If you’ve ever been involved in designing a website, you know how time-consuming, costly and crazy the process can become.
From wireframes and usability to messaging and information architecture, infinite decisions must be made. And no matter how good your ideas are, making a misstep early in the process can dramatically impact your visitors’ experience on your site.
Where do you begin? Planning up front can save your firm time, money and frustration.
Our research guide, 7 Key Steps to Creating a High Performance, Lead-Generating Website, takes you through the steps that set you up for success. By considering SEO, website function and messaging first, you’ll be able to design a site that keeps your business development team busy—and helps you keep your sanity.
Here are some ideas to get you started.
Step 1: Evaluate Your Existing Website
We all have high hopes at the beginning of a web project, but how well did you do the last time? The best way to decide what worked and didn’t is by talking to your team.
Everyone has an opinion, so go into this process with an open mind and a grain of salt. It’s also essential to understand how outsiders see your site. Talk to your clients, prospects that got away, partners and industry experts. They can help evaluate your site’s overall look, feel and messaging.
Analytics (e.g., Google Analytics) can be a rich source of information on your site’s performance. Pay careful attention to traffic sources, keywords and page performance. Studying these metrics gives you critical insight as you structure your new site.
2. Evaluate Your Competition
Here’s a tip: Your firm’s online competition on the web may differ from your local competition. To discover your online competitors, do keyword searches for “accounting firms” and “financial services.” The top 10 sites that come up are where you’ll begin.
Look at each site and write down your evaluations. Do you like the layout and design of the site? Is it easy to navigate? Is the messaging and calls to action strong? Look for the best ideas from each site—and make them better.
3. Define Your Audience
It’s essential to have one overall brand message for your accounting firm. But that’s where the similarity stops. Every person who comes to your site has different goals in mind. Some may have just found your firm. Others might be looking to discuss a contract. To be successful, design “customer journeys” for each segment of your audience.
Sit down with your sales team to determine what type of segmentation is right for your firm. Ask:
- Who are the different types of prospects we are selling to?
- In what ways do we treat them differently from each other?
- Which opportunities deserve the most focus and effort (who earns the most attention on the home page)?
If you can address your key audiences’ needs and send them down appropriate pathways, you will be able to deliver tailored messages, relevant content and a more useful web experience.
4. Define Goals for Conversion
Next, it’s time to decide what you want your visitors to do when they are on your site. A successful website requires readers to take specific actions—actions that you can track.
Which goals are suitable for your firm? Talk to your team about what you want each visitor to do on your site and how you will measure success.
Once you define the actions a visitor can take on your site, set them up as goals in your analytics program. Analytics will show how many visitors have completed a goal and how that person came to your site. If your conversion rates are low, figure out why and pivot as necessary.
5. Pick Your Search Keywords Carefully
Before you write one word for your site, think about SEO to improve your chances of being found by search engines.
Come up with words and phrases people use then they search for your firm on Google and other search engines. Then see how many people search for each term using programs such as SEMRush or Moz. You want to find keywords that are simple to use but have a high volume of searches.
Here are some keywords you may want to try:
- Accounting services
- Accounting firms
- Tax services [state or city]
- CPA services [state or city]
6. Develop a structure
When you redesign your site, your goal isn’t to make it bigger and more fabulous. Instead, you want to make your site compelling and easy to use for your visitors.
Be sure to include the pages people expect on a site: about your firm, what you do (services), how you do it (case studies) and how to contact you. Keep your navigation clean and avoid jargon that will make it hard for visitors to find what they are looking for. Bells and whistles won’t impress your visitors—finding the information they need quickly will.
7. Develop messaging and content
Your firm’s messaging and content will make or break your website.
Powerful communication does three things:
- Illustrates a unique position you can support. Avoid descriptions like “high quality,” “best people” or “unmatched value.” Find specific differentiators that you can communicate with confidence.
- Speaks directly to your different audiences.
- Focuses on the needs and benefits of your clients, not just on how great your accounting firm may be.
A Final Note
Stop thinking about your website as an online brochure that presents basic information about your firm. Instead, imagine your site as a marketing tool with clearly defined, measurable goals.
Before you hire a designer or start writing content, do your homework. Talk to your sales team, who can identify your key audiences and their needs. Identify goals and make it easy for visitors to take the actions you want. In no time, you’ll have a site that generates interest and qualified leads for your accounting firm.