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Where Professional Service Firms Fall Short
It seems like professional services firms really struggle with search engine optimization. Few do it well. In the audits we do for clients, perhaps the most common issue is inadequate site architecture. That is, not having enough pages in the site to respond to the diverse range of potential search terms. But there are other common problems, too. Here are some of the issues and what you can do about them.
Types of staff
Prospects and referral sources may be searching for a particular type of staff member. With law firms, there is typically only one class of professional staff member-attorneys. But with other professional services groups like architectural and engineering firms, the types of staff members are more diverse. Architectural firms generally have architects, interior designers, engineers, and others. Engineering firms often have numerous types of engineers-mechanical, electrical, environmental, civil, structural.
Each class should have its own page on the website, and the sole focus of the page’s on- and off-page content should be on the individual, not the service. For instance, too often I’ll see a firm with a staff page about mechanical engineers, but the copy, headings, title tags, and everything else is focused on mechanical engineering, i.e., the service instead of the person. Don’t make that mistake.
Often, prospects define their needs (their search) in terms of the industry they work in. They may work in healthcare, hospitals, manufacturing, churches, colleges and universities, retail, automotive, or any number of other sectors. Don’t simply have a single page that lists the industries you serve. Make sure you have at least one page on your site for each sector you serve. Keep the on- and off-page content focused on that sector and its issues as they relate to the services you offer. Write engaging copy that shows you know the sector and its unique issues. What sectors do you serve? Does your site have a page for each sector?
Types of services
Make sure you have a unique page for each service you offer. Not only is this a smart approach with search engines, it’s a smart approach with your prospect. Prospects what to know you’re an expert in the exact service they need. And don’t skimp on copy. Your ability to write extensively about the specific individual services you offer is directly related to the amount of credibility you’re able to instill in the prospect (and the search engines).
All too often, we’ll see professional services firms have a single page listing their various offices. Usually, the address of each office falls under a heading noting the city of the office. If you expect prospects to find your firm using geo-based terms in their search query, merely listing your offices on a single page isn’t going to work. You should have a page for each city, state, or region you serve, and you should have a couple hundred words of copy on each page. The first question I get when I say this to clients is, “200 words? What am I going to write about?”
Write about the city/region and your office there, the number and nature of the staff members at that location, the services offered by the professionals in that office, the local contact person. You should have no problem coming up with a couple hundred words. Before you start writing, make a list of the search strings a prospect may enter when searching for what you offer in that region. Later, make sure those keywords are in your copy and in the other on- and off-page factors for the page.
Keep page copy focused
Even in cases where professional firms have adequate site architecture to accommodate a diverse keyword strategy, we’ll often see rambling page copy. It’s not that the subject matter is rambling aimlessly. It’s that there is absolutely no discipline when it comes to the keyword strategy of the page. The very keywords for which the page was created are hardly used in the copy. Writing engaging, compelling copy for B2B SEO is difficult. It takes focus and discipline. If you want the results, don’t shirk from your responsibility. Stick with it, or hire an expert to write the copy for you.
Keyword research & site architecture
In many professional services sectors, there often is no standard or agreed-upon lexicon. There are many different terms for the same thing. One prospect may be looking for a forensic accountant; another may use the search term “expert witness accounting”. Depending on the level of organic competition, you may need separate pages for these terms. Do your keyword research and adjust your site architecture accordingly.
It seems like professional services firms often take a breadcrumb-like approach to title tags. It’s not uncommon to see, “Dewey Cheetum & Howe | Industries & Practices | Employee Benefits”. It would be far better to focus more strongly on the practice group and its issues. For instance, “Employee Benefits Attorneys | ERISA COBRA FMLA ESOP | Cleveland”.
Professional service firms generally struggle to find interesting images. I understand why. It’s hard to find a gripping picture of tax consulting. As a result, bland photos of consultants and business owners get used. However, when we check the images on the sites of professional service firms, the images rarely have ALT tags. Consultants and business owners might be in the picture, but the picture needs to have a keyword-rich ALT tag, and it needs to talk about tax consulting and other related keywords.
Admittedly, these are some of the basic issues. There’s a lot you can do beyond these steps, but unless you have the basics down, your chances of meaningful success are slim. Take some to audit your site for the above factors. Then commit to making some changes. You’ll be glad you did.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.