Is your website generating leads for your accounting firm? If not, then it’s not living up to its potential.

Every year, increasing numbers of companies looking to identify professional services firms as potential service providers are going online to find and qualify companies just like yours.

Smart accounting firms are tailoring their websites to better cater to this growing online clientele. The most successful professional services websites not only communicate a firm’s capabilities, they attract and nurture high-quality leads and prospective clients, too.

Firms that upgrade their websites to actively cultivate new business have a measurable market advantage over competitors who simply use their websites to provide company information. In fact, according to our research, firms generating at least half (40 to 60 percent) of their leads online grow four times faster and are twice as profitable as competitors that don’t emphasize online lead generation as part of their business development strategy.

Optimize Your Website to be Easily Found and Understood

It’s hard to overemphasize the importance of your website. It’s usually the first place people go for more information after they hear of your firm. In fact, our research has revealed that over 63 percent of buyers search online for potential service providers and 81 percent of them actually check out the provider’s website. That’s why it’s essential your website convey who you are, how you can help (your services), and how you’re different from similar firms.

How buyers check out potential professional services firms

Because it’s so important to be findable through online search, you need to ensure your website is optimized in a way that Google and other search engines can efficiently find your site based on key words and phrases that prospects would use to search for a firm with your expertise—for example, “food service accounting firm.”

The next step is to establish appropriate contact with your prospects wherever they are in the buying cycle. Do this by providing valuable, relevant content that engages visitors and moves them further along the sales funnel. In our experience, there is a direct correlation between website traffic and the number of conversions and leads a website generates.

Make Your Website Easy to Use

Once you attract visitors to your website, it’s important to give them a reason to stay and look around. Start with clear, compelling text (known as “copy,” in marketing-speak) on your homepage. A well-optimized homepage should include at least 200 words of copy clearly explaining what you do and what differentiates you from competitors. If it makes sense to optimize these pages for online search, you’ll want to incorporate one or more search engine keywords into this copy.

Simple, intuitive navigation is crucial for encouraging website visitors to look around. If a website is confusing, many visitors will just go somewhere else. Top-level navigation links on your website should be labeled in simply written, easy-to-understand language. There are plenty of places on your site where you can be creative—but your navigation area is not one of them. If you have multiple target audiences, think about creating distinct pathways on your homepage that direct each audience to the relevant parts of your site.

Use Simple Forms to Generate Leads

One of the best practices in online lead generation is to place premium content—information visitors will find especially valuable—behind a registration form. Unlike blog posts and other open-access material, premium content usually explores a topic in significant depth.

A typical registration form asks for a small amount of basic information, such as name, title or job description, and email address. A number of research studies have confirmed that the fewer fields in your forms, the more people will complete them. Registration forms provide an added benefit: Individuals who are willing to exchange personal information for a piece of premium content already have a strong interest in your expertise, making them excellent leads. It’s worth investing in some automation here. Ask your web development partner to integrate your forms with your customer relationship management system, email service or list manager. This will save your team hours of work.

Create a Resource Center Full of Timely, Relevant Content

You can add considerable value and “stickiness” to your website by creating a resource center that includes an informative blog and a library of articles, white papers, executive guides, instructional videos, ebooks and other premium content.

Blogging regularly is an important way to demonstrate your expertise, serving up informative, educational content to your target audiences. Make it easy for readers to subscribe to your blog and share your posts on social media. And for even better online lead generation performance, invite guest bloggers to write for your blog. In the spirit of reciprocity, ask if you (or another subject matter expert at your firm) can guest blog on their sites. If so, ask that at least one link in your guest post point at your website. This practice will not only expand your reach, it can improve the authority of your website—making it easier to rank highly in search results for competitive keywords.

Your resource library should not include overt marketing messages or your firm’s marketing materials. Instead, it should be an unbiased source of practical, educational information of intense interest to your audience.

Give Visitors More Ways to Engage with You

From the moment people land on your website, they should find a wealth of targeted offers that encourage them to engage with you. These offers might include enticements to register for a webinar or speaking engagement, sign up for a free consultation, or receive a particular service on a trial basis. It’s important for you to include offers that address every stage of the sales funnel and buying cycle.

To get the most out of your online lead generation program, you need to regularly monitor how visitors are interacting with your site and its content. That way you can make periodic adjustments, enhancing your visitors’ experience over time and improving the performance of your offers. Our research has shown that the most successful professional services firms rely on these strategies to increase growth and profitability. So should you.

Lee Frederiksen

Lee Frederiksen

Lee Frederiksen, PhD, is managing partner of Hinge, a branding and marketing firm for professional services.