January 2011 Edition

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Ideas In Motion:

Brian Swanson Offers SEO Advice and Guidance

By Scott H. Cytron, ABC

How much do you think you know about Search Engine Optimization, or SEO? Most admit they have some knowledge about what SEO is, but have no idea how to go about addressing it for their website. Brian Swanson is head of Flashpoint Marketing, a consultancy focusing on practice management and technology solutions for the accounting profession. Brian has worked with many of the nation’s largest accounting firms helping them assess and implement SEO. I sat down with Brian to talk about current trends in SEO and how accounting firms can improve their technology focus.

Scott Cytron: How does SEO impact an accounting firm?

Brian Swanson:  SEO can have a meaningful impact on accounting firms business development efforts. Briefly, three significant ways include:

1.The firm can gain access to warm opportunities. Inbound marketing techniques such as SEO allow your firm to connect with more qualified opportunities. When a company contacts you through the website, it is usually ready to make a decision to buy. The company already identified its internal need, researched potential solutions to the problem and identified specific providers. When a prospect comes to your firm in this fashion, it reduces the amount of time spent educating the prospect, communicating the firm’s value proposition and lead-time in pursuing the prospect.

Brian Swanson,
Flashpoint Marketing

2.The firm can expand its marketing footprint. SEO allows firms to attract opportunities outside their geographical footprint. While there are a number of services firms offer that can be performed in markets across the country, the marketing dilemma focuses on resource allocation. Would your firm be interested in serving clients in other markets if the opportunity presented itself? Through focused SEO, your firm can find these opportunities.

3.SEO adds value to the activities of the marketing department. Most marketing departments in firms are expected to develop, lead and manage non-revenue producing programs. Ad design, proposal development, collateral material development and pursuit planning, while valuable, do not produce any firm revenues. SEO changes the paradigm and turns marketing into a lead generation source. If properly implemented, SEO can transform marketing beyond an internal services function and position it as a revenue generator for the firm.

 Scott Cytron: How much would it cost a firm or organization to maintain SEO? Isn’t this something they ought to be doing themselves?

Brian Swanson: If the firm has the expertise in-house to do so, then “yes,” the firm should maintain SEO efforts internally. However, since this is such a new approach in accounting marketing, there are very few professionals who have the technical training to manage a comprehensive SEO program. Of course there are exceptions, but for the most part this is true.

The cost to manage an SEO program varies greatly. We work with accounting firms that use advanced Content Management Systems (CMS) that have a very easy-to-use interface and several tools that make our on page SEO tasks easier. However, some clients then have sites built in HTML code which requires several hours of additional work to go through, read the code, manually make changes and then replicate them across the entire site. Depending on the size of the site and depth of content, the time required to do this can vary greatly.

Once the basic optimization is complete, traffic does not just “magically” appear at your digital door. Additional optimization and fine tuning need to happen to create a consistent flow of traffic to a website. Remember, SEO is a process that requires ongoing modification and change. The more time and attention given to both the on- and off-page optimization process, the greater the benefit to the firm.

Scott Cytron: I find that many website developers don’t do SEO very well. Why do you think this is the case?

Brian Swanson: The reason why many website developers don’t provide effective SEO services is because their training is in building the website itself, including developing a design, writing code and ensuring the site works as it should. Most website developers – not all – are mainly focused on producing a final product that looks great and functions properly.

Effective SEO is more than just about web design. While it requires an understanding of web technology, it also requires an understanding of marketing tactics and strategies. This is true because effective SEO focuses not only on increasing traffic to your site, but also on how to entice visitors to contact you once on your site. So, it is a two part process that requires completely different skills to make the effort a success. Many website developers don’t have experience in the latter part of the process and, as a result, are not able to deliver the type of results the customer may desire.

Scott Cytron: How do you think accounting software providers can better work with accounting firms to educate them on current technologies?

Brian Swanson: Focus on the benefits in a way that is meaningful to accountants! The reason why so many are interested in SEO is because they now realize it can be a source of new business for the firm. In the past, they did not have a compelling reason for why they should care.

There are so many new technologies being introduced that it is difficult to know which ones will last and are meaningful. Focus accountants in on the benefits and make sure they understand how “such and such” technology will be of benefit to them.

Scott Cytron: What are some of your favorite websites related to the accounting profession?

Brian Swanson: I enjoy the following websites and visit them often for information on the latest happenings in the profession:


Scott Cytron: If you were stranded on a desert island, what one – and only one – technology would you want to have, and why?

Brian Swanson: I have to say I would not want to be without my iPhone. It takes me everywhere I want to go in the digital world.


About Author:
For more than 20 years, Scott H. Cytron, ABC, has worked with CPAs and accountants, providing public relations, marketing and communications services. He is a frequent contributor to industry publications covering professional services industries, including accounting, healthcare, legal, financial planning, collections and debt, and high-tech.

Contact info:
Scott H. Cytron, ABC
Cytron and Company
Phone: 214-647-2611, ext. 150
Email: scott@cytronandcompany.com
Website: Blog: www.absolutecytron.com


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