New York-based research and consulting firm Muzeview recently released the results of a study where it examined the Web sites of 50 of the largest accounting firms finding that, unsurprisingly, many of the sites lagged behind many other types of businesses when it comes to implementing new technologies -- citing podcasts, blogs and RSS feeds.The company made the point that the features are relatively easy and inexpensive to deploy and are becoming more critical in capturing the attention of clients, prospects and potential recruits. Museview president Paul Gladen said in statement that professional services have always been a relationship business, and the way those relationships form and develop has changed. “While in-person, social interaction will always be important, the day-to-day dealings between a firm and its clients, prospects and potential recruits are increasingly occurring online,” he said.

That may be true, but with few exceptions, the accounting profession has always been not about the bells and whistles, but about functionality and ROI -- never mind avoiding liability issues. I don’t think generating the kind of content Muzeview and many other studies like to measure has yet proved itself as a key factor in driving client acquisitions.

Specifically, Muzeview’s study found that:

  • Three firms provided RSS feeds for any of their web content (only one outside the Big Four);
  • Four firms have podcasts (only one outside the Big Four);
  • No firms have ventured to start a blog (though at least one Top 50 firm partner writes a blog relating to professional issues, though the blog is housed separately from the firm’s web site); and,
  • Eleven firms offer some form of video content in the form of Web casts, web seminars or video clips.

At the same time, you don’t have to look very hard to see that the face of accounting Web sites is undoubtedly changing.In the last week alone, both the International Accounting Standards Board (www.iasb.org), as well as the American Institute of CPAs (www.aicpa.org), have rolled out new versions of their own Web sites -- both featuring vastly improved navigation among other new tools. This summer, Kristi Stangeland published an incredibly niche-focused book, “Effective Websites for CPAs,” and software leaders like Intuit are adding value to their products by offering online marketing services.
Stangeland’s book is a good primer for most of the issues a firm should consider, especially when overhauling a site that might have been birthed back in the 1990s. And, of course, there’s a wealth of information already out on the Web geared at what makes for a professional site.

Covering even minor mergers and acquisitions between firms as small as a handful of employees, I’ve dropped in on many a tiny Web site for basic background information on a firm, and am often pleasantly surprised by what I find. There’s little doubt that a wide range of site exists across the spectrum, but getting the basics of content down -- a professional-looking home page, showcasing a few existing clients, having a contact page and a page clearly detailing your services -- can only help in attracting a new client. But whether even a Top 50 firm truly needs to concern itself with an RSS feed just yet, well, I'm still waiting to see a convincing study on that.


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