Creating and maintaining a strong digital presence is essential to capitalizing on business opportunities. Consumers are digitally aware and are willing to do their research before approaching your firm.
These consumers are looking for immediate answers and an organic listing on search engine result pages (SERPs) to make their decisions.
In order to compete online, financial advisors need to formulate formidable online marketing strategies to pave the way to success. A key component of your online strategy should be search engine optimization, also known as SEO.
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The financial services sector is one of the most competitive domains in the digital space. As an advisor, you are under immense pressure to generate qualified leads among competitive search results featuring top tier advisory firms and institutions. Advisors who go the SEO route tend to have a tough time ranking on search engines since the competition is so nerve wracking.
However, by getting their SEO in place, many advisors have gained a significant advantage over their competitors. They are able to leverage organic site traffic as a key source for new business.
An effective SEO strategy will help you compete in the aggressive financial services sector. Your strategy needs to be a well thought out plan that can maximize results through ethical practices.
Keep this in mind: SEO is not a one-time magic bullet that gets you results over night. It’s a tool among an arsenal of other tools that you can use to drive traffic to your website.
It’s a time investment; a strong SEO strategy consists of repeated actions and steps completed over a period of time.
In short, SEO is a long term strategy with long term benefit.
After you have achieved top rankings for search results relevant to you firm, it will be difficult for a competitor to dethrone you.
I have written this SEO guide for financial advisors as a resource for those wish to explore potential growth opportunities through organic search, yet have no experience with the subject and don’t know where to start.
This a long piece, so I have included a table of contents here in case you are short of time and want to focus on 1 specific topic:
Before venturing off into the basics of SEO, please review the following list of acronyms:
SEO – Search Engine Optimization
SERP – Search Engine Result Page. This is the resulting page when you Google something.
Search Engine – Search engines are used to find specific websites on the World Wide Web.
Indexing – In relation to the Internet, search engine indexing collects, parses, and stores data to allow for the accurate and fast retrieval of information.
Deindexing – De-indexing is the process in which a web page or entire website is completely removed from a search engine.
URL – Uniform Resource Locator. Fancy term for the web address you type in at the top of your browser
Keyword – In the context of SEO, a keyword is a single word or phrase that describes the content of a web page.
Keyword Density – KW density is the percentage of times a keyword or phrase is used on a web page compared to the total number of words on the page.
Impression – In the context of organic marketing, an impression is a number of times that a web page has been listed on a SERP.
Backlink – An incoming hyperlink from one web page to another website.
Internal link – An internal link is a link from a web page to another web page or resource on the same website.
Nofollow link – Nofollow is an HTML attribute used to tell search bots that a backlink should not influence the link target’s ranking in the search engine’s index. A dofollow link is the opposite of the nofollow link.
Anchor Text – The text that appears highlighted in a hyperlink. When the anchor text is clicked, it opens another web page.
Alt tag – a shorthand term used to refer to the ALT attribute within a HTML IMG tag. Adding an alt tag provides a text alternative for the image and is good SEO practice.
Breadcrumb – a type of secondary navigation scheme that reveals the user’s location on a website.
Search Bot – Bots seek out content on the Internet. Bots “crawl” new and updated content on the web and updates the search engine index with it. The bot for Google is known as the Googlebot.
Google Search Console – Previously known as Google Webmaster Tools, Search Console is a free tool from Google that allows site owners to check the index status and optimize the visibility of their website.
Google Analytics – Google Analytics is a free web analytics solution provided by Google that allows site owners to track and report website traffic.
Google Disavow Tool – Another free tool from Google (within Google Search Console) that allows site owners to tell Google that they don’t want spammy or undesirable links to be part of the backlink profile that Googlebot reviews.
SSL – Secure Sockets Layer. The standard security technology for establishing an encrypted link between a browser and web server. SSL ensures that data passed between browsers and the web server remain private and uncompromised.
Now, with that out of the way, let’s start on our path to understanding the dynamics of SEO.
SEO is a process in which website owners strive to get their sites to rank higher in search engine results, most notably Google and Bing, for relevant keywords and search phrases.
The ultimate aim of SEO is to generate a steady flow of inbound leads for the business owner’s product or service.
When SEO works, it can be a strong component of your overall marketing strategy and can even outperform traditional outbound strategies such as cold calling and mass mail.
SEO is for everybody. Bloggers, business owners, service providers, non-profit organizations, and institutions can all benefit from increased web traffic to their online properties.
But, SEO is a viable option only if you are willing to invest your time and are patient to see the results. For some, it may mean doing everything hands-on while in other cases, you might be required to entrust others, such as freelancers or agencies, to manage your SEO campaign.
If you are not willing to make this investment, paid advertising and/or outbound marketing may be your best bet.
If you are willing, specify achievable goals for your SEO strategy, and come up with effective optimization steps to achieve better rankings for your firm’s website.
According to Moz:
“On-page SEO is the practice of optimizing individual web pages to rank higher and earn more relevant traffic on search engines. On-page refers to both the content and HTML source code of a page that can be optimized, as opposed to off-page SEO which refers to links and other external signals.”
In simpler terms, On-page SEO refers to all SEO strategies that are used on your website.
Common components of On-Page SEO include the:
Page titles, also known as title tags, are an important component of on-page SEO that helps optimize your website. Every page on your site needs to have a unique title, comprising of the target keyword for the page, location, and your firm’s name.
You are a financial advisor in Dallas at Maverick Financial Planning, and you offer estate planning services for your clients.
You create a page on your site that details your firm’s estate planning services.
To optimize this page for SEO, you should create a title tag such as Dallas Estate Planning | Maverick Financial Planning.
As of the writing of this guide, it’s best to keep your title tags to 70 characters or less.
Many financial advisors do not pay attention to the meta description of their pages which indirectly affects their SEO results.
Look at this example for the search phrase “financial advisor Houston”:
The meta description is the snippet under the green text (website URL). As you can see, key terms from the sample search phrase are emboldened in the meta description.
For this reason, it’s critical to make sure your target keywords are in the meta description so that they are in bold face and users will more likely click on them.
Meta description is not directly related to your rankings, but click through rate (CTR) is a ranking factor. CTR is simply the percentage of all impressions for a search query that lead to clicks to your site.
Going back to the financial advisor Houston example, if that search phrase leads to 100 impressions of your site’s link in the search results, and users clicked on your site link 5 of those 100 times, your CTR is 5%.
Google wants to return those search results that users click on most, so the higher your web page’s CTR, the better position your web page will claim in Google.
Other tips for your pages’ meta descriptions:
It is highly recommended to make your URL search engine friendly as it helps search bots crawl your site’s pages. Shorter URLs tend to perform better in search results, but there is no evidence to back this claim.
Try to include your page’s target keyword in the URL, and take heed to the following recommendations:
While drafting your site’s content, I advise you to break down your content into small paragraphs and sections to make it reader friendly. The title of these sections can have heading tags such as H1, H2, H3 and H4 which correspond to heading 1, heading 2, heading 3, and heading 4 in most content management editors.
Limit each page to only 1 H1 tag, and try to include important keywords in your heading tags.
The best way to figure out which heading tags to use is to approach your content as you would an outline:
I rarely use H4 tags in my content, but you may find use for them in yours.
It is important that relevant keywords are induced in your content to help search engine algorithms understand the nature of it; however, cramming keywords in where they don’t fit does not bode well for your search engine rankings. It is also not a smart approach to worry only about keyword density.
The most important thing is to make content that is readable and engaging, and to include your target keywords where they fit in naturally.
Making use of images in your content is a way to add visual appeal to your monotonous blogs. A series of words can be boring, resulting in a disconnection with your audience.
To optimize your images for SEO, keep the following points in mind:
Placing links internally helps in creating links between your pages within your website. Internal links ensure that search engine robots crawl your site effectively, which makes all pages on your site discoverable.
These are the major components of your site’s on page SEO. Getting these right is an important step in any SEO strategy, and without this step, the strongest of off-page SEO strategies will be akin to building a fortress in a pit of quicksand; they will have no foundation.
To review these components of your website, I recommend using free tools such as Screaming Frog SEO Spider.
Now that your on-page SEO is set, let’s transition to off-page SEO.
According to Reliable Soft,
“Off page SEO refers to techniques that can be used to improve the position of a website in the search engine results page (SERPs). Many people associate off-page SEO with link building, but it is not only that. In general, Off Page SEO has to do with promotion methods – beyond website design –for the purpose of ranking a website higher in the search results.”
In simpler terms, off-page SEO comprises all strategies that expand your firm’s online presence away from your site.
Typical off-page SEO strategies include:
Social media marketing involves using various social media platforms to engage, build an online reputation, and endorse your firm’s services.
Common social media platforms include:
If you’re just getting started with social media, limit breadth and focus on the main platforms where your target audience congregates.
The top search engines give value to social media activity. If your content is shareable, then there are high chances that visitors will spread your content. This will eventually help in generating traffic for your site and improving its penetration.
Your content will not go viral overnight, it requires patience and practice producing good content.
Make sure to intrigue your audience, respond to them, and keep them engaged via all mediums.
Blogging is an excellent way to engage prospects and promote your firm’s services. Through blogs, you can attain loyal followers that can become loyal clients over time.
A tried and tested technique to improve your overall web presence, blogging helps extend your firm’s reach, specifically when you promote your blogs away from your site. Insightful blogs help with rankings as well because regular, fresh content helps your site to get indexed by search engine robots more frequently. Most importantly, blogging not only helps in improving your web presence, but nurtures prospects and leads to increase your firm’s exposure.
Numerous studies indicate that new client acquisition and blogging are correlated.
Start brainstorming engaging topics for your blogs and develop unique content. After that, make an editorial calendar that will help you remain on track.
The key to success with blogging is persistence and commitment!
Same idea as blogging on your site, but you write for other sites. Guest blogging is a great way to expose your firm’s services to other readerships.
To get results from guest blogs, make sure you partner with site owners that have relevant sites (either related to your local area or services niche) and engaged readerships.
Guest blogging on quality and relevant sites builds your backlink profile and can help bring referral traffic to your website.
To develop your credibility as an expert within your domain and local area (if applicable), active participation in online forums relevant to your niche within financial services or your city can help build your eminence.
By offering free advice, replying to threads, and participating in discussions, you build your authority on the subject where people will eventually seek you for their financial management needs.
As smart as the search engine algorithms are, they are just robots. You or I could go to your website and immediately assess whether you represent a legitimate financial advisory firm.
At this present time, a search bot can not make that assessment.
Instead, search robots use credibility signals such as business listings as indicators of your firm’s credibility.
Popular business listing sites include:
There are many more!
There are three areas that you should prioritize for your business listings:
Social bookmarking is another technique to promote the content on your website. Popular bookmarking sites such as Reddit, Stumble Upon, Digg, and Medium take blog submissions on their platform. Search engines prefer platforms like these, and frequently ranks their content as they are updated regularly.
If you have original images and videos, try sharing them on platforms such as Photo Bucket and Picasa (for images) and YouTube and Daily Motion (for videos). Sharing your digital assets on these third party sites can encourage referral traffic to your website.
If you provide really insightful multimedia content, such as an informative infographic or educational video, then you can also earn backlinks to your digital assets!
There are many sites out there where you can share images and videos, so make sure you pick those that are most appropriate for your service offerings and firm’s brand.
Make sure to do these basic steps to optimize your videos for SEO on YouTube:
Platforms like Yahoo Answers and Quora are full of people asking questions about their finances. This is a great way to step in and be someone’s Superman (or Superwoman).
Leverage your expertise to address questions people have about their finances, and tastefully plug your firm or website when appropriate.
These questions can also be great ideas for content that you address on your blog or social media postings.
If your firm is only interested in attracting financial services clients from your local area, then this section on Local SEO is for you.
Local SEO is an effective way for financial advisors to engage your local prospective clients. Through local SEO, financial advisors can promote their services locally, where a client is precisely looking for financial expertise and physical touch.
Local SEO makes use of various strategies that help in ranking on local based search phrases such as “Scottsdale wealth management” or “Atlanta investment management”.
Local SEO also takes online reviews (on Google MyBusiness, Yelp, Facebook, etc.) and local content into consideration when deriving an efficient and targeted strategy for a specific location.
The ultimate goal of local SEO? Rule the maps section in the search results.
This is the first thing prospective clients will see under ads when searching for financial advisors in their area, and you want to be sure your firm is listed there.
It’s clear local SEO represents a great opportunity to bring qualified traffic to your website, and you can get a great start with these tips:
A local SEO strategy, regardless if you’re targeting local or national clients, is an essential part of a strong SEO campaign. After your on-page SEO is in place, local SEO is a great next step for optimizing your firm’s website for SEO.
These are tips that will help get your SEO campaign off the ground. Now, I will delve into more advanced topics that will help you make up more ground with your competitors.
Now that you have read about the basics of SEO, these are some other facets of your SEO strategy that you should review for your financial advisory website:
Technical SEO for your advisory’s website is essential for profound results.
For starters, it is crucial to cater to all the technical aspects of SEO. The thought of mapping out a URL structure or optimizing the robots.txt is not quite appealing. However, without doing so your SEO will not be as effective as it could be.
Some factors you should review for your site’s technical SEO include:
This is an example of schema on a SERP:
Information presented with schema provides your prospective clients with more information about your practice from the SERP, which helps jump start the trust building process.
Also, there are positive indications that using schema can boost your website’s rankings.
Typically, SSL certificates are used to secure credit card transactions.
Even if you’re not taking clients’ credit card information, having that green message showing your site is secure is a great way to start building trust with them.
In a nutshell, a site silo is a site architecture technique in which you organize your content, either physically with directories and URL structure or virtually with internal links, so that each silo has an overriding theme and each article within that silo is somewhat related to that theme.
For example, let’s say tax planning is one of the services you offer clients. The silo theme would be tax planning, and within that silo, you would have:
The important part here is that those sub topic pages would ONLY link to the main tax planning page and to no other pages on your site.
For my visual learners, here’s a diagram:
Stay tuned to my blog for future articles that will go more into detail on the topic of site siloes.
Once your site’s technical SEO is in place, the next step is to work on creating great, link-worthy content.
To help your site receive more traffic, content is the key. To realize the benefits of content marketing, make sure to have an abundance of linkable content. A blend of financial related articles, infographics, educational videos, eBooks, whitepapers, and audio files is a great way to make a lasting first impression on your financial services prospects.
Financial advisors who are seeing results with SEO claim that good, client-focused content drives their business. It is also the building block for SEO, as, in 2017, a strong SEO strategy and well-executed content strategy go hand in hand.
Content is important, so keep the following in mind:
Many times, financial advisors strive hard to build strong branding for their firms by doing outreach for brand mentions and high-quality backlinks.
Don’t forget the importance, however, of good internal links. Internal links are equally important for your websites’ ranking and are important for SEO.
With the help of internal links, you can tactfully weave a deep internal link network that not only helps in search engine indexing your site’s deeper pages, but also helps your site visitors find the information useful for them.
A site that does not have good internal links is weak and disconnected. This can be a major stumbling block for your overall SEO strategy.
The good thing about producing content in abundance is that you will have ample content to link internally. This will help in creating a strong network within your site.
Stay tuned for more advice on how to set up internal links for your site, including anchor text.
SEO has changed quite a bit since the creation of the first versions of search engines years ago.
Since then, strategies to attain high rankings and web traffic within the search engines have changed continuously, too.
Link building strategy is no exception. Years ago, it was perfectly fine if you were a financial advisor and sent irrelevant links to your site.
Really irrelevant links. Like links from sites related to fashion, Gucci bags, and other tomfoolery.
The strategy was simply to build as many backlinks to your site as possible and this would help boost your site’s rankings.
In 2017, the number of backlinks is no longer a major ranking factor, as backlinks that are both relevant and from authority sites are given more weight.
In fact, site owners who use spammy backlinks to build their backlink profile will probably have their sites penalized, either with significant ranking drops or deindexing, eventually.
This corrective action by search engines such as Google are known as manual penalties.
If you’ve had a site for your firm for years and built backlinks or hired a SEO agency to do this, your site’s backlink profile may need a thorough review to avoid a manual penalty.
There are a wealth of tools on the market that you can use to view your site’s backlinks, but try starting with Google’s Search Console. With this tool, you can view your site’s backlinks and take corrective action if necessary.
Your best option is to reach out to the site that is linking to you and ask that they either:
1) Change the link to No Follow or
2) Remove the link
This may not be possible, as the site linking to you could be very old and not regularly managed.
I suggest reaching out to that site owner at least 3 times, and if there is still no response, disavow the link with Google’s Disavow tool.
I will be writing a more detailed article on this topic in the future, so stay tuned!
To rank well in the SERPs, it is important to make use of targeted keywords.
By targeting the right keywords that are relevant to your practice and lead to buying decisions by your prospective clients, you are likely to curb competition online.
Your keywords should be a blend of your local terms, pages, titles, URLs, and blogs.
Make sure to use keywords in a strategic and natural manner for optimal results.
Forced keywords tend to disengage the reader and are considered as spam by search engines.
Overstuffing keywords in unrelated pages is also a bad idea for SEO and readability for your content, which can result in a permanent and temporary ban of your website or removal from the SERPs.
Google Analytics is your ultimate performance tracker, and most advisors simply love the platform for the convenience and functionality it offers.
Best of all, it’s free!
For financial advisors striving to improve their website’s SEO, the following metrics need to be tracked:
Outside of Google Analytics, be sure to track the following metrics:
Take out time and chalk out the goals and fundamental objectives you wish to obtain from your SEO efforts. Start jotting them down by priority and ensure that your goals are measurable and realistic.
These are some example goals:
SEO is a strategic tool for financial advisors looking to get the most from their websites.
By optimizing your website for SEO, not only do you position your firm’s website to attract more leads, but your expertise within your niche of financial services is shared with more individuals, families, and businesses who need it.
A strong SEO campaign makes use of various techniques in on-page SEO and off-page SEO to gather traction. The traffic observed via SEO is organic and long term, resulting in sustainable results that would be difficult for your competitors to take.
SEO offers long term results, but it’s a long term strategy. Depending on your niche and location, it can take months or even years to reap significant benefits, especially if there has been no SEO optimization for your site in the past.
By leveraging other search engine marketing strategies such as pay per click (PPC) advertising, you get the perfect combination of quick wins and sustainable, long term results.
If you are interested in using SEO as a marketing technique, I advise you to develop a strategy that does not put your site at risk for penalties, but is also focused and aggressive.
Doing this right could take extensive ramp up time and effort on your part, and it may be best to consult with an SEO expert.
In that case, make sure to contact us to ensure your SEO strategy and execution is on track!