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3 Powerful Stats That Affect Website Usability

Whether you’re a financial adviser or a web designer, it’s easy to understand why it’s important to build a website that visitors can use. When a visitor arrives on any adviser’s website for the first time can they inherently, fluidly find the information they’re looking for? Recently, I came across this article from Smashing Magazine that cites evidence on the importance of creating a user-friendly site. Here are three science-backed usability stats that I found especially interesting:

Let’s back up… what is website usability?

Website usability is a fancy tech term that refers to how user-friendly a site it. According to Google, web usability is:

“… the ease of use of a website. Some broad goals of usability are the presentation of information and choices in a clear and concise way, a lack of ambiguity and the placement of important items in appropriate areas.”

Scroll Call

After nearly a decade of research on how people use the internet, Nielsen Norman Group discovered 77 percent of first-time visitors don’t scroll. At all. Let’s rephrase: when a visitor arrives at your adviser website for the first time, they only see what is “above the fold.”

This data represents how important the homepage of a site is. First-time web visitors come to a site with three *big* questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you do?
  • Why should I care? (this is the most important)

While it’s not a good idea to cram every detail about a firm on the homepage, it’s important to make the best use of the space that’s available. The best adviser websites are designed to draw in first-time visitors and are compelling enough to make them want to stick around.

White Space Helps Us Focus

White space on a site is kind of a valuable commodity, but it’s all about balance. Too much white space can be perceived as uninformative or boring, while not enough white space often leaves visitors feeling confused and overwhelmed.

Smashing Magazine referenced a study by Lin (2004) that found a “good use of white space between paragraphs and in the left and right margins increases comprehension by almost 20 percent.”

Optimizing the amount of white space on a page helps visitors understand and process the information they’re taking in and focus.

It’s also worth noting that white space doesn’t have to be white. The term refers to the empty space between other stuff (words, pictures, buttons, forms, etc.) on a page.

“Quality of Design Is an Indicator of Credibility”

According to this article from Smashing Magazine, many researchers and institutions have questioned what factors influence how web users perceive a site’s credibility. Of the research that’s been performed, there are a few elements we all agree are important:

  • Layout and design
  • Consistency
  • Typography
  • Color
  • Frequency of updates

Long story short, web visitors are shallow and distracted (often by hundreds of other websites). According to the most research performed to date, web users definitely judge a book by its cover, forming their own ideas about your firm based on the quality of the design. A well-designed, professional-looking website increases perceived credibility among web visitors, while a disorganized, outdated adviser website does the opposite.

Maggie Crowley 1Maggie Crowley
Marketing Coordinator
Advisor Websites
Vancouver, British Columbia

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21 Questions Your Website Needs to Answer (Fast!)

As an adviser, your website is one of the most essential marketing tools and is likely the only member of your team working 24/7 to represent your brand. Determining its focus and direction should be the cornerstone of your firm’s online marketing strategy. You can bet that your target market is looking for you online. Make sure they find you, as well as find answers to all of their questions about your firm.

So, what do people do on the Internet? The majority of web users are seeking information. To give your website a chance, focus on its visitors’ intentions. What information are they looking for, and how can you help them find it? Focus on making your website easily navigable and chock-full of answers.

Most advisers feel they need a website to validate their firm and provide legitimacy to the organization—and that’s true! But when visitors arrive to your company’s site, they’ll want to know more than whether or not you exist. In fact, they’ll want to know a lot more. Many of these questions are answered within the subconscious. (Is this company good or bad? Trustworthy? Credible?) And many of these questions are answered rather quickly. In 2012, a research team from Carlton University discovered that people make a decision about the appeal of a website in only 50 milliseconds—that’s 50/1,000 of one second!

The bottom line is, you have very little time to win over web visitors. Here is a list of 21 questions that web visitors want answered when they arrive to your website. Make sure answers to these questions can be found easily and quickly. A good rule of thumb is to have answers to the following questions answered within three clicks of entering your site.

  1. Am I in the right place?
  2. Is this company real?
  3. Is it credible?
  4. Is this website up-to-date?
  5. Is it trustworthy? Why should I trust the people who work here?
  6. Is this a professional company?
  7. Is this company stable?
  8. Does this site make me feel welcome?
  9. Is the navigation easy to find and use?
  10. Can I find the information I’m looking for?
  11. Is this company affiliated with other financial institutions?
  12. Does this company have a physical location? Where is it?
  13. How many people work here? Is the team large enough to fulfill my needs?
  14. What is the company culture like?
  15. How is this firm different than the last firm I looked into?
  16. What is it like to work with your company?
  17. How do other people feel about this company?
  18. Why should I spend money here?
  19. How can you help me?
  20. I’m not ready to make a decision, but I want to stay in touch. Can I subscribe to a blog or newsletter?
  21. What should I do next?


Maggie Crowley 1Maggie Crowley
Marketing Coordinator
Advisor Websites
Vancouver, British Columbia


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Be An Inboxer

Endeavoring to be an Inboxer isn’t a call to jump in the ring and fight, nor a call to sport hip underwear.

This is all about what you can do to get more of your emails into your recipient’s inbox. Financial service providers rely on email delivery to enhance marketing campaigns such as newsletters, updates, invites to events and webinars and the list goes on, as far as your marketing budget will allow.

Techniques to optimize the chances of an email getting to an inbox—rather than a spam or junk mail folder—in some cases can help you incrementally, while in other cases the impact is dramatic.

For the Greatest Impact …

Watch your subject line. Almost all email clients have spam filtering in place and they look at a variety of factors, but none as important as the subject line. Here is an excellent resource for crafting a non-spammy subject line that also has great tips for getting the email opened.

Don’t send emails to bad email addresses. When the time comes for your marketing aspirations to outgrow Constant Contact or MailChimp, make sure to not import bad and bounced email addresses into your new email service provider’s (ESP’s) system. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) track how many bounces come from your domain and email address and issue a “sender score” (also called a “sender reputation”), a sort of credit rating for email-sending credibility. The goal is to keep bounces at a minimum to have a high sender score. This also means if you have a dated list (one that is over a year old with no sends, for example) use an email validation service to avoid lowering your and your ESP’s sender score. It will be perhaps the best $10 you will ever spend on a marketing endeavor.

For Modest Impact …

When upgrading from one ESP to another, there is a process called “inbox warming.” While not nearly as exciting as it sounds, the process involves sending your emails out on the new platform to only the most engaged contacts—that is, those who open your emails the most. Doing this the first couple of times you send an email campaign will bolster your sender score on the new platform for future sends.

Lastly, there is the issue of alignment. Typically, the “reply to” field in email transmissions contain your domain (like tim@eMarketeer.com uses the domain eMarketeer.com). Your ISP often makes use of a “sender policy framework,” which basically lists which ESP hosts are allowed to send on behalf of your domain. Add your ESP’s server IPs (the addresses of the email servers) to your SPF record before sending. Further, higher-end ESPs allow you to use your own subdomain as the URL address of the email (for example, email.yourcompany.com/email title rather than MailChimp.com/email title), which is worth the nominal amount of effort it takes to set up. Your ESP vendor can and should help with all of this.

Taking these steps will assure greater deliverability over the life of your company. Like compounding interest, incremental gains that are leveraged over the course of time can make a huge difference in your email marketing potency.

tim handleyTim Handley
eMarketeer USA
Santa Cruz, Calif.

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3 Telltale Signs Your Website Needs a Refresh

In 2013, 67 percent of advisers we talked to said they were not happy with their existing websites. While it’s not realistic to redesign your firm’s website annually, the gaining pace in the tech world makes every website a constant work-in-progress. Taking on a new website project may not sound like a walk in the park, but a site redesign can have a lasting positive impact on any advisory firm.

How do you know when it’s time for a complete overhaul of your firm’s site? Here are three tell-tale signs:

1. Low Traffic and Conversions

Numbers don’t lie. The biggest reason to give your website a refresh is when no one is using it. Best practice is to track and measure numbers on a monthly basis using Google Analytics. If you notice a drop in traffic or stagnant numbers over the course of at least one quarter— looks like it’s time to try something new.

2. It’s Not a Realistic Representation of Your Firm

Prospects who have never met you can make an impression of the firm based on its website—in less than three seconds. Your website is the only member of your team working 24/7 to promote and advocate your financial firm … does it send a positive message to your target audience? If you don’t even like the way it looks, chances are neither do consumers.

3. It’s Not Relevant in 2014

While I’m not suggesting a complete website redesign is necessary every year, consider some of the major changes in technology in the past five years: more people access the Internet from a mobile device than a desktop computer, Flash animations are no longer a “thing” and Google is the new Yellow Pages.

If it is time for a website re-haul, the best way to get ready is to do a little prep work. Many advisers find web design quite daunting and complicated, and with good reason. It can be challenging to assemble the necessities to get started, but, with the right people on the job it’s not nearly as difficult a challenge as it may seem.

Maggie Crowley 1Maggie Crowley
Marketing Coordinator
Advisor Websites
Vancouver, British Columbia


Editor’s Note: Meet Maggie in person at FPA’s annual conference—BE Seattle 2014! Stop by the FPA Booth during the opening reception in the exhibit hall between 6 and 7 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 20 for a meet and greet with Maggie and fellow Practice Management Blogger Kristin Harad. 

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3 Ways to Find Out if Your Web Marketing Is Paying Off

Results are priceless. There are literally thousands (or more!) way to market your firm to achieve business growth and success, but how do you know which tactics actually work? The age old problem with marketing is that it’s kind of a gray area in terms of its effectiveness.

Well, it used to be.

Part of the beauty of a strong web marketing strategy is that, in today’s tech-savvy world, we can literally track and measure what works and what doesn’t work. Google Analytics is a powerful resource that reveals many details about our web visitors and what actions they take online.

Setting goals and measuring your performance is key to any good business strategy, and in marketing it can be used to test whether your current initiatives are reaching the right audience and meeting your goals. Here are three measurements that can determine whether your web marketing efforts are paying off or not.

For all three of these measurements, I suggest reviewing the numbers on at least a monthly basis. Create a simple spreadsheet and input the numbers of a monthly basis. This is one really simple step that will help you visualize the effectiveness of your marketing strategy and spot trends.

1. Web Traffic
A great website isn’t so great if no one uses it. It’s sad, but it happens more often than you can imagine: a great-looking, user-friendly website that virtually generates no traffic because nobody knows the site exists. A great website generates a healthy and growing amount of traffic on a monthly basis.

The more qualified visitors you have to your website, the more likely you will be to convert the visitors to leads or clients. After about a month of data, you can begin to see patterns in what is working and what isn’t.

3 ways to increase traffic:

  • Above all, provide value. Web visitors are savvier that ever and won’t waste their time browsing your site unless you’re giving them something in return (like a white paper).
  • Include your web address in all marketing material (newsletter, business card, etc.).
  • Use social media to drive traffic back to your website.

2. Bounce Rate
A web visitor “bounces” away from your website after viewing only one page of content. For example, if 10 visitors arrive on your website and seven of them leave after viewing only one page of content, your bounce rate is 70 percent.

A high bounce rate indicates that the content on your website isn’t what web visitors are looking for. As a result? Nine times out of 10, web visitors will leave and not return.

2 ways to reduce a high bounce rate:

  • A clean, professional homepage design. Web visitors form an impression really fast; they are likely to bounce away if the site is outdated or unprofessional looking.
  • Clear navigation. If your web visitors can’t find the information they’re looking for, don’t expect them to stick around.

3. Form Submissions
The best adviser websites play a role in earning new business and sustain meaningful, strong relationships with existing clients. Your website can be your most powerful marketing tool, generating leads and helping your firm reach its growth goals.

Allowing web visitors to request information from your website can be a powerful lead generation tool. This can be a simple process: ask web visitors to subscribe to your newsletter or request a meeting.

2 ways to increase form submissions:

  • Place valuable content (like a white paper or educational video) behind a form. Word to the wise: keep the form fairly short and simple; don’t make people feel as if they’re signing their lives away to access your content.
  • Advertise content with an enticing calls-to-action.

Maggie Crowley 1Maggie Crowley
Marketing Coordinator
Advisor Websites
Vancouver, British Columbia

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Don’t Discount the Importance of Digital Client Interaction

“Digital interaction contributes to strengthen the client-adviser experience for the wealthy,” is the key conclusion of a recently published study by SEI, a global provider of outsourcing solutions that help financial advisers create and manage wealth.

The study, “The Futurewealth Report 2014: Upgrading the Service Delivery,” surveyed 30,025 affluent investors worldwide, analyzing the key factors that this type of investors consider when entering in a relationship with their financial advisers and the role that digital technology plays in that experience.

The results of this survey caught my attention, as they seemed to point to a different conclusion than what the study reported. Let me explain.

According to the study, respondents entering in a relationship with their financial advisers were:

More concerned about an adviser’s attributes, such as:

  1. Level of experience (65*)
  2. Market knowledge (65*)
  3. Understanding of client’s needs (65*)

 concerned about the adviser’s digital delivery capabilities, including:

  1. Ability to simulate portfolio strategies online (39*)
  2. Ability to customize online reporting (38*)
  3. Having an easily navigable website (37*)

      (*) importance index measured out of 100

The fact that respondents to the survey placed far less emphasis on the digital side of the service experience and favored instead advisers’ understanding of their goal-based investment approach, could lead us to erroneously believe that affluent investors do not actively use digital technology. Nothing could be more far from the truth, as the study also revealed that 92 percentof investors under age 40 use online tools to learn more about their transactions and support their wealth management decisions. More specifically, 50 percent of them declared that they log on to the online account they have with their financial advisory firm to:

  • Read market reviews (55 percent)
  • Check performance analyses (55 percent)
  • Find information about securities (51 percent)
  • Review portfolio evaluations (51 percent)

These results clearly underscore how crucial digital technologies have become for investors. Consequently, when it comes to delivering a great service experience, advisers should keep in mind that the digital component of that experience plays a crucial role for their clients, especially younger ones. The latter in particular, have an active online life and rely significantly on the internet and social media to access a wide array of information, including financial products and services. This is the reason why digital engagement must become an essential component of advisers’ communication with their clients and prospects.

As I addressed in one of my past blogs, “Generation D Investors: Social Media Will Help Advisers Regain Trust,” digital technology plays also a significant role in helping advisers regain investors’ trust. This appears to be particularly true with millennials of generation D (digital), a segment of the investor population with a distinct lack of trust in the financial system—a consequence of the most recent financial crisis—and a subsequent prudent and conservative attitude toward their investments.

The ultimate goal of advisers’ digital engagement is to deliver to their clients and prospects the exceptional service experience they are seeking through their preferred communication medium.

As always, questions and/or comments are welcome.

Claudio PannunzioClaudio Pannunzio

i-Impact Group Inc.
Greenwich, Conn.

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4 Key Ingredients for Your SEO Recipe

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of getting traffic to your website from the listings on search engines.

To facilitate our clients’ understanding of SEO, I often describe the most popular engines—Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.—as the librarians of the Internet. Their core task is to collect information and catalog it in a way that helps people immediately find what they are searching for. To store information, every search engine employs an algorithm; think of it as a secret recipe that turns information into search results. Therefore, SEO is the process of ensuring that your website possesses all the ingredients that match search engines’ recipes (algorithms). For financial advisers, like other business owners, search results are very important, as they increase the odds that their business is easily found on the Internet.

How can you assess whether or not your website has a suitable online presence? Here are a couple of very simple tests to conduct on your own:

  • Type the name of your business in your favorite search engine. If that name does not show up in the first page of the ensuing search, you need to implement SEO.
  • Conduct an Internet search using popular terms that your prospects may use to locate an adviser—financial adviser, financial planner, investment plan, retirement solution—and add the name of the city/town where your business is domiciled. If the name of your practice does not appear in the first result page, you need to implement SEO.

Analysis of Your Social Media Assets
If both tests yield a “positive” result, you may want to seriously consider creating a SEO strategy. However, before you hire a firm to help you with that, I suggest you do a quick analysis of your social media assets.

In addition to your website, do you have a blog and/or a presence on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook? Are these platforms working in synchrony? The correct approach in using social media is to establish an ongoing and consistent conversation that drives traffic to your website with the ultimate goal of converting visitors into clients. In marketing lingo, this is defined as a hub-and-spoke model.

It will also be extremely beneficial for you to establish the core objectives of your SEO efforts. The clearer these goals are, the easier it will be to measure them and assess if your SEO strategy is working for you.

Zero-Cost Strategies
What follows is a series of suggestions and zero-cost ideas you can implement to create an SEO strategy that will help you achieve an effective online presence:

1. Get Google Analytics
Go to Google and set up Google Analytics (www.Google.com/analytics) to find out the most common terms/search words people use to find a financial adviser (it is free), and ensure that such terms are included in your website and social media interactions. The more specific you get with your keywords, the better your chances of ranking high in search engines. Strategically place those keywords throughout your website content. For example, if you target the key phrase “529 plan,” make sure you create content about it and provide ideas and tips on how to open a plan and maximize contributions.

2. Localize
Optimize your website for local search by ensuring that you have a detailed listing of your practice on Google Local (www.Google.com/local/add) and other engines such as Yahoo, Bing, etc.

3. Blog It
If you do not have a blog yet, consider creating one as way to increase your website ranking in the search engines and boost your brand exposure. Managing a blog can be time consuming. However, it will help you to attract potential clients.

4. Use Video
Consider using videos on your website and/or blog. It will enable you to achieve two key strategic goals: increase the time visitors spend on your site, and boost your SEO ranking. Google’s algorithms assign higher ranking to those web pages more frequently visited and where surfers spend above-average time. Algorithms work on the assumption that the longer a visitor stays on a page, the higher the quality of that page’s content must be. A YouOn TV study revealed that web surfers spend on average 48 seconds on a specific website. When a site features a video, average time jumps to 5 minutes and 50 seconds. This is especially true for educational/informative videos versus those just selling a product. Consequently, creating a video that addresses your key audience’s problems and issues and provides tips and actionable ideas will help you drive prospects to your website, keep them on it and achieve your SEO goals.

As always, questions and comments are welcome.

Claudio PannunzioClaudio Pannunzio
i-Impact Group Inc.
Greenwich, Conn.


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