4 mistakes all accounting websites make – and how to fix them

Ben Stanbury, Director of Prosper Web Design & Branding, has been assessing accountancy websites, and he’s spoken to us about what accountants are doing wrong.

According to my research, almost all accounting websites are the same – and they all make the same mistakes

As part of my job, I look at many accounting practice websites. I recently looked at 100, as part of some ongoing research into the quality of accountants’ web presence.

There is, shall we say, much room for improvement. To go one further, I’d say that accounting websites are all the same.

Many of the websites lacked any real structure in the way they presented written information to their users. Overly wordy, busy page layouts confused the eye, with no discernible hierarchy of information (such as a clear positioning statement).

Misleading results

On average, most websites actually performed well in the Google Lighthouse rankings of Performance, Accessibility, Best Practice, and SEO (with average scores of 64, 70, 75 and 88 respectively out of 100). But these metrics can be misleading, leaving you overconfident in your website.

A single-page website can score incredibly well in this tool, for example, but perform poorly with real users. A high Google Lighthouse ranking does not necessarily mean a slick, well-designed marketing tool.

Alarmingly, 42% of sites we tested did not have an SSL certificate (which allows for secure server connections). Google has confirmed that a website with an SSL certificate will have an advantage over other websites that do not, potentially ranking higher in the search results. As if that’s not reason enough, it’s essential to process payments and sensitive data securely.

18% of accountancy websites were not mobile-friendly – so you can forget about making a good impression on the 60% of visitors coming to your site on a mobile device.

The average number of social media links and Google Reviews were practically non-existent – 1.7 for social links and 2.1 for Google Reviews. Google Reviews are a potent social tool to reassure potential clients. They will often be the first thing a prospect may notice, before clicking through to your website. Ask yourself – would you bother to call a company with ten one-star reviews?

Overall, these are the 4 things that most accountancy websites are getting wrong – bear them in mind when designing your website, or for your next chat with your developer.

1. Timid, samey branding

The majority of accounting sites we surveyed had the same brand colour: blue.

59% of websites chose blue as a primary or secondary colour.

Blue may be the accepted colour of trust, but it’s also the colour of cliché in this industry.

Branding is there to resonate with your client, so keep that at the front of your mind. You don’t have to use blue or grey, or a traditional serif typeface. Take a look at other accounting websites and go in a completely different direction.

Stand out.

2. Unclear positioning

Make your positioning statement centre stage, as it is the first thing your visitor sees when they land on your website.

What exactly do you do and who is your audience?

Vague statements like “we’re not like other accountants” or “we’re accountants that care” don’t really tell your audience anything.

Be clear and specific. Why should potential clients choose you?

3. Poor graphic and website design

There’s a science to this sort of thing, and you can tell which firms buy into it and which don’t.

Regardless of your industry, your website needs to communicate visually to your audience, which boils down to effective graphic design and typography.

Your website also needs to work – if it isn’t secure and mobile-friendly, you won’t make a good impression (to Google or to your audience).

4. No content

Provide original and helpful content aimed at your specific audience – your potential and current clients. Then share your website content on social media (where your clients are) to drive people back to your website.

Only 18% of reviewed practices did this, so you can go some ways to differentiate yourself just by showing your audience some engaging and helpful written content. Having an automated HMRC news content feed on your website does little to demonstrate your expertise.

Key tips for creating and sharing content

  • Try copying and pasting the first few lines of your most recent news feed into Google and see how may firms display the same articles as you. Now go back to your article and edit it to make it unique.
  • Think about what your clients might want to read. “A handy guide to starting a business”, or “the pros and cons of registering for VAT”.
  • “How to choose a business bank account” is another good topic, or “getting started with cloud accounting apps”.
  • Giving away some expertise for free is no bad thing. Your customers will find it useful, and they’ll remember you for it. It might even put a smile on their face.

In summary

A lot of businesses think of their website as a box-ticking exercise; as long as they have something online, they’re sorted. But this isn’t the case. Your website is more than just a brochure; it should be a functioning marketing tool that works on your behalf. Done right, your website can reach new potential client bases, help you make money while you sleep, and build your all important reputation. Don’t neglect this important tool.

Read more on marketing your accountancy practice the right way here:

AAT Comment offers news and opinion on the world of business and finance from the Association of Accounting Technicians.

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