Typically accounting and CPA companies have little option but to take advantage of website templates to get their practices a site. The cost of custom site design, in both time and money, puts these projects far afield of most smaller accounting firms. A fine, content rich custom accounting site can cost a ton of money to complete, while most templates sell for about $50 a month.
So why would any accounting firm shell out thousands of dollars a month for SEO?
Website templates have been around for years and they've always been an inexpensive and effective alternatives to expensive custom sites, but they've traditionally had problems getting good rankings in search engines like Google and Bing. It's a pretty common to trade off power for simplicity when designing software for "end users". Template providers, however, in making their content management systems easy to use, often glossed over or ignored features that would make their templates more appealing to the search engines.
The problems templates often have are:
* Duplicate Content
* Oversimplified Meta Tag Settings
* Use of I-framed Pages
Back in the old days, when most markets hosted only a handful of accounting firms with websites, these problems could be overlooked, but today this is no longer the case. Fortunately some accounting website template providers have actually taken the time to develop content management systems that confront these shortcomings. Others have not, and are still selling templates that are not adequate to proper "SEO", or Search Engine Optimization.
So how do you know what to look for if you want to find accounting website templates that are SEO, or "search engine optimization", friendly? Here are a few pointers...
Let's look at the "duplicate content" first as all template driven sites will have this problem. When you first get them even the best accounting website templates will have hundreds of pages of "standard" content. This content is identical between all the websites from a given provider and this creates problems getting pages "indexed", or "listed" by Google. Search engines don't want duplicate results coming up in searches, so as a rule they will only list such a page ONCE and they ignore every page they see after that with the same content. Customizable pages can overcome duplicate content issues. It's vital to make sure that accounting website templates allow you to edit all your pages so you can make the important ones unique enough to get picked up as a search result. You don't need to modify the entire site, but you do need to modify the pages you want the search engines to show people. You will certainly want to modify your home page, and if you have time modify your more important service pages.
Another common problem with templates is "universal meta tags". On sites like this there is only one setting for modifying a sites meta tags. This means every page on the site must have exactly the same tags making it impossible to optimize more than one page on the site. If you want to succeed in the search engines make sure the meta tags on your website can be changed separately on every page of your site.
The last problem traditionally associated with accounting website templates is also the hardest to identify. Many sites use a coding trick called IFrames, or inline frames, to deliver content to your website. The use of iframes have a lot of advantages from a design perspective, but search engines HATE them. If your content is being presented to your clients in IFrame format the search engines will basically look at the page as blank. They may index the "inline" content, but they won't credit it to your domain which is a long way of saying "iFrame pages are worth exactly nothing". Since it can be hard to tell whether or not a website is using these "framed links" you might want to ask but verify. Find out from the provider if they deliver content using inline frames, but before committing to a site have a web professional examine their product and make sure that they aren't using them.
Don't be put off by a casual examination of a provider's sample sites. A first class website needs to be well designed inside and out. Being good looking, content rich, and easy to navigate is important but it's also important that the site can be properly optimized for the search engines. As a rule not all websites that CAN be optimized ARE optimized. You will find plenty of SEO friendly websites without a trace of optimization ever actually having been done on them. For example it will often appear that a site has universal meta tag settings, when in fact the owner just hasn't bothered to change the title of any of his pages.
To be sure about a template's suitability for SEO call each provider separately and ask about these features. If any one of these SEO features hasn't been specifically addressed the template cannot be properly optimized. Every so often this isn't really a a big issue. If you're the only accounting firm in town with a website you can very likely do OK without ever optimizing your site, but keep these factors in mind when evaluating the cost. Always think about the might happen in the future. You're likely to retain your website for quite a while, so make sure you find one that will be able to grow with your firm.