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 the share of that 72 percent that does so regularly comes in at around 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. The greater the reach, the more attractive the medium. And by that measure, search marketing warrants serious consideration by financial advisors looking to win more business and grow their brand.

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 to reach new customers falls into two categories: search engine optimization (SEO), aka “organic” search; and “paid” search (aka pay-per-click (PPC) advertising or Search Engine Marketing [SEM]).

In this article, we will be discussing organic search. It’s worth noting, though, that while SEO doesn’t involve paying the search engine for placement, it isn’t exactly “free.” Unless you’ve got a lot of time to invest in learning how search engines work, at least some of the funds that would go directly to Google, Yahoo, etc. will likely be spent on agencies or consultants that specialize in SEO.

That said, your investment in SEO tends to yield compounding returns over time because old content can improve in rank and attract traffic over time, whereas paid search only works for as long as you’re paying for it.

Local vs National SearchGetting to Number 1

You may notice that “search” and “local search” are both used here – unless otherwise stated, I’m referring to local search. In some ways the two are indistinguishable, but there are a few key differences. This is especially important because wealth management is mostly a local business.

Getting to Number 1

Having addressed the basics, just how does a financial advisor go about dominating the local search rankings? It does take some work, but it’s not as complex as you might think.

  1. 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.

  2. 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 somewhat optional 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.

    That said, if you’re curious 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 need at least one of them to conduct your research.

  3. 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.

    Optimization is essentially making sure that the search engines can tell exactly what each page is about. This activity is called “on-page” SEO. Explaining the ins and outs of it is an entire article in 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.

  4. Link Building, aka “off-site” SEO refers to the practice of getting other websites to link to your site. 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 site admins to request the link.

    That said, 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.

  5. Get local. There are thousands of location and industry-specific directories across the Web, from Google Local/My Business to Facebook to YP.com. Your firm should be listed on the ones I mentioned, plus Yelp! and a slew of others.

    Not only should they be there, but it’s also important that the information is correct, consistent, and complete. If it’s not, your rankings will suffer.

    This isn’t something I would recommend doing manually, there are just too many directories and too much potential for error. Look to MOZ Local, Yext, or SEMRush for automated solutions. They’re well worth the investment.

    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 advisor clients. In fact, if you can only implement one item on this list, this is the one.

Conclusion

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 wealth management firms, financial planners, and financial advisors who go beyond a simple brochure site.

The good news is that the bar is low for financial advisor digital marketing – but it gets higher every day, so get in the game and establish your presence now, because defending an established position is much less expensive than trying to unseat a well-entrenched competitor.