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#HSonAir Podcast: An Interview with Brent Carnduff of Advisor Web Marketing

Brent Carnduff awm 400x400In Episode 78, Brent Carnduff (@brentcarnduff), Owner of Advisor Web Marketing,  joins us to talk about the impact and evolution of websites, search engine optimization (SEO) and mobile in financial services.  Brent also shares how he helps financial services professionals modernize their practices by incorporating digital tools to their marketing and prospecting endeavors.
We invite you to be part of the conversation with @victorgaxiola and @alissadossantos on Twitter using hashtag #HSonAir.  If you have a question, comment or suggestion, please send an  e-mail to OnAir@HearsayCorp.com. We also invite you to “like” our podcast page on Facebook where we share posts about the podcast, our guests, and other fun stuff.
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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 Easy Ways to Take Your Marketing Local

Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 1.39.45 PMBack in the old days — meaning before the Internet — all business was local. People actually went to their banks, barbers and supermarkets in their local neighborhoods. Shopkeepers and owners knew their customers by name and were able to easily connect with them, learn their preferences, and build trusted relationships. Face-to-face interaction was often a prerequisite for making a purchase and eye-to-eye contact was essential to gaining one’s trust.
Well, times have changed.
Today, people do things vastly differently when it comes to making purchase decisions. People can find whatever information they want 24/7 online, and they’ve usually made up their minds before they even contact a service provider. And although the way people research, interact, and transact has shifted online, people are still looking to connect with trusted professionals for many types of services and products.
Yet, from a local perspective, global corporate teams may be seen as out of touch, still trying to force-fit corporate messaging that doesn’t speak to local consumer needs and cultural realities. To combat this reality, companies must seek to localize their business and provide personalized interactions, which are key to both in-person and online sales. This includes investing more in local marketing channels — e.g. social, mobile, and web — because that’s where clients and prospects are engaging.
Here are five ways to shift your marketing strategy to the local level.

1. Align your corporate brand with your local presence

Brand consistency is an important part of building trust and growing business. Today’s companies must learn to “think global, act local” by revitalizing its marketing organizations for greater success. This means humanizing the corporate brand by sticking to its core values of helping people and then localizing across local markets, as well as shortening the feedback loop between corporate and local teams to ensure brand consistencies and guidelines.

2. Optimize your advisor websites for mobile

If you’re trying to drive local traffic to your advisor websites, they must be optimized for mobile. More local searches are conducted on mobile devices and tablets than desktops and laptops. If your advisor websites are not mobile-optimized, your company will simply not show up in local search results. What’s more, Google now gives ranking preference to mobile-friendly sites, so this is an opportunity you don’t want to miss.

3. Streamline the way local teams access and share content

Although this tactic seems intuitive, it’s important to make it as easy as possible for local teams to access a rich library of corporate assets, campaign resources, and brand guidelines if you want to improve corporate-local brand alignment and visual consistency. By using a single, central technology for content selection, approval, and sharing across dozens of diverse local markets, you can have greater efficiencies and economies at scale in your marketing operations.

4. Deepen client relationships through personalized communications

Trust is a critical component in building lasting advisor-client relationships. In a digitally-crowded world it’s becoming harder and harder for clients to tune-out the noise from spam-like, non-personalized marketing communications — i.e. canned corporate jargon and non-relevant messaging from corporate brands. One way to meet this challenge is to rethink your approach to email by providing more personal and personalized experiences.

5. Integrate social media into your local events-based strategy

Finally, it’s important that you leverage the power of social media to amplify your advisors’ local events while raising awareness back to the corporate brand. This might include using Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter to amplify local promotions through the local community activities of your agents and advisors. Volunteering in community services days, participating in mentoring programs, or sponsoring a local sports Little League, for example, are all social media-worthy events that help establish your local teams as trusted professionals within their local communities.
These five strategies are a good start to a solid local marketing program. Supplementing these tactics with traditional marketing initiatives will establish your company as a leading industry authority in your local areas.
For more insights on how to shift to a local marketing strategy, download our latest ebook: Making the Shift From Corporate to Local Marketing: Five Ways to Maximize Advisor Success in the Digital Age.
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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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Introducing the Corporate-to-Local Marketing Guide for Financial Services Companies [New eBook]

In a recent study by Google, 94% of consumers search for local information on their smartphones and 85% of those people take action based on the search results – meaning they’ll visit a local business or call a sales professional. As the buyer’s journey has largely shifted online, it is increasingly important for companies, especially trust-based companies within the financial services and insurance industry, to connect with consumers where they are researching, seeking advice, or contemplating a purchase.
In our latest ebook, Making the Shift from Corporate to Local Marketing: Five Ways to Maximize Advisor Success in the Digital Age, we outline how financial services companies can leverage new technologies to engage clients and prospects at the local level.
Download the ebook to learn how to leverage local marketing tactics into your overall marketing strategy by:

  • Aligning your corporate brand with your local presence
  • Localizing your advisor and agent websites
  • Creating and maintaining easily shareable and accessible content across all digital channels
  • Enabling deeper client relationships through personalized communication
  • Integrating social media into your local events strategy

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