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Simply having a website is a good start. You’re finding more clients than you would have without a website. But are you ranking well in search results? Are you converting a substantial percentage of prospective clients into actual clients? Are people who contact you well-informed about what you do and what services they need?
To take your firm to the next level, you need a solid content marketing strategy that helps turn your bland services pages and blog posts into advanced marketing tools.
What goals should you have for your website’s content?
If you want to turn your website into an investment instead of an expense, you need a strong digital marketing strategy and great content. Remember what you’re trying to achieve when building your website.
- Expand your presence in search engines by covering a wide variety of topics matching the wide variety of problems commons are facing.
- Achieve search engine optimization by using keywords clients are actually searching for (e.g., lawyers should use “police brutality” instead of just “1983 claims”).
- Comply with your profession’s ethical restrictions on advertising.
- Help your clients by giving them basic information to determine if they need a professional and to allow them to have an educated discussion with you during your initial consultation.
- Position yourself as an expert so that clients choose your firm.
- Communicate your firm’s selling points, values, and approach.
- Build brand awareness.
What is content marketing?
If you haven’t figured it out already, content marketing is marketing with content. When you add content to your website or other channels, it increases the chances that prospective clients will find your firm. It also demonstrates your expertise to convince prospects to sign with you.
One CPA firm that recently caught my attention has a page dedicated to McDonald’s franchise owners. When a McDonald’s franchise owner needs a CPA, what do you think the chances are that they’ll choose that firm over one with a generic page about small businesses and maybe a bullet point about franchises?
Content Marketing Components
Content marketing comes in many forms.
The search goal for your website pages is to get people who are actively looking for an accountant. They should outline the services you offer and why you’re better than your competition. Unlike other content, this is your main selling area.
Be thorough. When a searcher is looking for an accountant in a specific niche, the accountant with generic pages that don’t mention that niche is least likely to come up. The accountant with detailed information about how they serve a niche will usually rank higher than the accountant with just a bullet point.
Blogs and Articles
Blogs and articles should address your clients’ pain points, questions, and concerns. While you may find active buyers with blogs and articles, you’re really targeting people who are doing preliminary research or may not even know they need your services yet.
If someone is searching for how to solve an accounting or business problem, you want your website to come up as the answer. If they’re on your website, you want to show them that you have the answers to their questions.
A growing trend is to post videos on YouTube and link them to your website. This expands your search reach and isn’t as crowded an area as blogging.
The goals and tactics are similar to blogging. However, you’ll want to keep your videos short and to the point. Break them up into 1-3 minute segments.
Guest posting is writing a blog or article for someone else’s website. The goal is to further position yourself as an influencer and drive more people back to your firm.
For example, you might write a guest post with basic tax season tips for your local chamber of commerce. If people who see that post need tax help, they’ll probably look to you first.
Often, the links to your firm on your guest posts will also boost your firm’s SEO.
Infographics are one of the biggest current trends for two reasons.
- Design: Modern web design is a mix of making pages simpler so that they’re mobile-friendly while at the same time improving their visual appeal. While sellers of tangible goods will add photos and videos highlighting their products, a services firm can use an infographic to liven up their page.
- Social Sharing: Infographics are designed to be shared. Tweeting or Facebooking a text link to an article could go ignored, but send out an infographic related to the article, and there’s a higher chance that it will be seen, read, retweeted, and shared.
I am not a huge advocate of social media for firms. Most firms simply post links to their latest blog post or variations of “Do you need an accountant to file your taxes? Call us.” Who wants to read that? Plus, when it’s not working and you quit spending time on it, you now have an inactive social media page giving your firm a bad look.
What does work is individual accountants who are already active on social media using it like traditional networking. Most posts are about their hobbies, community activities, etc. with an “oh, btw, I’m an accountant” in their profile and the occasional links/comments on accounting-related news.
That’s not to say that social media marketing never gets results or can’t be a good part of your content strategy. It’s just a lot harder to pull off for firms in boring industries.
Common Content Marketing Pitfalls to Avoid
- Copying and pasting laws and regulations. You can quote key language, but it should only make up a small portion of the page’s overall word count. Search engines penalize sites with duplicate content, even if it’s public information like the law, and your clients aren’t coming to you because they want to read and figure out the law for themselves.
- Rehashing news articles. The trend of blog posts rehashing news articles arose solely because people selling blog posts could produce these types of posts quickly and cheaply. Trying to grow your blog with these types of posts is like trying to raise a child on a fast food diet. They provide little useful information to your prospects and put your site at risk of being penalized for duplicate content. News can be a good source of blog ideas, especially when the law changes or a news item really is unique, but make the news story the starting point of a more detailed legal analysis, and certainly don’t write about every car accident that happens in your jurisdiction.
Does content marketing give away the farm?
Some people view content marketing as giving too much away for free. There is a balancing act. However, remember that good clients know that they don’t have the time or expertise to handle things on their own. What’s easy for an accountant because they’re good at numbers or tax law is not easy for other people.
If you can show that you’re an expert, they’ll be more, not less, likely to hire you. If your blog alone can solve someone’s problem, it was probably too small to be a profitable engagement, but they’ll likely come back when they have a bigger problem.
Should you outsource your firm’s content marketing?
Many firms successfully handle their content marketing in-house, but creating quality content is a different skill you have to learn. Here are some of the common problems.
- Too much jargon instead of speaking to laymen.
- Not optimizing your pages for the searches clients are actually using (“Debt Collection Statute of Limitations” vs. “How Long Does a Credit Card Company Have to Sue Me?”).
- Page titles, section headers, and summaries not optimized for search engines.
- Writing like a law review article or academic paper.
Firms who realize they shouldn’t write their own content often then turn to Craigslist or other sources looking for a writer who will write cheap blog posts. Here are some of the problems with inexperienced writers – even students and support staff.
- Not complying with ethics rules (e.g., using phrases like “expert” or “specializing” and making claims that suggest guaranteed results).
- Information is incorrect for the jurisdiction (often due to copying from a firm in another state and changing the words around to make the content “unique”).
- Overly generalized information lacking in substance that fails to position the professional as an expert (Does the content provide a surface level regurgitation of what’s already online, or does it take the already available information and add to it with specific details and advice?).
- Overreliance on generic marketing phrasing (e.g., “aggressive attorneys fighting for your rights” – fine when it’s a sentence or two on a long page but not when it’s the entire focus of the page)
- Too much filler, fluff, and repetition (frequently a result of choosing a writer with no specialized experience because they were cheaper).
With those factors in mind, the answer is clear. You either need to do it yourself or outsource to a skilled professional. Treating your blog as a mandatory line-item expense simply won’t get you results. Instead, you need to make a committed investment and remember that content marketing will pay for itself many times over when done properly.
What if you don’t have the time or budget for content marketing?
The answer is that you need to find a way. The cost for a blog post is 1-3 hours. If it lands you just one additional client, you will come out ahead. Since that post will be online forever, this is virtually guaranteed. Plus, since each post enhances the search value of your previous posts, your returns will compound over time.
Still, it can be hard to keep up a steady stream of posting when you’re faced with more pressing needs. Outsourcing can be a good alternative, but it has to be done right. If you’re trying to prove that you’re better than other firms, your content has to be better than theirs. Cheap SEO articles may or may not get you search results depending on how competitive your market is, but they will never help build your reputation.
If you do need to outsource, there are many content marketing services out there. If you know what content your website needs but don’t have time to write it, you can use a platform like WriterAccess to find the right writer.
Your website is just a small part of your online marketing strategy. Your content marketing efforts will determine how many potential customers find you and whether they choose you. If you don’t have the time or expertise to execute a good content marketing strategy, find a professional content marketer to help you.