You’ve probably heard of SEO if you’re considering growing your practice and building a digital presence. If not, well you’ve likely heard of Google. But has Google heard of you? In today’s digital world, 86% of potential investors spend more than an hour researching online1 – so if an investor is searching for a local financial advisor or financial planning related topic, how does Google know to show them your website? Enter SEO.
SEO stands for search engine optimization. It is the art of making your website visible on any search engine. Each search engine has its own “criteria,” but Google is arguably the most important to optimize your experience for now and in the future.
The Google “bot” scans hundreds of thousands of pages on the web when someone searches a term, deciding which pages will address the term searched. There are many factors the bot is scanning: keywords, page speed, page titles, and more.
Keyword research shows the search term “financial advisors Florida” was searched 880 times in September 20192 with medium competition. This means that if you are a financial advisor in Florida, there are around 880 searches on Google every month for a service that you can provide. And better yet, the number of websites competing to have that top spot on Google is not relatively high. In order to ensure those 880 people click on your website first, you must optimize your page.
If a user comes to your site and can’t quickly find what they need, they are most likely going to try another page. Many think that they have to create a unique navigation, but the reality the the classic pyramid works best – when your home page starts at the top and the website expands from there. Google’s own John Mueller said it best, “In general, I’d be careful to avoid setting up a situation where normal website navigation doesn’t work. So we should be able to crawl from one URL to another URL on your website just by the links on the page.” What does this mean? It means the Google bot likes structure – top to bottom. Ensuring that your site provides a pleasant, structured, seamless user experience is extremely important. If you think your site structure could use some help, try asking clients or friends about their experience on your site. This includes everything from your website menu to your page headlines. Map out how you can make it flow better, and then talk to your website manager or development team to implement these changes.
In the last few years, mobile use has drastically increased, so much so that 57% of all web traffic is now coming from mobile or tablet devices3. Because of this shift, Google is moving to a Mobile-First Indexing. This is really just a fancy way of saying that if your page isn’t optimized for mobile, Google is likely not going to display your site on the first page even if the user is using a desktop. To ensure your website is mobile-friendly, start by pulling up your website on a mobile device. How is the page load speed? If it is taking more than 3 seconds to load, Google is going to be just as unhappy as impatient investors. How are the images loading? Often images images that aren’t properly compressed may appear one way on a desktop page and completely morphed on a mobile device. Once you test out your website pages on a mobile device, you can gather a list of changes that need to be made and talk to your web team (the party in charge of running your website) to make these changes.
It is important to understand that the rise of content marketing is a result of how the Google page scanning has evolved. If Google is the engine, content is the fuel. The more specific, specialized content you have hosted on your site, the more opportunity you have to drive people to your website. But remember, the content is useless if it is not addressing the right audience. And here’s the kicker – you’ll never outrank the .orgs or big corporations for broad based topics. Go specific, go niche – do research around specific terms and questions your target audience may be asking, and understand the keyword volume and competitiveness using Google AdWords Keyword Planner or SEM Rush. If your goal is to attract pre-retirees in your local area or a specialize field (i.e. doctors), it would be wise to host articles centered around those topics. This way Google knows to show your page to someone searching for information on saving for retirement.
Google loves images and videos. In fact, a video is 50 times more likely to appear on the first page of search results than a traditional web page. The Google algorithm is constantly changing based on what users are responding to. In the last few years, video consumption has increased drastically. As a result of this, Google’s algorithm changed to prioritize pages with video. If you don’t currently have video on your site, it may be time to pull out the phone and record some content and integrate that content into your articles to add a traditional layer of context.
SEO can seem a bit intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. Optimizing your site is an ongoing process. As users’ preferences change, so will the Google algorithm. This means that no site will ever be “perfectly optimized.” Beginning with some of the techniques discussed in this article is a good start.