What’s the first thing you do when you’re looking for a local business?
If you’re like the vast majority of your neighbors, you probably head to Google.
According to local SEO firm BrightLocal, when it comes to finding information on local products and services, search engines are the first choice of 72 percent of American consumers. And if we take into account all of those who search for local businesses regularly, that number balloons to nearly 90 percent.
Financial Advisor SEO
In advertising, potential reach (the number of people who could potentially be exposed to a particular message) is a key factor in determining where ad dollars are invested. In short, the greater the reach, the more attractive the medium. And by that measure, search marketing warrants serious consideration by financial advisors looking to close more business and grow their brand in 2019.
Organic vs Paid Search
Before we get into the “how” of winning in local search for financial advisors, let’s establish the “what.” The practice of using search engines as a to reach new customers falls into two categories: search engine optimization (SEO), aka “organic” search; and “paid” search, which is also known as pay-per-click (PPC) advertising or Search Engine Marketing (SEM).
In this article, we will be discussing the organic side – but “organic” doesn’t mean “free.” When it comes to SEO, at least some of the funds that would go to Google, Yahoo, etc. will likely be spent on agencies or consultants that specialize in SEO. But unlike paid search, return on investment in SEO almost always improves over time.
Local vs National Search
One more thing that’s worth mentioning: you may have noticed that “search” and “local search” are both used here – but it unless otherwise stated, I’m referring to local search. While many of the tenets are the same, local search differs from national or international search in a few key aspects, and since most people choose advisors in the city where they reside, we will take that route.
Getting to Number 1
Having gotten that out of the way, just how does a financial advisor go about dominating the local search rankings? While it does take some work, it’s not as complex as you might think. Here’s a step-by-step guide:
- Identify keywords that your search listing to show up for. For example, “financial advisor,” “best financial planner,” etc. Then add a location modifier, e.g. “financial advisor Frisco, TX.” There are two reasons you want the location in there: it limits the amount of competition to rank for popular keywords. It’s much easier to beat all the wealth managers in your town than in the country. And as I pointed out earlier, most prospective clients want to work with someone nearby. The only exceptions would be in cases where your local area is unlikely to provide a steady supply of new business because you’re a niche player or you operate in a small community.
- (optional) Conduct keyword research to uncover keywords have the highest search volume (number of monthly searches) and the lowest competition (a measure of the number and popularity of sites trying to rank for a particular keyword). This one is optional because it’s one because it can be confusing and time-consuming when you’re just starting with SEO, financial advisors typically won’t be dealing with a great deal of local competition, and the search volume is likely to be below the 10 query per month threshold that the keyword research tools track. But if you’re the curious type and have some free time on your hands, head on over to the Google Keyword Planner (free), MOZ (paid), SEMRush (paid), and SpyFu (paid), as you’ll be using at least one of them to conduct your research.
- Create & Optimize Website Content using the keywords you’ve identified. It’s often done by blogging, but you can also create new marketing content on your site or even optimize existing content. What’s this optimization I speak of? It’s essentially making sure that the search engines can tell exactly what each page is about. This activity is often referred to as “on-site” or “on-page” SEO. Explaining the ins and outs of it is an entire article in-and-of-itself; so for the purpose of brevity, I’ll forgo the nuts-and-bolts, and point you to this great resource on on-page SEO. One simple rule of thumb for content creation is that the more content you create and often you post, the more website traffic (and leads) you’re going to get.
- Link Building, aka “off-page'” or “off-site” SEO refers to the process behind getting other websites to link to your site, using the words you targeted in step one. Link building is perhaps the most tedious and difficult part of SEO, as it involves researching sites, manually placing the links where you can, and reaching out to their owners to request the link. But the work tends to be well-rewarded if you make a go of it. Search engines see an inbound link as a “vote” for your site, and the more popular the site linking to you is, the more powerful the boost will be.
- Directory citation building. There are thousands of location and industry-specific directories across the Web, from Google Local/My Business, to Facebook to YP.com. It’s important that your listings are correct and consistent, as missing, incomplete or inconsistent info can hurt your local search rankings. It’s very important, but not something I would recommend doing manually, due to the number of directories and the tedious nature of the work, so skip the drudgery and use a service like MOZ Local, or Yext to automate the process for you, and monitor your listings for issues and fix them for around $100/year.
- Generate Online Reviews: as I explained in my post about online financial advisor reviews this one’s a big opportunity that very few financial advisors are taking advantage of, making it a must-do for my financial services clients. In fact, if you can only implement one item on this list, this is the one.
If what you’ve read to this point seems like too much, realize that there are many ways to skin this cat. You can do the work internally, checking off an area every month or even quarter, or you can hire an agency or consultancy that specializes in marketing for financial services firms.
But whatever you do, do something. As I’ve pointed out, there is a wealth of opportunity available to financial services firms, financial planners, and financial advisors who go beyond checking the digital marketing box.
The bar is low but it gets higher every day, so my advice is to get in and establish your presence now, because defending an established position is orders of magnitude easier and less expensive than trying to unseat a well-entrenched competitor.