SEO, or search engine optimization, aims to increase the visibility of a website by getting it to be returned higher on the search engine results page for a given search. The idea is that if a website ranks higher in search results, that website will see more traffic. Studies show that 75% of consumers make a purchase from the first page of search results.

There have been a lot of changes to the SEO landscape in recent years and mobile changes taking effect in April 2015 have gotten a lot of publicity. Because Google is the largest search engine, their top secret algorithm sets the precedent for SEO standards. Google has put forth a strong effort to level the playing field in order to improve the relevance of search results they deliver. These changes decrease the ability of firms to pay their way to the top or to trick a search engine.

The good news is that the changes allow SEO credit to be earned by relevant content, strong site traffic and engaged site visitors. While the goal of SEO in the past was to pay or trick your way to the top, the new strategy is to provide an engaging website experience for your visitors to keep them on your site longer and get them to view multiple pages, which causes Google to favor your site more in the future.

Anatomy of a Search Engine Results Page

Before recommending steps to improve your website’s SEO, let’s review the anatomy of a search engine results page (SERP). There are three parts of positioning on a search engine results page:

  1. Paid results (purchased through Google Adwords)
  2. Organic results (unpaid based based on SEO relevance)
  3. Google Business results (registered with Google directly)

Local Search

For local businesses and service professionals, there’s a unique search engine strategy that differs from larger, national firms such as Sony or Apple. Local search gives more significance to websites who are registered geographically near where the search takes place.

There are two types of local search. A search like “financial advisor austin texas” is an explicit local search. A search for services and products that are typically consumed locally such as “dry cleaner” are implicit local searches that automatically return local results based on Google’s assumptions. Financial advisors fall into this category, so it is important to focus on local SEO tactics when optimizing your site.

There are several things you can do today to improve how your site shows up in local search results. Get started improving your SEO by following these simple steps:

  1. Make Sure Your Site is Mobile Friendly

Earlier this year, Google made changes to their algorithm to increase the significance of mobile friendly sites in mobile search results. Because mobile search has now surpassed desktop search volume, this change has a large impact. Use Google’s Mobile-Friendly test to make sure each page on your site passes the mobile test. If your site is not mobile friendly, now is the time to make the change and upgrade to a mobile friendly platform.

  1. Register Your Business with Google

This free registration with Google is independent of your website (though you should list your website within your business registration) and causes your business to show up on Google maps and on the upper right hand side of the search results page. The registration also features your social profiles, any photos you upload, and your logo.

  1. Write Strong Title Tags and Meta Descriptions

Title tags (1) are the blue, bolded words that show up on the search engine results page. Meta descriptions (2) are the black text words that show up underneath the title tags. Google pulls titles and descriptions from your website automatically, but that doesn’t mean they represent your site well. It’s important to clean up your title tags and descriptions to maximize your use of this SEO real estate. Think of these as headlines attempting to engage the viewer before they’ve decided whether to click on your site. Short, concise and well written title tags are essential to get searchers to choose to click on your website.

  1. Write Your Keywords on Your Website

A main mechanism of a search engine is the process of searching your website text for relevant keywords that match the keywords a potential site visitor types into the search bar. Be sure to list your business name and location within the text of your site and well as any keywords you think prospects may search for. Google can’t read your company logo, so it’s important to write the name of your company in the copy of your site several times. Use a keyword density tool to identify which keywords are featured on your site and their density. Aim for a keyword density of 2-5% for relevant words and phrases. Remember that Google searches for keywords using a hierarchy, giving more importance to words used in headlines and near the top of each page.

  1. Complete Your Business Social Media Profiles

Google gives preferential treatment to Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts when it comes to SEO. This means that if you have accounts on those networks, Google will display links to your accounts on their search results page. Your goal should be to fill up the search results page and decrease the available space where competitors could appear. By adding profiles for each social site, you add search results that highlight your business. Be sure to link your social media accounts to your Google business registration to take advantage of the space where those results will be displayed.

  1. Consider Google Adwords

The only way to guarantee that you come up as the top result for the name of your business is to pay for that privilege. Luckily, if your site is the most relevant result for a certain search term, the price for that Google Adword is typically low. Adwords can be a great option for advisors who are successfully embracing a niche or who do business in a smaller locality. The ads for “Financial Advisor New York” are orders of magnitude more expensive than “Institutional Cash Management in Fresno, California.”

  1. Take Advantage of Local Search

Google may put your website into its “local search” category based on rules regarding the type of services offered, but it “knows” you are a local business if you cite other local businesses within your site. Be sure to mention and link to organizations within your community such as the Chamber of Commerce, the city you live in, as well as volunteer organizations and other local businesses. Also, list your street address in text on your site, not just using a map application so the address can anchor your business as a part of local search results.

  1.  Hold Onto Your Domain and Update Your Site Regularly

Your website’s SEO will improve over time due to an established history, much like a credit score will improve as average account ages increase. Google also likes to return websites that are timely and fresh. Be sure to rewrite the copy on your site at least once per year. Then, add new content and update your site at least once a month to continually improve your SEO. Weekly or monthly custom blog articles that are keyword rich are one of the best ways to accomplish this. Think about the questions your ideal prospect may be typing into Google and answer those questions with keyword dense blog posts to improve your SEO.

Many advisors get overwhelmed with SEO jargon and give up, or outsource their SEO management to companies that charge high monthly fees. While SEO companies may be effective for larger brands, they do not make as much of an impact on local search results.

With a small investment of time and energy upfront, you can have a huge impact on your SEO rankings. Take a moment to search for your business using Google and see where you rank in the results. Then, follow these steps and evaluate again in 30 days. Be sure to email us your results!