Earlier this year I was tasked with exploring the popularity of local search with accountants’ clients.  Ultimately, I was asked to discover what people are searching for, where different practices are appearing on Google and how good their websites are; and whether or not these websites have dramatically increased the amount of inbound enquiries they would normally get.  So, here is my first opportunity to share these findings with you directly:
Many accountants out there believe effective SEO is a myth and that it will just increase the amount of “tyre kickers” calling through, looking to see if you are cheaper than their current accountant.  However,  after personally seeing the results for specific geographic regions after campaigns have been run, I can see that this has an element of truth behind it; but this is just one half of the results.
First of all we have to find out which search engines are the best to optimise for and the simple answer is Google, with 91% of internet users searching using this website. (UK Search market share survey 2012)
We then have to look at what people are searching for, at present.   To save you the painstaking task of keyword research, I will use Bristol as an example.
When analysing keyword research, popularity of search phrases directly affects the length of the phrase.  Long gone are the days when people were typing in on Ask Jeeves, “I need an accountant in Bristol.”  Now, people will search in the shortest way possible.
This means that 90% of the time, the three most popular phrases will be “Accountants Bristol” (720 searches), “Accountants in Bristol” (320 searches) and “Bristol Accountants” (310 searches).  You simply need to replace “Bristol” with your office’s locality then go to Adwords on Google to see how popular your area is.
So now that you’ve done your local keyword research (didn’t take long did it?), you need to set yourself some goals.  You want to get yourself in the top four organic results on Google – this is the real sweet spot.  Now, when I say organic I mean the listing directly below the yellow-tinted PPC (Pay Per Click) adverts.
I personally believe that PPC is good for instant results but you will only receive about 15% of the total search value clicking on your advert.  This is due to people becoming more internet-savvy and thus not always trusting those adverts which they know are paid for.  This would mean, for a long term marketing goal, getting organically listed is far better for your firm’s reputation and the amount of enquiries you receive.  The main reason why a good organic listing is important is that 91% of people click on the first result of Google with 75% clicking on the top four.
Once again, we will refer to the data collected for Bristol where there is a total potential audience of 1,350 people.  Realistically speaking, at least 50% of that number will be sales people or marketeers, looking to interrupt your day; this leaves us with 675 prospects.   Now, if you are in the top four for that search phrase, you will have 75% of that number (505 people). This, in theory, is the total traffic number for those three search terms.
Using that total traffic number I have seen roughly 1 in 10 people interact with the website, whether that be a phone call, signing up to a newsletter or sending an email.  So after all this maths,  we are now left with 50 prospects per month interacting with your website.  Out of that number we have to account for existing clients visiting your website which will be around half of the 50 prospects.
Taking the remaining 25 prospects, you would expect half of these to get in touch with you directly via your office phone.  This part is hard to generalise but let’s work on a new client enquiry conversation rate of 1/3 after stripping out those “tyre kickers” that I mentioned earlier.  This would result in eight new clients per month, which is not unrealistic as one of our clients gains more than 360 new clients per month through their website.
I hope this insight into some basic search local statistics has helped changed your perspective on SEO and has shown you the results it can achieve if done in the correct way.  However, do not forget that a lot of traffic is good but if your website is not content rich and user friendly then these barriers will dramatically reduce the amount of enquiries.  The majority of websites I have seen have the three most visited pages: “Home”, “About Us”, “Contact” – so make sure these pages have personality and clear calls to action.