Before the debut of Google Search in 1998, people found a local financial advisor through analog means – white pages of the phone book, seeing signage while driving around, or, more likely than not, referrals from friends and family. But, as Google and other search engines have taken commanding hold of how we find everything from a financial advisor to a plumber to a place to go to dinner, the importance of having a website optimized for local search engine optimization (SEO) is no longer a recommendation for businesses, it’s a necessity.
That’s why we’ve put together this quick guide to help you better understand local SEO for financial advisors. We’ll define what local SEO is, tips to help you understand how to improve your rankings, and tools we’d recommend.
- The Basics of Search Engine Optimization
- SERP – The Search Engine Results Page
- What Makes Local SEO Different from regular SEO?
- Understanding Search Engine Rankings
- Tip 1 – Make Sure You Have a Google Maps Listing
- Tip 2 – Look at Other Financial Advisors’ Approach
- Tip 3 – Optimize Your Website for Local SEO (Or Pay Someone To Optimize It)
The Basics of Search Engine Optimization
If you have no idea what SEO is, much less local SEO, you’re not alone. I managed websites for the better part of seven years without having much of a grasp of search engine optimization. It took doing SEO every day to really begin to understand it. So, let’s cover some of the basics of SEO and local SEO.
In its simplest form, search engine optimization – or SEO – is the process of (hopefully) moving your site to the top of the search results on Google or the search engine of your choice, e.g. Bing, Microsoft Edge, DuckDuckGo, etc. For example, if I search ‘financial advisor madison wi,’ this is what shows up on the top first page of Google.
SERP – The Search Engine Results PageHow the results show up – what’s referred to as the Search Engine Results Page, or SERP – has changed over the years. And depending on the type of search, you may see different items first. In the above example, we get a few ads at the top and several Google Maps listings in one section below that. If we scroll farther down the first page, we start seeing more traditional individual link results to various websites related to the keyword search.
If your search is a question, you will most likely see a snippet of text pulled from the page of one of the top results. For a search for a financial advisor in your geographic footprint, the most common SERP is the one you see above.
What Makes Local SEO Different from SEO?
SEO is driven by keywords – what people are typing into search engines. The main thing that delineates local SEO from the broad umbrella of SEO is that local SEO is in some way tied to a geographic region. It could look like any of the following:
- Financial advisor madison wi
- Fee-only financial advisor near me
- Wealth management firms in wisconsin
- Best financial advisors in dane county
Which keywords you want to rank for and how you go about ranking for them is its own can of worms. But if you take away one thing from this article, it’s that people in your financial advisory firm’s geographic area are searching for financial advisors (unless your firm is in some remote location in Alaska, in which case local SEO may not do you much good). If your firm isn’t ranking for the main local SEO keywords, you’re missing out on potential clients.
Understanding Search Engine Rankings
Now that I’ve brought up rankings, we should probably do a quick aside on what exactly rankings are. Rankings – often referred to as position – is how far up (or down) the list of results your website shows up for a particular keyword search.
There’s no such thing as an “overall ranking.” Your website’s ranking is directly related to a specific keyword or phrase, like ‘financial advisor madison wi,’ and those rankings change frequently. You could be the fourth result in someone’s search for ‘financial advisor madison wi,’ while you could show up in the top spot for another person’s search for the same exact phrase. The good news is that if you’re a financial advisor with a website optimized for local SEO, the spread of where you show up in the results is typically very small. You may oscillate between positions 1-3 for most local searches for a financial advisor, but you won’t see large swings like you would if you’re at the middle or bottom of the pack.
Make Sure Your Financial Advisory Firm has a Google Maps Listing
So, how can you show up higher in search results for potential clients looking for a financial advisor in their area? One of the absolute necessities is a Google Maps listing. Google used to have a separate area to manage your business’s listing on Google through the Google My Business app. However, they’ve worked to merge the two. You may see Google Maps and Google My Business used interchangeably, but, as of this writing, you’ll get redirected to the right place even if you go to Google My Business.
Why is a Google Maps listing so important? As we saw above when we search ‘financial advisor madison wi,’ the first results were all tied to Google Maps. If you don’t have a Google Maps listing, then you won’t be eligible to appear in that map pack. Not only would you not show up in the map pack, but your business wouldn’t appear on the adjacent map for potential clients to explore.
There are other benefits to a Google Maps listing. For those searching directly for your business, the Google Business profile will often show up next to your website’s link on the search page. Clients and prospects can see your hours, contact information, and address, meaning they wouldn’t even need to go to your website to reach out to your firm. The other key benefit of a Google Maps listing is that this is where your Google Reviews live. This has been widely discussed since the SEC released its new guidance on its marketing rule, paving the way for financial advisors to ask for reviews. There are local SEO boosts by having positive reviews, and reviews allow potential clients to vet your RIA firm.
Look at How Other Local Financial Advisors Approach Local SEO
Speaking of vetting an RIA firm, another tip for those looking to improve their local SEO is to see how other local financial advisors are approaching it, namely the ones at the top of the results. You’ll get results like NAPFA, Fee-Only Network, and Smart Asset that show up in many locally-based searches for a financial advisor, but pay attention specifically to what the top 2-3 local firms in the results are doing on their website. Instead of having to do a lot of leg work and your own research, you can get some key clues as to what you should be doing. Below are some templates of searches to conduct as part of your research:
- Financial advisor [city, state abbreviation] – Ex. ‘financial advisor madison wi’
- [City, state abbreviation] financial advisors – Ex. ‘madison wi financial advisors’
- CFP [city, state abbreviation] – Ex. ‘CFP madison wi’
While you’re conducting that research, here are some of the important things to be on the lookout for:
- SEO title (Browser tab title): When you click on a search result for a local firm’s website, hover your cursor over the browser tab to see what the title is. This is what’s referred to as the SEO title, and it’s a key spot to place local SEO keywords. The SEO title will also typically show up in the top line of the search result before you click on it.
- Meta description: There are a couple of ways to see the meta description. More often than not it will be the body text below the title in the search result. You can also use a Chrome extension like SEO Meta in 1 Click to pull the meta description, along with some other helpful SEO data.
- Page headings/titles: Page headings are an HTML code, but simply put, they are text that you’re telling Google has more value. The main types of headings are H1, H2, and H3 tags. You can find a page’s headings fairly simply by looking for the bigger, bolder text. Typically, text that carries more visual weight also comes with a heading tag. You could also use the Chrome extension we discussed above to pull that data as well.
There’s a good chance that regardless of where your firm is located, most of the important keywords to rank for will be some variation of ‘financial advisor’ and your city and/or state. But using what you find by looking at other firm’s websites can confirm that and help you understand how to structure your site.
Optimize Your Firm’s Website (Or Pay Someone To Optimize It)
This is an obvious point, but if you want to rank for local SEO, you’re going to need to optimize your RIA firm’s website.
For a variety of reasons, many advisors are hesitant to hire a freelancer or an internal marketing employee to do SEO. They don’t have the budget, they don’t know if they’ll get what they paid for, or maybe, they’re just a DIY’er at heart. But if you’re going to go at it alone, don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or hangups.
Your other option is to hire out the local SEO optimization. From a technical perspective, there are a lot of components that go into optimizing your site for local searches, ranging from building your keyword list and strategy to implementation. At Emerging RIA Consulting, we help firms with all facets of this local SEO process, and we’re built specifically for financial advisors and RIA firms. And even if you’re looking at hiring another firm, we’re happy to provide you with a free consultation.
Questions after reading this article? Other marketing topics for financial advisors you’d like us to cover? Shoot us an email at [email protected].
ABOUT EMERGING RIA CONSULTING
Emerging RIA Consulting is a digital marketing firm dedicated to serving Registered Investment Advisor (RIA) firms that are seeking to grow through marketing. Providing a range of marketing services to financial advisors, Emerging RIA Consulting primarily focuses on building strategic marketing plans, conducting audits of existing marketing plans, and providing marketing coaching services to advisors.