SEO – Search Engine Optimisation is a marketing tactic that divides opinion among financial planners and advisers. Some believe it is almost the holy grail and a critical part of the marketing mix, others don’t see it as important at all.
First of all (and just in case…), what is SEO? It stands for Search Engine Optimisation which effectively means getting your website to appear as high as possible on Google rankings for relevant search results.
How important do I think it is? Actually I don’t think it’s very important at all for financial planners. And I don’t say that lightly… but I say it for a few reasons. SEO is a critically important marketing tool for providers and sellers of many products and services, but I’m just not convinced that the provision of expert financial plans and advice is one of them. There are a few reasons why I think that SEO doesn’t belong as a core part of a financial planner’s marketing mix.
Do your target market clients make contact as a result of a web search?
Yes some people may make contact with you as a result of a Google search result, but from my experience they are rarely the type of client that financial planners are really looking for. They are not people seeking to build a long-term valued relationship with you (which is your target market), instead they tend to be looking for a transaction, and usually a discounted one at that.
What is the purpose of your website?
Most financial planners want to have a very informative and credible presence on the web. If an existing client refers a potential new client to you, your aim is typically that your website will demonstrate your credibility and professionalism. This is very different to building a website with the aim of generating leads. It’s important to understand what you’re trying to achieve, as this needs to clearly come through in the structure and content of your website. I firmly believe you are better off writing with your target audience in mind, seeking to establish that credible presence, rather than writing to appear at the top of search engine results.
SEO is great for location-based services. How important is that for financial planners?
SEO is of course an extremely powerful tool for many businesses. For example, if I had a bike shop in Howth, I would want to appear at the top of the Google ranking when people search for buying bikes and parts in north Dublin. Those buyers will either want to buy online or will want to travel a short distance to the shop. SEO is great for location specific businesses.
How important is location for financial planners? You definitely don’t want to be driving to the four corners of Ireland, but at the same time most planners tend to have clients from a relatively wide geographical area – a county maybe, a province for some and for others maybe two centres of their own location and Dublin.
You need an expert in your corner for SEO
There is lots that you can do to get your site fit for purpose yourself to help you in the Google rankings. Talk to your web developer for a steer on what you can do in terms of indexing the site, correct page titles, use of keywords, tagging your images etc. However this really is only the start of it…
One of the challenges is that clever people keep “gaming” the system to get their website higher in the rankings than they deserve to be. So Google keep changing the rules and you need to understand technically what Google are looking for, if you want to be at the top of the rankings. Did you know that the speed your website displays on mobile devices is becoming an important factor in your ranking? As is the quality of links to your website and what people are saying about your business. It’s a minefield and you need specialist help.
Get ready to produce a stream of fresh, original content
This is probably the biggest challenge. If you want to appear high in search results, a minimum requirement is for lots of fresh, original content being uploaded on your site. And regularly means just that – weekly or more frequently than that.
Is that worth the effort for you? Do you have the time? I suggest that maybe your time, energy and money is better spent elsewhere.
Yes, SEO is a great tool for certain businesses. However for financial planners, I think that your energy and budget is better spent elsewhere.