6 SEO Pitfalls to Avoid During Your Next Website Re(Design) Final Part: Failing to think like a human

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We’ve reached the final pitfall in the 6 SEO Pitfalls to Avoid During Your Next Website Re(Design).   Failing to think like a human. This may seem obvious but it is often overlooked during the development process.

Designing your website with only SEO in mind can be a mistake. It is important to remember throughout the process that you are ultimately developing your website to try to reach your target audience. Develop a website that delights both your audience and search engines. Make sure there is a balance between creating your website for SEO and creating your website with your ideal customer in mind. Focus on creating value for your audience and delivering the user experience they would like.

The end goal is designing and developing a website that is easy for your audience to search and understand and is simple for search engines to crawl and rank.

Here are some things to think about when designing your website for a human and not a search engine:

  • Clean Design – Cluttered, randomly scattered or unorganized websites are distracting for visitors. Today’s trend is clean and clear design.
  • Colour Palette – Ensure your colour palette reflects your brand’s purpose, message and positioning.
  • Use Obvious Navigation Terms – Label your navigation items in plain English using the most universally understood terms so that users know where to go to find what they are looking for.
  • Content Creation – Focus on creating content your visitors will get value from and enjoy reading. Make sure to speak the language of your target audience.
  • Including Testimonials – Customer testimonials have the highest effectiveness rating for content marketing at 89%.
  • Make it easy for your audience – It is great when you go through a website that has exactly what you want, relevant information everywhere and fits within whatever device you are on.

Keeping your target audience in mind when you are planning a website (re)design is a critical factor in whether your website is going to be effective.  Understand your target audiences’ goals and beliefs and use this knowledge to guide your SEO strategy.

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Recently (re)designed a new company website? Have any website redesign and SEO tips that worked well for you? We’d love to hear about them.

 

4 Reasons Why Financial and Insurance Advisor Websites Struggle

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There’s nothing more frustrating than investing in an amazing looking advisor website only to suffer from a lack of website traffic and visitor engagement. Here are 4 reasons and actionable tips you can use to help solve this very common yet solvable problem.

Reason 1: Not enough content and pages

The old saying of quality over quantity does still matter in the world of digital marketing but many advisor websites I’ve reviewed lack a volume of web pages and content, and by content I mean words, images and video. Not enough content implies not enough keywords and not enough pages leads to low page views and low engagement. Search engines require “food” and need to be given the chance to figure out whether your content is useful and relevant. Simply adding more content is an effective way to increase your site’s traffic.

ACTION: Add more content. I know, seems obvious. Avoid adding content for the sake of adding content. Really think through what you are missing on your website. Have you told the complete story of your practice? Your philosophy? How you engage with your clients? How you solve you client’s most mind boggling problems? If after your assessment you feel as though you have told the complete story, consider starting a blog. Blogging is the web’s most effective way to generate organic traffic to websites.

Reason 2: Poor Site Flow

One of the things that make a dancer a good dancer is that their movements follow a logical and progressive pattern and flow. The same logical and progressive pattern is required of any good website. Many advisor websites that I’ve seen have “dead ends” — a place where visitors are not given a choice to continue their journey within the website. It’s also important to remember that your visitors may not always start their visit from the home page. An easy way to determine whether your website has poor site flow would be to take a look at your bounce rates and your time on site. Websites with poor site flow tend to have really poor bounce rates (a bounce rate greater than 50% would be classified as poor) and have visitors who spend seconds instead of minutes on a website.

ACTION: Add more calls to action on your website. Thinking about your website from the perspective of calls to action will force you to think logically about your website’s flow. A call to action provides your visitor with direction and it provides you with a number of different progression points for the visitor. It must be logical and it must be related to the content on your web page. For example, let’s say you think of a call to action that asks your visitor to “Schedule an assessment of their RRSP investment mix”. What’s a logical path to that call to action? It could be, 1) Visitor enters by searching for some tips on effectively saving for retirement, 2) Visitor likes the article and decides to look at what your practice does with respect to Retirement Savings advice and 3) Visitor sees your call to action to schedule an assessment and clicks on it and submits their contact information (first name, last name, email, etc.). Think about what your calls to action will be and plan out the path to get there!

Reason 3: Your Value Proposition is all about You

Writing a solid value proposition can be a challenging and time consuming task. I’ve read a significant number of different value propositions and the most common mistake I run into is the fact that value propositions are always about the advisor or the practice. Very seldom does it ever speak to the visitor. Remember, the first goal of your website is to provide enough incentive for the visitor to click again. That’s it. When someone visits you for the first time or is trying to learn more about you they are trying to figure out how you can help them and not so much about how great you are (that comes later).

ACTION: Re-evaluate your value proposition. Does it speak to your visitors? Does it clearly indicate the problems you help them solve? Or does it talk about what you do and how many awards you’ve received? If you need more tips on writing an effective value proposition, take a look at this blog post.

Reason 4: Where did all the Keywords go?

SEO is critical. With the sheer volume of content that exists on the web, advisors can no longer afford to launch their online brand without knowledge or consideration of Search Engine Optimization. Advisors don’t need to be experts in SEO, but they should understand a the key fundamental aspects of SEO that will help their website rank in a Google or Bing search. Many advisor websites I’ve reviewed have volumes of content, however, there aren’t enough long tail keywords on the page. Before defining a long tail keyword, let’s define “keyword”. A keyword is defined as a word or concept of great significance. For example, “apple”. In search, keywords are used to match search queries, for example, “what is an apple?”. Search engines, attempt to match queries with keywords as a part of their ranking algorithm. Content containing common keywords puts you in a more competitive search rank scenario. For example, doing a search on “Andrew Chung” brings up a ton of other “Andrew Chung” in the world and puts me in a very competitive search competition. Taking the same example, doing a search on “Andrew Chung Veriday”, puts me right at the top. This is an example of a long tail keyword. Even though it still contains “Andrew Chung” (a very common keyword), appending “Veriday” to the end of it makes it unique and enables you to rank high for that particular search. Best practices in keyword optimization state that using your audience’s common language is critical to your keyword strategy.

ACTION: As a start, look at the headings in your content; these are typically titles that have a larger size than your regular text. Are these keywords relevant to your practice? Are they written in your target audience’s language? Are the headings too common (for example “Our Practice” is too common)? Take the 5-10 weakest headings and simply re-write them or enhance them with long-tail keywords relevant to the financial advice industry and your business.

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What kind of techniques have you used to help combat low traffic and low engagement websites? Or, if you’ve tried any of these techniques, what were you results?

3 Easy Steps to Start Your Advisor Blog

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Many of the insurance and financial advisors that I speak to on a regular basis find the task of blogging to be a very daunting and time consuming task. Blogging is one of the most effective ways to drive traffic and is also a critical sales and marketing tactic to connect with your audience. One of my favourite questions that I like to answer tends to be “How do I get started?”. It’s a great reflection of an advisor who’s ready to incorporate digital and content marketing into their practice and of someone who’s ready to do something different in an industry where blogging is not yet pervasive.

Here are 3 steps I commonly talk about to get started.

Step 1: Coming up with topics

If I sat you down in front of a typewriter and asked you to write a book and I didn’t give you a topic that would be pretty hard and you could potentially sit for a few hours and come up with nothing (maybe a title and an introduction). If I did the same thing and asked you to write a book about financial planning you might also come up with nothing after a few hours.

This analogy is often how I think advisors look at content writing. One critical success factor of content writing is the plan. Ok, the plan, what do I mean? Well, much like how you might put together a financial plan for your client, you would put together a plan for content writing. A plan helps to regulate the frequency at which you write and produce a tempo. It also helps take a lot of the guess work out of what to write about next. If I planned on saving up $1200 a contribution of $100 a month for the next 12 months, would arguably be easier than me thinking about the amount to save each month to reach my goal.

So, just how do you come up with the topics? Simple. Here are three questions to ask yourself:

  1. Do you meet with clients and prospects?
  2. Do your clients and prospects ask you questions?
  3. Do your clients and prospects ask you the same questions?

You probably answered ‘Yes’ to all three of those questions. Now, take the next 5-10 minutes and write down as many questions as you possibly can on a piece of paper and then move onto step 2. Write down the questions that come to mind first.

Step 2: Mine for Blogging Gold

Now that you have a list of questions we’re going to do a quick scan of each of your questions. The reason for this is that blogging effectively, involves writing about single topics as opposed to writing an essay. There will be a subset of the questions that you wrote down that might simply result in too large of a blog post. This is where we can dig for blogging gold because the questions you’ve already thought of, might themselves, break into other blog posts. So what do I mean by single topics? Well, it’s kind of analogous to how you might look at a book. An effective blog post would be equivalent to a single chapter while a not-so-effective blog post would be an entire book. Writing too many concepts into a single blog post can cause you to lose reader interest and also make it more difficult for you to complete a post. Here are some good and bad examples of titles that might lead you to write about more than one topic:

Good

  • What is a TFSA?
  • 3 keys to saving effectively for retirement
  • How to save for your next big vacation

Bad

  • Financial Planning 101
  • The INs and OUTs of an RRSP
  • How to choose a financial advisor

Now, take 10 minutes and look at your list of questions and for each topic, determine whether you can break the topic down into more than 1 mutually exclusive topic. For example, “What is a TFSA?” cannot instinctively be broken down into more than 1 mutually exclusive topic as everything points to the topic of a TFSA. “Financial Planning 101”, however, can be broken down into Tax, Retirement, Investments, etc., all of which are mutually exclusive topics. No need to think too long on each question as it should be instinctive and easy to identify the questions that can be broken out. Then move onto Step 3.

Step 3: Plan your Tempo and Topics

By now, you should have a pretty healthy list of questions to answer. The next step is to set up your tempo. How often will you decide to blog. There are definitely rules of thumb when it comes to blogging and in general, the more often you blog, the better your results. That being said, if you’re just getting started, setting up the frequency of your blogging is more important than setting up how much you will blog. Blogging once a week is arguably better than blogging once a month which would arguably be better than blogging once a quarter and so on. Choose the frequency that you feel you can handle. If the frequency you set becomes very manageable, increase that frequency. Remember to start small and then move up from there. Choose the easiest questions to answer first.

Take the next 5 minutes, look across your questions, and line your topics up to your frequency. For example, if you have 12 topics and have chosen to write monthly, that’s one blog post per month. Also, decide whether you will release your blog at the beginning or at the end of the month.

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At this stage you’ve completed a very critical step and are well on your way to becoming perceived as an expert in your area of expertise! With all of your single topics and questions set up, it should be a relatively straight forward exercise to answer the questions you’ve documented! A few key things to remember when you write is that blogging is not about perfection. You’re not designing a rocket to the moon. Obviously spelling mistakes and grammatical errors are unacceptable but outside of that, the world’s your oyster. Write in the way that you would have a conversation with a client or a prospect. Make your readers feel like you’re speaking directly to them.

Remember, your voice is unique. No other person in the world communicates like you. No other person has been exposed to the same experiences that you have.

What’s your greatest barrier to getting started with blogging?

 

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10 Revealing Website and Social Media Statistics for Financial Advisors

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Are you still convinced that having a website or social media presence isn’t worth your time? Are you wondering whether your prospects interact with advisors, like yourself, on social sites?

Consumers are looking to make informed decisions, which means they are tapping into all resources available to them, most of which are online. Let’s face it. If you don’t have a website or social media, you’re losing business to someone that does. And here is the evidence. Below is a list of 10 revealing statistics that reiterate the importance of having an online presence.  These stats speak loudly to financial advisors and what their prospects are doing online:

  • Google processes over 40,000 search queries every second. Each day, there are over 3.5 billion searches which translates to 1.2 trillion searches per year. (Internet Live Stats, 2014)
  • 89% of consumers conduct their product research using search engines. (PR Newsire, 2014)
  • 72% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. (Search Engine Journal, 2014)
  • Nearly two in three of mass affluent consumers take action after using social media to discover and consider financial products and services. (The DigitalFA, 2014)
  • Two-thirds of millionaires surveyed said they would like to use electronic media with their advisors.  (The DigitalFA, 2014)
  • About 90 percent of mass affluent consumers use social media. Of that 90 percent, 44% engage with financial institutions on social media. (LinkedIn, 2013)
  • Companies that increase blogging from 3-5 times a month to 6-8 times a month almost double their leads. Companies that blog only 1-2 times a month generate 70% more leads than those that don’t blog at all. (Hubspot, 2012)
  • Inbound marketing costs 62% less per lead than traditional outbound marketing. (Groove Digital Marketing, 2013)
  • Google says there are more searches on mobile than on desktop (Google, 2015)
  • Customer testimonials have the highest effectiveness rating for content marketing at 89%. (Social Times, 2013)

It is important that Advisors continue to adapt to the needs of their prospects.  Don’t get left behind in the digital world. Get started on building an effective online presence today.

Financial Advisors: 3 ways you are hurting your online presence

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These days, everything under the sun is Google-able. Anything and everything can be found online. The World Wide Web has eliminated time and geographic constraints for businesses looking to build their online reputation, connections, and influence.  Although the web has provided us with many great opportunities, there are also ways that the web can hurt your businesses reputation.

Making a poor online first impression

Your website is your business card and the face of your online business. Prospects form an opinion about your business within the first 10 seconds of their visit. This is why, more then ever, it is important to have a professional looking website. A good website communicates to prospects that the owner cares about their business and online image, and it makes the visitor feel like the business is trustworthy. Poor design, or do-it-yourself websites, can communicate business instability and a lack of credibility.

Being too controversial or negative

Original and refreshing content can help you stand out from your competitors and help to create loyalty among your visitors. Solve a problem for your prospects or provide fresh insights into your industry. Predictability is a sure way to lose followers but so is being too controversial. Being intentionally controversial is not the way to get people’s attention. The way you choose to discuss topics will determine people’s perception of you. Be positive, be interesting, but don’t be negative.

You’re not promoting your services

Make sure you are clearly showcasing the services that you offer and focusing on problems that you can solve for your prospects. Prospects need to know exactly what services you provide (so do search engines) and how you can help them. You should also make sure you are including a clear call to action. What do you want your prospects to do? Should they call for an appointment, or contact you through your website?

Your reputation is displayed online 24/7 so it is important to proactively protect your online presence.  Start with your website. Would you rather do business with a professional, well-groomed person wearing a nice suit, or a person who looked like they just rolled out of bed?   The same comparison can be made for people’s impressions of your website, and who they decide to do business with.

Still wondering how to improve your online presence?  We want to help!  Get in touch with us today.

Why Every Financial and Insurance Advisor Needs a Website

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As a product manager, I spend around 2-3 full days a week speaking to a multitude of financial advisors whose practices range from independent shops (one person) to large advisory groups and branches. One of the most popular questions I’m asked on a regular basis is the value of having a website. At times, this surprises me because I think the answer to the question is pretty obvious, however, it’s not necessarily something that a lot of us think about because we take the web for granted.

So, do you really need a website? My answer has always been the same answer since I first started developing websites in my early teens: Yes. Undoubtedly yes. Now, whether you have a website that is rich in content, has numerous pages containing videos and a blog is something you need to decide for yourself, but the point I’m trying to make here is that at the very least you need a web presence. This allows your prospects, clients, business partners and maybe even potential investors to learn more about your practice and more importantly, you. All that being said, given significant advances in web technologies over the past decade, it’s simply not enough to just have a presence. It needs to look professional and it needs to look professional on mobile devices. In a study by Fidelity (Millionaires Outlook Survey), more than 44% of millionaires look to the internet when searching for money managers, however, that was in 2011 so the number has surely increased from then. Moreover, given the ubiquity of the web and the proliferation of smartphones, your clients and your prospects will and are already judging you and your business based on how your website looks.

The beautiful thing about the web is that the barriers to entry to get a website up and running are very low. You have the same barriers as any other large financial institution, branch, advisory group or individual would have if they were to launch a website. The same chance at making a good first impression and the same chance at creating a brand and a message that will resonate with the affluent. The bottom line: if you don’t have a website, you’re losing business to your competitors who do and you’re losing that chance at making a good first impression.

However,  there are times when you simply do not need a website. The only time I recommend that you do not have a website, is if your website reflects poorly on your business. After all, would you meet with a prospect in a cluttered and unorganized office? Probably not, because it’s a reflection of how dedicated and serious you are about your business and hence theirs.

Your website is one of the primary assets of your business. It helps create good first impressions. It helps establish your brand, your business philosophy and it helps connect you to your prospects and your clients.

How should I design my website menu?

Your website menu, often called “Tabs” or “Navigation” is a critical component for your website. Getting it right will help you accomplish two key goals. Your users will have a positive experience finding information on your website and Google will equally have an easier time crawling and ranking your website in search results.

User and Visitor Experience

As it relates design and user experience, it is generally a best practice to keep you top level navigation to a maximum of 7 or 8 items. That’s the max. This means when you get to that number in your menu, you are essentially pushing the boundaries of an efficient and effective user experience. If your website currently has 8 or more menu items, I would encourage you to assess whether you can reduce the number of navigation items into a smaller number of categories. When I walk through this process with clients, I tend to follow a model that is very similar to how a library would organize and categorize their books. If you distilled the process used to organize books down into a few steps, it essentially involves creating categories at the highest level, for example, Science, Business, History followed by sub categories. The key to creating these high level categories is to ensure that each category is mutually exclusive, that is to say, no overlap. If you’re able to follow these rules, this will help you reduce the number of website menu items and will also help your visitors find the information they are looking for.

Naming and Search

As far as the naming is concerned, I tend to recommend to my clients to try, as much as possible, the use of common page names. Using terms like “About Us”, “Contact”, “Products”, “Services”, as top level items can yield two benefits. For one, it helps Google better understand your page and eventually provide structured queries for your visitors when they search for you (these are the links that appear underneath your search results in Bing or Google). Secondly, it gives your users an easier way to find content. There’s no exact science to naming, however,  if you decide to deviate away from traditional page names, make sure it is evident what a user can expect to find in each portion of your website. If it’s confusing to you, chances are it will be confusing to your visitors. Lastly, try to keep the number of words and letters of your website menu items short. I’ve noticed on a lot of websites that have 3 or 4 words for a single menu item. This isn’t necessarily going to penalize you from a search standpoint and is more of an indicator that perhaps your categorization technique isn’t efficient enough.

Acquiring the Young Investor as Your Client

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I recently came across an interesting article discussing a current trend occurring in the investment advisor business arena. In short, the article warns advisors who have practices consisting mostly of either wealthy baby boomers on the verge of retirement or in retirement; “… the retirement-age population is expected to rise to nearly 20% of the U.S. population by 2025, according to Census Bureau projections, and they demand more service from their advisors…”. Wow, 20%.

So, what are some of the facts about retirement-age investors and what does it mean from an advisor practice management standpoint?

  1. Investors in the retirement-age population require more attention. This impacts and potentially changes the way an advisor spends their time. How can advisors create value for this type of investor while growing their practice?
  2. Retirement-age investors tend to be more risk-averse with their money restricting the amount of lucrative product an advisor can sell
  3. Let’s not forget the increasing trend in fee-based advisors vs. commission-based advisors which has also affected the industry and the way advisors generate income.

In short, if you believe points 1 to 3, there’s a clear case to state that having a book consisting mostly of the retirement-age or on the brink of retirement-age is not a good thing if you want a book that grows or a book you can sell.

I’ve been in many presentations, calls and face-to-face meetings with advisors and I hear the phrase, quite often “I don’t need to be online, my clients are older and don’t use the internet”. Apart from the fact that there is research to support that our aging population is increasingly visiting websites and using social media, there is yet another reason why being online and digitally connected should be top of mind especially if you have a book consisting of retirement-age or near-retirement-age investors.

Advisors with this book profile need to start seeding their books with younger investors. This will not only positively impact the longevity of the book but it will also affect the long-term viability and most importantly, the valuation of an advisor’s book when they decide to sell.

So, the moral of the story?

Having a book trending towards a composition of mostly retirement-age investors affects the valuation and long-term growth of the book and therefore, acquiring younger investors becomes an important strategy to counter that trend.

Attracting younger investors isn’t going to be a walk in the park. Advisors need to exist where they look for things, which, last time I checked, has been predominantly online.