Before I started preparing tax returns in 2002, I had no idea that the workload of accountants was so intensely seasonal. My tax returns were always pretty simple, and I never had trouble doing my own taxes and filing well before the deadline. Now I’m keenly aware that accounting is a highly seasonal occupation.
Did you know that Google searches for accountants and income tax are also highly seasonal? Paying attention to this can get you a bigger bang for your effort if your web presence is firmly in place when public interest peaks. Google Trends is a useful tool for tracking the frequency of search terms around the world and by country over time.
This shows trends in Google searches for “accountant” in the US over the previous five years:
The two spiky low points each year coincide with Thanksgiving and Christmas, times when most people are focused on family and the holidays. But once those W2s, 1099s and other tax forms start showing up, interest in accountants quickly rises and stays at a steady, elevated level until April 15, when it quickly drops again. Another steady state holds through summer, before plummeting again come Thanksgiving.
The summer of 2016, however, shows a different pattern with two odd peaks in mid-May and late July. These two peaks coincide with the releases of new trailers for the upcoming movie The Accountant, starring Ben Affleck. These two peaks are of almost the same magnitude as the peak plateau of tax filing season, but I suspect it’s Mr. Affleck himself who’s inspiring lots of Google searches, not the occupation of his character.
This shows results for searches of “income tax:”
Here the spiky peaks coincide with the times of greatest interest in tax — the first week of February when W2s arrive, and again, right around April 15. This looks rather like a heartbeat.
Synch your online presence with the peak times of interest
This data shows that certain times of the year are crucial for having a strong online presence and for attracting new clients. It’s no surprise that pressing tax filing deadlines spike interest for tax and accountants. Perhaps there’s been a change in their life situation and this year is the first time an accountant’s services have been needed. Or perhaps they’re unhappy with their current accountant and are looking for a new one. If your firm doesn’t have a strong online presence, you’ll miss out on the wave of people looking for you.
How to take advantage of timing
Online marketing is best regarded as a cumulative effort, a marathon rather than a sprint. Google rewards websites that regularly add new information, so you might not see much change in search engine rankings until you’ve been adding fresh content for several months. Periodic changes to Google’s search ranking algorithm seem to be an attempt to reward the websites that are most useful to users, and to punish attempts to game SEO. Regular updates of new quality content seem to carry the most weight for improving search ranking. Weekly or monthly blog posts are a great way to do this.
As you begin publishing new blog posts, keep the peaks and valleys in online search trends in mind. It’s easy to lose interest in online marketing initiatives if they’re implemented during slow times of the year when there’s little interest in accountants and tax.
Regular content publishing requires discipline and commitment, which can be a challenge during the busiest times of the year, when everyone at your firm is already working long hours. This means it’s important to start developing the habit now. Most business owners find that after a few months of regular updates, they get into a comfortable routine, and it gets easier with time.
Tips for getting started
- Commit to a regular schedule for updating your blog. Block out the time on your calendar, and stick to your schedule.
- Plan out topics for your blog ahead of time. This alleviates the biggest problem of not knowing what you’ll write about this week. If there’s a sudden change in tax law or regulations, you can always slide that in.
- Consider publishing a newsletter. If you’re already publishing regular blog posts, these can also be sent out as a newsletter with just a little extra effort.
- Plan time-intensive projects such as updating your website for summer or late fall when you have more time.
- If you’re planning a website update, commit to having it completed by January. Then your new prospects will see your new website when they start looking.
Did you know that blog posts can be ghost written? You pick the topics, and I write the posts. As a CPA and a member of NACVA, I’m already up to speed so it just takes a short phone call to sketch out your posts. Call me at 505-440-3317 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get started.