We have recently been approached by several firms of accountants who have all been visited by salesmen from a large internet company. The common feature for all of them is that the salesman produced a report saying how poor the accountant’s web site is in terms of internet exposure and this has worried them.
I thought that I’d post a few comments about the typical report in the hopes that it might stop clients and prospective clients from worrying too much and help people read between the lines of these reports, which are after all used as a sales technique.
Typically the report has several sub-headings and I’ll go through some of these one at a time with an SEO professional’s hat on (the author has over 12 years SEO experience).
Analytics : Usually the report tells you how important analytics are to a business and while this is true they are only useful if you take the time to read and understand them (something that we do). From experience, most website owners are interested in two things – the number of visitors and the number of enquiries/conversions. You can get the first of these from your web hosts visitor statistics, assuming that they run these for you – and most analytics programs will not tell Accountants how many conversions they have, as the typical accountancy website is set up to get enquiries which are then converted by meeting or talking to the prospect.
Alternative Text : There was a new twist to this on the latest report in that the report claimed that it was illegal to have images with no “alt text” associated with it here in the UK. In fact only images that are essential for site navigation technically need this alternative text, images that are only there for decoration do not need it, although it would be a good idea to have an empty alt text so that it doesn’t upset users of “talking browsers”.
Incoming Links : If I had a penny for every report that says that the website that they are analysing has no incoming links on Google I’d have been able to retire years ago. Any respectable, properly trained, SEO person will be able to tell you that Google doesn’t report the correct number of incoming links on public searches, it hasn’t done so to my knowledge for many years (if at all). A follow on from this is often a question that asks if the website has been banned – a simple site:www.domain.com search on Google disproves this suggestion.
Meta Tags : Usually the report mentions keyword meta tags and sometimes the description meta tag. The keyword tag hasn’t been read by Google for about 7 years and Google also say that the description tag is not used in their ranking criteria – although, if it is shown in the search results it can influence people clicking through onto a page on your website. Just remember that Google doesn’t always show the carefully crafted meta description that you have worked so hard on.
Alexa Rankings : Alexa rankings are directly influenced by people visiting a site and having the Alexa toolbar installed on their browser. This software, some would call it spyware, reports back to Alexa what sites you are visiting but is not something that your typical web surfer would have installed.
Feeds : Often the report says that search engines use feeds to follow updates to websites. An alternative method that I know is used by some accountancy website builders is to update something called an XML sitemap and notify the engines of the changes that way.
URL Format : Again, the latest report that I saw said that the URL format for the site was poor as the site had .htm file extensions and that URLs shouldn’t have these extensions. If this were true then why would so many .htm / .html / .php / .asp (and other) urls appear in top positions in the search results?
As I say, many of these reports are generated in order to scare people into changing their website or move to a new designer and if you take the time to look at the report and think about it then most of the points can usually be “shot down in flames”. The problem that we see is that people don’t have the knowledge or time to think about the report and immediately say “if this big internet company say my website has problems it must have!”. I would suggest that you talk to your current web designer (or SEO firm if you are using one) and ask them to take a look at the report for you, you would probably be surprised by their comments on the report. Alternatively why not approach a firm that specialises in SEO for Accountants, like accountantSEO, and ask if someone could take a look at the report?
If you are a firm of Accountants that has had one of these website analysis reports presented to you, or you are a web designer, SEO professional who has had a client forward one of them to you I’d be delighted to hear your experiences – just leave a comment below 🙂