The Internet offers astounding opportunities to market your expertise and corral new clients. It also provides a staggering chance to waste time and money if you don’t know what to put on your primary Net real estate: your Web site.
Allen Beatty, an Enrolled Agent with Jackson, Ohio-based Apple Tax Services, probably sums up best how most preparers view their sites: “I do have a Web site but I admit I’m not real sure of what’s best for it,” he said. “I just know I’ve received some business from it.”
“Good content for a preparer’s Web site is, first and foremost, access to a portal so the client and preparer can exchange files,” said John Stancil, a CPA in Lakeland, Fla. “Beyond that, newsletters or blogs with current information can be helpful. I also like to keep a listing of services I provide; frequently clients who come to me originally only for tax preparation need to know what else I can do for them.”
Typically, portals allow you to upload returns and other client information to a secure Web site for clients to access. Most portals also offer such features as e-mail notification to clients of new or changed documents often those too large to easily e-mail.
Offerings now in the industry include PortalSafe and ProSystem fx Tax, GoSystem from Thomson Reuters, SmartVault for Intuit, PortalSafe from CCH SFS and efileCabinet and SecureFilePro from Drake, to name just a few.
“The best Web sites have an easy way for clients to upload and e-mail documents securely, as well as downloadable organizers, consent forms, engagements and disclosures and up-to-date information relevant to the clientele in understandable form,” said Cheryl Morse, an EA at Emerging Business Partners, Wellesley, Mass.
The client’s interest’
Some site additions popular in previous years may now be shopworn to clients. For instance, site visitors “somewhat expect” links to various tax-related Web sites, Stancil added, “but I wonder how much use they are. I find most clients don’t go to IRS or state tax department sites, but instead ask me the question.”
Written content still constitutes one of the best ways to educate and engage existing clients and secure new ones. The Content Factory offers a primer for professional services sites:
- Landing pages: Serving primarily as a first impression and the best chance to turn visitors into clients, these pages often need your most impressive (though not necessarily most complete or in-depth) content. It’s best to include search engine optimization keywords that place your practice higher in potential clients’ Internet searches. (Part of leveraging SEO involves using keyword phrases in the text of your page, each phrase about two to four words long. An example: the name of your city or town followed by “CPA,” “accounting services,” “tax preparation,” “tax tips” or “accountants.”)
- SEO-enabled blog posts and articles: A good way to introduce your practice, blogs give people a reason to visit your Web site.
- Press releases: These should be from a semi-objective viewpoint so journalists can copy then into articles and blogs.
- E-mailed newsletters: A good e-mail newsletter has an enticing subject title that boosts the open rates. Once readers are in, use compelling and actionable articles to hold their attention and get them to click through to your site (or take some other action).
The site TaxPro Marketer stresses the need for “fresh, updated content on a regular basis,” adding that your content should also be as original as possible.
Subscription-based content providers usually offer topical and well-written articles that, unfortunately, usually get placed on a number of sites of various professional services companies.
One tip: If possible, freshen these articles with your own insights and comments.
“Any info should be enough to get the client’s interest but should also lead them to call and discuss their particular situation,” said Morse.
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