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Adviser Blackout: Why Isn’t Your Site Showing Up in Google Results?

One of the top reasons advisers come to us for help is to get their site to show up early in Google search results. It makes perfect sense. You’re a great adviser, so you want to be front and center when someone searches for “financial adviser [your city].”

Before we get started, let’s look at why search engine optimization, commonly referred to as SEO, matters. (Many thanks to Hubspot for compiling all these statistics.)

  • Google gets more than 100 billion searches per month
  • 81 percent of shoppers do online research before making a decision
  • 51 percent of smartphone users have discovered a new company while performing a search on their phone

With so many people researching and finding new companies through search engines—especially Google—advisers need to make search ranking a priority.

The problem is that Google’s algorithms (which determine the results of searches) are constantly evolving. According to Google, they change their algorithm at least once a day, and they’re reported to make up to 600 changes per year.

So how are we supposed to keep up? These three factors have been proven to play a big role in determining results.

1.) Establish Authority. SEO experts are always talking about the importance of establishing something called authority. It can seem like a vague and difficult concept when it comes to web search, but it’s really fairly simple.

For the same reason I don’t show up until page six of the results when I Google “Zach McDonald,” you have to prove that you are one of the items people want to find when they search for “financial adviser [city/state].”

If your site is brand new and your visits are fairly minimal, Google won’t ascribe much importance to you.

You have to establish authority first by publishing useful blogs and promoting those blogs via social and paid ads. After that, you have to give Google a little time to recognize that people now want to see your website. Once that’s established, you’ll see your rankings rise. And when I say “give Google a little time,” I mean anywhere from six months to more than a year.

2.) Make Sure Your Mobile and Desktop Sites Match Up. Mobile searches first outpaced desktop a couple years ago and have continued to do so ever since. As a result, Google has continuously tweaked their algorithms to place more and more importance on mobile sites.

Last November, Google announced they will be adopting a mobile-first indexing strategy.

Basically, they’ve been evaluating websites using desktop content for years, but a lot of sites have “lite” mobile versions to make them easier to navigate on a phone. That leads to issues when the majority of people use their phones for searches, then get results based on desktop content, and end up on the mobile site, which may or may not have the content they searched for.

So Google’s going mobile-first (probably sometime in 2018), and that means your mobile site needs to have the same information as your desktop site. While they may not fully implement mobile-first indexing for a little while, chances are their algorithms are already leaning heavily in that direction, so now’s the time to fix this problem.

Bottom line: You don’t want Google’s bots, which determine if you belong in their search results, scanning your mobile “lite” site and missing essential blogs and other information that could boost your standing.

If you have a responsive site—where your website looks different on mobile than desktop but the content is all the same—then you’re fine. That’s one of the reasons we only develop websites in WordPress: responsiveness comes standard.

If you have different mobile and desktop versions, here are some tips from Google on how you can bring your site up to speed.

Want to talk about how we can help your website achieve true mobile-friendliness? Drop us a line.

3.) Follow These Three Simple Rules of Local SEO. One of the first rules of SEO is that content is king. Produce quality blogs and videos regularly, attract people to your site, and your search ranking will improve.

And that’s absolutely true—except when it comes to local SEO. Getting into local searches has little to nothing to do with blogs (although getting to the top of those searches is a different story). It’s typically established through your site’s pages.

Here are three simple things you (or even your intern!) can do today that can make a big difference when people search for “financial adviser [your city].”

Make sure your firm name, address, and phone number are on every page, and that they’re always cited in the same way. This one’s so important that SEO experts have even designated an acronym for it: NAP (name, address, phone number). It’s easy to do—just insert that info into your site’s footer. As simple as that seems, this is one of the most common mistakes on business websites. Wherever you insert your NAP info, do your best to keep it consistent. There is some debate in the SEO community over whether NAP formatting inconsistencies affect your site’s rankings, but it’s better better to be safe than sorry.

Register with Google My Business and Bing Places. This takes just a few minutes. Fill out your profile using the links above, and make it as full as possible. Google loves it when people play by their rules, so if you only put your name and phone number in there, chances are they’re dinging you for that. Put in your website, appointment URL, phone number, address, office hours, and even add a couple pictures. Same with Bing.

You won’t see results immediately on this one. After you register, they’ll mail you a postcard with a PIN to confirm that you’re actually affiliated with the business. It took about two weeks for our postcard to come when we registered.

Register with online directories. Claim your firm’s profile on sites like MerchantCircle, Yelp, Local.com, your local newspaper’s directory, and chamber of commerce, just to name a few. That way you can make sure your firm’s information is correct (not to mention you can easily respond to reviews if you feel so inclined). When your NAP information on directory listings matches the information on your website, the Google gods will smile upon thee. If Yelp has your number wrong and somebody tries to call you, they’ll probably either assume you went out of business or just move on to another firm.

Don’t expect overnight results. SEO is a long process. We helped a client edit, publish and release a book last year. Now, almost a year later, their book is at the top of Google results. That success story required planning, strategizing and promotion (and patience), but the end result is worth it.

Your digital presence doesn’t just happen; it’s what you make it. Follow these three steps and you’ll be on your way up in Google’s results.

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Zach McDonald is the editorial director at Mineral Interactive, which partners with client-focused firms looking for custom marketing solutions.  


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Use the ‘Mere Exposure Effect’ to Attract More Clients

We tend to like people we’re most familiar with.

According to this Social Psych Online article, the phenomenon of liking something or someone after we become more familiar with them is called the mere exposure effect.

Basically, the more you see or hear something, the you more you like it. A 1992 study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology demonstrated just how far mere exposure can go. Scientific American noted also that people tend to like people they share things in common with.

Researchers had four different women with similar appearances attend a college class numerous times throughout the semester. One woman didn’t go to any classes, another attended five times, another attended 10 times and the last one attended 15 times. The women simply sat in on the lecture, not interacting with any students.

At the end of the semester, students were asked to evaluate the women on several scales, one of which was physical attractiveness. They rated the woman who’d been to the class 15 times more positively than the other three, Social Psych Online reported.

How Can Advisers use Mere Exposure to Their Advantage?

So just by being around others more often, you have a greater chance that they will view you more favorably. This underlies many of the tenets of networking; the more you put yourself out there, the more others will view you more favorably over time.

But, you don’t have to physically be present for mere exposure to work. Advertisers like McDonalds discovered this long ago, and have been using it to their advantage for decades, as noted in this Science Blogs post.

By sharing information about yourself online, being active on social media and participating in online discussions, others will come to feel as if they know you and will be more likely to feel that they like you.

Twenty over Ten notes that you can nurture this even more if you go one step further and share a bit of personal information about yourself. Write blog posts or articles that include personal anecdotes and stories, which open the door to building rapport and allowing prospective clients to find things about you that they might share in common.

10 Blog Post Ideas to Write and Share to Speed Up the Mere Exposure Process

Every blog post you write is a chance for readers to learn more about you. We know that consumers make choices based not just on services, but based on who they ultimately think they’d enjoy working with.

1.) “Meet the Team”

A “meet the team” post is essentially a blog post that revolves around a Q&A session with you or one of your colleagues. Sharing a glimpse into that team member’s life allows your readers to get a better understanding of the individual and who they are as a person. For example, some questions the team could answer are:

  • What gets you up and going every morning?
  • Where is your favorite place you’ve ever been on vacation, and why?
  • What books are on your nightstand?
  • What inspired you to become a financial adviser?

2.) “5 of My All-Time Favorite Books”

Any favorite books? Articles? TV Show Commentaries? The information we are drawn to and consume says a lot about us. Listing these out in a blog post allows readers to get a sense of who you are, and gives you a great talking point. Sharing this post on social media and asking others to share their top five favorite books also fosters discussion—and you may even reach a new audience of prospective clients.

3.) “Financial News I Read Every Day (That Is Worth Your Time Too)”

Similar to example No. 2, you can share the financial news you read to keep up with daily events. Although it is more geared toward finance, this is still a great way of connecting with your audience because it shares a glimpse into your interests and fosters a sense of care. You are staying up-to-date and educated on behalf of your clients—and this blog post would show that.

4.) “A Peek at Our Own Family Budget”

In this type of post, you can share a glimpse into how you and your family budget and save, and the trade-offs you make personally. For instance, you may want to specifically gear toward a scenario like: “Simple Do’s and Don’ts to Saving for a House” if you are building a client base of millennials. You can discuss the uphills, the downhills, the peaks and the trials to budgeting. We are all instinctively drawn to seeing how others live and these types of post naturally pique our interest.

5.) “Conversation with a Current Client”

For this type of blog post, talk to the client in advance to get permission and ensure them they will remain anonymous. Essentially, this blog post should let prospective clients know the type of situations you and your firm deal with when it comes to handling clients and their financial situation. For instance, you might have a series of “Conversations with a Client”—one client in their 30s, one in their 40s, etc.—that revolve around the biggest questions clients have in those age groups. Or your approach could be “Conversation with a Client Business Owner,” etc.

6.) “My Family Vacation”

Have you taken a recent vacation? Talk about how you handled the budget for vacationing, along with friendly travel tips. For instance, you may have some great recommendations for the resort you stayed at, or the beaches you visited. As we all look forward to our vacations and usually spend a good deal of time investigating which locations/resorts/experiences will be the best value and most interesting, your readers will appreciate your own tips.

7.) “Budgeting for Big Life Events”

With weddings, holidays and many of life’s big events, money is always an important factor. In this blog post, you might share how to effectively save and budget for such events. Because the post will be in real-time (especially with holidays) your chances of getting more reads are definitely higher. For example, a post titled “Budget Friendly Tips for Holiday Spending” around November is sure to get many reads!

8.) “The Top 5 Tools I Use to Run My Business (That are Worth Every Penny)”

In this post, you might share the tools you use to run your business. Are there any tech tools that you couldn’t live without on a daily basis? Perhaps there is a scheduler app to schedule appointments? Or you might use Google Drive to share documents? By sharing your top tools, your readers can get a glimpse into your daily practice and immediately feel more connected with tools they may even potentially use themselves.

9.) “How I Save Money Every Day in the Simplest Ways”

Do you cut back on your daily Starbucks coffee and make your own at home? Do you pack your lunch instead of ordering out? Share a glimpse into your daily spending habits, and how your small trade-offs result in large savings. This type of post provides inspiration to your reader, where he or she may even begin to pick up your own smart saving habits. And since you often ask your own clients to track and take note of their own spending, this is a great “practice what you preach” post.

10.) “How I De-stress from the Financial Markets”

Being in the financial industry is isn’t always easy. With fluctuating markets and worrisome clients, it can even be extremely stressful. What daily rituals do you practice to stay at peace? How do you de-stress? Similarly to No. 9, this type of post can also provide plenty of inspiration to your readers, who may also have high-stress jobs.

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Samantha Russell is the director of sales and marketing at Twenty Over Ten, a web development company that creates tailored, mobile-responsive websites for financial advisers. She’s spent the last five years empowering advisers to market themselves effectively online using digital tools. With a background in marketing, social media and public relations, Russell focuses on helping business owners understand the value of their online presence and connecting them with the marketing tools and digital solutions they need to effectively manage their brand and engage clients.


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8 Cybersecurity Best Practices

White Paper 3.jpgWhen it comes to cybersecurity breaches, there’s good news and bad news, according to the latest whitepaper from the FPA Research and Practice Institute™ and TD Ameritrade Institutional.

The good news is only 4 percent of firms surveyed experienced a security breach. The bad news is that while larger firms tend to experience more data breaches, smaller firms are increasingly being targeted.

But the whitepaper titled “Cybersecurity: Current Threats and Risk Management” offers readers a list of things to do to mitigate risk.

1.) Create a map of what should happen in the event of a security breach so that your entire team is on the same page.

2.) Update all email systems to limit potential for phishing attempts.

3.) Frequently scan for potential vulnerabilities. Scan more often than just quarterly or even annually to ensure your company and client data isn’t compromised. It may cost more now, but it will pay off in the long term.

4.) Brush up on your basics. Make sure you and your team both know what things make your data vulnerable and ensure that you’re not doing them. Read our last blog on for some tips on how to keep your firm safe.

5.) Ensure all your and your employees’ mobile devices have safeguards to protect any data that can be accessed on them. Ensure that sensitive data is erased form these devices should an employee leave or get a new device.

6.) Ensure only company-issued hardware and devices are accessing your company network.

7.) Identify what data must be encrypted and properly encrypt any sensitive data that is sent via email.

8.) Do not use personal email accounts for business. Create and enforce a policy that prohibits or limits employees from using personal email for work-related correspondence.

Download the full whitepaper here. Find the full cybersecurity research report, along with the other whitepapers on the topic here.

 


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9 Cybersecurity Tips to Keep Your Firm Safe

If somebody walked up to you and asked for your house keys, you wouldn’t give them away. But when somebody asks for our key identifying information on the Internet, most of the time we willingly hand it over. That’s what representatives from SeeGee Technologies Inc., a next-generation technology solution provider, told FPA staff at a recent cybersecurity training.

You may think that just because you have a small firm, cyber criminals don’t have any interest in you, but that’s not true. In fact, you are their portal into bigger pools of information. And your employees could unknowingly be putting you and your clients at risk each time they access sensitive information over unsecure connections.

“No individual or business is safe,” said Daniel Lakier, chief technology officer for SeeGee.

Always exercise common sense and responsibility when using the Internet and apps—don’t click on pop-ups, don’t click on links to track packages you aren’t expecting, and don’t provide personal information to hackers posing as your bank.

Here are some tips to keep your personal information and your firm’s information safe:

  1. Establish strong passwords and update them every 90 days.
  2. Don’t download email attachments you aren’t expecting and beware of emails telling you to download software to fix problems.
  3. Install anti-virus and anti-spyware programs on all devices before connecting to the Internet.
  4. Install and use a firewall on every device.
  5. Have physical access controls for all your devices.
  6. Backup all important data daily.
  7. Keep your software updates for browsers and operating systems current.
  8. Limit access to sensitive and confidential data and don’t ever access it on unsecure connections.
  9. Get technical expertise when needed.

For more information, visit seegee.com. Find more tips on cybersecurity from the FPA Research and Practice Institute™ here.

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Ana Trujillo
Associate Editor
Journal of Financial Planning
Denver, Colo.

 


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There’s Work to Be Done, says Cybersecurity Report

FPA_2016Cybersecurity_Report_R7.inddA day doesn’t go by when there’s not some attempt to hack personal information, Bryan Baas, the managing director of risk oversight and control for TD Ameritrade Institutional said at press conference at FPA BE 2016.

Baas was speaking on the results of the “Is Your Data Safe? The 2016 Financial Adviser Cybersecurity Assessment” study conducted by the FPA Research and Practice Institute™ and sponsored by TD Ameritrade Institutional.

Advisers are well aware of the issue and 81 percent of those surveyed say it is a high priority for them. But despite this, less than half of the advisers surveyed don’t understand the risks and how to mitigate them.

“Cybersecurity is with us every, single day,” Dan Skiles, president of Shareholders Service Group and a member of the FPA Board of Directors said. “It is something advisers need to worry about today, tomorrow, 10 years from now.”

The report found that there are several areas where advisers can improve in terms of establishing and implementing documented policies and procedures.

When it came to governance and risk assessment, 57 percent of the 1,015 survey participants had documented policies and procedures in place; 59 percent had them in place for access rights and prevention; 58 percent had them for data loss prevention; 51 percent had them for vendor management; and 43 percent had them for incident response.

Simply becoming aware that there is work to be done is an important first step.

untitled-7041What Can Planners Do Now
It doesn’t have to be so complicated, said Brian Edelman, CEO of Financial Computer Services, Inc.

Become aware. Become aware of what components you need to be looking at. Take an inventory of your data and do some risk assessment, which is similar to what you do with your clients.

Know that if there is a breach, you are responsible for notification. It’s embarrassing and distracting to have to tell all your clients there has been a breach, but the rule is clear that you must be the one to notify the clients.

If you have plans in place, practice them once. Ensure that your team is aware of what to do in each type of event that could possibly occur.

Give your clients tips to stay safe. Oftentimes, a breach that happens to you happens because one of your clients was hacked. So give them tips to employ tools like dual-factor authentication on their Gmail accounts.

Vet your vendors. You’re trusting these third-party technology companies with your information, so ensure that they are safe themselves. Visit their offices and see how they work and ensure they’re doing all they need to do to keep you safe.

These things might be a pain, but they’re necessary steps to ensure yours and your clients safety.

“What is an inconvenience to you is most likely a roadblock to the bad guy,” Baas said.

Three upcoming whitepapers will be released by The FPA Research and Practice Institute™ and TD Ameritrade Institutional that will give advisers information on the following topics: how advisers are communicating with clients regarding cybersecurity; how advisers are training their teams on issues related to cybersecurity; and what tools and technology (and its associated costs) advisers are using to protect their business.

For the full study, visit www.onefpa.org/Cybersecurity.

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Ana Trujillo
Associate Editor
Journal of Financial Planning
Denver, Colo.


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Don’t Have a Bad Online Presence

If you don’t have a website or LinkedIn profile—or you have them but they’re not very strong—then you’re doing the equivalent of inviting prospects and clients to a meeting in a messy office space.

Consumers are hesitant to make even minor purchases (shoes, household appliances, etc.) from companies with a bad online presence because they view those companies skeptically and can’t build initial trust. How do you think this same scenario plays out with someone looking to entrust someone with their life savings?

There are many various studies you can find regarding an investor’s purchase journey and the importance of having a strong website and LinkedIn profile. A strong online presence allows potential clients the opportunity to: (A) get to know you a bit before contacting you; (B) build a level of trust regarding your expertise; and (C) provide them a mechanism for contacting you. But you don’t need to read those studies—common sense should tell you that if you’re going to trust someone with something as important as financial planning, you want to know the financial planner is legitimate. Not existing online or having a weak online presence sends the prospect a signal that you might not be legitimate. Would you trust a professional service provider if you couldn’t find any information about them online?

Taking simple steps like ensuring your web content is up-to-date and reflects your value proposition can help people decide to take the next step in their journey toward finding a financial planner. 

Jeremy Jackson

 

Jeremy Jackson
Owner/founder
SKY Marketing Consultants
Kirkwood, MO

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Financial Planning Association members can get 50 percent of SKY Marketing Consultants‘ digital audit services (a discount of up to $300). For more information visit MyFPA

Look for the Journal of Financial Planning’s July issue for more marketing tips for financial planners. 


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Are Your Blog Posts Engaging Your Audience?

Our financial adviser clients often pose this question: how do we attract readers to our blog and keep them engaged?

The sad truth is that not everyone who comes across a blog post is going to read it. Consequently, our suggestion is not to worry whether users read the whole article. The key goal is not to attract the masses, rather ensure maximum satisfaction for those who come to read your blog.

The advice we consistently give to our clients is to first and foremost attain an in-depth understanding of the audience they seek to connect with. Creating the right persona is key to running a successful blog and understanding who your readers are and what matters to them—their worries, needs and pains. Consequently, the focus must be on creating content that offers them tips, guidelines and actionable ideas that can be implemented to address their needs. However, the overall aim is to appeal not only to your aficionados but also to those who may never contact you but enjoy reading and sharing your expert advice.

An Emotional Investment

Our recommendation is to focus every blog post on how to reduce and perhaps even help stop your readers’ pains. When your content does that you have got your audience engaged. Ultimately, your audience’s engagement is a direct function of the emotional investment they make in reading your posts. You can foster their commitment by rewarding them with actionable ideas and suggestions they can put to good use over time.

Because the goal of having a blog is also to build a large audience, how then can an adviser attract and engage new readers? The fundamental idea that must be grasped here is that getting readers to read your entire blog post is not your first priority.

Experiencing Tactical Support

Every blog post ought to contain a central, compelling point. What matters is to give readers an experience of having come to a blog that consistently offers them the “tactical support” they need to address their issues. This in turn will compel them to share your insights with their family and friends and, ultimately, become your brand evangelists.

Your blog posts should be written in your own voice. It helps to create your specific style to which readers will grow accustomed and easily recognize—even if they do not read your post in its entirety.

Here are some tips and ideas that may help with your blogging activities:

  • Grab Their Attention: The headline of your blog is the most powerful tool to get your readers’ attention. A significant number of people are attracted by headlines and are more likely to read them rather than your actual post. Seek to write headlines that are clear and easy to understand and avoid technical language
  • Use the Inverted Pyramid Style: This style, also called front-loading, enables you to incorporate into the opening paragraph the vital details addressed in your post. It is a very effective blog writing technique, as web audiences tend to peter out after skimming the first paragraph.
  • Easy Does It: Make it easy for your readers to understand and consume your messages. Use headings to help them decide if they want to read or scroll on to the next paragraph. Write in a crisp clear language and avoid dense paragraphs, as well as industry jargon. Well-formatted posts prevent readers from missing your key insights and ideas.
  • Use Examples: Include in your blog real life examples. Use personal stories and anecdotes to facilitate understanding of complex concepts, ideas and strategies. Make sure to catch your readers’ attention by clearly stating what your product, idea or strategy does and give examples of how it has helped others.
  • A Strong Conclusion: Failing to appropriately conclude your article will offer your readers very little incentive for engagement. The last paragraph of your post should feature a recap of the key takeaways and a call to action to solicit comments and/or inquiries.
  • Be Social—as in Social Media: Make sure your blog features social media buttons that will enable your audience to share the posts they like. Also, make it easy for them to leave comments and/or pose questions by embedding in your blog a commenting capability, such as Disqus or IntenseDebate

Whether or not you are a blogger comments and questions are always welcome.

Claudio PannunzioClaudio O. Pannunzio
President and Founder
i-Impact Group
Greenwich, Conn.

 

Editor’s Note: Other Financial Planning Association content that may be of interest to you include:

A non-FPA resource that is always helpful when it comes to writing tips is Susan B. Weiner’s Investment Writing site