Numerous companies provide CPA websites. This guide helps you determine what’s most important in a web designer – and what to watch out for.
Look for These 7 Attributes in a CPA Website Designer
1. A wide variety of modern designs
Make sure your website designer provides a number of design choices – at least 100, and not just the same 5 or 6 styles with different colors. You should be able to customize your site or build it from the ground up, or, if you’d rather, choose from stock styles. Make sure your website designer allows you to see all their designs before you sign up.
2. Loads of content
The designer you choose should be able to load your website with tons of content, at least 1,000 pages. Also, be sure a good portion of these are customizable, and that you can add your own pages if desired.
3. Web tools
A high-quality website design firm will offer web tools at no extra cost. You find lots of tools out there, but these are the most important:
Emailed CPA newsletter for your clients (make sure the designer emails the newsletter and doesn’t just put it online)
Email accounts and shared calendars for your firm
Client portal, which allows you to store and transfer files that you need to share with your clients
Financial calculators – a wide variety of them
Tax organizers – and they should be customizable
4. Flexibility in who can make changes
Look for a company that will be happy to make changes for you, or will allow you to make changes to the content of the site yourself. You also want to make sure there’s no extra charge for making changes – so that if a member of your firm makes partner, for example, you can up this information without a penalty.
5. SEO, SEM, and other marketing efforts that go beyond just the website
Although professional CPA websites are important for marketing accounting firms, in today’s high-tech world, just having a website doesn’t cut it. SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is a process that gets your website listed near the top of the search engine results. SEM, or Search Engine Marketing, is the pay-per-click ads on the search engines.
Be sure your web designer offers SEO and SEM, and that they are knowledgeable about marketing in general.
6. Free trials and guarantees
Several companies offer free trial periods of 30 or 60 days. Some also offer guarantees: if your website is not profitable, you get your money back. (Just be sure to read the fine print on the guarantee. For some, you need to supply so much documentation that it’s not worth the trouble.)
Any website designer worth their salt will have testimonials from satisfied clients – preferably clearly displayed on their site. If you don’t see any, that’s a warning sign.
Avoid These 3 Pitfalls
1. Hidden fees
Some website design companies look like a great value – until you look closely and see they’re charging for features you assumed were included in the package. Watch out for these hidden fees:
Setup or design fees
Extra charges for web tools, like calculators and newsletters
Extra charges to make changes to the site
Extra charges for more than one email account for your firm
A fee for enough space in the client portal to make it usable (the client portal should have at least 250 MB of storage space as part of the base package)
2. Need to sign up before you can see designs
Several website providers only allow you to see their styles once you sign up for their service. If you end up not liking the designs, you’re out of luck. You should go with a company that clearly displays all their site styles before asking for a commitment from you.
3. Contracts that lock you in / annual commitments
Choose a website designer that doesn’t require you to sign a contract. It’s also preferable to go with a company that bills monthly, rather than yearly. Look for a firm that allows you to cancel your account at any time and with no penalties.
With a little research, you can find a website designer for your accounting firm that’s affordable and transparent, and that provides you with a dynamic website that will attract new clients and retain existing ones.