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SEO FOR ACCOUNTANTS - THE INVISIBLE BENEFIT

A listing on FindanAccountant gives your website the added benefit of a valuable incoming link from a long-established, high-quality accounting website.

 

SEO - or Search Engine Optimisation for the uninitiated - has been around since the very first search engines appeared on the internet. Even before Google was founded, website owners would vie for top spots on the search results of Alta Vista, Lycos and the other early search engines.

 

For early adopters it was a highly profitable strategy, effectively amounting to free advertising. Appear on the first page of the search results when somebody is searching for your product or service, and you could generate huge amounts of traffic to your website. Not only is this good exposure, but the traffic you are generating is high quality traffic. This is because, unlike previous media advertising (where the basic aim is to get the maximum amount of exposure) - with search engines you are getting exposed to people that are already looking for your service or product. Not just passively looking either, but sufficiently interested that they took the proactive step of sitting in front of a computer, going to a search engine, and performing a search. These people are, what is called in marketing literature - highly qualified leads.


These types of leads have another advantage over old-media advertising. With old-media advertising, after the potential customer was exposed to your product/service advert, they still had to memorise you contact details and schedule a time to phone or visit your business. The point being that there was a sizable gap between the sight of advert and actual contact with the business. For example, the advert may have been spotted in the doctor’s waiting room - with your appointment in 5 minutes time.


The time gap between time of advert and time of action often results in no follow through - a situation that is the total opposite of the adage strike while the iron is hot. The worst part - the print media advertiser had absolutely no control over when the advert would appear. With radio and TV advertising you could schedule ads, but an advert appearing in the middle of a soapie that your potential customer is watching is not conducive to instant action either.

 

Not so with Search Engines. The person arriving at your website has actively set aside time to do the research, and with one click can arrive at your offering there and then. In the case of e-commerce they can even make the purchase there and then (strike while the iron is hot?) which is why Amazon is eating the world.

 

The person arriving at your website has actively set aside time to do the research, and with one click can arrive at your offering there and then.

 

The overriding business imperative from a search engine’s point of view is to deliver relevance. If a searcher is looking for something - they must be presented with the closest matches to what they are looking for, ranked from highest relevance to lowest relevance.

 

The beauty back in the early days of SEO was that it was very easy to get your website to rank highly in search results. The way the early search engines decided who was relevant, and who wasn’t, was simply a matter of running a text analysis on your website and looking at the requested keyword frequency and density within the content of your site. Gaming this system was easy and led to practices such as keyword-stuffing. This gaming of the system ultimately led to a bad experience for the searcher (search engine spam), as the top search results became infested with sites which had the best SEO at the expense of higher quality, more reputable sites, that had neglected SEO.

 

Enter Google. It was exactly this problem that two post-graduate students at Stanford University were exploring in 1996. Realising that, in addition to relevance, a new vector was required to determine the quality and authority of the websites they were serving up. They came up with an ingenious recipe to independently establish the reputation of a website, a recipe that was probably the very first massive scale leveraging of the wisdom of the crowds.

 

Page and Brin, the founders of Google, had observed that one of the most successful ways to discover the best academic papers on any topic was examining how many other academic papers cited each respective paper. The reason this method worked was because, if you think about it, every external paper that references paper A is a vote of confidence for paper A.. The more votes a paper received from papers on similar topics invariably pinpointed the best paper on the topic.

 

The Google founders applied this methodology to websites, inferring that the more incoming links a website had from external websites, the higher the likelihood of the quality of the website. This measure of quality, when combined with the measure of relevance (achieved with keyword density analytics), delivered surprisingly accurate search results. Far better results than Google’s early competitors.

 

Internet searchers (the numbers of which were exploding around the turn of the millenium) quickly flocked to the new kid on the block, who was situated, after all, only a single click away from the search engine they previously used. And the rest, as they say, is history.


 

The Google founders applied this methodology to websites, inferring that the more incoming links a website had from external websites, the higher the likelihood of the quality of the website.

 

The financial benefits of landing your website on the first page of a Google search result soared (and has soared ever since) and SEO pros were soon motivated to try and game Google’s new algorithm too, this time by getting loads of other sites to link to their client’s websites.

 

LInk-building became a core function of any SEO pro (and remains so to this day). Link-building is, unfortunately, a more difficult activity than keyword-stuffing as it involves outreach to other website owners, either with cap-in-hand or, increasingly offering monetary reward. As a result an entire industry sprung up around link-building which led to many unsavoury schemes like link-exchanges, link farms and other “black-hat” practices.

 

Once again “search engine spam” started appearing in Google’s search results, devaluing the users experience. Google retaliated again, training its algorithms to detect unnatural link profiles and outlawing the practice of outright link-selling. Many link-farms were de-indexed and they even went so far as to penalise websites that had incoming links from dubious sources.

 

Identifying bad players, however, does not always scale well or lend itself to automation, so Google also tweaked its algorithm to combat over-zealous link building. The rank of a website already depended on a combination of various “scores” - primarily the keyword relevance score and the incoming link score. Google added another ranking signal: weighting the quality of the incoming links. It was obvious by now that not all incoming links were equal. A link from an established authority site should count for way more than a link purchased for $50 per month from an undetected link-farm.
 

Google added another ranking signal: weighting the quality of the incoming links. It was obvious by now that not all incoming links were equal.

 

This ongoing race between people gaming Google and Google taking measures to combat the gamers is not unusual in the IT world. The never-ending race between virus creators and antivirus vendors is well established.

 

In many respects, the tsunami of fake news hitting the web in the last two years is, at bottom,  just the latest version of gaming the algorithms. This time however,  the societal effects of this platform-gaming has had huge effects on media, institutions and even democracy. The resulting pressure on Google, Facebook and others to get their policing right has reached life and death stakes for these platforms.

The social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook have been gamed more than Google in this respect. The main play has been to make marketing content go "viral" by getting people in social networks to share links with their friends. The best way to game this is to play on tribalism and identity politics. Emotional triggers began trumping relevance. A post that could elicit strong emotions like sympathy and rage travelled furthest. This especially played out in the headlines of content posts, leading to the nefarious phenomenon known as Clickbait. Ourgaeous headlines that evoke emotions (but are not necessarily exactly representative of the article that follows) generate more shares. 

Clickbait practices spread to Google's search results too, with Relevance taking a hit. In order to conquer this Google began cranking up the relevance scores once again - this time with an approach called the EAT Approach: Expertise, Authority and Trust

One of the best ways to establish trust is to factor in the age of the website. Fake news and political interference can invariably be traced back to shady websites and accounts that have suddenly sprung up just before elections and other major events. Obviously then, sites that have been around for several years, with a steady history of activity and traffic are going to score higher, and the incoming links from those websites are going to be more valuable. The longer the history, the better, much like how credit-ratings work.
 

Obviously then, sites that have been around for several years, with a steady history of activity and traffic are going to score higher.

 

Today there are over 200 factors that Google takes into account when calculating ranking scores, factors which are in constant flux. One thing that is certain though, is that an incoming link from a well established, on-topic website will always carry weight. An incoming link from a high-quality website like FindanAccountant, that was established in 2004, can only be highly beneficial for a local accountant’s website - helping that site on its journey to the top end of the search results. Not only has FindanAccountant got an incredibly long history of steady traffic, but it is a specialist accounting site, giving any recipient website a strong accounting vote of approval.

 

Not a week goes by when we are not approached to put outgoing links on our website to other websites after our “link juice”. Sometimes we get offered thousands of rands for a single link. In fourteen years we have never accepted one of these offers or, in fact, any external advertising (external advertising is often just a covert way to buy a valuable link). The reason we shun this potentially lucrative source of revenue is because selling links is not part of our business model. Connecting South Africans seeking accounting services with accountants is our business.

 

But it is worth remembering that a “side effect” of a listing on FindanAccountant is the undeniable benefit of an authoritative incoming link to your own website, something that is often totally overlooked.