Have you ever thought about buying a boat? It’s a major purchasing decision and for those, we tend to find ourselves weighing the pros and cons before jumping into the deep end. Ask any boat owner – it’s not just the initial purchase that gets factored into the final deliberations but everything from seasonal upkeep to the maintenance a boat requires for years of smooth sailing.
Investing in a firm’s long-term success can be pretty similar to buying a boat; the return on the investment is worth it if you’re willing to maintain it. Your website can be your most powerful marketing tool for generating leads and establishing your credibility and expertise. But, in order to reap the benefits you’ve got to keep up the maintenance.
1. A POORLY DESIGNED WEBSITE
Let’s keep riding the boat analogy. There are quite a few things to consider when buying a boat – one of the most important is its quality and existing condition. Evaluate your existing website: does the site’s design draw in visitors? Does the site create a positive impression of your firm in the mind of your consumers?
Today, people viewing your website typically form a first impression of your firm in as little as three seconds. We’ve worked with many advisors who, in person, appear extremely polished, professional and qualified – but you’d never know it based on their website. A large majority of consumers perform research online before making buying decisions.
When it comes to financial services, many of your prospects (especially referrals) go online to learn about your firm before they pick up the phone. What kind of message does your website send to visitors who haven’t yet met you in person?
Your website is a direct reflection of your firm and those using your website will invariably base their impressions of your firm on the quality of that site. A well thought out, easy-to-use site helps prospects find the information they’re looking for and creates a positive impression of your firm.
Also worth noting is that about nine out of 10 web visitors will leave a site within 30 seconds and not return if they can’t find the information they came for. That’s significant.
2. OUTDATED CONTENT
If your advisor website hasn’t been updated for months or years, it’s time for a makeover. Many advisors seem to have a ‘set-it-and-forget-it’ mentality when it comes to the firm’s website, but why waste such a powerful opportunity to draw in new prospects and leads?
Equally as important as a bad design, outdated web content can be just as harmful. When web visitors notice that a site hasn’t been updated in months or even years, it sends a message of neglect or laziness.
Keeping an advisor’s website up to date is one of the simplest yet most effective methods of marketing your firm. In fact, your website is the only member of your marketing team representing you 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The message sent by your advisor website can make or break a prospect’s enthusiasm for your firm.
Once again, consider your prospects who are learning about who you are and how you can help before they have a chance to meet you in person. A clean website with fresh content is one of the easiest ways to validate your existence as well as create relevance and timeliness in the minds of your consumers.
If your office moves or your contact information changes your website should be updated immediately. Is your team growing? Are you offering new services? Make sure your website viewers stay informed.
From a technology perspective, fresh website content is one major contributing factor of SEO (search engine optimization). A website that is optimized for search engines means that the site ranks highly in search engines such as Google. As a result, a website with strong SEO makes it much easier for the people who are looking for you online (your ideal clients) to find you.
Search engines and humans alike love fresh, unique content. Almost every website will have stagnant content (or instance the ‘About Us’ or ‘Services pages’) but, it’s the fresh, new content that will keep visitors coming back. Financial advisors are catching on to one trend that helps feed the content frenzy: financial blogging.
A blog is simple: it’s a section of your website where relevant, valuable information is published regularly. There are two huge benefits to maintaining a financial blog and both are critical in getting the right traffic to your website. First, blogging adds tons of value in respect to SEO. The more blog posts you publish, the more indexed pages you create for search engines to display in their results.
According to financial SEO expert Phil Laboon, “when new content is posted on your website, it’s like lighting up an open sign to search engines and letting them know that someone is still minding the shop. If you are already happy with how your current website is set up, a blog is a great way to keep content fresh.”
In short, search engines love fresh content and blogging provides the perfect platform for sharing great content and increasing your sites’ SEO.
Financial blogging also gives you a way to deliver the right information to the right people. A blog offers the opportunity to expand on the services your firm offers, current events and financial tips. In short, your blog can be an asset that introduces you as a thought leader in the financial planning community.
Sharing industry-specific information regularly by way of blogging helps advisors earn trust and stay top-of-mind of prospects and existing clients. Even if you only publish a new blog post once a month, the fresh, value-added content will boost your SEO and help establish your credibility as an advisor.
3. MOBILE FRIENDLY
If your website doesn’t work properly on mobile devices (such as smart phones and tablets) you are missing out on a huge portion of web traffic each month. Companies such as Microsoft, among others, predicted that by 2014 more people will access the web via a mobile device, rather than a personal desktop computer.
Marketers call this the “mobile takeover,” but, however you refer to it, it’s vital to your online presence. It’s no longer an option to have a mobile friendly website, it’s a must for growth-minded firms.
According to stats published by Google Canada last year, 89 per cent of smartphone users look for local information on their phone and 88 per cent take action on that intel such as making a purchase or contacting the business. As a result, Google Canada reports, “smartphones help users navigate the world. Appearing on smartphones is critical for local businesses.”
If you’re not sure how your website looks from a mobile device, find out. You can see exactly how your advisor website appears from any smart phone or tablet using free tools such as mobiletest.me or quirktools.com.
There are a few important differences that create a really great experience for users viewing your website from a mobile device. Here are three key questions to ask when deciding whether your website is accessible to mobile viewers:
- Can viewers read the text without zooming?
- Can links and buttons be clicked with a thumb?
- Is your location and phone number visible and clickable?
- Can users tap the phone number to initiate a call?
The experts at Google Canada also suggest making sure your phone number and address can be clicked directly from a search engine’s results page to make it really easy for your target audience to connect directly with your firm.
Lester Tiro is the Partners Manager for Advisor Websites where he manages the company’s online presence and educates financial services professionals on how to maximize the potential of a strong web presence.