blog content and things like that, and you’re creating that interlinking strategy where you’re creating this blog content, now you’re linking that blog content to your cornerstone page and you’re telling Google now, “Oh this cornerstone page is about business evaluations, and we’re seeing this supporting content around it to help us determine that, that’s what the page is about.

Rusty Hall: That’s where you can really drill down on specific parts of that cornerstone page, right? You don’t want to add even more to it, but you want to be really niche about it so you can get maybe those kind of topics, specific blog posts shared out on other sites, those are a little bit more shareable too on things like social networks, social media. Those are the pieces you can really share quickly but they also have the strategy of linking back to this kind of cornerstone page that Jay’s talking about where you really covered in depth.

Jay Baron: This is all the optimization you can do when you start thinking about topics you start to realize the power. You don’t need to create a hundred different variations of keywords anymore, you create these topics you want to rank for, then you create supporting content around it, and now instead of thinking about okay, I need to create one keyword/ one page, I can rank for all these different phrases with this one page, and you do it through the interlinking, you do this through covering the content more in depth, and broadly creating this really broad page that covers it really well, because again, Google’s understanding search intent, so they’re not really looking at it in terms of just a keyword strategy anymore.

Rusty Hall: That was 1990 when we were doing that so, we’ve all kind of moved on and Google’s kind of leading the way, so we’re adapting towards that, but again one of the things I started out with and started this podcast, and started out in SEO is search engines want to find you. They want people to find the information they’re looking for, right? But they want you to come by it honestly with an honest tragedy and an honest approach so yes, the advanced SEO strategy requires you to think a lot more about your content, and think a lot more about your direction, your positioning. It requires you to think about who your target really is to make sure that you’re creating content that’s relevant for them that they want.

It’s all for the greater good, right? It’s all so your optimal client can find you.

4. Build External Links

Jay Baron: Think about it: you’re now building authority for your firm around a topic, versus a keyword, and that’s really different that firms need to start thinking about is they start thinking how can I position my firm? How can I build a niche driven strategy? They’re thinking now let’s think about topic we want to own in our client’s head, not a keyword phrase because like I said, over the next few years you’re going to see that strategy slowly dwindle as Google gets smarter and smarter, and I think we can kind of sum up maybe two here and talk a little more about external linking because it is still important as we kind of wrap up this podcast is: you do still need to go out as you create this cornerstone. It’s acid, its optimized, you’ve created supporting content; you need to go out and find those highly authoritative websites that you can get links to, to point to that page because that’s still a major ranking factor.

It’s still going to be here in the medium term, it’s not going anywhere, and it really is that handshake still from Google, so if you get a link from a PR 5, PR 6, PR 7 website, that other website’s saying I trust this content, it’s authority, that you actually need to go here and actually read this content.

Rusty Hall: And that’s the thing too. I like your phrase ‘it’s a handshake’ its kind of a show of goodwill. This website agrees that your website has authoritative content on this topic and yeah, if you’re pitching like really a good cornerstone piece of industry intel, and we’ve talked about the cornerstone asset as being kind of the key behind content strategy, it’s not salesy, it’s highly informational, highly educational, highly valuable than those big sites will link back to it, and that’s really what’s going to create the big uplift in the kind of the SEO ranking.

Jay Baron: Yeah, no, and that kind of covers it for search engine optimization standpoint. This was a lot to go through in 30 minutes, and I do think there’s probably some learning that people can do.

Obviously, we can help, but if you’re trying to build that topic driven SEO strategy, trying to get away from keywords and phrases, your search engine optimization isn’t working, and you really want to start thinking about the future and actually future proof your marketing, your website? We can help with that obviously. That’s one big thing that we’re doing with firms right now is part of their content strategy program is helping them think bigger and how that works with an actual SEO strategy.

We do have one blog post that’s really focused on the accounting firm’s guide to owning your niche online, which sums up what we talked about, so I would check that out and that’s more driven for firms that are doing a content strategy, but they want to do more topic driven approach. That’ll help you if you read that, and another one that we talked about before is how to get 100 new clients a year. There’s some SEO strategy in that blog post as well that you can definitely check out to kind of help you do some more in-depth learning.

Rusty Hall: Do check it out! Jay is a smart man when it comes to all this SEO stuff, and I like to add in the color commentary and the beer drinking but there are a lot of good resources out there that will help you get started on those basics, but once it becomes a full strategy, take Jay’s advice. Reach out to the nerds. We love this stuff.

Jay Baron: I wouldn’t call me a nerd!

Rusty Hall: I’m a nerd!

Jay Baron: Definitely reach out if you guys need help and we can send you in the right direction at least, because it’s just really unfortunate how many firms buy these SEO services and they’re really just buying 3-year-old strategies unfortunately.

Rusty Hall: Unfortunately, it hasn’t evolved.

Jay Baron: Alright guys. Thanks again and we will see you soon.

Rusty Hall: Next time!


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