Should Advisors Offer Financial Calculators on their Website?

The addition of Financial Calculators to an advisor’s website is a common consideration during the design process. The tools are well known, readily available, and are a regular offering on many finance-related websites. The downside – professional calculators can be an expensive add-on. Are they worth it?

Case Study

A client who was offering Calculators asked that same question. He was paying high annual fees for a very nice set of 10 financial calculators for his website. It was time to renew and he wanted to know if, from a business/marketing perspective, they were worth the extra cost?

His firm is in the highly competitive Southern California market and his website gets an average amount of web traffic for a small, independent planning business.

The Data

In determining the specific answer for this client, we evaluated the search market for financial calculators, his search competition, and reviewed his traffic patterns for the past year.

1. Is there consumer interest in financial calculators?

A search on Google’s Keyword Planner tool showed a healthy search volume for Calculators both nationally and locally.

Financial Advisor Calculator Keywords

2. Search Results: Who is the competition for search traffic?

A non-branded, non-location specific search for “Retirement Calculator” brought up the following listings:

  1. Schwab
  2. SmartAsset
  3. Vanguard
  4. AARP
  5. Merrill
  6. Fidelity
  7. Voya

. . . pretty stiff competition.

3. Historical Results: Client-specific data from Google Analytics for the past year.

Looking through Google Analytics, I found the following data related to their calculator pages for the past year:

  • they were viewed a total of 55 times by 47 unique visitors – less than 1% of all visitors went to any of the 10 available calculators
  • the calculators were entry pages, meaning visitors found the website because of the calculators, only 5 times
  • the average time on a calculator page was 2.57 minutes

Recommendations

This case study is obviously far from an empirical study on calculator use on Financial Advisor websites, however, it did provide information that can be applied to other advisors.

Know your reason for offering calculators. Don’t expect it to increase your search traffic. The chances of out-ranking one of the national companies that are showing up in the search results are almost zero.

Few visitors used this client’s calculators. Although, this might not be the case for your calculators should you choose to offer them, be sure to follow up by checking your Google Analytics data to be sure.

Look for less expensive calculators. If they don’t offer a huge return, don’t invest as much in them.

Although I don’t see specific disadvantages (besides cost) to offering calculators, definitely consider your budget and goals when contemplating adding them to your website. If you are on a limited budget, it may not be the most cost-effective use of your marketing dollars.

If you have Calculators on your site, what has your experience with them been? Have you seen a lot of use? Gained or maintained clients because of them?

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in May of 2015 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness

Barnacle SEO: Use 3rd-Party Sites for Local Organic Search

Do a search for broad financial industry terms such as Financial Advisor, Financial Planner, or Wealth Management.

Unfortunately, the local organic search results for broad keyword terms are often dominated by 3rd-party local or industry review sites such as Yelp, national financial sites like  Smart Asset, Fee-Only Network, and Investopedia, or local and national media lists. Google has determined that this is what searchers are looking for, so it is what it delivers to them.

The phrase Barnacle SEO, first introduced by Will Scott on Search Influence in 2011, is as applicable in today’s local organic search environment as ever. It refers to the idea of attaching yourself to a site that is ranking for your search term, when ranking on your own doesn’t seem possible

Sample Search Results for “Financial Advisor, San Diego”

Search for “financial advisor, city name” in your local area and chances are that your search results will be similar to this one for “Financial Advisor, San Diego” – cluttered with results from account sites like Yelp and SmartAsset, or list articles from different publications. 

An individual advisor is going to have a difficult time out-ranking any of these sites. In this situation, the Barnacle SEO strategy suggests that if you can’t beat them, join them. Set up a Yelp account and join SmartAsset, then do what you can to optimize your business on their site.

3 Ways to take Advantage of Barnacle Optimization

1. Sign Up for an Account with the Directory (i.e. Yelp)

a. Claim (or set-up) your Listing: Depending on the site, your listing may already be there waiting for you to claim it, however, it is more likely you’ll have to register and set up a new account.

b. Complete Information Fields: Provide as much information as you can – complete all relevant fields. Longer descriptions often rank higher.

c. Include Keywords: Use services and location-related keywords in your titles and text fields.

d. Set Categories: Take the time to search for the best Category classifications for your business. Add as many relevant categories as are allowed.

e. Add Images/Media: Adding images and video may not only help you to rank higher, but can help improve your click-through rates once you are ranking. Update with new images regularly.

f. Get Reviews: Although this is still not an option for all Advisors, or even an option on all of these sites, however, where it is relevant and appropriate, reviews are definitely a ranking factor.

Try to incorporate asking for a review into your regular client follow-up routine. If you are trying to rank on multiple sites, you will have to decide whether to spread your reviews out or focus them all on one site.

g. Research Specific Site Requirements: The above tips will provide a solid foundation to get your barnacle optimization started, however, individual sites will have other factors that influence rankings – on-site activity (updating listings, etc.), adding your blog, answering community questions, etc.

Often you can find videos or webinars that outline specific strategies for a given site.

Another way to get an idea of what ranking factors a site weighs more heavily, or to judge how difficult it will be for you to rank, is to Reverse Engineer the rankings. To do this, search your category on the site (i.e. “financial advisor, city name”) and look at the profiles that appear at the top. What differentiates the top few from later listings? What separates the highest-ranking listing from the second, third, etc.?

2. Get Added to the List

If it’s a locally published list (i.e. The 7 Best San Diego Financial Advisors), find out who the author/publisher is, and what criteria was used for the list.

Connect and network with the author on social media (or in-person). This should be an authentic professional connection, not a one-sided ask – make yourself known to the author, be as helpful as you can – share his/her posts, link out to interesting articles, or be available for an interview or quote for future articles.

When appropriate, ask if he/she would consider adding your firm to their list, or approach it from the perspective of what does he/she see as the reason you are falling short of making the list.

3. Build the Ship (Create the List):

When possible, build the ship that others will barnacle attach themselves to.

If there are not already list articles for your local market, or if the existing articles are of lower quality or from smaller sites, write the “10 Best Financial Advisors in [your city]” article. You don’t have to include yourself in the list (and shouldn’t), but by being the “expert” that wrote the list, you are already placed in the company of (or above) the firms that are listed. Taylor Schulte of Define Financial does this very well in the above-mentioned article The 7 Best San Diego Financial Advisors.

Ranking well on these sites and lists can definitely drive traffic to your site, but Barnacle SEO should only be one part of your overall SEO (and marketing) strategy. Relying exclusively on a 3rd party site for traffic and leads leaves your business exposed to too much risk – the site may change its ranking system or business model, or Google may change its algorithm or penalize that particular site. 

Read The Ultimate Guide to SEO for Financial Advisors for more information, or subscribe below to have our new blog posts delivered directly to your inbox.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in May of 2018 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness

How to Select the Best Keyword for your Advisory Firm’s Homepage

Are you a Financial Planner, Financial Advisor, Financial Adviser, or Wealth Manager? This is one of the first decisions you have to make when you optimize your website for search.

Why? Because the homepage is usually the highest authority page on a website, making it your best opportunity to rank for your most important keyword.

5 Considerations When Selecting the Keyword for your Advisor Website’s Homepage

1. Personal Bias

Many advisors  I work with are comfortable using these terms, at least some of them, interchangeably – they do not feel one describes their practice better than another. In that case, you may want to use the keyword that has the highest search volume (SEE #3 below).

However, if you apply a different meaning to any of the keywords, for example, you may associate Wealth Management with a High Net Worth clientele, you want to make sure that you are using one that best describes your firm. 

2. Part of Your Firm’s Name

If your firm’s name includes one of the broad financial terms (i.e. Boise Wealth Management), there may be SEO and branding advantages for you to optimize your homepage for that keyword.

3.  Which Keyword has the Greatest Search Volume?

According to ahrefs’ free Keyword Tool, across the U.S. “Financial Advisor” is the most searched of these keywords:

4. Which keyword is most popular with searchers in your area? 

Check Google Trends to see the most searched keyword in your state, metro area, or city. Read Most Searched Financial Title Keyword Over Time and By Region to learn more about how to use Google Trends.

5. Consumer Perception of Various Financial Titles

A recent article – How Financial Advisor Titles Shape Consumer Perceptions (August 20, 2021) – by Derek Tharp (PH. D., CFP®) on the Kitces’ Nerd’s Eye View blog, looked into research on how different professional titles are perceived by consumers across two scales: Competence and Loyalty. Of the financial titles included – unfortunately Wealth Management or Wealth Manager were not included – Financial Planner was just shy of Financial Counselor on the Loyalty component and was rated slightly higher than Financial Advisor on the perceived competence scale.

Subscribe to our blog (form in the footer) to learn more about keywords and Advisor SEO, or visit our SEO Services page for more information on how we work with advisors.

Most Searched Financial Title Keywords Over Time and By Region

Growing up in Western Canada, we would occasionally enjoy a cold pop on a hot summer day. However, since moving to Oregon in 1990 and later relocating to Idaho, that same sweet carbonated beverage is, without question, a soda.

Preferences in word usage are common within different regions of the country and over different periods of time. This holds true for what we call the professional who creates financial plans and manages our investments as well.

Changes in Broad Financial Keyword Usage Over Time

In 2004, according to Google Trends, the most popular search term for those services was “financial planning.” However,  during the past 17 years, the term “financial planning” has become less common and has been replaced by both “financial advisor,” and “wealth management.”

The long-term trends for broad financial titles can be seen in the graph below.

The above graph gives an overview of the changes in advisor search over the years, however, it doesn’t account for the regional differences that we still see today.

Regional Preferences for Advisor Keywords

Google Trends allows you to find the most popular search terms by location – state, metro areas, or city.

Before you rush out and change your keywords based on the above map, note that the location data is updated and changes regularly.

Despite the inconsistencies, there is still valuable data available from the map.

First, across the country, Financial Advisor and Wealth Management are consistently the two most searched terms. Secondly, if you observe the map over time, you will likely see trends for most states. And finally, Google Trends allows you to dig down past the state level to identify search terms and trends for specific metro areas and cities.

Using Google Trends for Keyword Research

1. Go to Google Trends.
2. Put in a search term (i.e. financial advisor).
3. At the top of the results page, you have the option to add/compare more keywords. You can compare up to 5 keywords at a time.
4. Use the drop-down menu just below the keywords to select the time period you wish to look at. I’ve selected the past 12 months.
5. To see the data “by state,” select “Subregion.”

6. Hover over any state to see a detailed breakdown of keyword use for that state. As you can see in the image below, Alaska heavily leans towards “financial advisor.” Some states will be more evenly split and are more likely to fluctuate.

You can see the same data by hovering your mouse over the bar graphs on the right.

7. Clicking on the state will take you to the metro data for that state. For example, clicking on Oregon brings up the metro data as seen below. Again, you can hover over a region to pop up more detailed information. We can see here that even though Oregon as a whole is searching for “Wealth Management,” the Medford-Klamath Falls metro area searches “financial advisor.” 

To see all of the metro areas at once, select “Metro” from the dropdown menu. With this view, you can see that a couple of metro areas actually favor the search term “Financial Planning.”

8. Use the dropdown menu again to see details regarding specific cities. To include cities with lower search volumes, check the box in the lower left-hand corner below the map.

If you’re selling “pop” to a world full of “soda” drinkers, you may be making your job more difficult than it needs to be. Detailed keyword research plays an important role in any successful SEO plan, and Google Trends is a useful tool to add to your research process.

How to Write an SEO Friendly URL

URL Best Practices: Important take-aways:

  1. Use keywords in URL
  2. Separate keywords with a hyphen
  3. Shorter URLs are better for SEO
  4. Avoid using dates
  5. Use https

The URL – Uniform Resource Locator – or address for your web page, is still an “on-page” SEO element. It is one of your available opportunities to tell the search engines what your web page is about so it should contain your keyword(s) for that page.

Recommended Reading:The Ultimate Guide to Advisor SEO in 2021

The URL is made up of several components, primarily the Protocol, the Root Domain, and the Sub-Directory or path.

i.e. http://www.AdvisorWebMarketing.com/subdirectory/

One Domain to Rule Them All

Whenever possible, use a single root domain for all of your web properties – don’t have a separate URL for your blog, or separate microsites for each of your services or areas.

Splitting your web properties up results in multiple sites needing to be optimized individually – each will require fresh content and authority signals (i.e. backlinks), resulting in either more work or diminished results, or both.

Creating multiple sites used to be a common SEO strategy – the multiple sites allow you to create backlinks from one site to another – essentially creating a link farm. While this can still produce positive results in the short term, Google has become very proficient at identifying these methods and will eventually penalize offending practitioners.

The Protocol

As far back as 2014, Google announced that having a secure site – adding an SSL certificate to your site, resulting in an https protocol rather than http – will result in a slight rankings benefit. Since that time most sites on the web have implemented https.

Sub-directory, or Path

In order to be optimized for search, sub-directories should contain your keywords separated by hyphens, and should be short and simple.

A Backlinko study of almost 12 Million search results showed that “short URLs tend to rank slightly better than long URLs.” Most first-page URLs are between 40-100 characters, with the average being 66.

Shorter URLs and hyphens also provide a better User Experience (UX), which is another ranking signal.

i.e. https://advisorwebmarketing.com/url-best-practices

Finally, do NOT include dates in your URL. Not only does it make your URL longer, but over time makes it much more difficult to update your article to keep it relevant in the future.

WordPress URL SEO

For search purposes, set your WordPress blog so that your default URL subdirectory is the title of your post.

If your current default settings result in a URL that looks like one of these…

  • http://blog.AdvisorWebMarketing.com/?p=123
  • https://advisorwebmarketing.com/2021/07/28/sample-post/
  • https://advisorwebmarketing.com/2021/07/sample-post/
  • https://advisorwebmarketing.com/archives/123

… go to your WordPress dashboard and click on SETTINGS >>> PERMALINKS >>> and the POST NAME radio button, your posts will now display the blog title in the URL.

https://advisorwebmarketing.com/sample-post/

Note: If you have an existing blog, changing these settings will change the URL’s from your already published posts! Better to either leave your old posts as they are, or set up redirects for those posts. You can then customize each new post as you publish them (see below). 

If your blog post title does not make a good URL – maybe it is too long or includes a date – you can manually customize it.

Manually Creating Your URL in WordPress

If you want to manually customize the default URL, as I do for this post, click on the URL edit button – or in my case with the Yoast SEO plugin, I just overwrite the “Slug”…

– and customize your URL. In this example, instead of the default URL

https://advisorwebmarketing.com/how-to-write-an-seo-friendly-url

I will customize it so that it reads:

How to Write an SEO Friendly URL

It’s always important to remember that you are writing for two audiences – the search engines and your eventual readers. While the search engines would really only require a sub-directory of the keywords – i.e. /seo-url, that isn’t likely to draw readers as they scroll through the search engine listings. To that end, I considered using /url-best-practices, but ultimately wanted my URL to include the keyword “SEO” as well.

The URL is a simple but important element of “on-page” SEO. As a bonus, an optimized URL is also usually much more user-friendly and helpful to the visitors of your website. It’s worth taking a little extra time to get it right. Learn more about our SEO services.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in February of 2013, but has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness. The most recent update was 7/29/21.

SEO for Financial Advisors: The Ultimate Guide for 2021

What is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a set of strategies that are created to relay signals of relevancy and authority to the search engines. When implemented properly, these strategies will help your advisor firm to rank for your desired keywords.

While there are hundreds of known, suspected, and unknown factors that Google measures, this article will focus on those signals that are recognized by the SEO industry as being relevant.

Table of Contents
(Click on relevant link to go directly to a specific section)

How Does Google Work?

When a search occurs, the search engine algorithm evaluates all possible results based on the firm’s perceived relevancy, authority, and signals reflecting the performance of the website and the experience of past website visitors for similar searches (User Experience or UX). It then ranks and displays all possible results based on these evaluations.

Google Ranking = Relevancy + Authority + Performance Metrics + User Experience Signals (UX)

Relevancy relates to the search engine’s understanding of the services or products that you deliver, and how they relate to the search query.

Authority signals help Google rank the relevant sites in order.

Performance Metrics indicate how well your website is working – loading speed, mobile-friendliness, and site architecture.

User Experience (UX) signals are used in an attempt to understand the experience of previous visitors to the site – how long did they stay on your site, how many pages did they visit, did they find the answer to their query or did they go back and search again?

Ultimately, the goal of SEO is to highlight your relevancy, increase your authority in the eyes of the search engines, and optimize your site’s performance and User Experience so that the search engines recognize your website/content/services as the best answer to the searcher’s query.

The Anatomy of a Search Engine Results Page (SERP)

Google’s SERPs are undergoing constant changes (mostly minor) as Google continues to test its algorithms and page presentation looking for the best way to provide answers to a searcher’s question.

Combined with dynamic search results based on the type of query, our location, and our search history, there is no shortage of page styles and data we may see. However, no matter how the display is formatted, there are currently 6 ways to appear in the search results.

1. Paid Advertising (Pay-Per-Click, or PPC Ads): PPC ads are a part of the Search Engine Marketing (SEM) family but are not directly related to SEO. These ads generally appear at the top and bottom of the SERPs.

Companies appearing in these ad spaces bid to have their ad appear for specific keywords, then pay Google each time their ad is clicked on.

As seen below, ads may also appear in Google’s “local” map pack . . .

 . . . or more recently, as a “Google Screened” business.”

Google Screened ads are only for professional services, including Financial Planning. “Google Guaranteed” businesses first must undergo a background check and verification of their licenses and insurance information, at which point they can pay for a Google Screened ad.

2. Local Map Pack: Google’s Map Pack appears for broad industry keywords (i.e. Financial Planner, Financial Advisor, Investment Management, etc.) and usually shows up directly below the PPC ads, however, it is sometimes placed farther down the page.

The Map Pack is influenced by the position of the searcher relative to the available businesses, and the perceived relevancy and authority of the business – which are both influenced by search engine optimization.

3. Organic Listings: Organic listings look similar to PPC ads except that they are not labeled as an “Ad.” These listings are not paid placements, rather they are a result of being perceived by the search engine as a relevant and high authority answer to the search query.

4. Featured Snippets: Google has started answering many questions by presenting content directly on the SERP. This is known as Position Zero and is called a Featured Snippet. The following image shows part of the SERP for the search “When should I start social security.”

The searcher can then click on the link for more information or continue to select one of the other listings if the featured snippet doesn’t appear to be the best answer to them. Being positioned by Google as the Featured Snippet can be influenced through SEO.

5. Knowledge Graph: The Knowledge Graph is a panel of information related to the search that appears on the right-hand side of the SERP. It is generally Wikipedia-type information on a broad subject area, a big company, or influencers.

i.e. “What is a financial plan?”

i.e. “TD Ameritrade”

i.e. “Michael Kitces”

6. Answer Boxes: For some queries, Google also provides “People also ask” boxes with related questions that are clickable for more information.

Just as with Featured Snippets, SEO can influence whether your content is selected as a “People also ask” answer.

Rule the Rankings with Advisor SEO

For clarity, I have broken the discussion of SEO tasks into 4 distinct sections connected to the ideas of relevancy, authority, and performance metrics, and user experience. In reality, it’s important to realize that the benefits of any one specific SEO step often overlap and impact the other areas as well.

I(a). Relevancy (On-page SEO)

Relevancy has to do with what your business does, who it does it for, and where it is located. Relevancy signals are generally elements that you have more control over – keyword selection, content created, your location, citations built, etc.

1. Create a Page for Each Keyword: In order to rank for competitive industry and location-based keywords, you will need to create a unique page around that keyword. In this case, “page” is generic for content, it could be a web page, blog post, video, or other suitable forms of content. For example, have a distinct page for each of your services, rather than one page listing all of your services. Note that your homepage will usually be your highest authority page, so should be reserved for your most important keyword

2. Title Tags: The title tag is still your best opportunity to let the search engines know what your page is about. It usually defaults to the title of the page or article, but from a straight SEO perspective, sometimes can benefit from a manual overwrite. Below is a title tag being written on the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress.

3. H-tags (Headers): Use H-tags (headlines) to break up and organize the content for your reader, and to highlight your subject area for the search engines – use keywords in your headers where it makes sense. Use your H-1 tag only once on each page.

Below is an example of setting an H3 Tag in WordPress.

4. Alt. Image Tag: The search engines are not great at seeing images, so where your visitors see a great graph of the most recent bull market, the search engines may only see wasted white space. Alt. Text is your opportunity to explain to the search engines what that picture is about – all the better if that description includes your keyword. While you’re at it, it is a good idea to also include your keyword in the title and file name of the image.

The above image shows the addition of alt. text in WordPress to a graphic representing a “bull market.” 

Note: FYI, the actual alt. text for this image, as it is being used to demonstrate alt. text in an article about Advisor SEO,  is “alt. text for SEO.”

5. Content Mark-up: Your content should include primary keywords (more than once, but not in a forced or unnatural way), plus popular synonyms. Emphasize keywords (or synonyms) by including them in the headers, using bold or italicized text, or by creating a bulleted list. Try to include your keyword early in the content (first sentence if possible, but first paragraph if not). Of course, you want to avoid “keyword stuffing.” Your content should always read naturally for your visitors.

6. Internal Linking: Strategic internal linking – linking from one of your pages/posts to another of your pages/posts – can help boost the authority of targeted pages, may encourage visitors to stay on your site longer (which is good for client acquisition and represents a good user experience – which can help your SEO), and helps the search engines crawl and understand your website more clearly.

7. External Linking: Linking out to related high authority sites may improve the search engine’s perception and understanding of your website and business and therefore help with your SEO.

8. Structured Data: Also known as Rich Snippets or Schema, Structured Data is not a ranking factor but it can improve click-through rates once your business appears on the SERPs. 

Rich snippets are additional bits of information that allow the search engines to better understand, and therefore display, your content in the SERPs. 

Below you see two results for a Chocolate Cookie Recipe. The first is a traditional Google SERP, 3-lines including a title and description. However, the second listing includes a picture, star rankings, time to cook, and how many calories they are – which are you more likely to click on?

Structured Data is not quite as exciting for financial advisors, but it can still include stars, event information, additional company or individual profile information, and more descriptive links to click on.

9. Keyword Tag: Most SEO programs will still provide a space for you to include a list of more keywords (in addition to the one in your Title Tag). While this won’t have any negative consequences, the Keyword Tag is no longer an SEO signal.

10. Meta Description Tag: Another option still included in SEO programs is the Meta Description (or sometimes just “Description”) tag.

While no longer an SEO ranking signal, it is still an important marketing component in that the text that you include in the Meta Description is often the text that the search engines display as the “description” in the SERP listing.

You can see in the SERP image below, that the Title Tag (underlined in red) actually becomes the first line of the SERP listing, and the meta description (outlined in blue) are lines 2 and 3. This means that you MUST write your Title Tags and Meta Descriptions so that they are engaging for your potential visitor as they will be your first opportunity to “sell” to them (convincing them to click on your listing).

Learn more about Meta Description Tag best practices.

I(b). Local SEO (Google Map Pack)

Local SEO rankings are heavily influenced by your overall on-page and off-page SEO, however, there additional are steps that are more central to “Local SEO.”

1. Location: Local Search is now “searcher-centric,” meaning that for many searches, the search engines give extra consideration to the results that are nearest the searcher’s current location.

This means that if there is a specific community that you want to rank for, you would do well to have an office space in that community.

If you are trying to serve a nearby city from the suburbs, it’s going to be very challenging (if not impossible) to show up in the map pack for that city. However, depending on your competition, it may still be realistic to show up in that area in the Organic search results.

2. Create a specific page for each location: If you have multiple locations, you will want to optimize for each, including creating a page for each location. Often this can be the “Contact Us” page for that office, however, it helps if you include some information about that area (city, neighborhood, etc.) a Google map, a distinct address, and a unique “local” phone number for each location.

3. Create pages for local search terms: The “Local Map Pack” is only displayed for a few broad industry search queries ( i.e Financial Advisor, Financial Planner, etc.). It is important that your website includes pages that are optimized for those few search terms. The pages should also include location-based keywords (i.e. city, state, zip code) with your primary keywords (i.e. Financial Advisor, Boise, Idaho, 83706).

4. Name-Address-Phone Number (NAP): Settle on a NAP for your business and use it consistently across the web. If some part of your NAP changes (i.e. you move to a new location) make sure to update your NAP wherever it appears. It is recommended that you display a “local” phone number for each location.

Your NAP should appear on every page of your website (i.e place it in the footer, header, or sidebar).

5. Register with the Local Search Engines: Set up and optimize accounts with Google My BusinessBing Places, Apple Maps, and Yelp for Business.

6. Register with the Data Aggregators: Register with the “Local Data Aggregators” – Data AxleNeustar Localeze, and Foursquare.

These groups send your information out to other business directories and have an extensive reach throughout the Local Search Ecosystem.

7. Build relevant Citations: Citations are online business listings or directories where you can list your business.

The Local Search Engines and the Data Aggregators are basically citations but are more influential than most.

The more often your business is “cited” consistently across the web, the more confidence the search engines have in listing it on the SERPs. There is also the potential benefit of the directory sending you traffic directly.

Citations include groups you pay to belong to like the FPA,  XYPN, and NAPFA, or can be free listings such as Manta or Superpages.

8. Collect Client Reviews: Reviews, especially on Google My Business, are a strong Local SEO ranking signal. Beyond Google, you can also collect and display reviews on 3rd-party sites such as LinkedIn, Yelp, Facebook, and many others. Decide which platforms are most important to your business and focus on collecting reviews on those platforms.

For most industries, collecting reviews and testimonials for their business has been an important part of Local Optimization for several years.

As of May 4th, 2021, with the SEC’s latest changes to the marketing rules, this has become a Local SEO best practice for many advisors as well.

As a side note, some state Administrators already allowed advisors to ask for reviews as long as those advisors ask all of their clients, not only the ones they think will provide positive reviews.

Contact your compliance officer or State Administrator for specific information regarding your use of reviews in your area.

II. Authority (Off-page SEO)

Off-Page SEO is the most challenging aspect of the optimization process as it requires people outside of our control to get involved.

The strongest “authority” signal, actually the strongest SEO signal, comes from your backlink profile – the quality and number of links from other websites that direct visitors to your site.

For Local Search Rankings, client reviews on Google (and some other sites) are also important contributors to a site’s authority.

In order to take advantage of the authority you build, you must first establish your relevancy to your target audience (for local and/or organic SEO)

Use this “Link Explorer” tool to get an idea of your site’s backlink profile (or that of your competition).

Despite Google’s best intentions (and all the ‘experts’ online), a strong backlink profile does not usually occur naturally.

Google’s theory is that if you publish good content, others will find it, link to it, and the best content will rise to the top of the rankings. It does occasionally still work this way, however, because most industry bloggers don’t link out to other sites, and there is so much content created, most blogs go unnoticed by the link creators.

Instead, today’s successful content creators must actively plan and work on a backlink development strategy – specific content, specific connections, and specific sharing strategies – if they want to develop a position of online dominance in their market.

Other factors considered for authority include the age of the URL and the depth or expertise displayed in the content available on the site.

III. Performance Metrics (Technical SEO)

Performance Metrics have become more important to search engines – and therefore to SEO – in recent years.

1. Mobile-Friendly: With the roll-out of Mobile-first indexing, your mobile website has become the default version of your website – the version Google is measuring. Does the mobile version of your site load quickly? Is all of the content accessible by mobile? Are the links and buttons clickable (not too small or too close together) and the text readable? Have you removed “pop-ups” from your mobile site?

Test your pages using Google’s Mobile-Friendly test tool. Even if you’re using a responsive theme, don’t assume that your site is formatted for mobile, test its functionality yourself.

2. Loading Speed: It is important that your site loads fasts – for both search engines and your visitor’s user experience.

Recent studies show that on average, the number one ranked website loads 20% faster than the number 6 ranked website. Speed is only expected to become more important as Google rolls out its Core Vitals update from June – Auguet, 2021.

As it stands now, more than half of web visitors expect your site to load in 2 seconds or less and will start abandoning your website after 3 seconds.

Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to measure your Desktop loading speed, or Google’s Test My Site for the best measurement of your Mobile Site’s loading speed.

IV. User Experience (UX)

Search Engines use data to determine how users engage with your content or website. They use these impressions to determine if the searcher was engaged with your content which would indicate that it was a good answer (or not) for that query. User Experience signals can be found in Google’s Universal Analytics, and include:

1. Bounce Rate: A bounce occurs when a searcher clicks through to your page, and without spending much time on that page, clicks (or bounces) back to search again. Although not always the case, it indicates that they didn’t find the answer to their query on that page.

2. Dwell Time: Similar to Bounce Rate, it measures the time they were on the page before clicking back to the search results.

3. Click-Through Rate: The more searcher’s click on your listing on the search engine results pages, the more Google identifies it as offering a good answer to the search query.

4. Pages/Session: How many pages is the average searcher visiting once they land on your site?

5. Session Duration: How long does the average visitor remain on your site?

The Role of Content Marketing in SEO

The regular creation of high-quality, unique content is vital to SEO success. “Content” is most often thought of as being a blog article, but can also include video, audio or visual content.

It is important to remember that Google understands “text” better than any other format, so you should also include a text-based version/description of whatever type of content you’re creating.

Content creation allows you to introduce and rank for new keywords, provides assets for link building, signals to the search engines that your site is actively being updated (meets Google’s “freshness” requirement), and helps develop your expertise in the eyes of the search engines and your website visitors.

Social Media and SEO

There is a lot of confusion surrounding the role of Social Media in an SEO campaign. Social Media definitely does indirectly impact your SEO in a number of ways.

Your social media accounts do act as citations and may be the highest-ranking outcome when someone searches for you or your company by name.

It is also a great tool for sharing your content, and can help with link building by making it easier to connect with influencers and link creators.

However, Facebook “likes” or “shares,” or Twitter “re-tweets” do not directly influence your search rankings. Nor do social media accounts, posts, or shares, count as backlinks that help to build authority.

Voice Search

In today’s world, more searches are being completed through voice search on smartphones, computers, tablets, and smart speakers. Voice search benefits from traditional SEO signals, as well as a few strategies that specifically apply to voice search.

  1. Focus on common questions that prospects or clients ask related to your services and provide answers to these questions.
  2. Use the question as your title.
  3. Provide a concise answer or definition to the question right after the heading. Use the rest of the article to expand on the answer.
  4. Use Schema to mark up your content.
  5. Optimize for Local Search.
  6. Make sure your site is mobile-friendly.
  7. Improve page speed and load times if your site is failing to measure up to your competitors or Google’s expectations.

We will continue to update the steps in this article as the search engines make changes to their algorithms.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in September 2018 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness. The most recent update was on 6/22/2021.

The SEC’s Updated Advisor Marketing Rules: 5 Benefits of Collecting Client Reviews

The SEC’s long overdue update to the Advisor Marketing Rules, scheduled to be effective on May 4, 2021, will have a far-reaching impact on future advisor marketing opportunities.

The changes will allow advisors to solicit and display client testimonials, non-client endorsements, and 3rd-party review site ratings. While it may take some time to sort through all of the marketing and compliance implications of the 430-page document, there are some easy marketing wins for those advisors willing to make an effort to add client reviews to their marketing plan.

5 Marketing Benefits of Collecting Reviews and Testimonials for Advisors

1. Rank Higher in Local Search (Google Map Pack)

It makes sense that reviews and search rankings are closely connected. Search Engines want to help their client, the searcher, find the best answer to the search query. Reviews help to sort through the competing claims to find sources that have previously helped those with a similar search/problem.

Both the number and quality of reviews impact Local Search rankings and should be included as part of a sound search engine optimization strategy.

According to The 2020 Local Search Ranking Factors Survey, client reviews are believed to be the second-highest controllable ranking factor for Local SEO (behind only your claimed and optimized Google My Business page).

2. Social Proof

In today’s digital environment, even strong referrals are going to visit your website and look into your online presence before reaching out to you. A 2019 Consumer Review Survey found that 76% of consumers trust online reviews as much as recommendations from family and friends. That figure jumps to 89% when considering only the 35-54 age bracket. And while you could argue that they won’t be as influential in the financial industry, it’s hard to believe that they won’t hold some influence with decision-makers, especially if competitors are demonstrating a high number of positive reviews relative to the firm they are looking at.

3. Improved Click-Through-Rate (CTR)

Ranking success doesn’t mean a lot if the searchers aren’t clicking on your listing. Fortunately, reviews increase searcher click-through rates. In fact, a 2018 study by BrighLocal demonstrated that the Review ratings in the local Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) were the highest individual attributor to a click at 15.44%, and together, the rating and number of reviews accounted for attracting 23.2% of all clicks.

4. Add Keyword Rich Content to Your Website

Some of the reviews and testimonials you collect will undoubtedly contain keywords relevant to your services. Display those reviews on your website to add keyword-rich content to your website. Even better, add them to the specific page that is relevant to those keywords. In addition to adding keywords to your webpage – a win from an SEO perspective, it also works to satisfy Google’s “freshness” requirement (that your website be updated occasionally).

Note: If you are adding reviews or testimonials to your site for SEO purposes, make sure that they are added as text rather than as an image so that Google can crawl and understand the review. We display reviews as a slideshow on our website – below is an image of that slideshow.

5. Use Feedback to Improve Your Business

Reviews and testimonials also provide valuable internal information to help improve your practice. Most advisors prioritize and pride themselves on customer service, but wouldn’t it be nice to receive feedback from your client on how effective your customer care and services are? That feedback can help identify strengths, weaknesses, and possible oversights that you may not otherwise recognize, allowing you to continue to evolve and improve your processes for future clients.

The Use of Reviews and Testimonials for RIAs Registered at the State Level

Unfortunately, this rule only applies to those investment advisors registered with the SEC. If you are registered at the state level, you will need to check with your state. However, some of you may be surprised to find that your state already allows you to collect reviews as long as you follow their specific guidelines. Prior to the new rules being announced, I was told by more than one state registered advisor that their state allowed them to ask for reviews from their clients.

For more in-depth information on this new rule, check out Advertising with Testimonials and Endorsements Under the New SEC Marketing Rule on Kitces’ Nerd’s Eye View blog, or watch the What RIAs Need to Know About the New Marketing Rules webinar sponsored by Snappy Kraken.

Still Using HTTP? Google has Labeled your Site as being “Not Secure.”

Since the release of the Chrome 68 web browser – which accounts for 81.2% of all web search – in July of 2018, Google has displayed this warning message to prospective visitors on non-https websites:

Google has been moving in this direction since 2014 when it announced that the HTTPS protocol would be “a very lightweight” ranking signal.

Early adaptation was slow but the latest data from MOZ show that page-one (and 2, 3, 4, 5 . . .) organic search results are dominated by  HTTPS URLs.

If you are still using HTTP it is impacting both your search rankings and the rate at which people are clicking through to visit your site.

An update to HTTPS on new sites should be automatic with most web design companies, however, if your existing site is still HTTP check with your designer or hosting company to add an SSL Certificate.

If you’re looking for new hosting for your WordPress website, HTTPS is included in our hosting package for free.

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in May 2017. It has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness in May of 2020.

Meta Description Tag Best Practices for Advisors

The Meta Description tag (MDT) is an actual example of the near-mythical “low hanging fruit” that marketers are always writing about. It’s a quick, inexpensive change that can positively impact your search engine click-through rates (CTRs).

Read: The Ultimate Guide to SEO for Advisors in 2021

What is the Meta Description Tag?

The Meta Description tag is a statement describing the content of the webpage. It is not visible to website visitors (unless they know where to look) but is visible to search engines, and to those that find you on the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs)

It usually makes up the content that appears on lines 3 – 5 (below your URL and title tag) of your listing on the SERPs, making it your first opportunity to “sell” to your potential visitor, meaning that it can directly impact your Click-through-rate (CTR) – definitely worth putting some thought and time into.

If you don’t create an MDT (and sometimes even when you do), Google will take a snippet of your content that it believes represents your firm, like the example below.

The above MDT doesn’t do a great job of convincing searchers to click on the listing. It’s rather generic, and you can see that Google used an ellipsis (…) to join 2 paragraphs together. The original content appeared on the site’s homepage.

To check the Meta Description Tags on your webpage (or on a competitors page):

From Firefox, Chrome, or Internet Explorer:  hit Control U to see the Source Code.

The Meta Description code will look something like:

In the above section – which is not from the previous advisor site as it didn’t have any content for the description – the first part of it reads . . .

Meta Description Best Practices

1. Your Meta Description tag should be unique for every page, and should include your primary keyword or phrase for that page – that keyword will appear bold when it is used as part of the search term.

For example, a search for “Financial Planner Boise” resulted in the following search listing – notice that property management is bold which could help attract clicks:

2. Your Meta Description tag can be as long as you want, but Google will only display the first 155-160 characters (including spaces) on the Search Results Page – plan accordingly. You can see in the above search listing, the message is truncated. Remember, you’re primary goal is to provide value that earns clicks.

3. Apply copy-writing best practices to your Meta Descriptions.

Which listing would you be more likely to click on:

or,

Okay, while it can probably still be improved upon and is dependent on your target audience, I think it’s safe to say that the second MDT is better than the original. The point is, don’t take your meta description tags for granted – put a little thought and creativity into them.

Not particularly creative? No worries . . . thankfully, it’s easy to find good examples of well-written meta descriptions.

Coming Up with Good Meta Description Tag Copy:

a. Study Pay Per Click Ads for that search phrase: Good Pay Per Click companies continuously test and refine their copy, keeping what works best and discarding those versions that don’t convert as well.

b. Study your competitor’s Organic meta descriptions (remember – Control U): Again, see what’s working for your competition and base your copy on those meta tags.

c. Remember to focus on benefits rather than features: “… are you concerned about outliving your retirement savings …?”

4. Always remember that you are writing for a potential customer. Your Meta Description Tag is a sales tool and should always be crafted as such – include a call-to-action when appropriate.

5. Google will cut off any quotations used in your Meta Description Tag.  Moz recommends removing all non-alphanumeric characters if possible, but if you do use a quote, use single quotations rather than double.

If you leave your Meta Description tag empty, which is actually a fairly common occurrence, you’re leaving it up to Google to “sell” to the searcher – as above, it will choose content from your website to auto display as your meta description tag.

How to Change Your Meta Description Tag

If you’re using a Content Management System (CMS) (i.e. WordPress, Drupal, Hubspot), managing your Meta Descriptions is fairly straightforward – one of the many advantages of using a CMS.

Your CMS will provide a spot for you to change your Meta Description (it may just call it Description). In WordPress, I use the Yoast SEO plugin, which offers a “Meta Description” editing box below the page content.

If, on the other hand, your site does not have a CMS, the changes will have to be made to the actual code. Although changing the text within the code is not that difficult, accessing the code can be a challenge. If this is the case, it’s probably best to write your copy and hire a professional to input the changes.

Thanks for reading. As always, your comments and questions are both welcomed and appreciated.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April of 2013, but has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness. The most recent update was 05/14/20.

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