Google’s recent algorithm changes – and how they could affect accountants’ websites in 2020

Google has introduced several key changes to the way it grades and ranks websites in the last few months. Here, we’re going to talk you through the latest developments from Mountain View, and how they could impact the search performance of your accountancy website in 2020 and beyond.


oogle has introduced several key changes to the way it grades and ranks websites in the last few months. Here, we’re going to talk you through the latest developments from Mountain View, and how they could impact the search performance of your accountancy website in 2020 and beyond.

The update: Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (or BERT for short!)

It’s a bit of a mouthful, but at its core, BERT helps Google bots process language like humans do. It’s a piece of code that helps the algorithm better understand the nuances of words and their context as part of a wider conversation – so, in theory, it should help deliver more accurate and meaningful results for common and not-so-common searches.

It works hand in hand with RankBrain, Google’s artificial intelligence method that was launched way back in 2015. And since it was originally rolled out in 2019, it is thought to have impacted more than 10% of ALL Google queries – a huge statistic given the billions of searches that are carried out via Google every single day.

The verdict: There’s nothing accountancy firms can specifically do to optimise their websites for BERT, apart from continue to publish quality content that meets the needs of their audience.

There are three things you can do to achieve this. Firstly, optimise your web page content for search. Secondly, improve your content’s chances of being featured in Google’s featured snippets results by asking, then answering, specific questions within your copy (Neil Patel has written up a great article on this). Finally, share engaging content in a variety of formats as part of your wider marketing strategy, as we discussed here previously.

The update: Google’s May 2020 core update

Many accountants may have experienced increases or decreases in web traffic last month caused by changing search exposure. These fluctuations could be down to Google’s May 2020 core update, which was rolled out in the two weeks to 18th May.

Core updates generally involve a large change to Google’s algorithm (or part of it), and so tend to have a big impact on a significant number of sites.

The verdict: If you’ve seen a drop in positions off the back of Google’s May algorithm change, there’s unlikely to be a quick fix. Google itself has said in the past that negative rankings may not signal there’s anything wrong with your website’s pages at all, so sometimes the best course of action is to take a step back and wait for your URLs to be re-indexed.

However, if it’s been a few weeks now and your rankings still haven’t recovered, it could be time to address the quality and relevancy of your onsite content. This useful article from Search Engine Land lists the questions that you need to be asking of your page copy and outlines some of the things you need to bear in mind to make sure your output is packed full of Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness (EAT). For accountants specifically, improving your content could be as simple as switching the focus from the finer details of your services to their top line features and benefits, and providing timely insights into accounting regulations and practices via your blog or news page.

The update: User experience will become a ranking factor as early as 2021

Google’s algorithm uses a range of factors to work out whether it should rank your page for a particular search query (or not). For example, the search engine favours websites that are mobile friendly and that have been encrypted with SSL certificates; it’s not so keen on platforms with thin content and/or lots of invasive popups and interstitials.

According to a recent announcement on its Webmaster Central Blog, Google will soon be using metrics such as your page load speed, the stability of your visuals, the interactivity of your content and the overall safety of your pages to determine when and where your site should rank.

The verdict: To avoid position losses, you’ll need to make sure your website is technically sound and puts your users’ needs first. This could be as simple as compressing some images to boost load times or removing a few unhelpful graphics from a busy design – or it could mean revamping your entire platform to ensure it conforms with Google’s new page experience guidelines.

Confused by these latest algorithm changes? Keen to bring your SEO strategy up to speed? Prosper can help. Contact us today to learn more about our digital marketing services, which are specifically tailored to help accountants, tax advisors and financial consultants make more of an impact online.

We managed to get our own website on the first page of Google, and we’re confident we can achieve similar results for you, too!

Ben Stanbury, Director of Prosper, the naming and branding agency for Professional Service firms

Written by Ben Stanbury

April 25, 2022

Ben is a branding and naming consultant. As the owner of Prosper he regularly blogs on the topic of branding, naming and differentiation for professional service firms. Among other things, he likes horror films, mountain biking and collecting vintage movie posters.

Sign up to the Prosper newsletter

Helpful, relevant content delivered to your inbox monthly, or thereabouts...

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.