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‘One of the biggest mistakes I see [businesses] make is they don’t write enough [on their websites]. You want content between 500 words to 1,000 words per page,’ says Jennifer Osborne, president and digital marketing expert at Search Engine People Inc. in Pickering, Ont.cnythzl/iStockPhoto / Getty Images

The phrase “financial advisor” is searched on Google more than 8,000 times a month in Canada. Advisors who want to maximize their website’s chances of being listed in the search results and bring in more prospecting leads digitally can do so by taking advantage of some best practices in search engine optimization (SEO).

Just getting listed on Google is not enough. Advisors should aim to get their website as high up on the search results as possible – think the first page – as that captures the most web traffic, says Jennifer Osborne, president and digital marketing expert at Search Engine People Inc. in Pickering, Ont. “Put yourself in your [prospective clients’] shoes. They’re [most likely] looking at content on a mobile device, so chances are they’re not scrolling very far before clicking on an answer.”

Although it can take search engines anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to register new content, taking the following steps could help advisors get their websites ranked faster and higher in the search results:

1. Develop a list of keywords

For ideas on what keywords and phrases advisors should include on their websites, start by searching for the phrase “financial advisor,” suggests Brian Dean, founder and SEO expert at Backlinko LLC in Boston. “Look at the bottom of those search results [on the first page] and see what Google lists as other relevant searches related to that term. All of those phrases become your foundation for a keywords list based on popular queries.”

The keywords list should then get narrowed down to 20 words or phrases. Advisors should then include these keywords on each page of their website by ensuring they’re weaved into the copy two to three times, says Scott Gabdullin, associate director, SEO and analytics, at Publicis Sapient in Toronto. “Good SEO really comes down to the relevancy between your website and what specific keywords people are searching.”

These keywords could also be included on page titles, headers and the names of files that are uploaded to ensure that relevancy is being communicated to the search engine’s algorithms, Mr. Gabdullin adds. “You want to ensure you’re giving a search engine crawler as many consistent signals as possible.”

2. Register your website with online business listings

When looking at the search results for a specific keyword, a list of local businesses appear after the paid text ads. This section is known as the “Local 3-Pack” on Google and “Map-Pack” on Bing. To appear in these sections, advisors need to register the listing for their websites using either “Google My Business” or “Bing Places for Business.”

Furthermore, setting up a business profile page on LinkedIn or Facebook assists with local SEO as the keywords on these social media platforms also get ranked.

Actively registering a business with a search engine ensures it understands the business has a local office, Mr. Gabdullin says. That’s key because geography plays a very important role in the search results.

Advisors should also request that existing clients write reviews for the business’s listing. More reviews help that listing appear higher in the search engine’s ranking, Ms. Osborne says. “The more reviews you have, the more likely your website is going to get clicked on.”

3. Invest in long format writing

At least 50 per cent of web traffic in 2018 came through mobile devices. With this in mind, short paragraphs on websites are no longer effective. Rather, content on a website should be created and organized to be long scrolling, says Ms. Osborne. “One of the biggest mistakes I see [businesses] make is they don’t write enough [on their websites]. You want content between 500 words to 1,000 words per page, which gives you more room to rank.”

One way for advisors to do that is to have a blog section on their websites. Blog posts can easily be more than 1,000 words and get built around the keywords advisors are targeting. For example, if an advisor notices a lot of her recent meetings with prospective clients are focused on retirement, it would be optimal for her to write a blog post entitled, “Financial advice for retirement.”

4. Ensure your website has fast load times

Beyond the content itself, websites should load quickly, Mr. Dean says. “Google is secretive with its search algorithm, but it has made a public statement encouraging webmasters on this.”

You can measure your website’s load speed at Google’s PageSpeed Insights page.

Some advisors, particularly those who work at a large bank-owned brokerage, may find their website design is confined by their firm’s larger umbrella web structure. If that’s the case, advisors should request permission to invest in their own microsites.

“It may be an added cost to your business, but the prospect potential is well worth it, especially when [the website] is easily readable on a number of devices,” Mr. Gabdullin says.

5. Build up a presence on external websites

Once you’ve optimized your website, it’s time to turn your attention to external media websites, which include blogs and traditional media outlets.

“External websites that link to your website create popularity and authority for your content and website,” Mr. Gabdullin says. “This gives Google a vote of confidence to rank you higher.”

Many advisors host local events focused on financial education or to support a charitable cause. Creating a Facebook event page or registering the event with a local media website, such as BlogTO in Toronto, is a quick and easy way to build that authority as Google ranks event listings.

6. Hire an expert

For advisors not apt to exploring the world of SEO by themselves, there are freelance experts for hire. However, beware of purchasing services on a budget, Mr. Dean says. In a recent survey his firm ran of 1,200 small business owners, the average cost, on the lower end, for SEO consulting was $500 a month, which included a wide range of services such as keyword research and optimizing the website.

“Many of the businesses were disappointed because they didn’t have the budget for the amount of content and link building required to achieve the SEO results they wanted,” he says. “Be prepared to spend between $1,000 a month to $1,200 a month for a period of six months to see significant results.”