By Oli Graham of RightlyWritten: Since August 2018, Google has been paying closer scrutiny to websites in industries that it believes can have a significant impact on consumers future physical and financial health.
Websites in the financial industry have been highlighted as coming under such scrutiny, accounting practices included.
Google does not want to give exposure to pages from websites in these industries that may contain misleading information. The search engine therefore looks for evidence of the “expertise, authority and trustworthiness” (“E-A-T”) of the company behind a website, when deciding what to rank.
Google has a very specific way of measuring E-A-T, meaning that even legitimate accountancy practices can be assessed as having low authority.
In order to prevent your practice from losing visibility in organic search, here is how to optimise your practice’s website for E-A-T.
Make your company’s credentials clear
One of the first things that search engines look out for when evaluating the expertise behind a website is evidence of the credentials of the people in the organisation that it represents.
You therefore need to make these credentials clear on your website.
The simplest way to do this is by building out a “Meet the Team” page on your website that lists everyone in your organisation and makes explicit any qualifications and relevant experience that they have.
This should also be backed up by a corresponding Linkedin page with your team members that is linked to your website.
All pages on your website that provide information about accounting, such as blog posts and service pages, should be attributed to someone in your organisation who is qualified to provide information about that topic. This can be done by ending each post with an author bio of someone in your firm.
Any further evidence of your team’s credentials, such as membership to professional organisations should also be made explicit online.
Ensure all content on your site is factually correct and in line with best practices
Google’s semantic intelligence is now sophisticated enough to understand claims that are being made on pages.
The search engine also looks to high authority pages, such as industry news and journals, as well as academic research published online to ascertain what the current thinking is on any topic.
This allows the search engine to essentially work out the veracity of the content on your website according to the current best practices and current thinking on the subject. If you make claims that fly in the face of current best practice, you run the risk of losing position in the search engine results page.
One part of your site that could fall vulnerable to these types of penalties are older blog posts. Accounting best practices change, and blog posts with out of date information could see you lose trustworthiness in the eyes of Google.
To optimise for trustworthiness, you should therefore regularly audit the content on your website and update any articles that have fallen out of date. Google also prefers to rank through content, particularly on complex topics like finance, so consolidating posts into larger articles is a good idea in general.
If you want to outsource copywriting, you need to ensure that you hire a web content service with special expertise on accounting or business finance, as well as your local tax laws. You should also have an in-house editor going through all copy before publishing.
Get your practice featured on authority sites in the finance industry
Google does not just look at your own website when evaluating its expertise, authority and trustworthiness. Rather, the search engine looks to your digital footprint as a whole.
This means that if your practice, or anyone in your team, is featured on other websites that talk about accounting and business finance, then your website’s authoritativeness will be judged favourably. The more authoritative the website is that you are featured in, the more authoritative your website becomes.
There are several easy ways to get your website mentioned on these authoritative sites. Getting membership to industry bodies and professional organisations is one way, speaking at industry events is another.
Good old fashioned PR, such as writing articles for industry papers and getting local press coverage through doing community work or offering services pro-bono can also help you to achieve this if competition for search engine positions is more fierce.
Don’t forget about the smaller “signals” of being a legitimate business
One of the reasons behind Google tweaking the way it ranks sites in certain industries is due to the rise of “lead generation” websites in such industries.
“Lead generation” sites are purely informational sites in an industry that attempt to make money through collecting people’s email addresses and selling those details on to third parties.
Given that these websites can be authored by anyone, Google does not want to give them visibility. You can differentiate yourselves from “lead generation” sites by having small signals of a real brick and mortar business.
Such signals include:
- A Google My Business profile
- Active social media pages with engagement from customers
- Customer reviews
- A “Contact Us” page with your location listed through a Google Map.
These may seem like small details, but in certain industries where Google does not want to rank non-expert content, they can make a big difference to your online visibility.