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An analysis of web traffic has found that web visits from mobile devices surpassed those from traditional computers in 2019, with mobile web traffic up more than 30 per cent since 2017.

simpson33/iStockPhoto / Getty Images

As online audiences evolve, financial advisors should review what works online and redesign their websites to ensure a more modern experience. That’s especially the case for those who haven’t given their online presence much attention in a few years.

“The standard from an audience’s perspective has increased massively. A website that looked great 10 or 15 years ago probably looks pretty dated now,” says Graham Turner, chief operating officer at Advisor Websites in Vancouver, a company that designs websites for advisors exclusively.

One of the biggest changes in website design is support for mobile devices. Ten years ago, most people visiting websites used a desktop PC browser. A recent white paper from online web traffic analysis firm SimilarWeb Ltd. found that web visits from mobile devices surpassed those from traditional computers in 2019, with mobile web traffic up more than 30 per cent since 2017.

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With smaller screens now a consideration, it’s more important than ever to keep websites simpler and easier to navigate. Text-heavy websites that were so common 15 years ago, many of which littered with widgets and animations, no longer work.

Priya Tailor, life and health insurance and group benefits consultant at Facet Advisors Insurance Strategies Inc. in Langley, B.C., had these factors in mind when developing her website. She wanted to describe a broad range of services for businesses and individual clients.

“I wanted it to be clean and streamlined so that when a client went there, they could connect with the content easily, and connect with me too,” she says.

Ms. Tailor’s website uses a technique called responsive design to accommodate a range of devices including smartphones and tablets. It detects the visitor’s screen size and adjusts its look and feel accordingly.

Mobile-friendly designs also help visitors find the website on search engines, says Angelina Hung, a former advisor who co-founded advisor-focused web design firm Financial Tech Tools Inc. that built Ms. Tailor’s website.

“Google recommends a responsive website design. It should be standard nowadays,” Ms Hung says, noting that the search engine giant will display those websites more prominently in its search results.

Designing a website that ranks highly in search results is known as search engine optimization (SEO), and this practice has matured significantly in the past 15 years.

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Tony Richardson, founder and president at advisor-focused website design firm AdvisorNet Communications Inc. in Abbotsford, B.C., says that it’s important for advisors to include regionally-focused words in their website’s content in order to generate high SEO scores.

“When people are searching for services, they generally looking for something in their own neighbourhood,” he says.

So, for advisors, combining their region with their niche service – such as “Vancouver divorce financial planning” can help their websites surface in relevant searches.

The quality of the content on a website and the frequency with which it’s updated also affects its search ranking. For example, Google rewards websites that make regular updates.

Designers typically build websites around web content management systems like WordPress or Drupal, making it easier for advisors to create and publish content. Some companies even include a content library or provide a regular flow of subscription content that advisors can use to rank higher and keep visitors coming back for more.

For example, Financial Tech Tools wrote a guide to COVID-19 government relief programs that advisors were able to offer to their clients as a free download.

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Text isn’t the only content that advisors can take advantage of; a well-shot video can differentiate an advisor for a discerning audience.

“[Website] visitors’ standards have risen quite rapidly – and they will continue to rise,” Mr. Turner says. “You can have a video on your website that provides a more personable approach for visitors, explaining who you are, why you’re different, who your team is, and why people should trust you.”

Advisors should use all these assets to help draw people in via social media and other marketing channels. For example, Ms. Tailor also has a Facebook page and an e-mail newsletter that she uses to link people to her website.

Once visitors have reached the website, advisors can integrate their website’s code with other software tools to gather their information and take the relationship to the next level, Ms. Hung says.

For example, beyond gathering a visitor’s email address, some advisors will integrate their websites with back-end booking systems so that visitors can book a consultation on the spot.

“Integration with your customer relationship management system is another important piece,” she says.

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It’s important to keep in mind that redesigning a website won’t generate instant results. An advisor must nurture it with a constant stream of content and promote it on social media channels for it to really thrive. Ms. Tailor says that she only saw interest in her website rise after about a year.

Ensuring that a website is relevant and usable for visitors in 2020 is the first step in a longer online strategy that demands regular attention. With an increasing proportion of people finding businesses on the web, this is one project that many advisors cannot afford to ignore.

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