Local search engine optimization is becoming perhaps the most reliable, effective and sustainable opportunity for financial advisors to build brand exposure right now. Ranking on the first page of Google searches for financial advisors in a given town, city or region can bolster website traffic, overall brand visibility and credibility. Combined with strong website content and strategic integrated marketing strategies, it can increase consultation requests, newsletter sign-ups, event attendance and phone calls.
With that said, many financial advisors are late adopters when it comes to online branding and digital marketing. This is partially due to regulatory restrictions, budgetary limitations or lack of awareness and information. As a result, while many professions like law and real estate caught onto SEO years ago, many financial advisors are just now beginning to recognize it as an opportunity to establish brand awareness. As of 2020, 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine. Since a proportionately low number of advisors have prioritized local SEO to date, firms of all sizes have an opportunity to achieve first page rankings in even some of the most competitive cities.
That window of opportunity, however, is narrowing as competing firms are investing more time and resources into SEO initiatives. Advisors should take action now, as it is much easier and less expensive to protect a first page ranking once it’s already been established than to put it off and attempt to play catch-up.
Why Local SEO?
Financial advisors want to see measurable results from the marketing dollars they spend, and local SEO is completely measurable. With analytics platforms such as Moz, Yoast and Google Search Console, advisors can easily track their rankings for targeted search terms, visibility on Google Maps, domain authority, organic search traffic and other key SEO metrics, as well as how those stack up against their competitors. With the right customer relationship management system in place, they can even track exactly which online leads originated from Google and other search engines.
Direct response marketing through Facebook advertisements has been rising in popularity among advisors, arguably at a faster rate than SEO and other advertising strategies. While that approach can potentially produce inquiries, those inquiries stop coming in the moment the advisor ends the advertising spend. SEO, on the other hand, can establish a viewer pipeline lasting long after the initial investment.
Establishing backlinks on high-authority news sites gives advisors the ability to benefit from the public relations value of those placements. These incoming links create a bridge that connects your site from another. In doing this, backlinks allow search engines to view your site as viable, indicating authority and typically ranking your site higher. Along with this, optimizing a website for mobile and speed greatly enhances the user experience, which improves average session duration and the likelihood they’ll return to the site.
A local SEO strategy can include claiming your business on Google, as 46% of all Google searches are looking for local information. However, only 56% of local businesses claim their company, meaning the other 44% have reduced exposure to Google users. Tools like Google My Business have risen in popularity, as through this, advisors can see on a month-to-month basis how many people have accessed their website from their Google My Business page.
How Do I Get Started?
First, understand that Google is in the business of relevance, and sites tend to lose relevance over time. When a user enters a search term, they expect to see the most relevant results appear first. That’s what Google’s search algorithm is designed to deliver. In years past, savvy advisors could trick Google into perceiving their websites as relevant, but that isn’t the case anymore, and those dated and deceiving tactics can result in an advisor’s site being penalized or even de-indexed in extreme cases.
For advisors to rank on Google today, they must actually be relevant, and that often requires an integrated public relations and content marketing approach incorporating Google’s SEO best practices. By having a well-built site, page optimization based on keyword research and consistently securing high-authority backlinks from credible news sites, advisors can systematically climb the Google ladder all the way to the first page for several local advisor search terms and phrases. To get started, consider following these steps:
- Set up an active Google My Business listing for your practice. Getting on Google My Business is often necessary to appear in Google’s Local Pack, Local Finder, Google Maps and local rankings in general. Keep your listing active by periodically updating it with photos, events and announcements.
- Test your website’s speed and performance. A slow website can ruin a visitor’s experience, which is why Google considers site speed as an important ranking factor. Luckily, Google offers a free tool called PageSpeed Insights that allows you to quickly measure your site’s performance, including recommendations on how to improve it.
- Scan your website for crawl errors. Google’s Search Console can identify crawl errors, such as 404 Page Not Found errors, which can disrupt a visitor’s experience and hurt your search rankings.
- Add local keywords to your homepage and subpages. Examine your page titles, website copy and metadata to make sure local keywords like your city and state are woven into your site.
- Measure your domain authority and backlinks. Your domain authority, powered by backlinks to your site, indicates how likely your site is to outrank similar sites. Ahrefs offers a free tool that allows you to check the authority of your domain and the number of backlinks to your site. You can run scans on your competitors, too, to see how you stack up.
Now is the ideal time to mount a local SEO initiative. Tech-savvy advisors should consider going through the steps above, addressing the issues they’re able to and consulting with experts on those they are unable to resolve on their own. Google will continue to change the way prospective clients find, compare and evaluate local financial advisors. Inaction could make you invisible to a new generation of potential clients, while establishing high local search rankings and visibility could open up a powerful new pipeline for growth.
Maggie Hudspeth is the director of marketing services at TruClarity Management Solutions. Learn more at MyTruClarity.com.