SEO. Its one of those items that business owners know they need to pay attention to, yet they often have no idea how to go about it. The rules of SEO seem to always be changing, and depending on with whom you speak, you might get a different answer on what factors are most important for SEO.
Before you hire someone to tackle SEO for you or spend too much of your own time going down the rabbit hole of SEO, implement the three key steps we have outlined below. These are all focused on content and site structure, two areas of your website you should have easy access to change (or be able to easily have your webmaster change). Just by taking the time to complete these three steps, you’ll be far ahead of most other advisors!
1. Make sure the content on your 3 most important pages includes the 3 W’s.
The 3 W’s are:
- Who you are
- What you do
- Where you do it
Search engines rank websites in part based on the content on each page, so you need to ensure that your site is relevant to those terms. For example, if you want your site to rank well for the search “Financial Planner Chicago”, then your site has to show that your website is a relevant resource for financial planning services in Chicago.
All this means is that on your three most important pages (Homepage, About/Bio page and Contact Page), you should include who you are, what you do, and where you do it.
A quick example:
Home Page: “John Smith founded Midwest Financial Planning in 2002 and specializes in providing financial planning, wealth management and estate planning to physicians in the Chicagoland area.”
It seems straight-forward, yet you’d be surprised at how many businesses only have this information on one page, or pieces of it scattered throughout multiple pages.
“Remember, you want to write your content for the people who will read it, but optimize it for Google”
2. Write your content as if you are having a conversation with your customers
Whether you are rewriting content for the pages of your website, writing a blog post, or compiling an
online newsletter, you should write as if you are having a conversation with your customers. So many people can verbally articulate what their service is and why it is valuable, yet they have a hard time translating those words to the page. My advice is to start your draft by writing as if you were actually talking to a potential customer, and then go back and edit.
This will ensure that your unique voice and personality shines through, and without realizing it your site will possess a quality that so many others lack: Authenticity.
Studies have shown that we are more likely to do business with companies that we perceive to be authentic, yet so many organizations have a hard time communicating this. Your website is your voice on the web – use it to communicate your trustworthiness, your personality, and most importantly – why your service is better than your competitors.
In the example below, Cambridge Financial Group explicity states “What We Are” and “What We Are Not”, describing their financial planning practice as fee-only, and offering unbiased, honest advice without selling financial products on commission.
Write your content as if you were having a conversation with your clients. This improves the user-experience while increasing your SEO.
“If you write as you talk, you are more likely to naturally improve your SEO by including the very phrases that your target audience may be searching.”
Another example: if you are a financial advisor in Cleveland that specializes in working with physicians, you would want your site to appear when a nearby user conducts the search “financial advice for physicians in Cleveland”. If you follow the earlier rule of including the “3 W’s” on your most important pages, and you write your content to explicitly explain that you work with this specific demographic, then you will naturally begin to appear when users search phrases relevant to your content.
3. Create a website structure that enhances SEO
The better your site structure, the better your chance of higher SEO ranking. Simply put, a straight-forward, easy to navigate site will create the best user experience, and as we know, the more appealing a site is to your users, the more appealing it is to search engines, too. That’s because web crawlers like Googlebot crawl a website’s structure, and their goal is to index the content so that they can turn it easily into search results. The better your site structure, the easier you make it for crawlers to access and index content.
Think about it: we tend to stay on sites longer and click through more pages when the site is easy to navigate and intuitive to use. By contrast, when we are frustrated with a site, content is buried, or we simply cannot find what we are looking for (i.e. the website has poor structure), we leave the site. When this happens, it leads to a higher bounce rate and shortened dwell time, which can reduce the site’s rankings. In affect, it communicates the message “visitors are not finding what they are looking for on this site” to the search engine, who then may begin to drop the site’s ranking.
Once you’ve completed these three steps, you can move on to more advanced SEO tactics. This SEO guide is a great place to start.
Factors that affect search rankings. (via Hubspot’s “How to actually get found in search in 2015”)
Steps to Creating a Site Structure that will Enhance your SEO
- Plan out your sitemap before you develop your website. Your site’s structure should be planned out based on your services and content, and should make it easy for visitors to find what they are looking for. The sitemap is simply a logical way to organize information that will appear on your site, and is comprised of your main pages and subpages.
- Don’t overthink or overcomplicate your structure. Each main category should be unique and each subcategory should somehow relate to the main category under which it is located.
- Page titles should simply communicate what the page content is about. For instance, let’s say you have a page that takes people to series of sub-pages offering more information (such as a FAQs sub-page, a directions sub-page, a best practices sub-page, etc) you can simply call the main page “More Information”.
- Don’t have more than 8 main pages. Again, we want the best experience for our site’s visitors, and having too many initial options for visitors to choose from is overwhelming and appears less organized.
- Don’t bury important information. Just as you shouldn’t have too many options on your homepage, you also don’t want to bury any information or content that you know users will want to quickly access. For financial advisors and insurance agencies, this would be your Contact Information, Client Login, Get a Quote, and Bio/About pages.
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