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How is your firm using SEO to attract, engage and convert more clients?

Many tactics that have fallen under the search engine optimisation (SEO) umbrella can safely be considered as no longer valid, either because they don’t work anymore, never worked or still work but are in violation of Google’s guidelines.

Here are some examples of basic SEO tactics that aren’t worth your time:

• Keyword stuffing and hiding
• Buying mass links/directory links
• Duplicating websites (or categories) on different domains
• Content spinning/automatic content
• Optimising purely for ‘ranking’ outcomes

Quality content

SEO at its core is the art and science of making high-quality content easier to find on search engines. The key point being ‘quality content’ that helps clients answer questions that potentially lead to purchase. Most of Google’s algorithm updates are intended to reward good content and punish spam. While it may not always feel like it, most of Google’s best practices for SEO are really on your side – you just need to learn and master them.

Here are some SEO tactics that are alive and well:

• Keywords that support client targeting
• SEO copywriting and on-page optimisation
• Link attraction
• Internal link optimisation
• Technical SEO (anything designed to make your site more accessible to search engines)
• Optimising for engagement and conversions

Send the right signals

If search engines are just trying to reward high-quality content by making it more findable, isn’t it enough to just create great content and call it a day? Unfortunately, no.

While search engines are getting much smarter, more efficient and overall better at ‘screening’ content, they still pale in comparison to people’s inherent ability to pick out the nuances and meaning of content. So it’s important to send the right signals to search engines and make those signals as easy to understand as possible.

Content quality comes down to relevance for clients, and there’s no better way to target client interests than through keywords. Every search begins with someone typing keywords into a search box and ends with them clicking on one of the sites listed in the search results. If your site doesn’t include the keywords or closely related phrases on web pages, in meta-data or inbound link anchor text, you’re not giving the search engines (or buyers) the information they need to understand your site’s relevance for that search query.

Social shares

While Google’s latest announcement about the decreased importance of links is significant, it is far too soon to write off quality links altogether. Crawling links is an important way for search engines to discover content, thus the more links pointing to your site (from relevant, quality sources), the more opportunities the search engines have to find your content.

Don’t fall into the trap of treating links as more important than quality content or that enough links pointing towards bad content can somehow make it good. This is the definition of misguided effort, as great content will not only attract quality links on its own (with help from effective promotion and social media shares), but it’s far more likely to increase visitor engagement when it’s found and result in those all-important conversions.

Social shares are as important as links from other web pages, so ensure your content creation efforts include content promotion efforts through social networks. Google+, Facebook and Twitter are must-haves for any content promotion efforts through social media – just make sure you’re promoting plenty of other useful content, not just your own.

Increasingly, it has become important to not only acquire quality links but to monitor and potentially remove low-quality links, especially if you have received an unnatural link warning from Google. Regular monitoring and auditing of your site’s link profile is a good preventative measure, as bad links often have a cumulative effect and can be very difficult to clean up once they become a clear problem.

Avoiding technical problems

As fast as things change in SEO, the chances that search engine algorithms will start to penalise sites for functioning well from a technical standpoint are slim, and humans are no different. How many times have you wished a site would load slower?

The importance of optimising your site so that your pages load fast, your content is easily accessible and your navigation is intuitive cannot be understated. People will leave a site and never return if they get confused or have to wait too long, and search engines will too.

This is one area in particular to keep a close eye on, as small technical issues can have widespread and severe effects on your site’s search engine friendliness. Many financial advisory firms with large sites that employ digital marketing agencies with strong SEO skills receive their value many times over just from ongoing technical optimisation.

As site updates can often introduce indexation as well as other technical website problems, it’s a good idea to include a step for an external team to check for any problems following a major update, as well as on an ongoing basis.

An ongoing effort

By definition, SEO is about an ongoing effort to improve the performance of your website content to be found both by search engines and clients using search engines. What better time is there for your useful content to be found than at the exact moment your clients need it? That’s the value search engine optimisation brings to the online marketing mix. As long as people use search engines to find information, and businesses have content they want potential clients to see, SEO will be important – and that is unlikely to change any time soon.

Oliver Taylor, Head of Sales & Marketing, Goldmine Media

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