By Zach McDonald
“Why isn’t my advisory firm’s site showing up in Google results?”
That’s one of the top digital marketing questions we get from advisors. It makes perfect sense. You’re a great advisor, so you want to be front and center when someone searches for “financial advisor (your city/state).” So why can’t you make it to the first page (or even the second or third)?
Before we jump into the specifics of how to improve your ranking, let’s look at why Search Engine Optimization, commonly referred to as SEO, matters (compiled by Hubspot):
- Google gets over 100 billion searches per month
- 81 percent of shoppers do online research before making a decision
- 51 percent of smartphone users have discovered a new company while performing a search on their phone
With so many people researching and finding new companies through search engines – especially Google – advisors need to make search ranking a priority.
The problem is that Google’s algorithms (which determine the results of searches) change constantly. According to Google, they tweak their algorithm at least once a day, and they’re reported to make up to 600 changes per year.
Full disclosure: thanks to Google’s nonstop evolution, literally no one knows the exact formula to reach the top of the rankings. Ask ten SEO experts how it’s done and you’ll get ten different answers (although there will be plenty of overlap, too).
That being said, there are three core areas that definitely make a huge difference – and that we see a lot of advisor websites missing the mark on.
1. Establish Authority
SEO experts are always talking about the importance of something called “authority.” It can seem like a vague and difficult concept when it comes to web search, but it’s really fairly simple.
When I Google my name, a lot of Zach McDonalds show up – but I don’t appear until page six. While people are often looking for me in real life at home and around the office, they clearly don’t look for me online very often. Apparently I share names with a realtor, golfer, championship cyclocross racer, and a few other guys who warrant a higher ranking than myself. I’ve come to terms with it.
Why? Because Google’s algorithms are set up to serve the most likely results to your search first, which is largely determined by what people are clicking on when they search specific terms.
I don’t accomplish many newsworthy tasks (hard to believe, I know), and I don’t offer specific services that people would hire me online for, so when people type “Zach McDonald” into the search box, they’re probably not looking for me. Thus, my page-six placing.
If your site is new and your visits are fairly minimal, Google won’t ascribe much importance to you. So when someone searches for “financial advisor (your city/state),” how can you get Google to rank you higher?
Simple: establish authority by earning clicks. Publish useful blogs and other resources, and promote them via social media and paid ads. Then give Google a little time to recognize that people now want to see your website. Once that’s established, your position will increase.
And when I say “give Google a little time,” I mean anywhere from six months to over a year. The internet is a huge place. It can take a while to get recognized.
2. Match Up Your Mobile and Desktop Sites
Mobile searches first outpaced desktop a couple years ago, and the gap has only grown ever since. As a result, Google has continuously tweaked its algorithms to place more and more importance on mobile sites.
Google seems to have finally made good on its long-standing promise to go to mobile-first indexing. Basically, it’s been evaluating websites using desktop content for years, but a lot of sites have “lite” mobile versions to make them easier to navigate on a phone. That leads to issues when the majority of people use their phones for searches, then get results based on desktop content and end up on the mobile site, which may not have the content they searched for.
So Google has started to go mobile-first, and that means your mobile site needs to have the same information as your desktop site. While they may not fully implement mobile-first indexing for a little while, their algorithms appear to already lean heavily in that direction, so now’s the time to fix this problem.
Bottom line: You don’t want Google’s bots – the ones that determine if you belong in their search results – scanning your mobile “lite” site and missing essential blogs and other information that could boost your standing. It’s an important factor we considered when deciding how to implement Carson Group Partner sites, and I’m glad we made the decision we did to keep mobile and desktop experiences consistent for our partners.
If you have a responsive site – where your website looks different on mobile than desktop but the content is all the same – then you’re fine. If you have different mobile and desktop versions, here are some tips from Google on how you can bring your site up to speed.
3. Follow These Three Simple Rules of Local SEO
One of the first rules of SEO is that content is king. Produce quality blogs and videos regularly, attract people to your site, and your search ranking will improve.
And that’s absolutely true – except when it comes to local SEO. Getting into local searches has little to nothing to do with blogs (although getting to the top of those searches is a different story). It’s typically established through your site’s pages.
Here are three simple things you (or even your intern!) can do today that can make a big difference when people search for “financial advisor (your city/state).”
A. Make sure your firm name, address, and phone number are on every page, and that they’re always cited in the same way.
This one’s so important that SEO experts have even designated an acronym for it: NAP (name, address, phone number). It’s easy to do – just insert that info into your site’s footer. As simple as that seems, this is one of the most common mistakes on business websites. Wherever you insert your NAP info, do your best to keep it consistent. While there is some debate in the SEO community over whether NAP formatting inconsistencies affect your site’s rankings, better safe than sorry.
B. Register with Google My Business and Bing Places.
This takes just a few minutes. Fill out your profile using the links above, and make it as full as possible. Google loves it when people play by their rules, so if you only put your name and phone number in there, chances are they’re dinging you for that. Put in your website, appointment URL, phone number, address, office hours, and even add a couple pictures. Same with Bing.
You won’t see results immediately on this one. After you register, they’ll mail you a postcard with a PIN to confirm that you’re actually affiliated with the business. It took about two weeks for our postcard to come when we registered.
C. Register with online directories.
Claim your firm’s profile on sites like MerchantCircle, Yelp, Local.com, your local newspaper’s directory, and chamber of commerce, just to name a few. That way you can make sure your firm’s information is correct (not to mention you can easily respond to reviews if you feel so led). When your NAP information on directory listings matches the information on your website, the Google gods will smile upon thee. If Yelp has your number wrong and somebody tries to call you, they’ll probably either assume you went out of business or just move on to another firm.
Don’t expect overnight results. SEO is a long process. We helped a client edit, publish, and release a book a couple years ago. Almost a year later, their book finally reached the top of Google results. That success story required planning, strategizing, and promotion (and patience), but the end result was worth it.
Your digital presence doesn’t just happen; it’s what you make it. Follow these three steps and you’ll be on your way up in Google’s results.
The information included herein is for informational purposes and is intended for use by advisors only, not for public distribution. Carson Group Partners is a network of advisors offering advisory services through CWM, LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor.
00353601 – 11/14/2018