Tag Archives: Practice

Is Your Accounting Practice Using an Obsolete Email Solution? You Could be Surprised

It’s 4:30 – and you decide you want your husband to buy some wine for dinner. You write “Pick up wine” on a piece of paper, roll it up, strap it to one of your pigeons, and send him flying out the window toward home. There.

 

It sounds ridiculous – but if you use Microsoft Outlook for your email, you might as well communicate with your spouse through carrier pigeon.

 

Yes – it’s that out of date.

 

Let me show you how to easily save 10 hours of productivity each month by simply switching from Outlook to a web-based email solution like Gmail.

 

Problems with Outlook

 

In the computer technology timeline, Outlook is very old. The technology is outdated; the program simply was not built to accommodate a high volume of messages and the size of today’s email attachments.

 

Here are some problems you might have with Outlook that drain your productivity:

 

Your messages pile up – you try to spend time organizing them into folders but you’re still always behind. (est. time lost – 1 hr/wk)
The search function is slow and cumbersome – and the results are often so bloated that you still squander time sifting through messages. (est. time lost – .5 hr/wk)
You can’t view appointments on your calendar with your smartphone or other mobile device. (est. time lost – .5 hr/wk)
You get “Cannot Connect to Server” and other error messages. These come from problems configuring Outlook and they hinder your ability to send and receive emails. (est. time lost – .5 hr/mo)
You struggle with initial setup and reconfiguration challenges. If you’re not a techie, making sure your settings are correct and updated is frustrating and time-consuming. (est. time lost – 1 hr/mo)

 

A Better Solution

You can now send and recieve email through the Gmail interface using your own domain name using a relatively unknown service called Google Apps. Gmail is 100% web-based, and this saves you time, money, and frustration…

 

Less Expensive: If you use Outlook, you’re most likely paying for IT support, Exchange hosting, or email accounts through GoDaddy or another domain registrar. In contrast, Gmail is absolutely free.

 

Easier: With Gmail and other Web-based email solutions, your inbox looks the same no matter where you access it – and you can do so from any computer or mobile device with an Internet connection. Plus, the outstanding search feature allows you to quickly find any email in seconds. Much better than sorting in Outlook.

 

And because the software is all online – “in the cloud” – you don’t wrestle with installing software or keeping track of updates.

 

Saves Time: Gmail saves time, too, with keyboard shortcuts. These allow you to compose, answer, and organize your email without ever having to take your hands off the keyboard.

 

Furthermore, Gmail groups emails into conversations. Instead of getting a new email each time someone replies to a message, all replies are displayed with the original thread. This cuts way down on the number of messages to wade through in your inbox.

 

Safer: Gmail is backed up on fully redundant servers. If a virus infects your computer, if a hurricane strikes your office, if any disaster compromises your computer – your email remains perfectly secure.

 

Don’t Use Pigeons – Use Gmail!

 

Take advantage of current technology. Stop using Outlook – an old email solution – and go with a Web-based email service. When you do, you increase productivity and eliminate time-consuming and frustrating problems.

Brian O’Connell is the owner and founder of CPA Site Solutions, one of the country’s leading edge website design businesses dedicated exclusively to accounting websites. His firm at present provides websites for more than 4000 CPA, accounting, bookkeeping, and tax preparation firms.

Selling Your Practice Online: Finding the Best CPA Website Design

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
Integrated blog

 

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.)

 

7. Testimonials

 

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.

Brian O’Connell is the founder of CPA Site Solutions and Websites4Accountants. Follow here for more about finding the best provider of CPA websites.

Your Website: Use Google Adwords to Build Your CPA or Accounting Practice

It has never been a particularly closely guarded secret that you can buy your website a great listing in the Google search results for just about any keyword you want.

 

When you have used Google to perform a search, you have likely seen the sponsored listings. They are displayed on the right side of the search results page, and often up to the first three positions on the left side. These websites are using “pay-per-click” marketing through Google’s Adwords. When you see a sponsored listing, that is an impression. When you click on a sponsored listing, that advertiser pays Google for that click. In other words, that advertiser pays Google per each click their ad receives.

 

The price that is ultimately payed to Google, will be impacted by the quality score of the landing page. Quality score is driven by a lot of factors, including the relevance of the landing page content to the search term, as well as the Click Through Rate, or “CTR”.

 

Click through rate is the rate of clicks to impressions. If your ad is displayed 100 times, and receives 10 clicks, then your CTR is 10%. The higher your click through rate, the more relevant Google will think your ad is for the search phrase. This will improve the keyword’s quality score

 

The higher the quality score is of the landing page, the lower the actual cost per click will be. Adwords is essentially an auction. You bid on keywords. In very straight forward terms, the higher your bid, the higher your ad will be displayed.

 

Now there are a number of valuations and specific calculations Google makes to specify where your ad will be placed. These calculations happen in real time when the search is being conducted. In a future article, we will take a closer look at the specifics of these calculations. For today, it is simply important to be aware of that what you bid, is not what you will pay for a click. If your quality score is 7 and you bid $5.00 for a click, you will pay less for a click then if your quality score is 4, and you will never pay more then your bid, or $5.00, for a click.

 

Remember Google’s first priority is to display relevant search results, even for the sponsored listings. They could just give the first spot to the highest bidder, but that would only ensure the person willing to spend the most money would be listed first. The most relevant search result however may not be ad with the highest bid.

 

The best illustration of this is your company name. Let’s say you are Adidas, and you want to bid on the keyword “Nike”. The most relevant search result for the keyword “Nike”, is obviously the Nike website. Google is going to give Nike a higher quality score for that keyword, in effect rewarding them for their relevancy for that keyword.

 

Before we look at tips to improving your quality score, it’s important to also understand match types. There are three match types you can and should bid on for each keyword. They are exact, phrase, and broad match types.

 

Exact Match: Exact match is the best keyword to bid on. An exact match means the search phrase being searched on is an exact match for the keyword for which you are bidding. For example if you are bidding on exact match for “Accounting Firms”, your website’s ad will be displayed only when someone searches for “Accounting Firms”.

 

Phrase Match: Phrase match means your keyword is a phrase within the search string. For example, if you bid on a phrase match of “Accounting Firms”, you ad will be displayed when someone searches on things like “accounting firms for small business”, or “top accounting firms”.

 

Broad Match: Broad match essentially let’s the search engine determine if the search phrase is a match for your broad match keyword or not. It is worthy that you bid on broad match keywords, but it can also be dangerous. It’s important because a broad match for “accounting firms” might be triggered when someone searches for “accounting services”. It also can be triggered when someone misspells a word, such as “acounting firms”. The danger is that Google may decide that “Accounting Supplies” is a close enough match to “Accounting Services”, and trigger your broad match keyword. This is why Google allows advertisers to declare “negative keywords”. We’ll talk more about negative keywords in a moment.

 

Now that you have an understanding about your keyword match types and website’s quality score, here are some ideas on how you can improve your quality score and click through rates.

 

Ad Copy

 

The copy in your ad should reflect the search phrase, or keyword you are bidding on. The person doing the search will be more apt to click an ad if it includes their search string. For example, if you bid on “CPA Services”, you want the headline of your ad to be something like “Quality CPA Services”. If your ad title says “Jim’s Accounting Firm”, the searcher then has to stop and think… if they click your link, are they going to find what they are looking for? They often make their decision within a split second, so you don’t want the prospect to have to stop and think. Give them exactly what they want. If that means writing 50 different ad titles for 50 different keywords, so be it. Your work will pay off in the end.

 

Landing Page

 

The landing page is the page on your site that the searcher is taken to when they click your ad. Typically this should not be your website’s homepage. If someone searches for “Strategic Business Planning”, they should be taken directly to the page on your website that explains your business planning services rather than a generic accounting related homepage. If the ad goes to your homepage, and they have to search through a big pile of CPA related content just to find what they are looking for, they’ll probably just click the back button and go to the next advertiser.

 

If your website doesn’t have a suitable landing page for the keyword, add one. It really is that important.

 

Similar to the ad copy, you want to take as much of the decision making out of the process as possible. Make it as effortless as possible for the searcher to find what it is they are looking for. Google will reward your quality score for having a landing page that is specific to the keyword, because it improves the search experience for people who find you through their search engine.

 

Negative Keywords

 

Defining what keywords you don’t want to trigger your ads is just as important as knowing what keywords you do want to bid on. This is very imperative because of phrase and broad matching. If you bid on “accounting services” as a broad match, you probably do not want your ad displayed if someone searches on “accounting supplies”, so you would want to have “supplies” added as a negative keyword.

 

Your ad will not be displayed, when a search phrase includes one of your negative keywords.

 

Location Targeting

 

I’ve saved the best for last. For firms that provide services like accounting or CPA service, location targeting is extremely important. CPA and accounting firms typically will want to be able to meet with their clients, and more importantly the client is very likely looking for an accountant close to their business. Having propsects more then 100 miles away clicking on yoru ad is going to become a big waste of money.

 

There are two ways to target a location. The first is to target your ads to only be displayed within a certain radius, such as 10 to 20 miles from your business location. You can bid on more general keywords, like “accounting firm”, within a very specific location.

 

The second way to target location is with very specific keywords in a more general area. For example, you might display your ads to anyone in Florida, or even the country, if they type in the specific keyword “Miami CPA” or “Tampa Accounting”.

 

Keep these basic principles in mind while you’re setting up your websites with Adwords campaigns and you’ll find the learning curve a lot easier and your initial results will be a lot more profitable!

Brian O’Connell is the CEO and founder of CPA Site Solutions, one of the country’s leading website design businesses oriented exclusively to CPA website design. His company at present provides websites for more than 4000 CPA and accounting firms.

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