Have you ever searched for something with the phrase “near me”?
If so, you’ve already experienced the power of local SEO. It may have helped you figure out your new favorite dinner spot, where to buy the freshest organic produce, directions to the nearest post office, etc.
Local SEO can be a transformative tool for today’s brands, even if you conduct some or all of your business virtually.
We’re all a “local” somewhere, so does your online presence reflect that?
Whether you’re 100% virtual or your storefront shares walls with the neighborhood coffee shop, honing in on your local presence is critical for brand awareness and developing a strong community presence.
Here are five tips for advisors to make their local SEO shine.
First, What Is Local SEO?
Remember, search engine optimization (SEO) is all about curating a digital presence that lands you on the top spot of the search engine results page (SERPs).
In general, there are four primary types of SEO that can help you accomplish this goal:
- On-page SEO (all things content creation and optimization, like headings, meta tags, keywords, site copy, blogs, etc.)
- Off-page SEO (website and brand promotion like link-building, guest appearances on blogs, podcasts, etc., collaborations, interviews, and more.)
- Technical SEO (ensuring search engines can easily crawl and index your website, like site speed and mobile-friendliness)
- Local SEO (community-focused marketing that centers on a specific area)
Local SEO focuses on a specific search area, which could include a city or a collection of zip codes. It’s quickly becoming one of the most popular ways for advisors to gain SEO clout.
SEO firm Safari Digital reported that 46% of all searches on Google (roughly 1.6 billion every day) have a local lean. Prospective clients are there and want to find you; they may just be hiding in plain sight. These five tips just may help you find them (and vice versa).
How Google “Scores” Local Rankings
Before you get all excited about implementing new ideas for your local SEO, it’s important to know what factors Google’s algorithm uses to determine local rankings—the method to the madness.
There are three general categories:
- Relevance—determines how well your business profile matches the search
- Distance—how far the business is from the person searching
- Prominence—how “well-known” your business is. Google gathers this information from links, articles, reviews, and other SEO practices.
Google analyzes a combination of these factors to determine what populates in the search engine results page. These tips just may help you get to the top!
1. Take Your Google My Business Page Seriously
So you want your business to rank in local searches.
This page holds all your business’s basic information like your address (it must be a physical address, not a P.O box), contact information, business hours, website link, description, photos, reviews (more on that in the next section), and more.
Claiming this page and keeping it updated is perhaps the simplest way to skyrocket your local SEO rankings because Google found that customers are 70% more likely to visit your business if you have a complete profile.
2. Start Collecting Reviews
What’s the first thing you do before trying out a new place?
Yep, you read their reviews!
Reviews have the power to generate all kinds of business, and they may even impact whether or not someone interacts with your brand in the first place. In fact, BrightLocal uncovered that nearly 80% of people say they trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.
A healthy stream of referrals sustains many successful advisor firms, and in many ways, reviews serve as another referral medium.
But for a long time, utilizing reviews was a door firmly shut to financial advisors—thankfully, the tide is turning.
The SEC’s New Rule On Advisor Reviews
At the tail end of 2020, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) voted to permit financial advisors to take advantage of these incredible tools: third party reviews (Google, Yelp, etc.), testimonials (statement by a current client), and endorsements (statement by someone other than an existing client).
The updated rule (which hadn’t been changed since 1940) gives advisors a broader latitude to market themselves. It’s also an excellent step forward to provide transparency for consumers in an industry infamous for its cloak and dagger style operation.
Keep in mind that there are a couple of things to note about remaining compliant with the new rules. Here’s an overview:
- Display disclosures prominently. All testimonials and endorsements need to explicitly state if the individual providing it was compensated. They must also clearly note if they are a client or someone else.
- You can’t just talk the talk; you have to walk the walk. The SEC won’t allow advisors to showcase statements they can’t prove. So, you can’t advertise that you’re a student loan expert without having comprehensive data to support that claim.
- You can be friends with social media again. Previously, many investment advisors ran into issues with advertising on social media. Now, you can share testimonials and endorsements on social media platforms and engage with your audience by responding to comments on those posts.
Learn more about the specific rules and how to stay compliant on the SEC website.
Why should financial advisors care about this rule change?
You have more freedom and creativity to showcase what your brand is all about. By doing so, you can also use new tools to attract your ideal clients, like featuring reviews on your website, creating client testimonials, introducing video into your website and social media, and more. Plus, leveraging reviews can be an excellent way to cultivate an atmosphere of trust among prospective clients.
The Link Between Reviews and Local SEO
Along with more diverse marketing opportunities, collecting reviews strengthens your local SEO because search engines favor businesses with quality reviews—here’s how.
- Google values trust, too. You don’t just have to prove your trustworthiness to your clients; Google and other search engines need to be able to trust you as well. When you collect reviews, you essentially extend an olive branch to the search engines, letting them know you’re the real deal. Google’s algorithm is vast and constantly changing. Still, recent data from Whitespark, an SEO firm specializing in Google rankings, found that reviews account for about 17% of how the search engine ranks local businesses. For SEO purposes, your customers’ feedback is worth its weight in gold.
- 5 stars drive businesses. High rankings drive businesses, making it essential to deliver a quality customer experience. BrightLocal found that only 48% of customers would consider engaging with a company with less than 4 stars—so racking up your star points is pretty important. You want to focus on cultivating quality reviews that are recent and provide an ample amount of detail. Remember that you can’t pick and choose which reviews to highlight, meaning you may have to deal with negative reviews. The best way to do this is to respond with tact and care to the reviewer (because potential customers will see if and how you react to criticism). You may also choose to hide reviews altogether if the strategy no longer aligns with your goals.
- Reviews help Google know who your business is and what it’s about. While SEO can seem rather technical, it’s really about ensuring that the information you present tells an accessible and accurate story for Google and other search engines to crawl, index, and read. Reviews are just another piece of the puzzle!
So how can you start collecting reviews?
- Create a specific review email campaign with clear instructions on how to leave a Google review.
- Build asking for reviews/feedback into your process. Perhaps you do this at the end of your annual review meetings with clients.
- Encourage your social media followers to leave you a review.
Introducing reviews, testimonials, and endorsements into your marketing is an exciting venture and one that should be done with a clear strategy and intent. If you have additional questions about seeing if this route is right for you, let’s talk about it!
3. Feature Local Content
Creating high-quality, consistent content is still an excellent SEO strategy. If you’re looking to lean into your local community, consider creating more local-focused content. You can strategically infuse local keywords and phrases that your audience may be searching for. Here are a few ideas for content topics:
- List popular volunteer activities in your area. This could also be a rich opportunity to personalize your content and share your volunteering experiences and passions. Does your team have an annual community day? Where do you and your family volunteer? Posts like this are wonderful ways to connect with your community and pepper in local keywords.
- Do you live and work in an area where you serve clients who work for a major company/organization like Walmart, Pepsi, J&J, etc.? Consider creating a series about company-specific retirement plans, benefits, healthcare options, etc. Doing so will show your audience that you have the specific knowledge to help them plan for their future. It’s also a good partnership opportunity for presentations, etc.
- Retirement communities are a growing area, and you may live in a place where there are several. Build content around those retirement communities. You might interview the staff, let your audience know what to look for, and how to financially prepare for something like that.
- Get excited about local news! Did something remarkable happen in your area that you want to share with your audience? Don’t be afraid to sprinkle in content that means a lot to you as a business owner because it shows your connection to your community and can boost local traffic.
- Stay involved in your local community (and don’t be afraid to show it). The best-performing content is personal and authentic to you. Snap a photo of your team-building event, share your family volunteer day, talk about the things going on in your community that matter to you.
Additionally, comb through your website copy and see where you can leverage your local flair. Instead of simply saying “financial advisor,” you could make it more specific and say “financial advisor Durham, NC.” Sometimes, it can be as simple as that!
You can also consider updating title or heading tags with local keywords throughout various website pages like the home page, service page, and more.
4. Improve Your “Link” Game
Establishing credible and relevant backlinks is challenging but can be immensely rewarding.
A backlink is when your website, blog, content, etc., is “linked” to a third-party source. And search engines favor backlinks from authority sites.
So how can you step up your link game?
- Regularly co-create content with COIs. Centers of Influence are massive referral sources, and getting in their good graces and vice versa could lead to more bountiful leads. Backlinks could come from a joint webinar, guest blog posts, interviews, video series, presentations, and more.
- Become the thought leader in your space. Many people want to establish themselves as an authority or thought-leader in their industry. How can you do that? Create high-value content and make it accessible via a compressive resources page. In addition to your own content, you can link to over valuable local resources like obtaining a business license in your state, etc. Be sure you tailor your resources to your ideal client. Ask yourself, what type of information are they looking for? If you serve physicians, you may want a resource for CE hours and credits. A well-designed and curated resources page could make your brand the one that stands out and receives several links.
- Create quality content and share it. Premium content is perhaps the most effective way to generate authoritative backlinks. This type of content demonstrates thought-leadership in engaging ways brimming with value like a whitepaper, infographic, comprehensive blog posts, e-books, etc. But creating that content is only step one. Once you have the content, you need to share it via email and social media. You may even want to clue your COIs into your new resource in hopes they share it with their list as well.
Quality links do wonders for your credibility, and engaging in some of these local opportunities can help improve your SEO.
5. Make Sure Your Website is Mobile-Friendly
Last but certainly not least, the mobile usability of your website influences your local SEO.
It’s becoming far more common for users to search for local businesses via their phones, which means your website needs to keep up. In fact, over 30% of mobile searches are about location!
You can check if your website is optimized for the small screen with different website tools—we often use Ubersuggest. Conducting regular site audits will help you ensure that everything is running smoothly and clue you into areas of improvement early.
Crafting a successful SEO strategy for your brand takes passion, creativity, and a whole lot of time. None of these solutions are quick fixes or overnight transformations. Instead, it’s a collection of strategic decisions that help you position your website as the authority in your niche.
Leaning into local SEO can be a fruitful way to attract your ideal audience, garner quality leads, and help your business tell its story.
How can you make SEO part of your brand’s story? We’d love to talk with you about it!