When someone types “financial advisor” into Google, does your firm show up?
SEO, or search engine optimization, is an umbrella of best practices designed to make your business rank higher in search results and look better when your business does appear. The goal is to generate more traffic to your website from the most relevant search terms.
Financial advisors have a very specific set of needs when it comes to this. First, search results are local. Second, there are compliance rules that we must follow.
Join us to demystify search engine optimization for financial advisors. We’ll speak with Mike Dobransky, the top SEO specialist in the financial services industry, who spent two years creating an SEO package that is compliance-friendly and helps advisors get more traffic to their website. We’ll review:
- What is search engine optimization, and why does it matter?
- What advisors need to know about SEO
- The 3 key changes you can make to improve your SEO today
- Why you don’t need to spend money each month on SEO
- The biggest SEO mistakes advisors are making
- The one thing you can do to improve your SEO now and into the future
Listen here now, or download and subscribe on iTunes to listen on your commute!
New episodes are published weekly with various guests, including top advisors, tech consultants, and marketing machines who are excited to tell you how to use proven marketing strategies to grow a thriving practice.
Claire Akin (CA): Thank you so much for joining us for today’s show, and I’m super excited to have Mike Dobransky here. He is our in-house SEO specialist, so he does all of this search engine optimization work for our clients, and it’s incredibly powerful. We went to business school together and we actually worked together for two years to develop this SEO package that is really unique, because financial advisors can’t just use any SEO specialists out there who may not understand our industry or understand our compliance constraints.
We worked hard to develop a package that is a one-time fee of less than $1,000 to do everything that we can do to give your website the SEO power that it needs so that you show up for the search results for financial advisor in your area. Also, so that you appear really cohesively well-branded in those search results. Mike is our SEO specialist. He has a master’s in business administration from the Rady School of Management at UC San Diego. He worked for nine years for a tech company.
His specialty is really applying the scientific method to digital marketing. There’s so many people that think digital marketing is an art and that you can do all these creative things, but when it really comes down to being successful, you want to be measuring everything, and watching your data and applying data-driven marketing decisions. Welcome to the program, Mike.
Mike Dobransky (MD): Thanks, Claire, that’s a great introduction, I appreciate it. Excited to be here.
CA: Great. The one thing that I like to start with, because I always like to start off with a little bit about your personality. Of course, you’re a two-time Ironman triathlete. I know athletics is a big part of your life. Tell us a little bit of what you’re doing now and what you’re looking forward to on a personal level.
MD: Yes, I love it. As you know, I’ve got three kids that are three and under. We had twins about a year ago, they just turned one. I’ve been pretty much time-constrained with that venture, but I’m very excited to be taking on a big hike at the end of June coming up here, I’m going to be hiking the Lost Coast, which is this stretch of wild country up in northern California that even Highway 1—which goes all the way up the coast—has to divert inland. No one’s been there, it’s the ultimate wild, it’s a three-day hike, so I’m looking forward to getting out there, going off the grid for a little bit, and exploring that part of the country.
CA: That’s awesome. That’s going to be a beautiful hike, you better take a lot of pictures. Tell us a little bit about what you do. You work with our clients all the time, we work with almost 200 independent financial advisors on their websites, on their marketing. Tell us about what you’re excited about and the opportunities that are available to advisors today from a marketing perspective.
MD: There’s a lot to be excited about in terms of marketing. Obviously, there’s a lot of financial advisors out there who are trying to get clients, but it seems like the content that you put out and the ideas that you’ve created over the past handful of years, if advisors apply those, what we’ve seen is they can rise above the noise that’s out there amongst all of the advisers. I think the opportunity really is just learning what the fundamentals are, having a goal, and then applying those.
You talked a little bit about the scientific methodology. Everything in digital marketing is measurable, so if you just keep your eye on a few key numbers, you can improve those over time and eventually you get really good.
CA: That’s fantastic. Perfect. Today we’re going to talk about search engine optimization, which I know for a lot of advisors is kind of a Greek word. They don’t understand it. They maybe are intimidated or overwhelmed. It’s funny because it reminds me of the way the public perceives financial advisors. Sixty-five percent of people in the public don’t trust the financial services industry. It’s because it’s overwhelming, it’s complex, it’s confusing to them, so they ignore it and they don’t get the help that they could need.
That’s a lot like the way that I see financial advisors approaching SEOs. Maybe you’ve gotten a lot of emails for people who want to sell you SEO products, maybe you don’t understand what it is or what it means, so you just ignore it. That is absolutely the wrong decision because SEO is important for every financial advisor, no matter how big or how small; you must hit the nail on the head with your SEO to make the most of your marketing.
Why don’t you walk us through what it means if you’re an advisor that maybe this is the first time they’re ever really hearing about SEO or thinking about it… What is it on the most basic level?
MD: Great question. To your point, working with financial advisors, a lot of times we’ll see a lot of acronyms after their title. It’s financial advisor, CFP, CFA, there’s all these acronyms that go at the end. If you don’t know what those acronyms stand for, your eyes kind of glaze over and you just think, “I don’t know what to think.” It’s the same thing that you said with SEO, if you don’t know what SEO stands for and then you learned that it stands for “search engine optimization,” that sounds complicated.
I can see why from the outside it could be a scary idea, and I think one of our specialties is really breaking it down into just really simple ideas that help you reach your goal. The easiest thing to think about is when somebody goes to Google, which everybody’s done, you go into Google and you type in “financial advisor,” that is a search, that is known as a local search. The results that come up for financial advisor, if you search for that, I searched for that and somebody on the East Coast searches for that, we all get different results because Google knows where we’re searching from. What I do in SEO and working with financial advisors is try to help them show up in those results. That’s part one.
The second part is we know from the data that we’ve seen that the number-one search term that drives traffic to an advisor site is actually just a search for their business. Indigo Marketing is your business, that’s going to be one of the biggest drivers of traffic. When somebody types in Indigo Marketing Agency, we want your business to show up and look spectacular, look professional, and start building trust as soon as those results populate in the search engine. It can be complicated, it can sound scary, but really we’re just trying to make your results look good and show up when people search for category terms.
CA: There’s two goals that we have, it’s getting more traffic to your site, and that comes from showing up higher in search results, and also appearing better in search results. When you do Google your own business or your name, we want your business to come up in that right-hand sidebar, that Google My Business sidebar where you have your headshot, your logo, your hours, your address. People can click from their smart phone to call you, they can click to get directions, you can actually publish articles now on your Google My Business profile. It’s incredibly important to take control of that listing and to make sure that you look great in that listing.
One way that I explain the basics about SEO to advisors is, it’s a lot like your credit report. Your credit report, your traditional credit report depends on your credit mix, how many credit cards you have, your balance-to-limit ratio, your length of credit history. There’s all these factors that go into your search engine optimization score. Things like how long has your website existed, how much traffic goes to your website, how many social media profiles that you have connected to your website.
What about your business listings? Are you listed with Google, with Yahoo, with all of these other online listings? Apple Maps that verify you out there on the internet to basically tell Google that you are who you say you are. That’s basically all of the things that go into your SEO score, which is a lot like your online credit report. Google wants to give people a good search experience, so when someone types in “financial advisor near me,” they want to bring up the most credible results for that search. Telling Google that you are who you say you are, verifying your business via US mail goes a long way to allowing them to put you higher in those search results.
MD: Yes, that’s exactly right. I will add that there are over 200 factors that Google looks at to determine your relevancy in a search. There’s so many, right? We’ve looked at just about every single factor that we know of that a search engine will score your business on, and then we took all of those and we said, “Okay, which of these factors can we impact to help advisors rank better in search essentially?”
Over the past two years, what we’ve really been doing is looking at the numbers as, if we do this, how does that impact somebody’s search ranking? We’ve constantly been testing, at this point, almost a hundred different advisors we’ve done SEO projects for. Every single time we’re trying something just a little bit differently to see how it works. The package has gotten pretty good at this point. We know exactly if we do these things, we’re going to move the needle for an advisor. That’s pretty cool. Obviously, advisors don’t need to know every single factor that could impact their search, you just need to know the most important ones, and then we take care of that for you.
CA: Exactly. You don’t need to understand how electricity works to enjoy the benefits, you just need to understand that you need to plug it in and get it going for your business. One of the things that we do as part of our service to financial advisors is an SEO audit report. We offer all advisors who follow us, who listen to this podcast, who read our blogs, a free video report on their website. Mike will go through and make a video for your site, tell you what you’re doing right, what you’re doing wrong, and how you can improve. Mike, why don’t you walk us through what are the key factors that you’re looking for when you do these SEO audit reports? What are the things that you’re checking to decide whether somebody has good or bad SEO?
MD: Great question. We know that every advisor gets hit up by SEO practitioners every single day via email, and it’s a lot of noise, and it’s hard to understand what exactly is correct. We try to make the SEO audit as easy to understand as possible. I started out doing audit reports where we would create a PDF and we would go through all of the factors. Unless I’m there talking through each item with you and helping you understand how that’s going to impact your SEO, it was really going over the advisor’s head.
We just tried to really simplify it. What I do is I pull up your website on a browser, I record my screen and I just go through the most important factors that we find that move the needle for advisors. I show you exactly where your search presence stands on those factors. I suggest improvements along the way. In fact, I’ll give you most of the improvements right there and you can take that information and have whoever make the updates, or we can make them for you. That’s how it works. There’s really not a lot of complication to it, and it works, we just tried to make it simple.
CA: Yes. I love to watch these videos that Mike makes for our advisors. What he does is he starts from when he opens your website and gets his first impressions. He looks if you have a secure site, if it’s mobile responsive, what is the title tag on your site, what is the metadata that’s appearing, how do you appear in search results? He’ll actually give you the information to make the changes, and I would say you could get 50% of the benefit of our SEO package by following the recommendations that he provides on his free SEO audit videos. If you’re interested in getting an SEO audit on your site, just let us know, I’ll have a link in the show notes. Mike, tell us just some of the biggest mistakes that you see advisors making, from an SEO perspective.
MD: That is a great question. There’s a lot to it, but I’m just going to keep the answer really simple. Your point that you made a few minutes ago is Google tries to return the most relevant business to you when you do a search for a financial advisor. What you want to do is make your website the most relevant result that they can return for that search. If your businesses specialize in retirement planning for Qualcomm employees, if somebody types that into Google, you want to be the most relevant search.
The first thing on your website when you land there, and this is what I do in an audit, is I look and I say, “Do I understand within three seconds who you are, and who you help, and how you help them?” It’s got to be that fast because there’s an attention problem in today’s world where people just don’t have the attention. They don’t have the attention to go to your website and decipher your metaphors about what you do. You need to tell them right away on the home page at the very top, this is who I am, this is who I help, this is how.
It’s two things. It’s, one, good for the user because if I show up on your site, I know, and then I can take action with you as a business. The search engine knows that and so they look at the information that you have on the top of your site, and they judge your relevancy in the search terms that you’re hoping to rank on. That’s the easiest test and the easiest recommendation I can give is just open up your site and within three seconds, can you tell who you are, who you help, and how you help them? If that is there, that goes a long way to help your SEO.
CA: Even on a third layer of that, I would add bounce rates go into your SEO score that Google calculates for you. If someone comes to your site, they’re overwhelmed with your metaphor for how you help people hit their long-term financial goals and they close out of your site, that’s a bounce. Those bounces count against you from SEO perspective. You want your site to thoroughly explain, in the most basic way possible, what one urgent problem you solve for a specific group, and entice people to stay on your site. You get credit when people go through your site and they click on different pages, and they spend time on your site. Every visitor that spends time on your site is adding to your SEO score. You want to make your site really easy to use and really palatable for your visitors.
Walk us through some of the other mistakes. One thing that I think is really interesting to look at is when Mike works on an SEO project with clients, we’re not just trying to get them to show up for a financial advisor in your area because that’s a broad search and there’s a lot of Edward Jones advisors out there that are showing up for that. What we’re trying to do is figuring out what are the best keywords they can show up for us. He actually runs search volume reports for different keywords that they may want to show up for.
Maybe it’s to find benefit plans, maybe it’s retirement planning for Qualcomm employees, maybe it is investments for LGBT community members. Whatever it is, he’ll run a report for what is the average monthly search volume for those terms, and what does the competition look like. If we want to show up for Bristol-Myers Squibb pension plan advisor, we’re probably going to be the only person doing SEO on that keyword. In that case, there could be a thousand searches and we could show up at the very top.
It’s really a supply and demand game that we’re playing, choosing search terms that you want to show up for, search volume that exists, and then the competition to show up at the top of that. Walk us through a little bit about your strategy for choosing keywords.
MD: We try to keep the SEO project really aligned with the overall marketing strategy. I think one thing that you’ve done a really nice job of this year is educating advisors on the truth about how you generate new business as an advisor. The big takeaway is there’s really two ways that you can get new business. You can either get referrals, or you can own a specialty. We have built the SEO package around those ideas.
Number one, optimizing your search presence for your business name, which we talked about a few minutes ago. If somebody searches for your business, you show up there, you look fantastic. That’s a huge part of getting clients, because if somebody thinks that they might do business with you, they’re going to Google you, and they’re going to see what your business looks like online. If it doesn’t look promising and you start to erode trust before you even get a chance to meet them, that’s not good for your business. That’s why we start there.
Like you said about the specialty, if you have a specialty, that’s absolutely an easier term to rank high on because the competition is low. What I do, as you said, is I take all of your services, everything that we talk about about your business, and I do the research and I find out which terms get the most search volume. We should focus on those because if you win those terms, you’re more likely to get more traffic to your site, and then hopefully on your site you build trust and people engage with you as an individual.
CA: That’s awesome. We’re working with a few different advisors with really cool specialties. One of our first advisors we worked with from an SEO perspective that we really won, and he’s at the top of the list, was cash management for school districts in his town. No one else was doing that, no one else was creating content for that, so we got him right to the top of the list.
Another is, one of the advisors we’re working with now who is doing financial planning for pastors, and it talks a lot about the different allowances that pastors get and the different stipends and financial planning concerns that they have. Her website is going right to the top of the list, getting tons, thousands of hits every week or every month for those keyword searches that no one else is showing up for. It all goes into what I preach every day, is that you want to go to an expert in your specific field so that when anybody comes across someone that needs your help, it’s easy for them to refer you, and so that you’re showing up for those searches that are relevant for what you do best.
MD: Add onto that just a little bit. Keeping the SEO idea aligned with your general marketing strategy. If we see keywords that are good opportunities for your business, we can then implement the changes right on your website there, but it’s also a content strategy into the future, which is something you also help folks with this, writing those custom blog posts. If we know the right terms that you need to go after, those can be future blog posts shared on social media, and that goes on into the future for their help in your search presence.
CA: Yes. Certainly, if you have a specialty, SEO can really be a home run. But even if you don’t, we do a lot of work for your average advisor who is doing financial planning. We just did a big project for an advisor on the keywords “financial advisor in Austin, Texas.” We doubled his organic search traffic. That’s something that is important to know—your SEO crowd really grows over time—so laying the proper SEO foundation, the best time to do it, it was probably five years ago or today.
As time goes on, we doubled his organic search traffic immediately within 30 days, but that’s going to improve over time. That traffic, as people coming to a site each and every day that he doesn’t have to pay for it, he pays us the one-time fee and he never pays anyone else again, Google just sends him that traffic forever. It’s a really powerful investment to make in your firms. I really encourage, if you’re an advisor and you haven’t checked out your SEO, to request a free SEO audit report.
Michael, I’ll close it out here. If you could give advisors one recommendation, if they do only one thing from listening to this podcast, what would that be?
MD: One recommendation I would say is do the three-second test. Open up your website, look at it, and say, “Do I know from looking at this website in less than three seconds who this firm is, who they help, and how they help them?” If you do that, you’re going to go a long way to improve your SEO. The second thing you can do is just schedule an audit, and I’ll go through your site and comment and talk through all of the opportunities that you have.
CA: Thank you so much for being a guest on our show, we really appreciate your expertise and your insights. Thanks for being a guest and we’ll talk to you soon.
MD: Great, thanks, Claire.
How can we help you with your marketing?
We help top advisors with a true specialty to create custom marketing plans. Our most popular services include our Independent Websites for Independent Advisors, our Search Engine Optimization service, and our Monthly Marketing Package, but we can also help answer your questions and work with you on project-based marketing campaigns.
Claire Akin runs Indigo Marketing Agency, a full-service marketing firm serving financial advisors. It’s her mission to help independent financial advisors help more people through their incredibly important work. Claire is a former Investment Advisor Representative who holds her MBA in Marketing from the Rady School of Management at UC San Diego as well as a BA in Economics from UC Davis.