How to Minimize Your Website Bounce Rate

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The definition of bounce rate is:

“the percentage of visitors to a particular website who navigate away from the site after viewing only one page.”

Ideally, your website’s bounce rate should be somewhere between 20% and 35%. However, some businesses can reduce that number below 20% with great difficulty. If your website bounce rate approaches 50%, you are in serious trouble and need to update your site immediately to lower that number.

Does your website have a high bounce rate? You may be attracting plenty of traffic, but does your site convert those visitors into customers? Having high traffic doesn’t mean anything if it is not generating business. What can you do to minimize your bounce rate and win more business from your digital properties?

Step 1: Understand Your Visitors

Why are people visiting your website? To reduce your bounce rate, you will need a solid understanding of what is drawing visitors to your site. Not every visitor will be part of your ideal audience, but uncovering the patterns and details of their journey to your website will provide insights to minimize bounce rate.

So what do you need to understand about your visitors?

Organic Search

Which organic search terms are bringing visitors to your website? You can use Google Analytics to discover your most active keywords. Consider whether you actively try to leverage those keywords, what someone searching for that keyword would be looking for, and whether your website can solve those problems.

Once you understand how (and why) a web searcher might end up on your website, you can optimize your pages and content to increase conversions to minimize bounce rate.

Popular Content

What pages and content drive the most traffic to your website? Once you identify those pages, you can see what pages and topics are drawing people towards your site. Do those pages solve the problems that visitors may be experiencing? Are your most popular pages also your highest converting pages? These questions are important to ask so you can understand which pages of our website are most useful for their intended purpose.

Best Pages

Which pages on your website have the highest conversion rates? Do those pages have a low bounce rate? Are these pages your most popular? Often, your most popular pages will not necessarily be among the highest converting. What type of pages do your customers visit before making a purchase?

Understanding the audience, their interests and how your website caters to those interests, you will know what prospective customers are looking for and how your business can meet their needs. The next step involves using that knowledge to build a relationship with visitors, eventually turning them into customers.

Step 2: Build Email Relationships

The second thing you should do to minimize your bounce rate is getting visitors to sign-up for email newsletters. Most visitors will only come to your website one time, never visiting again. In fact, it takes six to eight touchpoints to convert someone from a passive visitor to a qualified lead. Email newsletters allow brands to remain in contact with visitors to their website, providing more touchpoints in which you can thrill those visitors.

So how can you build an email list to stay in touch with visitors to your site? By placing an eye-popping call-to-action that will motivate a sign-up.To learn more about creating killer CTA’s, check out our article: 6 Tips for Creating Better Calls-to-Action.

Once you have built your email list, you can re-engage with visitors through email, sharing content and information with them, nurturing the relationship until they are ready to convert. By nurturing the customer relationship, you can keep in contact with prospects until they are prepared to make a purchase.

Step 3: Re-Engage

If people don’t want to sign-up for your email list, and they do not provide any contact information, what can you do?  Well, at this point, you only have two options, both of which involve attempting to re-engage after their visit.

Use Social Media

One way to re-engage with your customers is through social media. Use targeted ads placed on social media to promote your list building efforts. Instead of sending people who click your ad to content, send them to a landing page where they can sign-up for your email. Remarketing using social media ads is a useful tactic because the platforms allow for extensive targeting, based on a variety of factors. For more information on remarketing using social media, check out HootSuite’s Social Media Advertising Guide.

Website pop-ups

Website pop-ups can be used to discourage people from leaving your site. Onsite remarketing detects user behavior to determine if a visitor is about to “bounce.” If it seems they will bounce, a popup will appear, either directing them to content, they might find interesting or asking them if they want to sign-up for your email list. Exit-intent pop-ups have varying ranges of effectiveness, depending on their purpose, but they have proven to lead to an increase in conversions.

Step 4: Convert Subscribers into Customers

The final step is to convert your subscribers into leads, eventually leading to a purchase decision. Conversion is by far the most difficult step in the entire sales process, but there are several activities that can lead to an increased conversion rate.

Segment Leads

Segmentation of leads is an essential activity for any business, but there are many ways you can do it. One can segment their leads based on:

  • Stage of the buyer’s journey
  • Source of the lead
  • Demographics
  • Conversion events
  • Website behavior

All of these methods of segmenting an audience are valid. However, the method you choose should correlate to your business goals. For more information on segmenting leads, check out this informational guide on segmenting leads.

Test and Refine

To boost conversions, you need to keep an eye on your email reports. By measuring the engagement on your email newsletters, you can determine whether changes lead to better conversion rates.

Once you begin measuring your email engagement, A/B testing can begin. A/B is an effective method of determining which strategies yield the greatest results. The best part about A/B testing is that even a marketing newbie can use it to determine the efficacy and effectiveness of various strategies.  

Create Effective Copy

Writing copy that converts leads into customers is a difficult undertaking, a blend of art and science that can take years to master. Your copy should be a mix of value adding content that educates the reader and promotional copy. These 7 Simple Tips for Writing Effective Content for Your Website should help you write compelling copy.

There you have it, by following these four steps, you can minimize your bounce rate and increase your customer engagement. Do these steps work for you? Do you have any other strategies for increasing engagement on your website? How does your business turn visitors into customers? Let us know on Twitter @VeridayHQ.

4 Steps That Will Minimize Your Website’s Bounce Rate

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The definition of bounce rate is:

“the percentage of visitors to a particular website who navigate away from the site after viewing only one page.”

Ideally, your website’s bounce rate should be somewhere between 20% and 35%. However, some businesses can reduce that number below 20% with great difficulty. If your website bounce rate approaches 50%, you are in serious trouble and need to update your site immediately to lower that number.

Does your website have a high bounce rate? You may be attracting plenty of traffic, but does your website convert those visitors into customers? Having high traffic doesn’t mean anything if it is not generating business. What can you do to minimize your bounce rate and win more business from your digital properties?

Step 1: Understand Your Visitors

Why are people visiting your website? To reduce your bounce rate, you will need a solid understanding of what is drawing visitors to your site. Not every visitor will be part of your ideal audience, but uncovering the patterns and details of their journey to your website will provide insights to minimize bounce rate.

So what do you need to understand about your visitors?

Organic Search

Which organic search terms are bringing visitors to your website? You can use Google Analytics to discover your most active keywords. Consider whether you actively try to leverage those keywords, what someone searching for that keyword would be looking for, and whether your website can solve those problems.

Once you understand how (and why) a web searcher might end up on your website, you can optimize your pages and content to increase conversions to minimize bounce rate.

Popular Content

What pages and content drive the most traffic to your website? Once you identify those pages, you can see what pages and topics are drawing people towards your site. Do those pages solve the problems that visitors may be experiencing? Are your most popular pages also your highest converting pages? These questions are important to ask so you can understand which pages of our website are most useful for their intended purpose.

Best Pages

Which pages on your website have the highest conversion rates? Do those pages have a low bounce rate? Are these pages your most popular? Often, your most popular pages will not necessarily be among the highest converting. What type of pages do your customers visit before making a purchase?

Understanding the audience, their interests and how your website caters to those interests, you will know what prospective customers are looking for and how your business can meet their needs. The next step involves using that knowledge to build a relationship with visitors, eventually turning them into customers.

Step 2: Build Email Relationship

The second thing you should do to minimize your bounce rate is getting visitors to sign-up for email newsletters. Most visitors will only come to your website one time, never visiting again. In fact, it takes six to eight touchpoints to convert someone from a passive visitor to a lead. Email newsletters allow brands to remain in contact with visitors to their website, providing more touchpoints in which you can thrill those visitors.

So how can you build an email list to stay in touch with visitors to your site? By placing an eye-popping call-to-action that will motivate a sign-up.To learn more about creating killer CTA’s, check out our article: 6 Tips for Creating Better Calls-to-Action.

Once you have built your email list, you can re-engage with visitors through email, sharing content and information with them, nurturing the relationship until they are ready to convert. By nurturing the customer relationship, you can keep in contact with prospects until they are ready to make a purchase.

Step 3: Re-engage

If people don’t want to sign-up for your email list, and they do not provide any contact information, what can you do?  Well, at this point, you only have two options, both of which involve attempting to re-engage after their visit.

Use Social Media

One way to re-engage with your customers is through social media. Use targeted ads placed on social media to promote your list building efforts. Instead of sending people who click your ad to content, send them to a landing page where they can sign-up for your email. Remarketing using social media ads is an effective tactic because the platforms allow for extensive targeting, based on a number of factors. For more information on remarketing using social media, check out HootSuite’s Social Media Advertising Guide.

Website pop-ups

Website pop-ups can be used to discourage people from leaving your site. Onsite remarketing detects user behavior to determine if a visitor is about to “bounce.” If it seems they will bounce, a popup will appear, either directing them to content they might find interesting or asking if they want to sign-up for your email list. Exit-intent pop-ups have varying ranges of effectiveness, depending on their purpose, but they have proven to lead to an increase in conversions.

Step 4: Convert Subscribers into Customers

The final step is to convert your subscribers into leads, eventually leading to a purchase decision. Conversion is by far the most difficult step in the entire sales process, but there are several activities that can lead to an increased conversion rate.

Segment Leads

Segmentation of leads is an essential activity for any business, but there are many ways you can do it. One can segment their leads based on:

  • Stage of the buyer’s journey
  • Source of the lead
  • Demographics
  • Conversion events
  • Website behavior

All of these methods of segmenting an audience are valid. However, the method you choose should correlate to your business goals. For more information on segmenting leads, check out this Hubspot published informational guide on segmenting leads.

Test and Refine

To boost conversions, you need to keep an eye on your email reports. By measuring the engagement on your email newsletters, you can determine whether changes lead to better conversion rates.

Once you begin measuring your email engagement, A/B testing can begin. A/B is an effective method of determining which strategies yield the greatest results. However, the best part about A/B testing is that even a marketing newbie can use it to determine the efficacy and effectiveness of various strategies.  

Create Effective Copy

Writing copy that converts leads into customers is a difficult undertaking, a blend of art and science that can take years to master. Your copy should be a mix of value adding content that educates the reader and promotional copy. These 7 Simple Tips for Writing Effective Content for Your Website should help you write compelling copy.

There you have it, by following these four steps, you can minimize your bounce rate and increase your customer engagement. Do these steps work for you? Do you have any other strategies for increasing engagement on your website? How does your business turn visitors into customers? Let us know on Twitter @VeridayHQ.

The 3 Things Financial Organizations Need to Know About Cybersecurity

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Nearly every organization has adapted to life in the digital world. With plenty of connected devices, and the number of access points into organizations is growing every year, it’s no coincidence that there is an increasing number of high-profile cyberattacks on governments, businesses, and non-profit organizations. From the alleged hacking of the 2016 U.S. election, the WannaCry ransomware, the Ukraine Petya attack (that shut down their power grid) to other lower-profile attacks, hundreds of millions of dollars of damage has already impacted organizations around the world. As a result, cybersecurity is at the front of mind for many organizations. 

Survey existing technology to find exploitable weaknesses.

Keeping software up-to-date is an essential activity to maintain your organization’s cybersecurity. The WannaCry ransomware attack, for example, exploited vulnerabilities in software that had not recently received an update.

There is a major reason why a software company might issue an update. It’s done to fix bugs and patch security risks for the end user. Organizations should ensure that all software is running on the newest version. If your RIA (or organization in general) does not maintain updated software, they run the risk of being targeted for ransomware, exposing your client’s data, or losing control of your digital platforms (website, CMS, portal, etc.).

The costs associated with a data breach (or other forms of cyberattacks) are very high and are not only monetary. A successful cyberattack on your business will cost much more than it would to implement the proper solutions and mitigate the effects of a cyberattack ahead of time. Your reputation will be hurt if you allow hackers access to sensitive data; people will lose confidence in you. Avoid these repercussions by keeping your software up to date.

Create policies to minimize human exploitation points.

Every business needs policies concerning the use of technology. Without adequate rules in place, your business is at risk of exploitation through human mistakes. Humans are often the weakest point of defence in any system. as they have traits that can be taken advantage of by malicious actors.

The definition of social engineering is:

“an attack vector that relies heavily on human interaction and often involves tricking people into breaking normal security procedures.”

There are several common methods of social engineering, from phishing (or spear-phishing) to leaving infected USBs around for employees to find use. There are countless ways to exploit the human weaknesses of your cyber-defence. Employees need to be aware of the risks and how to mitigate them.

There needs to be multiple systems in place to protect the business from threats originating from social media.Social media is an emerging platform for phishing attacks, viruses that affect social media feeds, and malicious advertisements disguised as sponsored posts. Make your employees aware of the risks associated with social media and act accordingly to protect themselves and your organizational data.

To reduce your organization’s chance of falling victim to social engineering, you need to have policies for the use of technology in place. Those policies should be enforceable and include actionable steps. The rules need to be unambiguous. They need to explicitly outline what is and isn’t allowed regarding technology, to reduce confusion among your employees.

Empower and reward employees.

To ensure you are followings best-practices regarding cybersecurity, you will need to train your staff to identify and avoid situations that put the organization at risk. Rules and technology policies mean nothing if employees are not aware of them (and following them). By training your team to follow the rules and spot vulnerabilities, your systems will be more secure.

In addition to training all staff to find and avoid security vulnerabilities, you should empower and reward them for finding potential weaknesses in your organization’s defence. By rewarding your employees (either with a cash “bounty” program, or another method), they will feel like a critical part of the organization’s security efforts. Cybersecurity is not solely the concern of IT departments.

How can you ensure that the training and reward system works? By testing and drilling staff to ensure they are following the rules. Testing your team can involve test phishing emails to see whether employees can spot a malicious email. It can include leaving a USB at their desk to see if they use it. There are many ways IT professionals can check to see if non-tech employees are following the required procedures. Let them get creative in designing their tests, as real-life malicious actors almost always act in creative ways that are hard to predict.

Takeaways

The main vulnerability when it comes to a cyberattack is not a piece of technology. The main weakness of any system is people. People can fall victim to social engineering. Attackers can trick your employees into giving up confidential information that could put your business at risk, so be diligent online. Human actions can expose even the most secure digital properties to severe threats.

The three steps explored above will help any organization improve the strength of their cybersecurity. It’s important to be aware of potential threats because once they hit, it may be too late.

How does your business handle the threat of cyberattacks? Do you have a policy in place governing the use of technology in your business? Let us know on Twitter @VeridayHQ or follow us on LinkedIn. In conclusion, cybersecurity is extremely important to businesses. 

Advisors: Why just having a Website isn’t enough

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As a Financial Advisor, you’ve taken those first steps to start building an online presence and that’s a great start.  But, with so many other Financial Advisors taking on the digital world, having a website simply just isn’t enough anymore.

Think of it this way: If you were to open a retail store, would you expect that just because you opened a store, people will flock to it, and you will experience instant success? Of course not. You have to work on building your inventory, increasing your visibility, and marketing and advertising it.

Similarly, just because you have a website, doesn’t mean that clients and prospects know about it or can find you. Just like opening your own retail store, you need to continuously build your websites inventory (content), spread awareness and visibility (SEO), and market and advertise it. The more active you are digitally, the stronger your website (and your business) will be.

As a Financial Advisor: you can’t assume that because you have a website, people know about it.

Constantly updating your website creates 2 key benefits:

  1. Your visitors are happier and more engaged

Having new and fresh content will not only engage your current audience, but it will motivate them to keep coming back. Continuously updated content will ensure that you have repeat visitors and subscribers (if you have an opt-in option for visitors who enjoy your content). Also, if they are engaged and happy, the chances of them sharing your website with others greatly increases, which in return could increase your websites total visibility (and hopefully client base).

As a Financial Advisor, the financial services industry is continuously changing – from new policies and regulations to changes in season. If your content and information is out-dated, your audience will get little value out of it, which could effect the perception of your brand and practice. Frequently updating and adding content, especially content that is aimed to solve your prospect and client challenges, can help you build credibility and trust with your visitors, while increasing your digital visibility.

  1. Search engines LOVE dynamic content

When content, on your website, is continuously added and updated, that means that your website is constantly changing – it’s dynamic. When search engine crawlers come to your website to audit if anything has been updated or added, they report their findings back to Google to determine your ranking on their search engine. By updating your website, a crawler’s report back would be something along the lines of “Yes, this is an important website because it’s frequently updated with fresh, useful and good quality content.”

So, why should you care? This means that Google will send crawlers to your website more frequently, helping you rank higher for keywords that you may be focusing on to reach your target audience.  As a result, this will help increase your websites visibility and attract more prospects to your website.

As a Financial Advisor, you need to think about different ways you can get found, capture your traffic and keep those who have left your website, coming back. Take a minute and ask yourself:

  • When was the last time I updated my website?
  • When was the last time I wrote a blog for my website?
  • Does my website rank highly at all for words or phrases like “Financial Advisor, Toronto”?
  • What kinds of words or phrases would my target audience be writing in a search engine that could lead them to my website?

It is important to think about these questions as you are building your online presence. Whether you write a new blog, update your information, or add in a new widget, take some time out of your day to update your website. Remember that continuously updating your website will greatly benefit your digital presence in the long run and more easily connect you with your future clients.

7 Things People Hate About Your Advisor Website Part 2

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From people talking or texting during a movie to lousy drivers – we all have pet peeves that drive us up the wall. Just as pet peeves exist in the “real world”, they are also evident in the digital world too.

As a Financial Advisor, you should be aware about some of the pet peeves your prospects and clients may have about your website. In part 1 of this series, we discussed page load times, poor navigation, cheesy photos and your contact information. In this 2-part series, we will go over 3 more things people hate about your Advisor website and how to stop yourself from doing them.

  1. It has an unintelligible value proposition

Who are you? What do you do? What makes you unique, different and better than other Financial Advisors? A solid value proposition is an essential tool to attract new clients, differentiate yourself from other Advisors, all while helping you to create a distinct and recognizable brand.

60% of investors found it hard to distinguish among Advisors because of their value proposition (Pershing).

As a Financial Advisor, you want to create a unique and effective value proposition to help differentiate yourself in the industry and accelerate your business. Your value proposition concisely explains why a prospect needs you as their Advisor, and not your competition. (Read this blog post to learn more about writing a great value proposition).

  1. It doesn’t have a blog

Inbound marketing is one of the most effective ways to grow your business, and comes at a lower cost. In 2015, content marketing generated 3 times as many leads as traditional outbound marketing, but cost 62% less (Smart Insights). Blogging is one of the best ways to attract your target audience by creating and providing interesting and quality content, all while uninterruptedly marketing to them.

Businesses that blog receive 77% more traffic and 97% more links to their website than those that do not. 

Blogging is a means of building credibility and thought leadership, and keeping your visitors coming back. Providing your prospects with useful information will build trust and add value to their experience on your Advisor website. When people search for information and answers – be a source they go to and trust. Your business will greatly benefit from this. As an added bonus, Google loves dynamic websites. Frequently writing blogs will help boost your overall search engine ranking, which in turn will increase your websites overall visibility and digital reach.

  1. It’s not responsive

Have you ever visited a website using your mobile device and had to zoom in with your fingers because the text was too small on your screen? That’s because the website you were checking wasn’t mobile-responsive. With a higher percentage of people using their smartphones instead of their desktop when looking at information online, responsive design has never been more important.

40% of people will choose another result if the first one they land on is not mobile friendly (Sweor).

Digital Agent users – don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.  All of your websites are 100% responsive.

Case studies have revealed that a seamless customer journey provides a competitive advantage, in some cases doubling sales year over year (The Kapost Blog). As a Financial Advisor, you should continuously work to ensure that your clients are happy on all fronts, and that includes digital. To better hone a positive digital customer experience, check out part 1 of the series to help you avoid doing the 7 things people hate about Advisor’s website.

 

7 Things People Hate About Your Advisor Website Part 1

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Whether it’s being interrupted, talking during a movie, or wobbly tables – we all have pet peeves that drive us absolutely mad. Just as pet peeves exist in the “real world”, they are also evident in the digital world too.

As a Financial Advisor, you should be aware of some of the pet peeves your prospects and clients may have about your website. In this 2-part series, we will go over 7 things people hate about your Advisor website and how you can avoid them.

 

1. It takes forever to load

Everyone is always on the go, including your clients. Can you recall a time when you got frustrated with a website because it took forever to load? Well, if your website is anything like that, your audience will feel just as frustrated as you did.

47% of consumers expect a web page to load in two seconds or less, and 40% abandon a website that takes more than three seconds to load (KISSmetrics).

If you want people to stick around your website, make sure that you’re putting the time in to optimize it. For example, use images that are sized for the web rather than print. This will help decrease a page’s overall load time.

2. It offers poor navigation

When someone lands on your website, do they know what to do? Are you leading them through your website or letting them navigate through it all on their own?  Are you providing your visitor with direction and a number of different progression points? Easy to follow navigation is not only good for customer experience, but can help you convert those leads into clients.

70% of small business B2B websites lack a call-to-action (Small Business Trends). A Call to Action (CTA) is a button or link that you place on your website to drive prospective customers to become leads. If the goal of your website is to create sales and get more business, then it is important that your website has effective CTAs.

Some quick and easy tips to improve your Financial Advisor websites navigation include:

  • Clear headlines
  • Jargonless copy
  • Concise CTAs

3. It’s littered with cheesy stock photography

You may already know that using images is great for SEO and grabbing (and keeping) your audience’s attention. So when it comes to picking the right images, cheesy stock photography is not the way to go. Picture this: someone lands on your website and the first thing they see are images like these:

Cheesy stock photo

Cheesy stock photo

Are these pictures really believable or even realistic? Are these even your employees? Images are great for clarifying or enforcing an idea to your visitors. However, generic stock photography doesn’t accomplish either of those things.

Try to use real pictures of real people at your company. If not, try to pick the best free, not-so-cheesy stock pictures. Using relevant and believable pictures on your Financial Advisor website will take your business a long way.

4. It contains a contact form but no contact information

A “Contact Us” form may seem like a great way to generate an opt-in email list, but to a potential client, this provides very minimal or even no value because there is no incentive for them to give you their information.

44% of website visitors will leave a company’s website if there’s no contact information or phone number (KoMarketing).

If a client or prospect has a one-time problem or request, they likely want help immediately. Having your contact information somewhere clear on the website, such as the footer or the contact page, is more useful to a client because it gives them a way to directly contact you. Whether it’s your email, phone number, or office location (ideally, all three), let people know how to contact you and make that information easily available to your clients and prospects.

 

Whether it’s in the office or in a digital space, you want to keep your current and future clients happy and coming back. As a Financial Advisor, you should continuously work to avoid these digital pet peeves to hone a positive digital customer experience. To learn more, check out part 2 of this series.

8 Elements of the Perfect Advisor Website Homepage

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The homepage of your website is the most viewed and linked to page of the average website and as a result it is one of the most important pages on a site. If you’re a Financial Advisor looking to create a great website, here are the eight elements you need.

A Clear Value PropositionWeb address

These days, people do the majority of their research online. Therefore, it’s important that your website clearly and succinctly explain exactly what your business is about. What areas do you specialize in?
What types of services do you offer? What sets you apart from other Advisors? For many people, your website homepage will be their first contact with your business. If they have to click a bunch of links just to find out what you offer or what sets you apart, chances are they’ll simply move onto another website.

Clean, Correct Writing

The perfect Advisor website homepage requires the use of correct language. If your website is riddled with grammatical and spelling mistakes, or even just bad syntax or awkward wording, people will not take you seriously. If you’re not confident with your writing skills, make sure you hire someone who is to do your business writing for you. Quite simply, bad writing means bad business.

Clear Call to Action

A call to action (CTA) is a button or link that you place on your website to drive prospective customers to become leads by filling out a form.  CTAs also help to guide your visitors into or through your website.  CTAs help to direct focus and make your website more efficient by giving your visitors a path to accomplish their objectives.

A Professional Photo

Make sure you include a professional, high-resolution photo of yourself on your webpage. If you work as a team of Financial Advisors, include their photos, and perhaps a professional but collegial-looking group photo. By including a photo of yourself and your team, you’ll not only personalize your website, but you’ll help establish a sense of trust with your viewers.

An Informative Bio

Your bio is the place where you tell your viewers (and prospective clients) a little bit about yourself. This section is especially important as, like the photo, it helps you reach out to your clients in a personal yet professional way. Keep your bio short and to-the-point, but don’t be afraid to throw in a few fun facts about yourself.

Use Keywords

In order for you to have the perfect Advisor website homepage, you need people to visit it. Make sure people can find your website by using strategic keywords that will come up when someone is using a search engine to find out information about Financial Advisors. There’s no point in having a webpage that no one can find!

Design

The design of your website should be sleek and well-organized. It should express the unique personality of your business, and clearly outline your services.

Keep the Text to a Minimum

People’s time is valuable, and most people don’t want to read a whole bunch of text that is irrelevant to what they initially searched for. Keep the text on your homepage simple, direct and informative. Make sure all your links work as well; broken links give an impression of unprofessionalism.

Remember, your website is an expression of your business and its capabilities. Don’t just throw up any old thing on the Internet; spend a bit of time and money investing in the perfect Advisor webpage.

Financial Advisors: Making Sense of the SEC’s Third-Party Review Site Rules

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This post was authored by Marie Swift and originally appeared here on GuideVine.

Financial Advisors and the marketing consultants who specialize in working with them know that the SEC no-testimonials rule prohibits Registered Investment Advisers and Investment Adviser Representatives from using client endorsements in their advertising. But in April 2014, the SEC issued new guidelines on the use of social media and online communications, which opened the door to something new: the ability for Advisors share on their own websites and profile pages public comments about their services that are posted on independent websites (such as Yelp, Angie’s List, Wallet Hub, and GuideVine).

There are, of course, rules related to how the content from these third-party sites can be used on sites and profile pages the Advisory firm controls. Here’s how to think things through.

NO CHERRY PICKING

The Advisor must include both positive and negative reviews. This means there can be no cherry picking — the Advisor must publish all comments, unedited. Financial Advisors can’t just copy and paste the good ones and leave the bad ones behind on the third-party site.

The SEC guidance specifically says: “The investment Adviser may publish only the totality of the testimonials from an independent social-media site and may not highlight or give prominence to a subset of the testimonials.”

Advisors can also publish mathematical averages of the comments from third-party review sites.

The best way to benefit from the third-party review sites, according to many industry consultants, is to post the logo and a link to the page where the third-party reviews live.

In this writer’s opinion, it could be worth linking to the third-party review page and monitoring daily to ensure that one is comfortable with any new comments. If the comments on the third-party review site ever become a concern, Advisors have a couple choices — remove the logo and link to the third-party site or embrace the fact that studies show that companies that have a disproportionate number of marginal or negative reviews are seen as more credible and real.

CONSUMER TRUST BUILDING 

Stats from social commerce company Reevoo show that, while it may seem counterintuitive, the presence of a few bad reviews is actually a good thing.

“Reevoo found that people that seek out and read bad reviews convert better, as the very fact that they are paying such close attention means they are more likely to be in purchase mode,” says writer Vikki Chowney in an article on eConsultancy.com. “68% of consumers trust reviews more when they see both good and bad scores, while 30% suspect censorship or faked reviews when they don’t see any negative opinions on the page.”

The Edelman Trust Barometer shows that people now trust one another more than they do established institutions. People have always turned to their peers when making important decisions. Now, with social media’s impact on online search, it is easier than ever for those doing research online to find “a person like me” or “ a regular employee” — both of which are seen as more credible than a company executive or paid spokesperson.

For more insights on building trust online read this Marie Swift piece on Financial-Planning.com: Why Financial Advisors Can’t Ignore Social Media.

NO INFLUENCE ON THIRD-PARTY SITES

The SEC guidelines also state that Financial Advisors must not have the ability to influence comments from the general public on the third-party site. This means the Advisor must not try to influence how they’re portrayed on those third-party sites. The SEC is trying to ensure that potential clients get the full picture of an Advisory firm.

“Advisers would violate the SEC’s testimonial rule if they drafted or submitted comments to a third-party review site, paid others to submit favorable comments to the site or suppressed, edited or manipulated the order in which the commentary was presented,” said tenured industry writer Mark Schoeff, Jr. in this article published by Investment News, SEC Oks Use of Third Party Social Media Endorsements.

CONTENT NEUTRAL LINE-UP

Beyond just the “all or nothing” restriction covered in the “no cherry picking” section of this article, Registered Investment Advisers must keep in mind that they may only publish testimonials from an independent review website in a “content-neutral manner.” According to the SEC guidelines, this means chronological or alphabetical order. It is not okay to put the best rankings at the top and the worst rankings at the bottom.

This is one reason why this writer believes it is best to simply link to the third-party review site and then monitor the discussion threads on a daily basis.

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU POST ON THIRD-PARTY SITES

What would you do if you saw this post on a third-party review site?

“Found Jake Advisor to be out of touch, unresponsive and arrogant.”

How about this one?

“I have known John Planner for many years. One of the nicest guys you will ever meet! He knows his business and will take GREAT care of you and your assets.”

 It is human nature to want to applaud the person posting the positive comment — but Financial Advisors should refrain from doing anything that might be construed as encouraging positive comments. So the best thing to do when a Financial Advisor sees a positive comment is to do nothing — at least not publically. It would be nice however to say, “thanks for your kind comments on xyz review site,” over a cup of coffee, while at the same time explaining why you can’t try to encourage positive endorsements online.

In the case of the negative comment above, it is human nature to want to defend oneself. As a marketing communications and reputation expert, this writer believes that it would be best if the Advisor in question posted something simple such as, “I’m sorry you feel that way. Please call me to discuss.”, if the third-party site allows responses. And leave it at that. Check with compliance first, of course, to make sure their interpretation of the SEC guidelines is in alignment with this reputational recommendation.

BOTTOM LINE

“This rule would appear to put Advisers in the clear regarding third-party review sites, such as Yelp, presuming that the Adviser really does not have any affiliation to the site, and cannot control the comments posted (e.g., by trying to delete negative comments while allowing positive ones to remain),” said Michael Kitces, director of research at Pinnacle Advisory Group, on his blog, Nerd’s Eye View.

Check with your company’s compliance department to learn more about internal policies and procedures and/or outside legal counsel to make sure all regulatory guidelines are being met at your firm. A recent report from McGladrey, LLC, a leading provider of assurance, tax and consulting services in the US, says that financial firms should be prepared for Heightened SEC Regulatory Focus. Smart Financial Advisors will be ready for questions and conducting themselves in close alignment to the SEC rules.

Financial and Insurance Advisors: Why your online reputation matters

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Your personal brand is made up of what your prospects can find about you when they search your name online. As a Financial and Insurance Advisor, your online reputation is key to your success. Today, potential clients rely on the Internet to research businesses and services before they make decisions. In fact, 60% of the sales cycle is completed before a buyer makes first contact with a sales person. A few bad reviews or a poor online presence could mean losing business to a competitor when potential prospects search for you online.

The Infographic below, developed by the Digital intelligence & E-Reputation consultancy firm KBSD, breaks down ways to protect and manage you online reputation, as well as what you can do to boost your online reputation and digital reach.

Managing your online reputation

Google Launches ‘’Mobile-Friendly’’ Label for Mobile Searchers

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Google is sending out a clear message to webmasters that they want you to build mobile-friendly websites. In an effort to help mobile searchers know which sites are mobile-friendly versus which are not, searchers will soon be able to see a new label in the search results snippets for pages that are mobile-friendly. The new label will look something like this:

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Whether a site is optimized for mobile could also become a search rank signal, Google said. The label will let searchers know that the website will be easy to read and understand on their mobile device. Google explained that non-mobile friendly websites ‘’can be a frustrating experience for our mobile searches’’ and labels will make it easier for people to find the information they are looking for. Mobile-friendly labels will also encourage webmasters to build a better mobile experience.

Since this is a new addition, there is no way of knowing how it will affect click-through rates, but I think it is safe to say that mobile searchers are going to visit a page labeled ‘’mobile-friendly’’ before visiting a page that is not labeled. Why would anyone visit a page that is not optimized for his or her phone? This will certainly allow the sites that have put in the effort in earning a mobile-friendly stamp to fly high above the sites that haven’t.

So, how do you qualify to show the ‘’mobile-friendly’’ label for your web pages? Google says a page will be eligible if it meets the following criteria as detected by Googlebot:

  • Avoids software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash
  • Uses text that is readable without zooming
  • Sizes content to the screen so users don’t have to scroll horizontally or zoom
  • Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped

Is your site Mobile Friendly?

To ensure your pages meet the mobile-friendly criteria, run your pages through the Mobile-Friendly Test.   Google has also provided a guide for building and improving your mobile-friendly websites.

The worldwide roll out of mobile-friendly search is finally here. Is your website ready to take on the growing number of mobile searchers across the website?