Right when we receive word that a new partner is joining Carson, we get to work. (OK, maybe we take five minutes to celebrate and congratulate our new partner first.) But before the firm’s new website is launched, before its new brand is revealed, even before the press release is drafted, we start on Search Engine Optimization – more commonly known as SEO. When it comes to SEO for financial advisors, the goal is to find the best keywords – what potential clients are typing into a search engine – then to help our partner rank near the top of Google results when someone types in those keywords, especially in that partner’s location.
We do heavy research, look at the local and national competition, study what’s working across the partnership, and put the building blocks in place. Then, when the new partner site launches, we are regularly adding content to the site’s blogs to help them continue to utilize those keywords. It’s a process we’ve ironed into an efficient, effective strategy that is helping many of our partner firms appear on Page 1 of Google for the best possible keyword for that firm. But it doesn’t take an SEO for financial advisors expert to get your firm to rank higher on Google. All it takes is a little prep work, a consistent content strategy, and maybe a few tools along the way.
Step 1: Get Your Business Listed
It goes without saying, but Google is analyzing millions of websites with every search query. When a client – or potential client – wants to find your firm, you should be at the top when they type in your firm name. But that doesn’t always happen naturally, especially if you’re a fairly new website or you haven’t updated your site regularly. That’s why it’s important to set up your Google My Business account. This is Google’s way of letting business owners set up their listing for free. It not only helps your ranking on the results page, but it also moves you into the Google Maps results and lists your contact card on the right with your firm’s information.
Just keep in mind that setting up this account doesn’t happen overnight. Google will want to verify that the information is correct. During the setup process, Google will mail you a postcard with a verification code on it, which typically takes a couple weeks to receive. Even beyond the postcard, however, Google wants to know their listings are correct – and if they match those of other business-listing websites. There are two ways to make sure this step happens – either take the time to do it for free or pay for a third-party listing company. On the paid side, we use Yext at Carson and have been happy with the results. To do this for free, you’ll need to set up listings with all the major sites and make sure your business information matches across the board. Major listing sites that financial advisors should focus on include Facebook, Apple, LinkedIn, Bing, Yelp, and plenty more (here’s a great list from HubSpot).
Step 2: Choose Your Keywords
Where Step 1 is the most important to make sure the people who are looking specifically for your business can find you, Step 2 is most important for those who are looking more broadly for the services you offer. But before we dive into selecting the right keywords, let’s look at how these keywords are used. It starts with thinking like a consumer. What would your target client be typing in to help them find your firm? For some, that may be “financial advisor.” For others, it may be “college planning,” or more specifically “how to open a college savings account.” We like to develop a list of 10 to 20 keywords, then research each based on popularity, competition, effectiveness and, honestly, common sense. Some tools that you can use to research keywords for free include Google Keyword Planner, Google Trends, Answer The Public, and Keywords Everywhere. There are a lot of tools out there, and it’s about more about personal preference than one being better than another.
Step 3: Optimize Your Site
Once you have chosen your keywords, it’s time to optimize your site. Without diving too deep into how the backend of your site should look, the basics start with actually using your keywords. This might sound obvious, but one of the common problems we run into with financial advisors is that there are many different ways to describe the profession. If you describe your core services as “wealth management,” but you want to optimize your site for the keyword “financial planning,” then calling your services wealth management won’t help you much. Also, you might hear a lot about “H1” tags. Again, we could geek out here for a bit, but just know that the most important thing is that the keyword you have selected should be included – and even start – the main headline on your site. Like in our last example, if the headline on your site is “Wealth Management for the People of New York,” but you’re trying to rank for “financial planning,” your H1 tag is missing the mark of your keywords.
You’ll also need to add alt tags to any images you’re using. This is basically a brief description of what is in the image, but it should also include your keywords. Most content management systems allow you to change the name of the image when you upload it, so just be sure to make it match the content on the page and include your keywords. Now, how do you tell Google “Hey, look at me!” when someone types in your chosen keywords? That’s where you should be using a third-party service. At Carson, we use Yoast, which offers a free version for WordPress sites and, without sounding too much like a cheerleader, we love it. Yoast allows you to choose keywords for each page on your site, including blogs, team pages, landing pages, contact pages, etc. And it’s fairly simple to use. You can also adjust how your headline and descriptions appear on the Google results page, adjust which images and headlines appear on Facebook, and get instant feedback on the SEO and readability of your pages or posts. You’ll get graded on SEO for each page, so pay attention to what Yoast is telling you. If it doesn’t like your keywords or your content, chances are that Google won’t either.
Step 4: Create a Content Strategy
We could write about this topic year-round. Actually, we pretty much do. Google loves sites that are constantly pushing new content and helping people find answers to their questions. Establishing yourself as an expert starts with showcasing your expertise, right? You establish this expertise through your blog. But it only works if done correctly. Your content strategy should tie into SEO. Going back to our example, if you’re trying to rank for “financial planning,” but you only write about your latest family vacation, Google isn’t going to send traffic to your site for that blog. However, if you talk about how financial planning is about leaving a legacy for your family and your vacation provided a telling anecdote on that topic, now we’re getting somewhere. In other words, personal stories make for great storytelling, but only work if they tie into the greater purpose of answering questions that your potential clients are asking.
When drawing up your content calendar, think of it like a spider web. At the center is your main keyword – “financial planning” – and each layer outside gets more specific on that concept. For example, you may write a blog on “college savings plans,” which you’d then link to your main blog on financial planning. Then you might write a blog on “how to start a 529 plan” and link to the college savings plans story and the financial planning story. Then, you might even go deeper and write a blog on “how to transfer a 529 plan to a sibling,” which would link back to the other three. In every blog, you’re still using the keyword “financial planning,” because that’s the center of the web, and ultimately what you want Google to recognize. But you’re able to branch out and talk about all the different topics, which also helps you rank for those keywords – and answer the questions that investors are asking! Here’s a great explanation of this “topic cluster” approach from Hubspot.
Step 5: Execute!
With your business listed on Google and other business listing sites, a well-researched set of keywords, a site that is set up correctly, and a content calendar in place, all that’s left to do is stick to the plan. You should have a regular content calendar or blog schedule that is part of your overall marketing plan, and everything on your calendar should include the keywords you’re going for. Take this blog for example. My keyphrase is “seo for financial advisors.” So, you’ll find that exact phrase in this blog a couple times, and we’ve worked it into the Yoast plugin.
Interested in boosting your firm’s SEO ranking? Carson Partners receive expert marketing that includes branding that will help you get noticed, a new website optimized for search engines, regular blog content, proven lead acquisition strategies and more. Take the first step today by setting up a consultation!