Chris O’Neill, director of Google Canada, knows. Some 86 per cent of Canadians do research online to get more information about products and services before they buy. That means, he says, your prospects, referrals and even clients are going online to learn more about you, your services and how you can help them.
The rub for brokers is those prospects, referrals and clients take very little time to arrive at conclusion about you — one that may or may not accrue to your advantage.
When visitors arrive to your website they make a quick judgement about your firm — is this company trustworthy, professional and stable? Psychologists call this unconscious decision “the trust factor” and say it take no more than three seconds to formulate.
If your website makes a negative first impression, visitors are likely to leave and not return.
So, what’s worse than being found online and creating a poor first impression with a bad website? Not being found online at all. Firms without an online presence virtually do not exist to the 30 million-plus Canadians doing research online.
Every website on the Internet has a goal of ranking No. 1 for related search terms, but very few succeed. While your site doesn’t need to rank on top to generate traffic, it’s vital that it appears on the first page of a search engine’s results page because searchers rarely scroll past the first page of results.
Full disclosure: you can buy a winning, first-place spot using pay-per-click advertisements but Internet users are about 40 per cent more likely to click on organic results (translation: links that are not paid for).
How can you make sure your advisor website ranks organically in search engine results? The answer is all about search engine optimization (or SEO) and if that’s a term that scares you, you’re not alone. Many brokers are uncomfortable with the concept for one underlying reason: a lack of knowledge and understanding of what SEO is and how it works. So, here’s my attempt at explaining the functionality of SEO and how to improve your broker website’s search ranking.
Search Engine Optimization is the process of improving the visibility of a website on a search engine’s results page. The earlier and more frequently a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive.
Two key factors come into play in order to improve your broker website’s SEO: off-page SEO and on-page SEO. Off-page SEO refers to optimization strategies outside of your website’s design. The biggest element in off-page SEO is getting other quality websites to link back to your site. Conversely, on-page SEO consists of strategically placing your most important keywords within the content elements of your actual website pages.
So, how do you increase the number of websites that link back to your site? Here are ideas you can use to take action:
1. Create high-quality content that others find valuable and useful. When visitors find information that is helpful and relevant, they are likely to share it. When people begin sharing links to your high-quality content, your website becomes relevant to search engines. The easiest way to share valuable content on your website is in the form of a blog.
2. Begin guest-blogging. Seek out opportunities to write articles for well-established online publications. Your audience will begin to view you as an expert and you’ll naturally create buzz around yourself and your site. (Don’t forget to include a link back to your advisor website – it will fit nicely with your bio).
3. Submit your website to online directories. This is an easy one. Even online directories like the Better Business Bureau and YellowPages.com count. Another quick win: make sure all of your social media outlets link back to your site.
The other part of SEO takes place within the pages of your website. Properly optimizing your on-page search engine ranking takes time and consistency.
One of the simplest, yet most important, ways to improve your search engine ranking is to optimize the keywords within your website content. What’s a keyword? Here’s an easy definition of the term:
Keyword: a search term typed into Google (or any other search engine) that searchers use to describe what they’re looking for.
The most important place to include keywords is naturally throughout the content of your site (including your blog). Google uses those search words (or keywords) to identify what people are looking for online. From there, the search engine works to match a searcher’s keywords with those keywords used within websites (like yours) to determine the ranking of search results.
Using specific and descriptive keywords within the content of a website dramatically enhances the odds of ranking higher in the search engine results page. Tie the keywords in with local terms in your page titles, URLs, tags, pages and blog posts.
The best way of deciding which keywords to target is to imagine yourself searching for a financial advisor using Google. Think about what words and/or search phrases you would use. Get into the mind of your audience: think about the jargon it uses as well as its problems, interests, associates, locations, education level and more.
Now that we know how and why SEO is important, how can financial advisors put it into practice? The number one way to increase your SEO strategy is to start a blog. Blogging helps advisors establish online credibility by sharing high-quality information that both search engines and your target audience love.
This is a slightly amended version of an article written by Maggie Crowley, digital marketing coordinator at AdvisorWebsites. com. It has been shortened to make it suitable for web publishing.