Basic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for Financial Professionals
We’ve all heard the same spiel from a self-proclaimed marketing expert at a conference. There, engulfed in dim, fluorescent lighting, a person on stage casually ran through their PowerPoint presentation where you may have heard the acronym SEO accompanied by the words “Content is King”. The marketing world is filled with these individuals, often claiming to be ‘gurus’ or ‘experts’, with lots of charts and statistics at the end of their industrial-grade laser pointer.
Based on what I’ve seen, financial professionals seldom act on the advice of these speakers, and why should you? You’re busy people. That’s why I want to cut to the chase with some extremely quick and easy things you can do to promote your business online. Let’s get to it.
Although they were made more popular in the 1970s by AT&T, the “yellow pages” have been around since 1883. While that inch and a half thick business directory continues to get slapped on your doorstep once a year, the Internet has its own approach. Today, there are many websites that operate in this capacity – some are free and a number of them have price tags. Let’s look at a few in each category.
The best things in life are free. Sometimes. This is just a sample of the free citations I personally use for financial professionals we work with. If you want the full list, check out my working document.
- Bing: Owned and operated by Microsoft, Bing now accounts for 24.2% of all desktop searches according to recent numbers. That’s a lot of eyes.
- Google My Business: Have you ever searched for a business and seen something like this? You can control, or at least have a say in, some of the content that appears for your firm in that area.
- Facebook Business Page: Facebook has become a giant and while there are reports of some folks bailing on the platform, it’s probably not going anywhere.
- The Real Yellow Pages®: Who knows if it’s actually the same people that kickstarted the whole yellow pages thing in Wyoming all those years ago, but that doesn’t matter. It’s still here and it’s free (to an extent).
- Local.com: I can already hear you yelling at the screen. “He wants me to enter my information dozens of times into multiple websites?!” No, absolutely not. Some of these are citation aggregators. For instance, Local.com will take the information you enter and send it to dozens of websites on your behalf.
Paid citation services are actually a decent investment for some financial professionals. It’s exhausting work, especially if you plan do it without help. FYI, none of these are endorsements; it’s just so you know your options.
- Yext: With an outlandish number of partners in their network, they can pump out citations far faster than the average human.
- Moz Local: Moz has been doing this service for quite some time now. If nothing else, it might be useful to do until you feel like there’s an adequate number of listings.
- BrightLocal: They can build new ones or repair your current citations on your behalf.
What do I need?
It’s pretty simple: name, address, and phone number. That’s it. You’re welcome to upload a logo, write a brief description about your business, pick your favorite color, or offer up any other erroneous information you feel like providing. However, only the name, address, and phone number have any real use when building citations.
Why am I doing this?
You may see immediate results and have a flood of new customers at your doorstep. You may not get anything at all from it. That’s the Magic of the Internet™. Jokes aside, if you’re doing something with citations, you’re doing better than (probably) 90% of financial professionals. Also, in extremely competitive markets, you might need to go a step beyond and build links from various publications. I won’t burden you with the details of that right now, but I’ll cover it at a later date.
Building a Better Website
Based on the IFP marketing department’s observations, the majority of financial professional’s websites are wildly outdated. We recommend that financial professionals update their website every year in some capacity. Here’s why.
Imagine your entire job revolved around hacking into websites, placing hidden ads for male enhancement pills, then reaping the cash from people looking to spark some excitement in their relationship. Yep, hackers do it – more than I’d like to admit. An updated website will give you the newest code base and, ideally, the best security that’s currently on the market. Search engines will also discourage users from visiting your website if it’s been compromised. Lastly, you might want to consider SSL encryption to further ensure the safety of your website and the visitors coming to it.
Web Standard Compliance
Web standards change multiple times in a year. I mean, sometimes they’re big changes like Google’s decision to display websites without SSL encryption as unsecure. Other times they’re small quality of life improvements, like Bing’s decision to support JSON-LD through Bing Webmaster Tools. Don’t worry about what that last sentence even means for you. The point is, standards change all the time and unless your website is updated frequently, you’re falling behind.
User experience (or UX as you might see it called) is the core of search of engine optimization. Google, Bing, and the other search engines all want users to find exactly what they’re looking for. That should be your goal as well. Website content delivered to users should be concise and reachable with a minimal number of clicks.
This all sounds pretty complicated, right? You’re a busy person and all of this seems like it’ll take some serious time. That’s why I recommend finding a professional that can help. Keep in mind that if you pay someone to do a full overhaul once, you or an administrative assistance can do edits down the road. On a similar and final note, make sure the website is built with a user-friendly software package. Make sure you feel comfortable enough to make edits and, most importantly, MAKE CONSISTENT UPDATES.
‘Til next time, financial professionals.