In my last post, I highlighted a study on how bad the copy on financial advisor websites is. Unfortunately, copy isn’t the only area where many wealth management sites often fall short. But rather than focusing the bad, I thought I’d dedicate this post to the qualities that the best financial advisor websites have.
1. Consistent branding: the best financial advisor websites adhere to a well-defined brand that’s in-place before design or development start. Doing so ensures that design and tone are consistent not only across the site, but other assets like social media, email marketing, print ads, and marketing collateral. Failing to do this results in a lack of consistency that undermines recognition and perception of your firm’s brand.
Brand documentation most often takes the form of a style guide that includes examples of your logo in vertical and horizontal orientations, your color palette, and the fonts used for headlines, subheadings, and body text. More detailed guides that include rules for how and when logos are used, graphical and photographic standards, and examples of the appropriate writing style (aka tone of voice) are usually called brand standards.
2. Regular blog posts: as I’ve mentioned in a number of posts, original, search engine optimized content is king when it comes to attracting prospective clients to your site. You can have the best financial advisor website in the world, but if people can’t find it, it doesn’t really matter. I’ve written pretty extensively on this, but high level, you should be conducting keyword research and optimizing for the keywords that your ideal clients are using to find information related to your services, then writing a blog post on new keywords at least once a week.
3. Custom Video: more than any other medium, video has the power to evoke feelings, and the decision to go with one financial advisor over another is often more emotional than rational. In addition to making that all-important emotional connection, a video highlighting the unique aspects of your firm, and the personalities behind it, can function as a “pre-screen” of clients who are, or are not, going to be a fit – and that saves you valuable time and effort. Further, prospects that are a fit will walk into your office primed for the experience, putting you closer to closing than you’d be otherwise.
Video can also be used alongside blog posts as another way for website visitors to digest content in a way that words on a screen can’t. These videos don’t have to be high production value affairs. A mobile phone with a good camera and decent audio is a perfectly acceptable start. An additional advantage of video is that it can be posted to YouTube, which – second to Google – gets more searches a day than any other website – and don’t forget that Google has a video search function of its own.
You can think of typography like a good bassline. You may not be able to pick it out when it’s there, but you know – sometimes subconsciously – that something isn’t right when it’s bad or missing.
4. Fast-loading: this one is often overlooked, but important for a couple of reasons. First, Google measures the speed at which your website pages load because they don’t want to return search results that lead to a bad user experience, so if your site is slow, it won’t rank as well in search results. It’s a big priority for the search giant because their own research shows that 53% of visitors will leave your site if it takes more than three seconds to load.
I wouldn’t recommend relying on visiting your website as an accurate measure of speed. There are a variety of variables – bandwidth being the primary one – that impact load time, so you would have to run the test across multiple devices and connection speeds to get a valid sample. Fortunately, Google solves this with their PageSpeed Insights tool, which gives you an accurate reading of your site’s speed, as well as recommendations for improving it.
5. Mobile friendly: in 2018, 52% of all internet traffic was from mobile devices – up from just 16% in 2013 – and the trend shows no signs of stopping in the coming years. As above, user experience is at the center of this one. Google doesn’t want to send users to sites that don’t display well on mobile devices, so their algorithms measure mobile usability, and suppress sites that aren’t up-to-snuff. And for the people that come to your site via other means, you can be sure that mobile users won’t hang out for long on a site that’s hard to use.
When it comes to mobile-friendliness, the key concept is “responsive design.” Simply-put, responsive websites adapt to various screen resolutions and dimensions seamlessly, displaying your site’s content in a way that is easy for visitors to consume and interact with. Here again, Google provides a tool for measuring mobile-friendliness.
6. Readable: as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, and in a blog post addressing the same, most financial advisor websites have a readability problem. Specifically, the language and tone are overly complex, obtuse, and downright hard for the average person to understand.
It may not seem like a big deal, but according to a recent study, jargon-filled erodes trust, which is especially problematic because financial services ranks last in consumer trust among all industries.
It’s often difficult for experienced professionals in complex industries to put themselves in the shoes of their audience, that’s why the best financial advisor websites invest in working with an agency or copywriter to massage their verbiage into something more digestible and inviting than their internal output. And if you need any more convincing that readability matters, Google also considers it readability in its ranking algorithms.
Want to know how your site scores in readability? Visit this site, and enter the URL of one of your website pages.
7. Great typography: it’s been said that typography is 95% of web design, but nonetheless, it tends to be overlooked because most people don’t know what it is. If you’re one of them, Merriam-Webster defines typography as “the style, arrangement, or appearance of typeset matter.” In more simple terms, it’s how the copy on your website looks, which different from readability, which is how your copy reads. Typography is like a good bassline. You may not be able to pick it out when it’s there, but you know – sometimes subconsciously – that something isn’t right when it’s bad or missing.
Unless you have a background in design or the time an inclination to learn the rules, this one should be left to a professional web designer. There are website templates, such as the ones offered by Twenty Over Ten, that have really nice typography, but the danger is that an untrained person adding the content or updating the site is likely to inadvertently alter it.
8. Awesome images: second to video, images have the power to evoke emotion, but when poor choices are made in selecting images for your website, you may be prompting feelings you would prefer not to. By far the biggest problem I see with imagery is the use of cheesy stock photography. You know what I’m talking about: the generic smiling guy in a suit, or the implausibly good-looking family having an implausibly good time in an implausibly perfect beach setting.
Like typography – and basslines- visitors may not consciously recognize what you’re doing, but they can feel that something is substandard.
Stock photos are used because they’re much less expensive than custom photography, and they absolutely have a place in even the best financial advisor websites – but the imagery has to be very carefully selected so as not to appear generic and forced.
When I’m selecting images for a website, it usually takes at least thirty minutes, and sometimes much longer, to find the right one among hundreds. Of course, custom photography is the gold standard. If at all possible, you should have high quality, consistent headshots of your team, as well as a group shot on your site. Bonus points for exterior and interior photos of your office (if appropriate) and your people working together.
Beyond the emotional aspect, images ‘break up’ text on a page, making more copy-rich pages less intimidating to the reader. Graphics and illustrations such as charts and timelines are a great way to do that while conveying more complex information in a visually pleasing and easily understandable way.
9. Complete NAP info: “NAP” stands for Name, Address, Phone Number. It seems like a no-brainer to have that information on your site, but the best financial advisor websites handle NAP info in a very specific way. Before we get to the ‘how,’ though, let’s address the ‘why’: NAP is very important in helping your site rank well for local search, and local search is of primary concern for most wealth management firms because they draw the majority of their clients from their immediate area.
In short, complete NAP info should appear on every page on your website – typically, at the bottom in an area called the footer. In addition, each of your locations should have its own page, search optimized for a primary location-based term like “financial advisor in Frisco Texas.” There is, of course, more to local search than that, so check out my blog post on SEO for Financial Advisors for the full run-down.
10. Designed for lead gen: most wealth management websites are just online brochures with no purpose other than to give the visitor a (usually undifferentiated) rundown of who the firm is and what they do. But the best financial advisor websites are positioned as lead generators. The first step in the transformation of one to the other is a change in mindset. Instead of simply asking yourself whether the site has all of the information a prospective client would need, ask what it would take to get that prospect to take the desired action, which would likely be providing their contact information or contacting you directly.
Since there’s a lot if tactical detail to this one, I won’t go into specifics here, but you can find that info – and more – in my Internet Marketing for Financial Advisors Checklist.
There’s a lot to the list above, and even the best financial advisor websites don’t nail every item. Rather, they do a good job in three key areas: attraction, engagement, and conversion. Some items span categories, but in-general; blog posts, NAP info, readability, mobile-friendliness, and page speed help attract prospects. Branding, readability, typography, images, and video engage them, and implementing lead gen best practices helps convert visitors into leads. If you can hit even one or two items in each category, you’ll be in better shape than the vast majority of your competitors.