What is the downright minimum you require to make your accounting website? I’ve had a lot of Do-It-Yourself fans ask me this over time, and it makes me cringe each time. I don’t recommend doing a DIY job on a business website, but if you do it correctly it’s better than not having a website at all. You can at minimum make it easy for prospects who are trying to find you so have these pages:
Contact Us: With your details, a map, and perhaps an email contact form.
Our Services: Details about your core and added value services, plus contact names for specialist areas. Each service page should include your phone number and a contact form. If a client decides he wants to talk with you after reading a service page don’t make him search around for your contact information.
Staff Pages: The purpose of this page is to help your visitors feel like they’ve gotten to know you a little bit. Tell them a little about the firm and the people in it.
Firm Profile: The firm profile is more formal and professional than the “About Us” page. The purpose of this page is to show off your professional accomplishments and experience so don’t hesitate to claim your bragging rights.
You should have no trouble creating this content yourself. Don’t expect too much from this site. It isn’t going to anything more than an online brochure. You should be able to put a site like this up yourself without any trouble. Just go to www.godaddy.com and set up a site with them.
The Brochure Site
This bare-bones type of site has very little real marketing value. It won’t help you with your networking, lure a lot of new clients into the firm, help you cut your operating costs, or help with client retention. It will keep you from looking looking like an out-of-date technophobe, and it will make it easy for people who are looking for you to find you.
If you are looking for a website that can actually help you increase your community exposure and bring new clients into your business you’ll need to add some real content to the site. Content like tax due dates and information, financial and business planning articles and blogs give your site depth, extra value for clients and a reason for visitors to return to the site. The downside, of course, is that this type of information requires design skills to post and time to update.
The most basic of these features is the online newsletter. It’s not hard to set up an online newsletter. By the time you’ve set up a brochure site you will have acquired all the skills you need to set up and maintain it, but doing it cost effectively is another matter entirely. Time spent writing articles, managing mailing lists and mailings, and posting content is time NOT spent working. I think you’ll find that if you added it all together the time you’ve lost will have cost you more than a complete content package would have cost you from a third party vendor.
Once you’re ready to step up to a more advanced site it’s time to look into a content package. Most content packages include hosting and email, but you can also use them to augment your DIY website. These packages include a broad range of features designed to turn your website into a marketing powerhouse.
News stories and free reports are a great way to draw visitors to the site. These articles will keep your site looking dynamic and exciting. When designers talk about “dynamic” content they’re usually talking about content that changes automatically. These pages appeal to visitors and search engines alike and use advanced programming to create the page as it’s called up so the site owner doesn’t have to manually update them. Websites that try to DIY their news page almost always fall behind. It’s vital to keep your news page current. A “news” page that hasn’t been updated for six months or more makes you look lazy and unreliable.
Financial calculators, downloadable forms, and useful links are pretty much standard elements of a modern accounting website. These interactive elements offer visitors lots of great reasons to keep coming back to your site and really boost the marketing value of your site.
Another standard feature that will really help with client satisfaction and retention is a “client portal” or “secure file transfer” system. These systems allow a client to send large files securely over the web and will have a profound impact on your efficiency and expenses when the tax crunch hits.
Sooner or later you’re going to want a big-kid’s site. When that time comes you’re going to need to find a real CPA site designer. If you try to develop this many features yourself it will cost you thousands of dollars and devour scores of work hours. Fortunately there are a variety of businesses that specialize in providing content for CPA websites. These companies can provide the content you need as well as provide hosting and support services.