Social media and search engine optimization (SEO) have become more important than ever as consumers increasingly look beyond advertising in their search for financial advisors they can trust. LinkedIn Corp. and other social media networks provide a great source for referrals, but SEO can help advisors reach a much wider audience by educating the public and delivering real value to those beginning their search for advice.

In this article, we will take a look at some SEO basics that advisors should consider when building and maintaining their web presence. (For related reading, see: Top Digital Marketing Tips for Financial Advisors.)

Building a Base

The first step to building an SEO-friendly web presence is choosing a content management system (CMS) with the right features. The best solution for most financial advisors also happens to be free of charge: WordPress. WordPress powers nearly half of Technorati’s top 100 blogs along with over 75 million other websites, which easily makes it the most popular CMS in the world for bloggers.

Here are a few tips when setting up a WordPress website:

  • Install SEO plug-ins like Yoast SEO to automatically make pages and posts more SEO-friendly. In addition to making some technical improvements, these plug-ins help advisors write content that contains the right keywords and phrases.
  • Enable permalinks that incorporate the title of pages and posts to create URLs like “yoursite.com/post-title-here” rather than “yoursite.com/1/”. These descriptive URLs help search engines better categorize the content on the page.
  • Complete the basic information in the WordPress Settings, including the website’s title, basic description, and other fields. Often times, these settings are forgotten and default descriptions like “A WordPress Blog” appear in search results.
  • When posting articles, use the Featured Image functionality to add an image to each post, which may appear in search results to help them stand out. Many search engines show preferential treatment to articles with associated media (like images). (For more, see: 7 Popular Marketing Techniques for Small Businesses.)

Sitemaps and Tools

The next step is to ensure that a financial advisor’s website is being properly indexed by search engines over time. Often times, the best way to ensure that content is being indexed is to provide what’s known as a sitemap—or a single file that makes it easy for search engines to find the locations of content across an entire website. These sitemaps can be individually submitted to various search engines in order to ensure indexing.

Here’s how to get a sitemap in place for Google:

  • Install a sitemap plug-in that automatically generates an XML file that contains all of the content on the website and keeps it updated over time. Google XML Sitemaps is a popular option that automatically creates a sitemap.
  • Create a Google Webmasters account that enables advisors to submit their XML sitemaps, as well as track Google’s indexing activities over time. (For more, see: How to Beat Robo-Advisors With Online Marketing.)

Tracking Results

The final step is tracking the results of SEO efforts over time in order to ensure their success. While there are many different ways to track performance, a great starting point is leveraging Google’s Webmaster Tools to monitor for any crawling errors, see how many pieces of content are being indexed, and identify the most popular pieces of content. These insights can help when crafting new content and ensuring that everything is running problem-free.

Advisors looking to take the next step have several potential options to explore:

  • Keyword research can help identify topics that generate a lot of search engine traffic with few competitors—a sweet spot for content marketing.
  • High-quality content helps ensure that readers stay engaged and by extension helps improve search engine rankings for that topic.
  • Guest contributions can be a great way to build high-quality backlinks to related content on an advisor’s website.

The Bottom Line

Search engine optimization has become increasingly important over the past several years as consumers increasingly look past advertising for financial advisors. By taking the steps outlined in this article, advisors can get started on the right foot with their SEO efforts. The basics will go a long way in improving search rankings, but those looking to take things a step further may want to look into topics like keyword research and long-form content. (For related reading, see: LinkedIn: How Advisors Can Use It to Grow.)

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