Most financial advisors don’t know a lot about search engine optimization or SEO. While they’re immersed in complex investment and financial planning topics, SEO may overwhelm or confuse the average advisor. But in today’s competitive landscape, it’s more important than ever for advisory firms to complete basic foundational steps to secure their place in the eyes of Google.

Proper SEO will help your website get more traffic, make you look better online, and support your referral process. But advisors face a huge SEO hurdle: most businesses rely on online reviews to bolster their credibility and FINRA prohibits reviews for advisors. Making the most of your business listings without using reviews requires a specific strategy.

This blog post will tell you everything financial advisors need to know about search engine optimization and what to do to optimize your firm’s website.

What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of increasing your website’s traffic by helping people find your site online. There is a lot of competition and money to be made by being the best search engine, so Google, Yahoo, and Bing invest hefty resources in trying to return the best search results for their users.

How can they tell which search results are best for a given search? They look for behavioral clues from users, like which results they click on, how long they stay on a site, and whether they continue their search or not after visiting a website.

But not all SEO is created equal. Search engines treat different types of searches differently. If you search “headaches and insomnia” you’ll be directed to a credible national medical website. If you search for “plumber,” you’ll get a local service provider. Google knows that it wouldn’t be helpful to direct you to the definition of a plumber, or the history of the plumbing industry, it knows that most people who search for “plumber” want a highly rated plumber in their area.

The same is true for financial advisors. Because Google views financial planning as a local service, it uses local search engine optimization “clues” to return the most relevant local financial advisors. These clues include:

  1. Whether your business address, hours, and phone number are listed
  2. How recently your website has been updated
  3. Whether your business is featured on Google and Apple maps

By making sure your website is optimized for local search, you can get more traffic to your website when people search for a financial advisor in your area.

Why does SEO matter for financial advisors?

Getting more traffic to your website is not the only reason it’s important to optimize your website for search engines. Optimizing your site also helps it look better in search results, by including images, maps, business hours, and your logo.

Building out your search engine results page can make it easier for your existing clients to get directions to your office or find your phone number online. It can also help referrals from existing clients to find you and establish trust.

Establishing Credibility Online and Helping Your Referral Process

As Michael Kitces, partner at Pinnacle Advisory Group, points out, “Even if they are referred by someone they trust, no one is going to give their life savings to a financial advisor without typing their name into Google.” Customers explore businesses online before they make decisions. In fact, 9 out of 10 referrals will Google you before they set up an appointment.

Even if they have already met you in person, potential clients look at your business online and form an opinion about how much they trust you. If a customer searches for your business in Google, what do they see? Are you hard to find online? Do you show up on the second or third page of search results? Do your social media profiles show up before your website? We want to make it easy for them to find you online and get a positive impression.

Getting More Organic Traffic to Your Website

The Internet has changed everything about how we live from how we select a restaurant to how we choose a CPA or financial advisor. For financial advisors, showing up within relevant search terms can be a powerful marketing tool to get more traffic and more business.

There are two main ways to get more traffic to your website via search engines:

  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM) or paid ads: Search engine marketing or pay per click (PPC) allows marketers to purchase traffic. Google sells placement within various searches at a price per click. Each time someone clicks your ad, Google charges your account.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Think of the O in SEO as “organic.” With SEO, we are affecting the free or organic search traffic to your website. We aim to get your website to show up in those search results “organically” by being what Google considers the most relevant site to meet their search need.

Why not use SEM and pay for clicks? It can get expensive in a hurry! If for example, if you are a financial advisor in San Diego and you want people who searched for the term “Financial Advisor San Diego” to click through to your site, that would cost you between $15 and $20 per click. Ten clicks using PPC could cost $150 or more!

But with SEO, we can invest less than $1,000 to get you to show up in top search results month after month for free. Then, you will see traffic coming to your site for “free” based on those search terms. Additionally, users who search the terms might place more trust in businesses that show up organically than businesses that paid to be there.

How is SEO different for local professional service providers?

The most effective way for financial advisors to use SEO is to build out your local online presence so that you show up higher in search results and look good when people search for your business (either directly or through keywords that you’ve targeted).

We’ve worked with hundreds of top financial advisors to optimize their websites and took two years creating and refining our SEO process. For our search engine optimization strategy, we combine the knowledge that we’ve developed building marketing programs specifically for financial advisors and combine it with SEO best practices.

Financial advisors have a unique position when it comes to SEO because many financial advisors have not completed even the most basic SEO work. There’s not a lot of SEO competition from most local advisors!

But there are challenges too. Part of SEO work leverages “Local SEO” best practices, but financial advisors are not exactly like a local coffee shop. For example, reviews are highly relevant for coffee shops but against the rules for financial advisors. What is a well meaning financial advisor to do?

How can you tell where you rank?

Before we get in to exactly what you can do to improve your SEO, it’s a good idea to take a look at where you are starting and how your business appears on Google today. Make a note of your starting point so you can track your progress over time. If you need help figuring out where you rank, get your free SEO Audit Report for your site now!

Search for Your Business Name

First, go to Google.com and enter the name of your business to see if you come up. If you aren’t searching from the location of your office, enter your business city name too, for example, “pilot wealth management troy, michigan.”

If you’re website is not coming up as the top search result for your business name, that means your SEO needs some serious work. If you do not have a Google My Business Page on the right sidebar with your information, that’s a good clue that you have not laid the SEO foundation for your firm yet. This is what an incomplete business listing looks like.

Search for Relevant Keywords

Next, you’ll want to see how you rank for relevant keywords. Enter a few keywords and your city name to see where your firm ranks, for example “financial advisor in paradise, ca.” Check the Google Places listings to see if your business shows, then scroll through the organic listings below the Google Places to see where you rank. Make a note of the page number you show up on and your overall rank for a given keyword.

Search for Your Business on Maps

Finally, open up your map application on your smartphone and search for your business name. Make sure that your office shows up on maps with the correct address, website, and phone number to make it easy for your clients to call you and get directions to your office.

If you’re disappointed in the results of your search, don’t worry, it’s easy to make big changes in your SEO rankings with a few important actions. Read on to find out how.

Choosing the best keywords to target

Before you get started making any changes to your website or registering your business online, you’ll want to consider the keywords you’d like to target in the future so that you can be consistent with your efforts.

Keyword traffic depends on simple supply and demand, so targeting high volume keywords will mean that you have more competition, whereas it may be easier to rank higher for lower volume search terms, though you’ll have less traffic to capture.

Here are some examples:

  • Financial advisor san diego
  • Financial planning for women in des moines
  • Financial advisor business owners chicago

You could also target services as a keyword:

  • Retirement planning phoenix
  • Business valuation new york city
  • Estate planning in jupiter island, fl

Financial Advisor or Financial Planner?

Many advisors aren’t sure if they should use the term “financial advisor” or “financial planner” in their keywords. I recommend using the term “financial advisor” because it gets much more search volume. Here are the daily national search volumes for relevant keywords for professions:

  • Financial Advisor: 60,500
  • Financial Planning: 12,100
  • Financial Planner: 9,900
  • Wealth Management: 9,900
  • Investment Management: 2,900

And here are the search volumes for relevant keywords for services:

  • Retirement Planning: 18,100
  • Estate Planning: 14,800
  • Long-Term Care: 8100
  • College Funding: 480

Make a list of up to three keywords (one profession and two services) you’d like to target and be consistent in your efforts for the most impact. Be sure to only choose one profession keyword to target or you risk diluting your efforts.

What’s the difference between on site and off site SEO?

There are two main types of SEO, on site SEO and off site SEO. The first refers to work we do on your website, like making changes to your home page and the content on your website to help people find you. Google relies on the information within your website to determine what your website is about and whether it will return you as a relevant search result.

Off site SEO refers to work we do away from your website to help your search results, including listing your business with search engines. Search engines give hierarchical importance to the home page and headings on your website. They also look for important information like your title tags and meta descriptions to assess you site’s content.

How to Improve Your Website’s On Site SEO

To make an impact on your website’s on site SEO, you will need to make some changes to the most important areas of your home page and update your tags and descriptions. You may need to enlist the help of your web designer to complete the process.

Update Your Homepage to Include Your Keywords

It may sounds obvious, but most advisors do not capture their keywords on their homepage. Google gives preferential treatment to the content at the top of your homepage, so you’ll want to make sure it’s accurate and includes your keywords.

Make sure you include the following: NAME OF YOUR CITY + KEYWORDS

Here are some examples:

  • Fee-Only Financial Advisor in San Diego, California
  • Retirement Planning in Roswell, Georgia
  • Financial Planning for Business Owners in Newark, New Jersey

Check to Make Sure Your Website is Mobile Responsive

Google will penalize your site if it is not mobile responsive, so it’s critical that you double check your site. Go to responsivedesignchecker.com to find out now.

Updating Your Title Tags

After your homepage, your title tags are the most important place to put your keywords. They’re the words that show up at the top of your browser and in search results.

Update your title tags via your website editor or ask your website developer to include your keywords in your title tags. To get step-by-step directions for updating your site, register for this free SEO webinar now.

Each page of your site should have a different title tag that includes your targeted keywords and the main services you offer.

Here are some examples of good title tags:

Homepage: Independent Financial Advisor Serving Teachers in South Texas

Retirement Planning Page: Retirement Planning for Teachers in South Texas

Optimizing Your Meta Descriptions

The last step of on-site SEO is to optimize your meta descriptions, the short description that displays below your title tags within search results. This area is what searchers use to decide whether they’re going to click on your site, so it’s critically important.

Perfect meta descriptions should be:

  • Less than 320 characters
  • Unique for each page
  • Include a Description of the Page
  • Feature Your keywords
  • Include a Call to action!

Update your homepage and at least your top 5 most visited pages. Here is an example of a great meta description:

As an independent financial advisor in Austin, Texas, I specialist in retirement planning. Sign up now for your free retirement readiness review!

How to improve your website’s off-site SEO

If you’ve completed the steps to improve your website’s on-site SEO, that’s half the battle. The next step has to do with the local search ecosystem and your local listings.

The local search ecosystem

Not all credibility on the Internet comes from Google. In fact, Google relies on many business listing agencies, social networks, and other search engines to verify businesses online. The local search ecosystem is a complex web of networks that create credibility online for businesses that are registered well across the network.

I like to think of the local search ecosystem as credit reporting agencies for your business. Similar to Transunion and Experian, the local search ecosystem continually monitors your business to determine how credible it is. No one knows for sure how much credit your business gets with registering with each listing, but we do know that registering with the most important players can make a big impact on your local search visibility.

Which directories impact your search presence the most?

Through trial and error, we’ve identified the most important 7 directories for financial advisors. To make the biggest impact on your website, we’ll want to register your business with the following listings:

  • Your Google My Business Page
  • Your Google Maps Listing
  • Your Bing Listing
  • Your Apple Maps Listing
  • Your Facebook Business Page
  • Your Infogroup Listing
  • Your Acxiom Listing

Your Google My Business Page

By claiming your Google My Business Page, you’ll appear on the right hand side of search results for your firm, along with your logo, photos, business hours, phone number, and more. In their never ending quest to own as much of the Internet as possible, Google incentivizes businesses to register with Google My Business by giving preferential SEO treatment to firms who have claimed their page.

Your Google Maps Listing

Your Google Maps listing is verified via U.S. Mail through your Google My Business Page. Once verified, it will display your firm on a map via a Google search and also when someone searches for you using the Google Map app on their phone. In addition to giving your site SEO “credit,” this can make it easy for clients and prospects to get directions to your office.

Your Bing Listing

Similar to your Google My Business page, creating a Bing Places for Business page helps you show up when users search for a financial advisor using Bing as a search engine. But beyond that, it gives additional credibility for your firm when Google cross-references all information available on the Internet to double check their listings.

Your Apple Maps Listing

Apple maps is important because all iPhones and iPads have the app built in, so the 43% of people with iPhones often use Apple maps as their go-to search mechanism. Showing up on Apple maps allows searchers to get your phone number and get directions to your office from their phone.

Your Facebook Business Page

Facebook is the second most visited page on the Internet, just behind Google. It makes sense then, to affect our Google search results, that Facebook will play a role. Google likes businesses that have properly claimed and built their Facebook Business Pages.

How to Learn More

Most advisors stick their head in the sand when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO), so I applaud you for reading this far. If you’d like to learn more about how to harness the power of SEO, join me for a free webinar today.

In this 30 minute video presentation, we’ll review:

  • What is SEO and why does it matter for advisors?
  • Demystifying how SEO really works
  • How can you tell if your website needs help?
  • 11 steps you can do today to get more traffic
  • Your guide to do it yourself for free!
  • Your free SEO Audit Report

Space is limited, so join us now to qualify for the free offer to save $100 on your SEO or download your checklist to do your own SEO for free!