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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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5 Simple Steps to Make Your Local Business More Findable on Google

shutterstock_172855088Being findable is core to any business, but it can be especially challenging for local businesses to be findable online when they have to compete for search ranking with national and  global brands. Given that more Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers, it’s no wonder that local search volume is increasing. This increase in local, mobile search creates a great opportunity for financial advisors and insurance agents that are strongly rooted in their local region and community.
Here  are five  simple steps for making your business more findable online.

1. Claim or Create Your Business on Google and  Google+

Google controls almost 65% of the online search market and if you haven’t listed your location and created your business on Google+ you are missing out. Google tends to favor businesses with local listings. Google doesn’t automatically pull business information from websites, however the steps are easy. Google MyBusiness offers self-explanatory tools to claim or create your location listing. From there, you can expand your Google presence by also creating a Google+ page to connect with people.  Make sure that these listings include accurate business information (that matches your website) and include a link to your local website to close the loop.

2. Add Structured Data to Your Website

The practice of adding hidden SEO keyword tags to your website is a thing of the past. Today, one of the best ways to boost your SEO is to insert structured data into your website code. . Structured data should include the important details of your business, such as business type, location, phone number and hours.  To test whether your website includes the appropriate structured data, you can use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool. If you don’t seeing results like the one illustrated below, you’ll need to insert the appropriate structured data code into your website using the guidelines from Schema.org.  You can also check with your website partner or technology provider to get their help in creating and managing structured data to make your business information more findable.

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3. Include Dynamic, Local Content

We’ve heard it a million times, “content is king.”  When your business is connected to a national or global brand, it’s fresh and personal content that is going to help you stand out. If your website has exactly the same content every other advisor or agent at your company (save for the name and address) that is going to hurt your search ranking. The search engine crawlers look  for unique and fresh content. So, make sure your website has content that  represents your unique community business. In addition to having high quality content, your  website should have fresh content and new sources of information  to rank better in search results.

4. Be Active Across Social Networks

Social pages and profiles are your secret weapon for being findable online. More often than not, search results containing a name include listings from LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter that show up at the top of the page. Take a look at the results for one of our local financial advisors below.  Right after her business listing, Misty’s  LinkedIn and Twitter pages show up next.
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Step one is creating complete pages and profiles that accurately represent your business. In order to best support your findability, make these pages public, so that the search engine crawlers can see all of your information. By using the same name, address and other information as your website, you are reinforcing that the information is accurate. In addition, adding links to your social profiles from your website helps browsers see that the different web properties are all representing the same business, improving credibility and findability.
Finally, just having complete social presences is good, but actively keeping the content on them fresh is even better. Share tips and thought-leadership across the social networks and update your profile as your role or business changes in order to get even more benefits from social media.

5. Be Mobile Ready

In May of 2015, Google announced that search volume from mobile devices surpassed desktop search activity in the US.  Around the same time, Google also started penalizing websites that are not optimized for mobile viewing. Adapting to the rise in mobile web browsing is important for every business, but it is especially important for local businesses because according to a ComScore study, the majority of mobile searches have local intent.
To be more findable in this mobile era, it is imperative that your website is mobile-ready. Start with testing it out on your phone, and/or using the the Google Mobile Friendly test.  If your website needs some work, your website partner or technology provider should provide some solutions to improve the mobile experience, and optimize for mobile-first activity
If you’ve had a website for a long time, you may have noticed that times have changed.  There used to be all types of secret tips for SEO, ways to essentially trick search engines to rank your page at the top of the results, but todays search engine optimization is much more straightforward.
Search engines are continually getting better at filtering out spammy websites trying to game the system, and improving the rankings of business pages that consumers actually click on. If you have an up-to-date website, and follow the five tips above, you’re well on your way to improving the search ranking and findability of your business.

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