May 29 When financial adviser Rick Kahler wanted
to revamp his marketing strategy three years ago, he decided to
learn about the hype surrounding "search optimization."
This is the catch phrase for strategies businesses use to
make sure their websites are among the first to appear in
results from online search engines like Google, Yahoo!
and Microsoft Corp's Bing.
Trying to show up at the top of prospective clients' Google
searches can be time-consuming and expensive, but the effort can
reap big rewards. A 2014 Fidelity Investments study found that
about 1 in 5 investors said they would use internet research,
other than social media and adviser rating websites, to find
Kahler, based in Rapid City, South Dakota, hired a
consultant who helped make his site more visible in results for
search terms like "financial adviser" and "tax planning." Three
years later, traffic to the Kahler Financial Group website has
doubled to about 3,500 hits a month. Earlier this week, the site
was the first to appear in Google search results for "Rapid City
Kahler, whose firm manages $210 million in assets, said the
effort, along with his blog and social media presence, has
generated about half his business.
A key to success is maintaining an engaging, consistently
updated website. This can include frequent blog updates and
"Google doesn't want brochures," said Kahler's consultant,
Brent Carnduff, president of Advisor Web Marketing. "What Google
wants is for every business to become a publisher."
Hiring a consultant to help can cost about $5,000 to $10,000
annually, said Mike Byrnes, president of Byrnes Consulting, LLC,
a Boston area firm that helps advisers run their businesses.
If you aren't ready for that investment, a few steps can
help boost your site's presence.
1. Register with Google My Business, Bing Places for
Business and Yahoo! Local. These free services will help your
firm appear in local search results, including maps. Make sure
your street address appears in your website's header or footer
to increase its chances of appearing. Also, register your
business on review sites like Yelp and Foursqaure,
which often come up in search results.
2. Devote individual pages of your site to each type of
service your firm offers, such as retirement planning, estate
planning and investment strategies. That will increase your
chances of showing up for multiple search terms, Carnduff said.
3. Feature a lot of written content on your homepage, as
well as an engaging image. "People like images search
engines like text, and you need to design your site for both,"
4. Include a lot of hyperlinks to organizations and
publications. Try to get them to reciprocate. Links help
establish authority with search engines. Submit thoughtful
comments on websites that publish financial articles and include
a link back to your own site, said Byrnes.
You may ultimately decide to outsource the work to a
professional. Focusing on search optimization is expensive, said
Kahler, the adviser, but it is the only marketing he has to do.
(Reporting by Jennifer Cummings; Editing by Suzanne Barlyn and