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Why Google Keyword Rankings Don’t Matter

When SEO first came onto the scene, keywords were king. Not anymore. Google is much more sophisticated now.

Are you looking for the secret tips and tricks that will force Google to rank your advisor website higher for specific keywords? Here’s one:

Don’t bother. It doesn’t matter.

There. I said it. Where your website ranks for specific keywords doesn’t matter. That statement might make business owners’ heads explode, because it takes away one of the most important trackable metrics that search engine optimization (SEO) experts have been pushing for years. But it’s time to cut through all the hype—and focus on what really does matter to your business.

The Facts: What’s Keyword Ranking?

Your keyword ranking simply refers to where you show up on a search engine results page for a given set of keywords. In other words, when you enter a string of words into a search engine such as Google and hit return, you’ll see a page displaying about 10 results, with more pages to follow. Common keywords advisors are often interested in may include financial planning, financial advisor near (insert your location), estate planning, retirement planning. You get the idea. Your keyword ranking is the page and location where your URL appears.

Why It’s a Thing: Higher Keyword Rankings Mean More Clicks—In Theory

Search rankings drive website visits. Research shows the top three links on the first page of results generate about half of all clickthrough traffic. That’s why businesses fight so fiercely for those spots—giving rise to an entire industry of agencies, consultants, dashboards, analytics and research tools, all promising a boost to your rankings. Also, business owners like having a convenient metric like keyword ranking to evaluate marketing efforts. Without it, they feel like they’re flying blind.

Unfortunately, this way of thinking is completely out of date. When SEO first came onto the scene, keywords really were king. They completely drove rankings, and a clever hand with keywords could make a big difference in website traffic. That’s no longer the case. Google is much more sophisticated. Remember, its goal is to provide searchers with the best possible results. It can see right through the gimmicky tricks that websites use to increase rankings for individual keywords.

What’s more, search engines today analyze much more data than just the keywords on the page they are indexing. They take searcher data into account as well. What medium is the query coming from—a computer, or a mobile phone via Siri? What time of day is the search? Where is the user located—East Coast, or West? What area of the city, for local searches? Most importantly, what does the user’s search history look like? What does the searcher do for a living, and where are they in the buying cycle? All of these factors influence search results.

That means you can forget about the idea of a single magic search string generating the same rankings for every user. Search just doesn’t work that way anymore.

What Really Works for Advisors Trying to Optimize Search

If you are trying to optimize where your business ranks on a search engine results page, keep in mind that Google and the other engines have the same goal you do. They want to bring you the best searchers possible—the ones most likely to convert once they land on your website. As long as you provide good, useful information tailored to a specific target audience, your page should show up for that audience. Trust Google to do its job, as they are trusting you to do yours.

Let’s use an example of a real-life advisor who came to us looking to improve his keyword ranking for the term ‘small business insurance.’ This advisor was obsessed with ranking No. 1 for this keyword, which happens to be a very specific and high value keyword. The head of digital marketing at our firm worked with this advisor to understand why he wanted to rank No. 1 for ‘small business insurance,’ which was to drive more leads to his website and have those leads complete a form. We were able to demonstrate that an investment into improving his ranking for this keyword may drive more traffic to his site, but it could be unqualified and wasteful traffic. Rather than focusing on being No. 1 for that specific keyword, we helped him focus on creating the right content to be the top search result for the profile of buyer he was looking to attract (and this buyer wasn’t searching for small business insurance).

I think marketers do our advisor clients a disservice when we overhype keyword ranking as a metric. It’s fairly easy to improve keyword ranking without improving the quality of site traffic. Which means that advisors focused purely on keyword rankings end up attracting loads of people who have absolutely no interest in working with them. In the end, this can negatively impact the advisor’s website, causing their bounce rate to skyrocket and their organic search ranking score to plummet—the opposite of their original goal!

Instead of trying to rank higher for specific keywords, focus on ensuring the right people are finding you when searching for an advisor like you. Look at your website analytics. Did organic traffic bounce without visiting any other pages on your site? How long did the traffic spend on the website? Which pages did organic search visitors look at? How many contact forms did they fill out? The more visitors engage with your site, the more likely they are to represent your ideal target market.

It’s easier to get more traffic than it is to attract the right traffic. Optimizing your site requires a sophisticated understanding of what your best prospects want and need. It takes effort and investment to create valuable content tailored specifically for them. But if you get it right, you’re poised to earn a much higher return on your SEO investment than you would by chasing keyword rankings.

Understanding keywords is one thing, but there’s no need to get caught up in all the hype. Nobody knows your business—or your clients—better than you do. Forget the tips and tricks and use your expertise to create something your prospects will find worth searching for.

Megan Carpenter is co-founder and CEO at FiComm Partners

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