T: 01228 318068 M: 07576 893178 hello@climbhighseo.agency

ClimbHigh SEO carried out an investigation into the search ranking of Cumbria based accountancy firms in a couple of key local searches, at the end of January 2024. I have used the two most common near me searches for this study as they give a fairly local insight to the health of accountancy businesses’ search marketing strategies. This is only a first step into understanding visibility for any individual firm, but does show some interesting and hopefully thought provoking comparisons and gaps.

Accountant in Carlisle with visibility of a ghost

When I started this study, I fully expected Carlisle based firms to be dominant in the city. But I was very surprised by the number of directory and financial service sites that were pushing local firms out of sight and out of mind: in specifically local searches.

I’ve watched several well-known firms, in Carlisle particularly, creating content that looks useful to readers and is written well. But I was very surprised by the number of directory and financial service sites that were still pushing local firms out of sight and out of mind. And this is for very specific local “near me” searches, where the interlopers really don’t seem the most relevant answer to a specifically local search.

Secondly it was very surprising to see accountancy firms from as far away as Totnes in Devon and Portsmouth (on the south coast) outranking Cumbria based firms in multiple Cumbrian towns. To spare blushes, I have simply replaced the names of the firms with numbers and if you would like to know which number is you… get in touch 😉

In the comparison chart below, the green companies are Cumbria based, yellow denotes companies based outside the Cumbria area – some with premises in the region, blue are online or franchise accountancy businesses while the pink are international / foreign businesses with an online presence here.

We start this survey with a Carlisle bias as that is where we do most of our work.

Top 50 Acountancy Firms Ranked In Order Of Ranking Position In Carlisle:

“Accountants Near Me” Searches

Rankings for accountancy firms in Carlisle centred accountants near me searches january 2024

“Tax Accountants Near Me” Searches

Rankings for accountancy firms in Carlisle centred tax accountant near me searches january 2024

Online Visibility Background Data For Accountants Visible in Cumbria

Background local seo data on accountancy firms visible in Cumbria for near me searches.

The centre of the Carlisle searches was placed quite precisely in Lowther Street, in the midst of Carlisle’s banks, shops and other town centre businesses. And this demonstrates very neatly the importance of proximity in these hyper local “near me” searches.

The top 3 have very poor online visibility attributes. However they show in the top three because of their location, close to the point of search and a live Google Business profile.
Company ID 2 is one of Cumbria’s larger firms with around 9 offices. It has enjoyed significant traffic in the past, but it looks as if the content marketing efforts have waned. monthly visitor traffic of 146 is only just over 10% of what they received nearly 4 years ago. They have nearly 1k pages indexed by Google but their authority score is low compared with some of the out of county firms that rank below them. Their backlink profile is weak as they have somewhere in the region of 5k backlinks, but they only come from 234 different websites. Additionally, although the website is attractive and does carry several calls to action on the home page, it does not appear to be designed with conversion in mind.

The third candidate, Company ID 3, is a smaller local accountancy practice with a single office. They attract just a tiny stream of traffic and this current trickle also seems to be their peak. An authority score of 6, 8 backlinks and just 1 indexed page of content says that digital marketing is not their focus. We hope their referral stream is strong, but what happens if that dwindles?

The real fly in the ointment is the one business with NO website which ranks first for the “accountants near me” search in Carlisle. As it turns out – this apparent anomaly only happens because the search was centred about 100m from the premises… and they have got a Google Business Profile that is live. This rather neatly confirms the importance of a good up to date Google Business profile (GBP).


The Fly In The Ointment!

Mentioning this unfamiliar name to a local accountant at one of our networking groups in Carlisle, he expressed surprise at the name as he had not heard of them previously. When I was in town for a meeting, I walked the shop fronts on Warwick Road, out of curiosity, to try and spot some signage for the company, but there was only a very faded trace of the branding on a first floor window. The premises now seem to be occupied by a payroll services provider. Same people?

Curiosity got the better of me again a few days later and I rang the number on the Google Business Profile. I was greeted by BT’s “I’m sorry, you have dialled an incorrect number. The business is no longer operating from Warwick Road. Companies House shows that the business changed its registered office to one of Carlisle’s outlying villages in 2022. (There’s an opportunity for Carlisle accountants to remove one competitor from the visibility race, as this listing is non-compliant with Google’s Ts & Cs for profiles.)

The Moving Feast of Local Search

The effect of proximity on search is clearly seen when we move the centre of search to another business district north of the river: Kingmoor Park South. Below is a table showing the top 20 results when the same searches are carried out from one of the Kingmoor Park South estate.

“Accountants near me” Kingmoor Park South Carlisle

Top 20 results when we move the centre of search for "accounts near me" to Kingmoor Park South. Very different to the town centre results.

“Tax Accountant near me” Kingmoor Park South, Carlisle

Top 20 results when we move the centre of search for "tax accountant near me" to Kingmoor Park South. Again, they are very different to the town centre results.

Moving the centre of search a couple of miles out of the centre of the city produces a completely different scramble of results for these two example searches. However the accountants near me search shows that only 3 Carlisle accountancy firms show up on the first page of results for that search: with a company from Ware in Hertfordshire pushing Company ID 6 out of the top 10 places.

For “tax accountant near me” the situation is slightly better with 6 Carlisle firms in the top 10. Company IDs 1, 2 and 3 are nowhere to be seen in these results even though they seemed quite strong in the results searched near their premises in the middle of town.

Paying For Visibility?

There’s very little paid advertising going on in these samples of accountancy firms, with only 1 Carlisle firm seeming to drive any traffic from Google ads in the January data. Only 3 of the Cumbria based firms in this Carlisle focussed sample appear to have made use of paid ads in the past.

The most disturbing aspect of all of these charts though, is the number of out of area companies who nudge local companies out of sight. This is noticeable in the organic as well as the adverts that are displayed.

Why does that matter? Because visibility in search results, or advertising sections results in clicks to your website – bringing more phone calls and enquiries.

Who Wins The Visitor Traffic Competition in Cumbria?

Notably, a few sites have very large volumes of total organic traffic. Clearly they have developed successful traffic acquisition strategies. Effective SEO and a commitment to content marketing combined with outreach based (hopefully) link building appear to be part of their success story.

I was interested to see how well Cumbria based accountancy firms compared with all the others in terms of visitor traffic numbers. At the end of the day it is the number of targeted visitors that will determine the success of any search marketing strategy.

Top visitor traffic websites visible to Cumbria searches for our accountants sample. Highlighting some of the key features of their digital presence.

Looking at the Current Total Organic Traffic Column (for January 2024), we can see that two Carlisle and one Whitehaven firm are in the top 10 most visited websites in our list of 138 accountancy firms. The top 2 are interesting London firms with Company ID 18 from Harrow never having used paid ads but clearly having gone for a full-on, mobile first optimisation strategy. 306k + visitors on mobile devices (if accurate) is no mean achievement. More interestingly, that peak was reached in January 2024, as the elapsed time of 0 months shows. Clearly they are on the rise.

The second placed Company ID 88, from London, appears to still have a very respectable 143k visitors in January… but that is a mere shadow of their peak visitor traffic of 404k organic visitors. However that was achieved over 4 years ago. They also seem to invest heavily in paid ads.

Our Cumbrian contenders in that top 10 also exhibit a similar decline from very high levels of traffic to a still respectable level today. It should be noted though, that the Whitehaven candidate sits higher because it is part of the national franchise listed just above them.
High-traffic sites, especially those with substantial mobile traffic, demonstrate the benefits of a strong emphasis on mobile optimisation. It’s a crucial component of modern SEO, reflecting people’s evolving search behaviour. Sites with significant paid traffic alongside significant organic traffic are the ones reaping the benefits of a comprehensive marketing strategy, resulting in their higher rankings.

The bottom line is: more visitor traffic… more phone calls and enquiries.

How The Data Was Gathered

I don’t pretend to be a data scientist and the data I gathered was correct at the end of January – from the perspective I searched it.

Search Set Up

I used a private browser – in this case Firefox which I don’t use very often normally. I used the add in Location Guard to set a specific search location within Cumbria’s main towns’ commercial areas. This was to simulate the location of a potential client searching for a nearby accountancy firm’s office(s) .

I used a separate private tab per each search term and the ranking data was collected over the last few days of January and the first few days of February.

If the browser failed to pick up location changes, I would first use the “Use precise location” button in the search results page – if available, to reset the location. If that failed, I scrolled the full six screenfuls to the bottom of the continuous scroll results and used the “Update Location” link in footer of Google SERP. Sometimes it would take several attempts to persuade the browser to reset to the desired location.


I was interested in Cumberland, Westmoreland & Furness, or Cumbria as was region.
First I looked up the most searched “near me” terms relating to accountants and the 2 that stood out were accountants near me and tax accountant near me.
With the browser set up as described above, I first set a local search location in Lowther Street Carlisle and updated each of the two search tabs.
The names, locations of the premises (or lack of), positions in results and web addresses of all the accountancy companies who appeared in the first continuous 6 “pages” of the new continuous scrolling environment were gathered and recorded.
The process was repeated for Whitehaven, Cockermouth, Barrow (in Furness), Kendal and Penrith.
Where companies showed up in multiple locations, their rankings were added to columns for that location.
Once the ranking data for those days over the January/ February divide were gathered, I started to gather data that would be helpful in guiding accountancy firms towards a stronger digital presence.
The number of offices inside and outside of the old county of Cumbria were also recorded.

Gaps in the Data?

You may wonder what’s happened to several ranking places whose details are not filled in. For example, on the first “page” for the Carlisle centred “accountants near me” search, places 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 don’t appear in the data tables. These places were occupied by other directories and financial services such as Yell, Bark, and Quickbooks. As it’s the accountancy firms I want to focus on, I have left these out of the data. It’s clear though that Carlisle accountants could fairly easily regain some of that space.

Key Data Points

Using SEMrush and manual inspection of each website, the following factors were recorded for January.

  • In Cumbria ? (Is the Main office in Cumbria)
  • Locations in Area (Number of office premises in Cumbria)
  • Locations Outside Area (Number of offices outwith the old county)
  • Paid Traffic (Paid traffic estimate for January 2024)
  • Max Paid Traffic (Estimated maximum paid traffic estimated to have reached the website)
  • DTop Traffic (Traffic estimate for January 2024 from desktop/laptop based searches)
  • Mob Traffic (Traffic estimate for January 2024 from mobile phone based searches)
  • Current Total Organic Traffic (Total estimated organic search traffic for January 2024)
  • Peak Organic Traffic (Peak estimated organic search traffic in historical data from SEMrush)
  • Time Elapsed (Months) (months elapsed since that peak of visitor traffic)
  • Organic Keywords (estimate of number of organic keywords for which website is currently found)
  • Authority Score (an overall score of the strength of the website – a SEMRush proprietary metric – to be used cautiously)
  • Referring Domains (how many different websites are linking to the subject website)
  • Backlinks (Estimated number of individual backlinks from those websites)
  • Indexed Pages (How many pages of content Google says it has decided to index: using the site: operator)
  • CTA Count (manual scan of the homepage to count the number of prominent Calls to Action that catch my attention)
  • Conversion Focus (A personal judgement on whether the homepage (and by extension the rest of the site) is likely to be focussed on converting visitors to getting in touch for accountancy services or information.)
More AI Garbage or a Genuine Attempt to Learn Something New?

As I say at the outset… I’m no data scientist. Due to the rather large quantities of data I tried dipping into Chat GPT’s Data Analyst, AI capabilities for finding patterns in data. However as is often the case with AI there were some very “hallucinatory” datapoints. Mainly I suspect due to my inexperience at prompting for real analytical insights.

I have been back through the data several times myself to see if I can pick out patterns and I have included some rewritten commentary from the Data Analyst function of Chat GPT where it has picked up an angle that had not occurred to me. But the bottom line is. All my own work guvnor!”