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8 CPA Prac. Mgmt. F. 11 (2012)
REO vs. SEO: Optimize Websites for Referrals and Warm Lead Conversion

handle is hein.journals/cpamanf8 and id is 293 raw text is: DECEMBER 2012

REO vs. SEO: Optimize Websites for Referrals
and Warm Lead Conversion
By Wendy Nemitz

very time I talk to a partner for the first time at a
CPA firm, I hear the same comments, We dont
get new clients from our website. They all come
through referrals from other satisfied clients. Our busi-
ness growth is mainly word-of-mouth.
I can agree with the basis of their argument. Rela-
tionships are extremely important in professional ser-
vice marketing and sales. Our recent informal survey of
CPA clients overwhelmingly confirmed that personal
recommendations rate highly when selecting a provider.
About 87.5 percent of respondents said they get person-
al recommendations. How-
ever, the next biggest way      Good SEO combi
that clients, prospects, and
referral sources frequently       will support a s
research CPA firms is the        frequently in sea
most revealing about the        firms, but also pr
power of online marketing.     information that il
After receiving a person-    referral sources, cli
al recommendation, pros-
pects do not typically call
the firm. They look up the firm website. Almost half of
survey respondents (43.8 percent) either went directly
to the referred firm website (31.3 percent) or did a cold
search (12.5 percent).
Combine the basic information of a CPA firm website
with other marketing touches (e.g., upcoming speaking
engagements, quality sales materials, and information
tailored to the prospect's industry), and CPA firms can
increase their chances that a prospect will gain a posi-
tive impression and also make that phone call.
Referral engine optimization
Ingenuity Marketing Group coined the term referral
engine optimization (REO) in 2007 to refer to the
methods that professionals can use to optimize their
websites for referral opportunities. It now requires more
encounters with a CPA firm for a prospect to buy its
services-and the sales cycle is much longer-so on-
line marketing supports not only a prospect's first im-
pression, but also the good feeling referral sources have
about recommending the firm.

Before outlining ways to achieve REO, the following
is a cautionary tale about why a strong online reputa-
tion is important: A law firm recently noted that select
representative matters and cases should be regularly
added to its website to ward off the potential for anti-
referrals. It happened that a big player in an upcom-
ing business transaction visited the law firm's website
and raised doubt about the firm's manpower and skills
to handle the transaction. This information was shared
with the law firm's client, which got back to the firm
and elevated the importance of the firm updating its
website. No one wanted to

ned with good REO
ite that shows up
irch results for CPA
ovides the kind of
mpresses prospects,
ents, and candidates.

lose business over a poor
Web presence.
Optimizing a website for
referrals doesn't require an
entire site overhaul-unless
the site still uses frames or
another outdated structure
that can't be easily updated

internally. Fresh content is
one of the biggest ways that websites can rank higher
among their competition according to Google, so firms
that can't update their content easily and frequently are
losing out on both search engine optimization (SEO)
and REO. The following guidance will assist you in
gaining good search results and a positive first impres-
sion with prospects and referral sources.
Build REO with SEO
SEO is still important. Your site will rank higher on
search engine results if you have regularly updated con-
tent, but also if you have included strong key phrases
in your content, page titles, and descriptions. For ex-
ample, find a CPA may be a phrase for SEO, but it
can also be used in your content to easily guide people
to your bios page. If the key phrase is used frequently
to search for CPA firms, but few CPA firms are trying
to rank for it, it is usually a good key phrase.
Good SEO combined with great REO will sup-
port a site that shows up frequently in search results
for CPA firms, but also provides the kind of infor-


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