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How Big Financial Services Firms Can Beat Google’s Similar Result Filter

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Competition is stiff for the top spots on Google local search – and financial advisors and insurance agents know it. Since the first five results on Google get 67.6 percent of all clicks, it’s extremely important to show up there. Companies with multiple locations will want to go even further and get multiple results in the top five spots – an even more difficult challenge – especially since Google will filter out similar results and not show them at all.
Recently, the SEO community has been discussing this issue and the ensuing challenges. In a recent post from the Moz Blog, Joy Hawkins called out three actionable steps companies can take to beat Google’s filter. We would like to expand upon her three points and discuss how they can be applied specifically to financial services companies which face many of the same challenges as other local businesses and a few unique ones of their own.

1. Make the pages for your locations more different

Google gives users a variety of choices by removing results that are similar. They do this filtering by analyzing a website using algorithms that look at the content, layout and domain of the results. The more similar the content is on site one to site two, the more likely Google is to filter out site one, and so on.
Joy talked about how certain websites being filtered were 77 to 81 percent similar. Our recommended approach is for them to be at least 50 percent unique, and to strive for the 80 percent gold standard. But this can be problematic for the financial services industry, where modified content must meet specific compliance, archiving and branding standards.
Hearsay Sites gives corporate teams the control to set just how much website content advisors can modify so companies can balance their corporate and local brand. For instance, corporate teams can create custom themes to reflect the brand’s look, feel and messaging while creating a consistent flow of corporate assets. At the same time, advisors can customize their sites by uploading office photos, writing bios, linking to partners in their community, sharing local events and commenting on local news, all while working toward hitting the coveted 80 percent mark. As with other content, any website content modifications from advisors will go through an archive and retention process.

2. Take advantage of targeting zip codes or community names

Often companies think of targeting cities and towns, but advisors are often concentrated within specific zip codes and communities. The good news is that the types of communities with the density to justify multiple advisors also tend to be communities that can differentiate themselves from the others.
Many financial services companies try to automate this process by using fake local content. The trouble is that Google’s computers can smell the lack of authenticity all the way from their datacenter. The way for companies to get real local content is to allow their field reps to update their sites. Do they call their neighborhood “South of Market” or do they say “SoMa”? Or, do they indicate they’re located in “South Park,” a very specific area within SoMa? A corporate system might optimize for the term “San Francisco,” or the zip code 94107, but if that isn’t what a user searched for, it could be a waste of resources. Users look for words they really use to describe where they live. So do advisors. Companies can leverage that knowledge by letting advisors customize the content on their websites.
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3. Try to get more links to the individual location pages so they’re more authoritative

If companies are going to put an emphasis on advisor and agent websites, getting deep links to their sites is important. Advisors are likely already partnering with their local Chamber of Commerce, community programs, religious groups and volunteer organizations. When local groups partner with each other, the partnerships often surface on the internet in the form of deep links – links from one website to a specific page of another.
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Though corporate sites might have thousands of links pointing to them, it will help local SEO in Harrisonburg much more if the Harrisonburg Chamber of Commerce links directly to advisors based in Harrisonburg. Those links build authority on the advisor’s page and will help companies’ local ranking much more.
There are many ways to build links properly and just as many ways for advisors to get in trouble. In fact, there are many horror stories (ask any local SEO expert) of a single individual acting out of line and causing an entire company to get penalized by Google, often resulting in lost business up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
We recommend taking a guide-rails approach to local linking. Allow advisors to operate freely, within certain boundaries. Never encourage local advisors to buy links as it’s a quick way to hurt the SEO of not only their site, but the corporate site as well. Instead, companies should allow advisors to focus on natural outreach in the community. A great first step is the ability to link from their website to relevant local websites. This will strengthen local relationships, provide value for visitors and often result in other websites linking back to them.
By enabling advisors to share unique content, use their neighborhood knowledge and build link relationships naturally, companies can give their distributed web programs the best chance at having multiple locations rank highly and avoid Google’s similar results filter.

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4 Tips to Fix Advisor Websites

Nearly every advisor has a website. What’s not as common is a site that engages the target audience and stands out in a crowded digital landscape.
Consumers look for thought leadership and interesting content to determine if an advisor is someone they can trust. As such, your website plays a pivotal role in the client acquisition process. If you want to turn site visitors into clients, here are four things to keep in mind.

1. You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Thanks to the availability of information on the internet, consumers are now doing more of their own research on financial products and services than ever before.
Once prospects do a Google search for a financial professional and ultimately make their way to your site, what will they see? Content that hasn’t been refreshed since the day your website went live or fresh, relevant material that is an accurate reflection of your current principles, ideas, and differentiated services?
Make sure your site isn’t frozen in time. It’s far easier to update content regularly to demonstrate that you are in touch than it is to make up for lost business as prospects move on to the next advisor that popped up their search results.

2. It should be easy for interested people to contact you.

While social media helps to forge new relationships and email helps to maintain relationships, websites are invaluable because they can convert business. There’s still no better place to put a call-to-action, such as a quote request widget or a “contact me” form.
By combining these conversion mechanisms with thoughtful, relevant content that speaks to your audience, your website can become a great channel to grow your business. So add that form to make life easier for potential clients and yourself — just make sure it’s simple and quick from a user experience standpoint, or risk losing out due to a prospect’s frustration with the interface.

3. Your site should be a hub, supporting other elements of your online presence.

A great website serves as the foundation for an effective multi-channel online presence. It can and should support other online marketing efforts, such as email or social media campaigns.
For example, if a prospect reads your email, but isn’t ready to reach out directly, your website is a great place to send him or her to get to know you and your services on their own time. Make that connection for prospects — it’s as simple as providing a link.
And just as email and social media draw interest and your website amplifies and continues that engagement, the reverse holds as well. Tools are readily available to integrate your social feeds into your site so that content remains consistent, relevant and dynamic across channels. Cross-pollinating your online content will pay big dividends later in terms of both client acquisition and retention.

4. Your site should show that you are a thought leader.

People want to work with experts who are knowledgeable about the services they provide, the communities they serve and the unique individuals they do business with. An effective site gives you a place to showcase your expertise and present your firm as a sought-after professional resource.
While social media is great for sharing quick thoughts, links and photos, it’s impossible to fully convey you and your business in 140 characters. For that, you have your website.
Create a space on your site devoted to your unique insights. Afraid that you won’t be able to fill it? Think about the questions, both common and uncommon, that clients ask and you will find plenty of fodder. Consider the seasons of the year and what they could imply — paying for college, renovating a home, buying a boat, etc.
Once you get started, you’ll have no shortage of ideas to share, consistently replenishing your site with material that reinforces the image you want to project.
To keep up with shifting client expectations, professional websites are evolving from a Yellow Pages-type listing with simple contact information to a full-fledged content and engagement hub. Stay ahead of the curve by building a website that conveys your personal brand and ideas, integrates your social campaigns, hosts living content and provides multiple touch points for prospects.
If you need help creating one, many services will work with your corporate brand to ensure that you are in keeping with company policies and compliant with industry regulations. By making the commitment to building a stronger, better web presence, you will grow your business.
This post was originally published by ThinkAdvisor.
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Google to Penalize Websites That Are Not Mobile-Friendly

Is your website mobile readyshutterstock_209175247? If not, Google will start penalizing your search rankings beginning April 21.
Google recently announced that it would be expanding how it uses website mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. In their official statement, they announced that this will have a “significant impact” on search results, meaning websites that are not mobile optimized — that is, non-responsive to different screen sizes or configured to be viewed on multiple devices — will see a heavy drop in traffic.
At Hearsay Social, we have suspected these changes for some time based on prior Google announcements. And once the April 21 changes take effect, the impact will be significant.
Moreover, Google rarely provides in such clear terms the secret behind their ranking algorithms, and the fact that they have done so here creates an opportunity to meet the demands of a changing era.
Are your advisor websites prepared?
Many financial services companies have realized the importance of mobile in the past few years and have invested in optimizing their corporate websites. One area frequently overlooked, however, has been advisor websites. This is especially important because mobile searches often return local results, according to a ComScore study, which stated that 56% of “on-the-go” mobile searches had local intent.
Are your advisor websites mobile optimized?
The good news is Google can help answer that question for you. They have provided webmasters with a tool that crawls a website and grades the mobile usability – a tool that very likely works in the same way that their ranking algorithm does.
Check out the Google Mobile Friendly test here
Try it out for yourself, how did your websites do? 80/100? 90/100? 95/100?
While doing research during the development of our Hearsay Sites product we found that most advisor sites were either not mobile optimized and scored in the low 50s or partially-optimized, bringing their score into the high 80s or low 90s. So if you scored in the 90s, congratulations, you’re doing better than many of your peers.
As we’ve developed our product using a mobile-first adaptive and responsive approach we’ve found that scores of 98 or 100 are not only possible, but really the only ones that should be acceptable. We never design for the test, but have found repeatedly that when our expert designers are given the tools and freedom to approach mobile design in the way they know is best for consumers, the results will follow.
 
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What can you do?
April 21 is just around the corner. While you may not have time to launch new advisor websites in under two months, there might be some minor fixes you can put in place to minimize the damage.
As you begin an undertaking to refresh your advisor sites, we recommend asking why your websites got so far behind in the first place. The answer is often that you were using an inflexible system or outdated technology. The reality is that the web is a constantly evolving ecosystem and if you aren’t prepared to move at the pace of change, your websites will be out of date the day they launch. Unfortunately, this is all too often the case in our industry.
At Hearsay Social we have a different approach to advisor websites. We take care of the technology. Your team and advisors provide the great content that consumers are looking for – what we do is keep the website up to date with the latest standards in SEO, mobile usability, markup, CSS, and other capabilities.
If your websites are already mobile friendly, great! But if not, and you find yourself too busy to stay up to date with the ever changing world of SEO, web standards, and Google algorithms, it may be time to explore how a technology partner can help you provide up to date tools for your advisors.
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Introducing Hearsay Social’s Predictive Social Suite for Advisors

Mobile, social, and web technologies are changing the way we live and work – including how consumers discover and make important buying decisions regarding financial products and services. Over 40% of high-net worth individuals under the age of 40 cite social media as important for accessing information on financial products or services, and this number keeps growing.
Today, we proudly enable over 100,000 advisors, agents, bankers, wholesalers, and other financial relationship managers worldwide to connect and deepen client relationships on social media while staying compliant. In recent months, a growing number of you told us “Social has become essential, but the social channel alone is not enough.”
Well, we listened, and today I am thrilled to unveil our new Predictive Social Suite (read today’s coverage on CNBC). Starting today, advisors can “hear” and “say” not only on social channels but across multiple digital channels, all from a single dashboard.
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The need to modernize traditional sales organizations and help advisors compete against the onslaught of disruptive consumer technologies, such as “robo-advice” websites, has quickly become the defining issue of financial industry CEOs and boards of directors.
Penn Mutual is one such forward-thinking Hearsay Social customer. We had a chance to brief their CEO, Eileen McDonnell, on our new platform and were honored by what she had to say: “Hearsay Social’s Predictive Social Suite is precisely the set of technologies advisors need to stay relevant and productive with today’s digital and socially savvy clients.”
As part of our new Predictive Social Suite, we are today also unveiling a new product, Hearsay Sites, a responsive, mobile-first advisor website solution. With Hearsay Sites, advisors can easily post tailored content to their websites from the same central Hearsay Social dashboard they currently use to manage social media engagement. Soon, advisors will also be able to receive predictive notifications of website visitor activity for follow-up – for example, being alerted that a particular client might be interested in a college 529 plan. Hearsay Sites also comes with built-in search engine optimization (SEO) and enterprise supervision and compliance through the Hearsay Enterprise Platform.
With the Predictive Social Suite, advisors can manage listening, engagement, compliance, publishing, and analytics across multiple digital channels all within one powerful suite.
To learn more about today’s exciting news, view the press release.
For additional insights, be sure to download our executive report on The Advisor of the Future: How to Stay Relevant in the Digital Age, and watch my keynote presentation from the 2014 Annual LIMRA Conference.
Take a look at some additional press coverage below:

Let us know your thoughts on Twitter @hearsaysocial #predictivesocial!
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