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Search, SEO and the Advantages of a .CPA Domain for Firms

Moving to a new web address, an updated ‘online’ business location, is just like upgrading to the ‘exclusive’ office in your city. Depending on your current location, moving could be just like going from a small office on the outskirts of your local city to a large office in a high-rise in the central business district. It’s all about location and a change makes a statement: you’re moving up.

It’s the First Thing They See

The first time a potential client sees your web address, they’ll know exactly what your firm does, even before they click through to your website. They’ll see a URL such as www.MyFirm.cpa. There’s no question about what they’ll find – the website of a CPA firm – when it turns up in a search or link on another site.. The proper domain name, especially a domain name that includes a “keyword” that describes your business, helps with your firm’s overall image, branding, and marketing. And since an appropriate keyword is in the domain name, it can help with your search engine positioning.

How the Search Engines See .CPA Domain Names

Search engine representatives, such as John Mueller from Google, have pointed out that all top-level domains (TLDs)), such as .com, net, .org, .bank and even .cpa have the same opportunities to “rank” well in search engine results pages. Every domain name and URL is given the same chance to rank well for their intended keywords. This is good news, as they’re all created equal. But, why do some websites rank at the top of the search engine result pages, higher than other websites? There are hundreds, if not thousands, of search engine algorithm factors that go into the search engine results. But, one in particular can give you an ‘edge’ over the competition. Let me explain. One important factor is how other sites refer to your website, or how they “link” to your website. The search engines look at the context of where your link appears, the “link text” that is used as a link, and even the URL of the link, as well as the ‘keywords’ that are in the link. If you use a keyword rich domain name, such as keyword.cpa, then there is a good chance the other website linking to you will use “keyword CPA” or “keyword CPAs” to link to your website. That’s a good thing if you want to show visitors and the search engines that your website is about “keyword CPA” or “keyword “CPAs”.

You’re in Good Company

All .cpa domain names are in what is called a “restricted TLD (Top Level Domain)”. Only licensed CPA firms and (eventually) licensed individual CPA are allowed to own a .cpa domain name and put a website on it. What that also means is there will never be a .cpa domain name that contains content that’s unrelated to accounting. On an unrestricted TLD, there will inevitably be websites that don’t match the keywords in the domain name -- these could contain website spam, or even phishing and illegal activities. By using a .cpa domain name, you’re in good company since applicants for .cpa domain names are properly screened. The search engines know it’s a restricted TLD and they could take that into consideration when evaluating the website for search engine rankings. And, as more and more .cpa firms’ websites go live, the public will learn to trust a .cpa domain name, just as they trust a .gov or .edu domain name.

Concerns about Moving to a New .CPA Domain Name

Companies and individuals have been moving their websites to a different domain name for years. In fact, I did my first domain name migration back in the 1990s. I moved the site to a much better domain name. There are many reasons why websites need to move to a new URL, including companies that merge, businesses that acquire other businesses, and some that sell their domain name or even purchase a better or shorter domain name. All are valid reasons for moving and migrating to a new web address. Over the years, best practices have been developed, and search engines like Google provide a Change of Address form to assist website owners when they move. The key here, though, is to get all of the “technical issues” right so that there aren’t any issues when you do make that move to a better .cpa domain name. Adhere to the industry’s best practices for moving and migrating, and technically there won’t be any reason why the website should lose any website traffic, or even lose any search engine rankings because of the move.

Moving to Another Domain Name: Best Practices

What are these best practices?. They generally involve pre-move preparations, pre-planning the move, steps made when actually moving, and tasks that should be done after the move is complete. Pre-planning involves tasks such as making a backup of your website, using web crawling tools to help you make a list of all of the pages on your website, and getting ready to set up a “redirect” from the old web page(s) to the new web page(s) on the domain name you’re moving to. Then, I recommend pre-planning, such as working through the tasks on a moving checklist. Planning a date and time, as well as detailing who is responsible in your organization for moving the website, is recommended. There are tasks that must be performed on “moving day”, such as actually moving some files on the website’s web server. Then, after moving day, it’s smart to keep an eye on things and inform other websites you’ve moved to a new location so they will update their links.

The Bottom Line: Should You Move to a .CPA Domain?

Should you move to your existing website CPA website to a .cpa domain name? I highly recommend it. I consider it an upgrade, an opportunity to further enhance your firm’s branding and a chance to secure, in most cases, a shorter domain name. Are you using something like “yourfirmnamecpa.com”? A shorter version would be yourfirmname.cpa or even ‘yourcity.cpa’. The main keyword is in the domain name and it describes exactly what your firm does --even before visitors click to your website, they’ll know you’re a CPA.

The .cpa Registry, the folks behind .cpa, are doing everything right to ensure your success with a new .cpa domain. Look for additional resources, such as guides to moving and checklists to ensure your future success online.

Reserve your existing brand on .cpa before the Oct. 31 deadline

The American Institute of CPAs secured .cpa to be the exclusive Internet domain for the accounting profession. As part of the new service’s rollout, the AICPA and its business and technology arm, CPA.com, wanted to make sure that all licensed CPA firms are on the same footing when it comes to reserving their existing brand on .cpa.

That 60-day protected window for early applications is rapidly closing, however. Applications must be made by Oct. 31, after which domain requests will be fulfilled on a first-come, first served basis.

The response from CPA firms so far has been strong. AICPA President and CEO Barry Melancon, CPA, CGMA, and CPA.com President and CEO Erik Asgeirsson explain in this video why firms do not want to miss this opportunity to strengthen their online presence.

“The future is not .com – the future is going to be these top-level domains,” Melancon says. “Put it on your radar screen and make a conscious, long-term decision.”

To learn more about .cpa or to apply for your preferred domain, visit domains.cpa. The site has FAQs, a position paper on the rise of restricted domains and other resources. Please note individually licensed CPAs will be able to apply for .cpa domains beginning in Jan. 2021.

The .CPA Domain: A Bright Line for Security and Trust in the Digital World

It’s easy to grasp the branding advantages the new Internet domain for the CPA profession, .cpa, can offer. Less obvious but just as important is the enhanced security it delivers.

.CPA is a high-value restricted internet domain with verifications and controls. A restricted domain means not everyone can apply for it: in this case, you must be a licensed CPA firm (starting in January 2021, licensed individual CPAs can also apply). Why is this important? Unrestricted domains are unmanaged and uncontrolled. Users are not verified and there is no implementation of security best practices. Essentially, any fraudster can sign up for an unrestricted domain such as .com and closely mimic a legitimate business site. Not so with .cpa.

It’s no surprise Internet crime is rising, even more so as people increasingly work from home. A recent Ponemon Institute survey found that 57 percent of small businesses reported instances of phishing or social engineering attacks in the past 12 months, many tied to fraudulent look-alike or spoofed domain addresses (also known as imitator domains). More than 114,000 individuals reported being a victim of a phishing scam in 2019, incurring collective losses of almost $60 million, the latest FBI statistics show.

Security - .CPA vs .COM

 

Phishing involves bogus emails that appear to come from reputable companies, trusted co-workers or bosses, with the goal of gleaning usernames, passwords or credit card details. A common strategy is to use combinations of numbers (a zero where an “O” should be, for example), letters and foreign characters to mimic existing domains to deceive end users. The good news is most phishing attempts fail – but for CPA firms that deal with sensitive client data, a data breach or other information security lapse can be devastating.

Here’s how .cpa can help strengthen your firm’s defenses:

  • Unlike open domain extensions, only licensed firms and individual accountants can register and use a .cpa domain. License verification will take place at the time of purchase through CPA.com, and at other random periodic times. This will reduce a scammers ability to purchase lookalike domains on a large enough scale to make it worth their while.
  • The verification process should also effectively limit the proliferation of spam in the .cpa space. Spam is a preferred delivery tool for ransomware, malware, and phishing. CPA.com’s policy is to not post domain owners’ names and registration information on publicly listed registry records, so spammers will be unable to collect long lists of .cpa domain holder addresses to send out email blasts.

Of course, CPA firms will still responsible for the everyday, routine blocking and tackling of data security. The AICPA’s firm management section has excellent advice on how to improve vigilance and follow best practices in this area, including this checklist and recent explainer article. But the move to restricted domains is a step many progressive businesses and professions are taking to improve trust and curb fraud in their online operations.

To learn more about the .cpa domain, read our position paper or visit domains.cpa to view FAQs or apply for your preferred domain.

Checking in on the innovators: the 2020 Startup Accelerator companies

When it comes to early-stage companies chosen for our Startup Accelerator program, we’re a little like proud parents. “They grow so fast,” we say.

The Association of International Certified Professional Accountants and CPA.com created the program in 2017 to promote innovation in the accounting profession and provide more visibility into disruptive trends from emerging technologies. Finalists get a nominal funding investment and guidance from our senior leaders, as well as access to a panel of experts who can advise on marketplace needs and opportunities within the profession.

Our 2020 cohort faced special challenges this year because of the pandemic. However, the progress they’ve made is a testament to the power of their ideas and solutions. Attendees at ENGAGE 2020 this summer were able to hear their remarkable stories firsthand. Below is an update on their activities that draws on remarks from that virtual gathering.

The Climate Service

What it does: The North Carolina company has developed a cloud-based solution to help companies measure, manage and disclose climate-related financial risks. Four Nobel prize winners sit on its advisory board.

What the profession should know about its area of focus: “There are reporting guidelines now on climate exposure, but these will become mandatory eventually,” said Joey Lake, the company’s chief operating officer. “Regulation is one of the big drivers for our services. The other is investor pressure.” The Climate Service’s platform looks out 80 years and identifies assets with the greatest climate-related financial risk, either due to physical threats such as flooding or deforestation or the financial implications of transitioning to less carbon-intensive operations. The commercial real estate sector, for one, has shown early interest in its risk modeling and mapping.

Noteworthy developments: The Climate Service closed on Series A financing of $3.825 million in April. Given this was in the early onset of the pandemic, it’s a huge vote of confidence for the company.

Gilded

What it does: The New Orleans company offers seamless invoicing, payments, and accounting for global businesses, powered by blockchain.

What the profession should know about its area of focus: “The current process for digital payment is slow, clunky and requires extensive knowledge,” said Joey Ryan, CPA, the company’s co-founder and CFO, adding that most traditional accounting systems don’t really support it. Gilded has solved this problem by integrating its blockchain-powered digital payment and invoicing into existing back office systems. Gilded reduces a process that can take days or hours into minutes, and can cut international payment fees by 75 percent, he said.

Noteworthy developments: Deployed a digital payment solution for CoinMarketCap, a price-tracking website for crypto assets. Ryan said the company is also benefiting from the growing validation of digital payments – the federal government initially considered paying out some stimulus checks through this method, so widespread adoption is closer than you think.

Scanye

What it does: The European company uses intelligent algorithms to automate document processing, accounting and finance management for small to medium-sized enterprises.

What the profession should know about its area of focus: “Many accounting applications are far from being accounting-centric,” said Tadeusz Chrusciel, the company’s founder and CEO. Scanye is targeted to small and medium-sized businesses and champions “stress-less” accounting. “With Scanye, we save the world from paperwork,” Chrusciel said. “With our platform, every document in is one place.”

Noteworthy developments: The company is weighing a timeline for introduction of an English-language version of its service. Chrusciel said he’s targeting the first quarter of 2021, or less than a year.

Tally Street

What it does: The Boston-based startup created a “virtual analyst” to help businesses boost cash flow by using accounting data to find opportunities and anticipate problems before they happen.

What the profession should know about its area of focus: Many smaller businesses don’t have insight into critical metrics, such as cash flow, net revenue retention and customer retention – yet much of that relevant information is hidden in their accounting data. “We started Tally Street in the belief that small and medium-sized businesses can do better,” said Brian Suthoff, the company’s CEO, adding that Tally Street’s service can immediately reveal KPIs from existing data. “Customers begin to see accounting data as a value-add rather than an expense.”

Noteworthy developments: The company is integrating with major accounting software providers including QuickBooks Online, Xero and Sage Intacct.

CPA.com and the Association are already searching for early-stage companies for our 2021 cohort. Interested companies can get information about the accelerator program and application details at cpa.com/accelerator.

Top 3 Blockchain Use Cases of 2020

Blockchain technology has exploded into the FinTech ecosystem and various industries over the last few years, evolving well beyond the buzz of Bitcoin. Already incorporated into a range of business and financial applications, its impact and use cases continue to improve as the technology matures.

For most industries, blockchain presents opportunities around increased transparency, efficiency, and innovation. At its core, blockchain is an accounting technology, an immutable ledger that tracks the transfer of ownership of assets; and as such, it’s poised to play a significant role in audit, tax, cybersecurity, accounting, and advisory services.

Each year, the AICPA and CPA.com host in partnership with the WSBA a Blockchain in Accountancy Symposium where some of the profession’s brightest minds and blockchain experts convene to explore strategize on how the community as a whole should think about, plan for and respond to the blockchain wave. In December, we published a special report, 2019 Blockchain Symposium: Experts’ Insights Indicate Growing Use Cases and Value for the Technology. Due to the technology evolving and maturing at an exponential rate, we decided to take a look at the most prevalent use cases for a mid-year update.

As more enterprises use blockchain technology, they will require practitioners who not only understand its implications but can provide broader guidance on how it will impact their businesses and industries moving forward. “Even though they are still uncertain of the impact blockchain will have on their businesses, 60% of CIOs in the Gartner 2019 CIO Agenda Survey said that they expected some level of adoption of blockchain technologies in the next three years” said David Furlonger, research vice-president at Gartner. “However, the existing digital infrastructure of organizations and the lack of clear blockchain governance are limiting CIOs from getting full value with blockchain.”

The technology is evolving at a rapid pace, which is why a mid-year update on some key use cases is important.

Supply Chain

Supply chains contain complex networks consisting of multiple stakeholders that have lots of touch points through a bill of sale. This creates a perfect use case for blockchain to drive cost-savings down while providing previously unattainable traceability. A centralized infrastructure that delivers greater visibility into the process and transfer of goods for high risk products like leafy green vegetables and beef, to high value goods like cars is only going to increase in the coming years. It may have started with an E Coli outbreak that wiped store shelves clean, but it is expanding to every corner of commerce including wine and consumer shipments.

Walmart created a food traceability mandate, which aims to prevent food-borne illnesses by identifying the source of contaminated products quickly. The food giant’s announcement is part of a larger trend: the digitization and movement of data, such as goods and services, intellectual property, credentialing, and trademarks, onto the blockchain. Most supply chains are tailor-made for blockchain, because the technology can be used to create transparent, immutable records.

Crypto

Despite the potential of its underlying technology, blockchain for many people is still synonymous with Bitcoin and the cryptocurrency’s spectacular rise in value. There are however over 5,400 cryptocurrencies available globally today and that number is only expected to grow. Mainstream payment processors PayPal and Venmo recently through their hat into the crypto buying and selling ring, which could trigger adoption by a large percentage of their 325 million users that previously have not transacted on a blockchain network.

Robert Materazzi, co-CEO, LukkaTax - "As all businesses across all industries embrace blockchain, crypto offers an enormous opportunity to learn how to manage blockchain data as use-cases are adopted in other industries, particularly as it relates to governance, risk, and audit frameworks."

Health Care

In our looking ahead to what’s the next big industry that will be transformed by blockchain, we evaluate the health care system – both patient records as well as prescriptions dispensed.

“Blockchain technology continues to evolve and become a strategic solution for a growing number of industries. The global healthcare industry is beginning to look to blockchain to help solve some of the entrenched problems of cost, privacy and inefficiency that have plagued healthcare for generations,” explained Ron Quaranta, chairman of the Wall Street Blockchain Alliance. “From patient records to prescription tracking, to pandemic monitoring, and more, we can expect blockchain technology to be a core part of how the global healthcare industry evolves in the future.”

In an important way, blockchain’s maturation aligns with the profession’s shift from recordkeepers to advisors. This transition is by no means limited to accounting and finance; as automation grows more sophisticated, professionals including lawyers, doctors, and insurance providers are relying more on personal, advisory-style relationships with clients and/or patients, hence the shift in multiple use cases to a more sophisticated technology platform.

Download the infographic here:
Top 3 Blockchain Use Cases of 2020 Infographic