Simple changes get your website working for you in the long term.
It’s difficult to get away from the ubiquity of the internet these days. In fact, 90 per cent of Canadians use the internet, and nearly all Canadians under the age of 45 use the Internet every single day.1 As a financial professional, you probably have a website and an online presence. But are you connecting with your clients or finding new prospects online? If you think your online presence doesn’t matter too much, think again. More than half of affluent investors say they would interact with financial advisors through social media, yet only four per cent have been engaged by an advisor online.2 That’s a whole lot of missed opportunity.
It’s a great big internet out there, so it’s important to make it easy – and worthwhile – for people to find you online. What’s the best way to do that? Three words: search engine optimization.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is something you’ve probably heard about for years. Unfortunately, it’s not an easy website plug-in or a quick fix. Rather, SEO is a set of long-term practices that will help to improve your site’s ranking in search engine results and increase the amount of visitor traffic to your website.
What search engines look for
Internet search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo!, etc.) employ a variety of strategies to help people find content online. The better the search engines rate your content, the higher your web ranking, and the easier it is for internet users to find you. Simply put, at its foundation, SEO involves applying some basic principles of “good” content. What is “good” content? According to search engines, several elements factor in.
Keywords - Search keywords and phrases help readers find you, and these need to be a part of all your content creation. Keywords should be incorporated throughout your website, in headers, title tags, image and video descriptions, and blog posts. Almost anything you put up on your website provides an opportunity to add keywords – so use them!
Links - Internal links between related pages or posts within your website encourage readers to stay on your site and help search engines understand your content and how it’s organized. External links to other websites, such as partners, associated businesses or regulators and other industry authorities, can help drive traffic to your site from trusted sources and boost search engines’ perception of your site.
Correctness - Search engines reward the highest-quality and most informative content, so ensure the material on your site is correct. Reference reputable sources and fact-check your work. And, this cannot be stressed enough, proofread it. Have someone else proofread it. Make sure the writing is the best it can be.
Mobile-friendly - With 76 per cent of Canadians owning cellphones,3 you can be sure that many of your online visitors are viewing your website on a small screen. Often, the mobile version of your site is the one evaluated by search engines, so it’s important to ensure it is optimized for mobile screens. Get out your phone and pull up your website. Is everything legible and easy to read? Do the links and buttons work? Use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test4 to find out if your site is optimized.
Freshness and originality - If keywords and links are important to SEO, it stands to reason that regular and frequent content creation is also going to contribute to your success. Fresh new content, like blog articles, videos, images or audio, gives you an opportunity to add more keywords and links, and indicates to search engines that your site is regularly updated. Your returning readers like new content, and so do search engines.
Write with your readers in mind
Search engines evaluate content based on how long readers stay on your web pages. To keep visitors engaged, write content for them, and pay attention to design and layout. Consider your own online reading habits and think about what makes you stop reading. Long-form, informative content is great for your SEO, but structure it so it is easy to read and scroll through.
Here are some tips to bear in mind:
- Use headings to organize content
- Break up long blocks of text with other types of content, such as images, videos and audio files
- Use relatively short sentences and paragraphs so content is as easy to read on a small screen as it is on a laptop
- Add a call to action on every page to encourage further reading or for readers to contact you
Social media can boost SEO
An active social media presence, while not a direct component of SEO, can make a difference to your website ranking indirectly. Search engines don’t tend to measure how many Facebook “likes” or Twitter followers you have, but having active accounts adds to your online credibility.
First and foremost, your social media accounts give you a place to share your website content. Social media users can read your content from their social accounts, link to your website and share your content with others. The more external links you attract, the higher your rank. Using keywords and tags/hashtags within your posts also increases your ranking
Just as on your website, however, it’s important to stay active and fresh. Regular and frequent new content is the only way to keep people coming back to your pages. Your responsiveness to questions on social media, interacting with followers and the community, can also boost your ranking.
Take a long-term approach
You’ve likely spent time and resources on a website, but it’s only useful if clients and prospects can find you online. To get a good return on your investment, your website should generate sales leads, help build your business and support your clients. SEO is critical to that. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix for SEO, no magic bullet that takes care of it for you. To successfully do business online, SEO has to be a long-term, ongoing commitment. It takes time, but the results will be worth it.
A few SEO tips
Consider these strategies if you’ve already implemented SEO tactics and are not seeing results:
- Use analytics. Are you paying attention to Google Analytics and Google Search Console? Do you know how visitors find your website, from what device and which location? Do you know how long they stay there? What keywords did they use? Frequent analysis of your website traffic can help you refine your keywords over time.
- Use your location. If you haven’t already done so, register with the local search engines (Google My Business, Bing Places, Yahoo and Yelp). Consider adding location-based keywords to your content (including titles, headers, tags and images).
- Annotate audio and visual materials. While readers like images, video and audio clips, search engines do not. You can help your SEO by ensuring that informative/descriptive text and keywords are added to the “alt text” fields for images and videos.
- Refresh social media accounts. Many of the practices that boost SEO can be applied to your social media accounts. Consider using your keywords in your accounts (such as your LinkedIn headline and summary, Facebook “about” section and Twitter descriptions) and refresh your content regularly – from banner images to headlines.