The 7 most important things about your website

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Most accounting firms in this day and age have a website. The problem is that most websites are not created equal. Simply having a website doesn't mean the website is doing work for you. A high-quality website should act as your online business card. It should be generating new leads through SEO and acting as a working member of your marketing team.

I recently decided to visit over 200 accounting firm websites to identify the most common mistakes. Overall, the quality of websites in the marketplace has improved dramatically as midsized firms have really gotten on board and made sizable investments over the past two years. But, there is still much room for growth. Here is what I found and encourage you to avoid making the same mistakes.

1. Your website cannot be found on the search engines.

The success of every website revolves around being found on the search engines. In other words, your website needs to be near the top of the search engine results in order to generate new business for your practice. Otherwise, it's just another website that is lost in space, which is useless.

The vast majority of accounting websites that I have visited were not search engine optimized, which means they have very little value. You wouldn’t pay an employee who came to work and did no work — it’s the same with your website. You don’t want to pay for a website that's not getting found online.

2. Your phone number is not on every page.

I always laugh at accounting firm websites that make it difficult for the prospect to find your phone number — or any website in that matter. I think we’ve all been on a website before and are frustrated when we can’t easily locate the contact info. We don’t want our prospective clients to run into the same problem.

In many of the websites I looked at without easy-to-find phone numbers, the phone number was either in tiny print or it was difficult to find the Contact Us page, which is where most web designers bury your phone number. For most of us over the age of 40, it’s difficult to read tiny print. Make it easy for your prospects: Put your phone number on every page, make it large enough and inform them who to ask for (e.g., Call us at XXX-phone number and ask for Jeff).

3. Ensure the content is well written and in plain English.

The internet is an information-driven medium. Make it easy for your website visitors to determine if your firm is perfect for them. Avoid using accounting jargon as most small business owners have no idea what reviews, compilations and write-up services entail. Not to mention, most people aren't searching the internet using that type of language.

You also want to make your content easy to scan. Website content is very different than print content — this isn't a novel where the reader will read each and every page. On the internet, visitors tend to scan your pages rather than read them. As a result, it is important to use bulleted lists, highlighted keywords, and short paragraphs.

4. The graphic design, colors and photography need to flow.

We all have far too many things to read. Photography can quickly create an impression and help prospects determine if your website is worth reading further. Using a website provider who has in-house graphic designers can make the difference between a site that has well-styled imagery and graphics and one that looks like it was just pieced together. This helps to brand your firm and make the site look more professional.

Oh, and yes, you should also place your picture on the About Us page so prospects know what you look like. This helps you break through the anonymity of the internet and show you're a real person.

5. Your website should be responsive.

More internet content is consumed on mobile devices than on desktops. It's vital that your website look great on whatever device a prospect is looking at it on, be that a laptop, cellphone or desktop computer. Responsive websites are designed to look great no matter the screen size.

6. Answer your prospects’ questions.

Prospects using the internet to locate an accounting firm are highly goal-oriented. They visit websites because they are searching for a solution. Help them determine if your firm can address their needs.

7. Website navigation should be dummy proof.

Because most website visitors are impatient and very good at hitting the back button, your website navigation must be easy and intuitive. Visitors should be able to navigate to any page on the website in less than three clicks. In addition, you can't assume that website traffic will enter your website from the home page because search engines drive traffic to specific pages within your website. In other words, poor navigation on the interior pages means you are sending prospects to a dead end page.

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