Grow Your Financial Advisory Business Through Local SEO
As a financial advisor, you rely on having a strong presence in your local community. Your business depends on your reputation as a trustworthy and astute handler of finances being spread from person to person, from business to business, throughout the region in which you offer your services. The further your reputation extends, the more accounts you are able to add to your client base.
In your particular niche, there is no promotion for your services quite as powerful or as effective as word-of-mouth. Today, however, word-of-mouth is no longer confined strictly to physical interactions or telephone conversations between people. Given that you are reading an online blog article about Local Search Engine Optimization (SEO), you surely know this. We live in a world in which digital and online methods of communication are as valid and integral to our daily lives as boardroom meetings and conversations at the dinner table.
The question is how you can best take advantage of these distinctly 21st century methods of communication to promote and grow your financial advisory business and bring new clients aboard at the pace you desire. There was a time when simply having a website for a niche subject such as “Financial Advisor Services” along with the geographical keywords for which you wanted to be found would likely have been sufficient. Now, however, there is far more to being found locally for your services, even for a niche financial service such as yours – especially for a niche financial service such as yours.
By keeping the following Local SEO tips in mind as you promote your services as a financial advisor online, you can strengthen your Internet presence and grow your client base substantially.
Local SEO: The New Boss Is Not the Same as the Old Boss
It’s hard to remember a time when we, as Internet users, couldn’t simply turn to Google, put in a search term, and trust that the first ten results are probably the best possible results for that query, or at least among them. However, ten years ago, Google and other search engines could still be fairly easily manipulated by so-called “black hat” SEO practices. If a financial advisor in, say, Houston, Texas wanted to appear on page one of Google for his services, he (or, more likely, his hired “SEO expert”) would makes sure that the phrase “Houston, Texas financial advisor” appeared as many times on the page as possible. It didn’t matter if the page was readable or not; as long as it rose to the top of Google’s rankings, it would attract users.
At that time, web pages such as these were so loaded with geographic qualifiers that sentences read more like Google Map directions than descriptions of services, especially if more than one location was being targeted by that page. Therefore, a sentence like this would not have been fairly common in 2006: “If you are looking for a Houston, Texas financial advisor serving Pasadena, South Houston, Pearland, Dyersdale, Missouri City, and the Greater Houston area, then our Houston, Texas financial advisor is the right choice for you.” Unreadable drivel, yes – but also effective at manipulating the search results.
Today, tactics such as these thankfully no longer work, and they haven’t for some time. In fact, they will get your website dropped from Google’s index quickly, if it’s indexed in the first place. Whatever the scope of your SEO strategy, quality content will be the most important factor in its success. That doesn’t mean that your content has to be Pulitzer-worthy, but it does have to be timely, focused, and relevant to the query for which Google produces it. If users are able to interact with it meaningfully, you have a solid base on which to build your Local SEO strategy.
Does this mean that geographic keywords are no longer important? Not exactly – they’re still important; they’re just not as important as they once were. Let’s get keywords out of the way with the first tip and proceed methodically to the elements that have are now more important to Local SEO from there.
Tip #1: The title tag is one SEO element where traditional keywords still carry a fair amount of weight.
The title tag is the page title that usually appears as a clickable link just above the page description in Google’s search results, as well as the title that appears in a browser’s tab when you open a web page. Although keywords have become less important in terms of how often they appear in the actual body content of a web page, they remain important indicators of what a page is about, both to Google and to Google’s users.
Inasmuch as the primary location of your business is important to communicate to prospective clients, the title tag would be one element where you would want to be sure to include a location keyword. According to commonly held current SEO best practices, you should include the city in which your advisory firm is located along with the postal abbreviation of your state (e.g., “Houston, TX”). If you live in a small town or a suburb of a larger city, then it may be appropriate to include the name of both your physical location and the nearest metropolitan area (e.g., “Sunnyside – Houston, TX”) or just the metropolitan area.
There are varying opinions as to how long a properly optimized title should be; some SEO experts suggest that it should be no more than 55 characters including spaces, while others state that it can be as long as 75 characters including spaces. Usually, Google will cut off any title tag that is longer than 70 characters, which is the primary “penalty” of exceeding that character limit.
Tip #2: Do not stuff the content with keywords – especially geographic qualifiers.
Remember the example of a “black hat SEO” sentence above? In 2006, a prospective client might have muddled through such a sentence to determine whether your services were worth procuring, but today, there are plenty of other websites he or she can turn to for information. If you clutter your content with unnecessary references to where you are located, you will likely alienate users and cause them to “bounce” – that is, leave the page without clicking on a link or otherwise interacting with your site. A high bounce rate communicates to Google that a given web page within your site is not considered a good resource by users and therefore should not be produced for queries. It is the surest way to lose local rankings.
Location keywords should generally not appear more than twice on a page: once in the introduction and, possibly, once in the call-to-action at the bottom of a page. If a page is particularly brief, once is generally the limit. (Of course, if it makes sense in the context of the page to include more than two references to the name of a location, then this “rule” can be thrown out the window.)
This cannot be stated strongly enough: Google knows where you are located. Undue repetition of location keywords will not improve your local rankings. Think of the inclusion of geographical qualifiers as a way of promoting a good user experience – a means of reinforcing your commitment to the community that you share – and not part of an attempt to get found locally.
Tip #3: Don’t cast the net too wide, geographically speaking.
As a financial advisor, you may feel that you provide the best financial guidance in your state, and you may be right. However, if you have only one office location, and you tend only to draw clients from the local area, don’t get overambitious in the locations you attempt to target. Again, Google knows where you are located, and listing locations you want to be found for does not mean that Google will produce you for users in those locations. In fact, the greater the competition in those locations, the less likely you will ever be produced for local search queries in those locations.
Take, for instance, our financial advisor in Houston. He may wish to attract clients from Dallas, which is roughly 250 miles away. Let’s assume that he is a relative unknown in Dallas and has never done business in that area. He decides to revise his page title to “Financial Advisor Houston & Dallas, TX” and adds phrases such as “If you are searching for a qualified financial advisor serving Houston and Dallas” throughout the content. Would this have the slightest chance of working?
If it were 2006, possibly. Today, there is virtually no chance. Google’s own reputation is reliant upon the search engine producing the best, most relevant results in response to its users search queries. If it produces a relatively unknown financial advisor that it knows to reside in Houston for the search “Dallas financial advisor,” especially when there are many excellent local alternatives, then Google will lose face with its users. And the search engine behemoth is not going to risk this.
As you consider which locations to target in your copy, ask yourself the following:
Do I currently attract clients from this location?
Could I reasonably expect clients to travel from this location to my office?
What is the competition for financial services like in the location I want to target?
Would I be willing to travel to this location to offer my financial services?
Is there a possibility I could one day open an office in this location?
Also remember that it is better to be found consistently for a lesser-searched geographic keyword attached to an affluent community than to never be found for a popular, highly searched geographic keyword that has little relevance to your actual location.
Tip #4: Set up business listings on local sites and make sure that they are consistent.
The first part of this tip – set up business listings on local sites – probably comes as no great surprise. Indeed, you may already have set up some of these listings. If you haven’t, you will want to look into Google My Business, Bing, Yelp, Angie’s List, Merchant Circle, LinkedIn, Foursquare, and other sites that offer free local business listings. You may find that many of these sites already have listings for your advisory firm, at which point you need to go through the process of claiming the listing as your own.
The second part of this tip is the one that you really need to pay attention to, as it is essential to both your Local SEO and your branding efforts. You must make sure that your business listings are all consistent, down to the finest detail – not just with one another, but also with your website. This is particularly true of:
Your NAP information: “NAP” refers to name, address, and phone number. Too often, businesses and individuals fall at what should be a fairly simple hurdle to jump. Your NAP information should be consistent across all of your marketing materials, from your website and your brochures to your stationary and your business cards. Your name should not be “Frank Albert” on one listing, “Francis S. Albert” on another, and “Frank S. Albert, MBA” on your website. Your firm should not be represented as “Smart Money, LLC” on Google My Business and “Smart Money Advisors” on Bing. Don’t present a toll-free number in one location and a local number in another. It’s confusing to search engines and prospective clients alike, and you can quickly lose the trust of both.
The services you provide: Don’t try to cater to certain audiences in certain listings. Be clear about the services you provide and, when prompted, list the same services across all listings. Remember, prospective clients who research you online are likely to consult more than one website, and if they see inconsistencies in the services you provide, they may become suspicious of which services you actually do provide.
- The category of your business: Most listings ask you to place your business in a category. Again, be as consistent as you can be, given the restrictions imposed on you by the listing service. Try to use the same category across as many listings as you can, and if that category is not available in a certain listing, pick the category that comes closest.
Treat your brand with the same reverence and respect online as you treat it offline, and you will build a similar trust, loyalty, and sense of identity among Internet consumers as you have among terrestrial consumers.
Tip #5: Promote real reviews from real clients.
Encourage your clients to review your services on a variety of business review websites, such as Yelp, Google+ Local, and Angie’s List. Let them know that it’s okay for them to be honest, straightforward, and balanced in their reviews. If they have no negative feedback, that’s fine, but if they have some constructive criticism, they should include that along with their words of praise. In fact, having a few three- and four-star reviews scattered in among your five-star reviews will only reinforce your credibility and make you seem more trustworthy and reputable, especially if these reviews are detailed and read authentically.
Review sites are not only a powerful source of referrals, but they can truly help to bolster your Local SEO campaign. When one of your actual clients writes a review from a location outside of the city where your firm is physically located, it sends a strong signal to Google that you really do attract clients from that location. If more clients write reviews from that location, Google will begin to view your firm as a good resource for people who search in that region, regardless of its distance from your business.
We now find ourselves with a plausible scenario in which our Houston financial advisor might start showing up for Dallas searches. Although having actual clients in Dallas write legitimate, balanced reviews about his services wouldn’t guarantee such results, it would certainly help his cause. More realistically, if clients from Galveston – a city just 50 miles away – started posting legitimate reviews, he would have a very real shot at being produced for local searches in that region.
Tip #6: Engage with local users.
Around 2010, SEO experts around the country began urging business owners to “get involved in social media” if they wanted to compete locally. This was a time when Facebook was still considered by many to be “just for kids,” so trying to convince business owners that they should invest time they didn’t have in a social media content strategy was an uphill battle, to be certain. Six years later, there are very few businesses, local or otherwise, that do not have multiple corporate social media channels. The problem is that many of these businesses do not provide regular, let alone useful or engaging content, to these channels.
From a local SEO perspective, supplying a steady stream of social content is indeed better than supplying no content at all. However, there are few promotional strategies that offer a better potential return on your investment than true engagement with prospective and current clients on social media networks and review sites. When you or a representative of your firm responds even briefly to comments, questions, and concerns about your services, you demonstrate that you truly care about what they have to say. This allows you to take active control of your reputation management in a way that no other method of public communication could. It gives you the unprecedented opportunity to shape your message and personalize it to individuals, making them feel heard and important.
This is a highly effective way not only to convert potential clients into actual clients and spread positive word-of-mouth, but also to signal to Google that you are an active participant in discussions and reviews regarding your business. This will help to establish you as an authority in Google’s metaphorical eyes, increasing the chances that your website will be produced for local queries over the websites of competitors who are not actively engaged in educating the public about their services.
Think Big and Be Found Locally
Ultimately, you don’t have to think small to be found locally. As you develop content for your website and contribute to online discussions, present yourself as the definitive authority that you are. As a trusted, experienced financial advisor, you have knowledge and offer services that will benefit people throughout your region. By representing yourself with content that reflects your professional excellence in terms of its tone and quality, Google will have no choice but to pay attention to you. Remember that Google’s goal is to present the best, most relevant results to its users for any given search. Position yourself as among the best, most relevant results for the financial services you provide in the entire nation, and you will be found locally.
Grow Your Financial Advisory Business through Local SEO
This blog post was published by Axos Bank on June 3, 2019 and last updated on June 4, 2019.