As po­ten­tial clients turn to In­ter­net searches to find both an­swers to their ques­tions and ser­vice providers of all stripes, keep­ing your web­site at the top of the search re­sults is be­com­ing a more im­por­tant part of do­ing busi­ness

Investment Executive - - FRONT PAGE - BY DANNY BRAD­BURY

SEO op­ti­miza­tion will help your web­site get no­ticed.

on the in­ter­net, search en­gines rule. Most of us typ­i­cally seek new in­for­ma­tion via Google or Mi­crosoft’ Corp.’s Bing — and we rely heav­ily on the first page of re­sults, rarely click­ing through to the sec­ond. That’s why rank­ing highly in the search re­sults is im­por­tant for busi­nesses, and fi­nan­cial ad­vi­sors’ prac­tices are no ex­cep­tion.

Al­though ad­vi­sors strive for word-of­mouth busi­ness, those who ig­nore the po­ten­tial clients who are search­ing for fi­nan­cial ad­vice on­line could be miss­ing out. Hav­ing a well-de­signed web­site is only part of the story. Search en­gine op­ti­miza­tion (SEO) will help you get no­ticed by search en­gines and rank you higher in their re­sults.

To­day’s search en­gines are dif­fer­ent from those of 20 years ago. In the 1990s, you would get your web­site no­ticed by sub­mit­ting its ad­dress di­rectly to a search en­gine. In 1997, there were only 1.2 mil­lion web­sites to track. To­day, there are al­most two bil­lion. Now, the only way to get no­ticed by a search en­gine is to groom your web­site ap­pro­pri­ately and wait for it to be found and judged.

All search en­gines have their own al­go­rithms for eval­u­at­ing web­sites, and those al­go­rithms morph on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. Google, which ac­counts for 92% of search en­gine mar­ket share, clearly is the one to watch. Here are some tricks that you can use to get your web­site on Google’s radar: tech­ni­cal tips First are the purely tech­ni­cal tips that can help Google find your con­tent in the first place:

In­dex it. Google “crawls” through the In­ter­net look­ing for new con­tent. Help the search en­gine find all of yours by pro­vid­ing a map of your web­site in a lan­guage called XML. Tools such as can do this for you.

Link it. Google’s crawlers find your con­tent by fol­low­ing links be­tween web pages, so en­sure that all pages on your web­site have links from other pages on the web­site.

Make it ac­ces­si­ble. Don’t hide your con­tent be­hind web forms be­cause the search en­gine’s ro­bots can’t fill those out and won’t be able to read them. be care­ful with key­words You want your con­tent to turn up when users search for rel­e­vant terms, but mak­ing this hap­pen is a tricky busi­ness. Use a tool such as Google’s Key­word Plan­ner to re­search the likely terms that users might search for when look­ing for your par­tic­u­lar flavour of fi­nan­cial ad­vice. Use those key­words and phrases ju­di­ciously on your web­site. This will help Google list your web­site when peo­ple search by us­ing those terms.

Dif­fer­ent key­words will at­tract vary­ing lev­els of com­pe­ti­tion from other web­sites also try­ing to rank in search en­gines. Pop­u­lar, generic key­words such as “fi­nan­cial ad­vice” will gar­ner lots of com­pe­ti­tion. That term re­ceives up to 10,000 searches a month, typ­i­cally from peo­ple not in your town. Your web­site would have to work very hard to rank highly for that search term, and the per­cent­age of rel­e­vant traf­fic you get from it would be rel­a­tively low.

Go for more pre­cise, niche key­words that might re­flect search queries from your spe­cific prospects, such as “es­tate plan­ning in Fred­er­ic­ton”; “how do I man­age my RRSP in B.C.”; or “in­dex in­vest­ment ex­pert in Chilli­wack.”

Th­ese are known as “long tail” key­words. They gen­er­ate fewer monthly searches, but those searches are from the peo­ple you want to meet. You will find rank­ing highly in search re­sults eas­ier when you use long­tail terms, be­cause th­ese terms have less com­pe­ti­tion.

In the early days of search­ing on­line, key­words were ev­ery­thing. A web­site would use a key­word lib­er­ally through­out its con­tent so that search en­gines would un­der­stand the web­site’s fo­cus. Th­ese days, Google’s al­go­rithm is smarter. It will pe­nal­ize your web­site in search rank­ings if you stuff your con­tent with key­words at the ex­pense of qual­ity.

That doesn’t make key­words ir­rel­e­vant. You just need to be smarter about it. You can put key­words in strate­gi­cally im­por­tant spots, such as in the ti­tle field of your web page or blog post, the “alt-text” field of any im­ages you use and per­haps a cou­ple of times in the web­site’s text where do­ing so makes sense. You also can use sim­i­lar terms to flesh out your con­tent. Google’s soft­ware un­der­stands this.

Key­words alone won’t put your web­site at the top of the search en­gine rank­ings. Fol­low Google’s ad­vice and make your web­site’s con­tent as in­for­ma­tive, well writ­ten and read­able as pos­si­ble. The search en­gine’s rank­ing al­go­rithms are get­ting bet­ter at dis­tin­guish­ing con­tent that hu­man read­ers will like, mak­ing qual­ity an in­creas­ingly im­por­tant part of the pic­ture.

You also can im­prove your rank­ing with a fea­ture that’s lit­tle known out­side spe­cial­ist SEO com­pa­nies: “rich snip­pets.” This strat­egy in­volves us­ing ex­tra tags around key pieces of con­tent in the HTML code that makes up your web page. Used prop­erly, this strat­egy can en­cour­age Google to dis- play ex­tra in­for­ma­tion about con­tent el­e­ments such as video, de­scrip­tions of peo­ple or a de­scrip­tion of your prac­tice. Em­ploy­ing this fea­ture may not boost your search rank­ing, but rich snip­pets will draw users’ eyes to your list­ing in the search en­gine’s re­sult. link and pro­mote Once you have pub­lished high-qual­ity and well-struc­tured con­tent that’s easy to find, you must pro­mote it. PageRank, the al­go­rithm that Google uses to rank pages, was built on the idea of link pop­u­lar­ity. If lots of other web­sites have hy­per­links to your web pages, then this al­go­rithm will pro­mote your web­site in its search re­sults.

Google has since re­fined its ap­proach and now pe­nal­izes pages if they re­ceive links from un­trust­wor­thy or “spammy” web­sites or web­sites that charge for links. Nev­er­the­less, link pop­u­lar­ity still plays a role.

Try to get links from high-qual­ity, ap­pro­pri­ate web­sites that are rel­e­vant to your fi­nan­cial ad­vi­sory con­tent. Topic-spe­cific and lo­cal web­sites are good; links from the ed­i­to­rial sec­tion of your lo­cal news­pa­per is a good ex­am­ple. track your re­sults The fi­nal and oft-over­looked piece of SEO ad­vice is to mon­i­tor the re­sults of your ef­forts to im­prove your SEO. Use tools such as Google An­a­lyt­ics to find out where the traf­fic on your web­site is com­ing from. Traf­fic from search en­gines should rise over time, and you also should keep track of which spe­cific search queries vis­i­tors are us­ing to find you. This in­for­ma­tion will help you re­fine your key­word tar­get­ing and SEO tech­niques over time. An­a­lyze un­der­per­form­ing key­words or pages on your web­site so you can im­prove them.

There’s one thing we know for sure about SEO: us­ing un­eth­i­cal tech­niques, com­monly known as “black hat” SEO, is not a good idea. At­tempts to “game” the sys­tem with mislead­ing tricks such as key­word stuff­ing may de­liver short-term gains, but your web­site ul­ti­mately will lose traf­fic in the long term.

Keep the SEO for your ad­vi­sor web­site eth­i­cal by main­tain­ing your con­tent qual­ity. And when it comes to work­ing with search en­gines, fol­low their rules. This will help your web­site rise to that trea­sured po­si­tion at the top of the search en­gine rank­ings so you can en­joy the vis­its from the prospec­tive clients with whom you want to work.

Google will pe­nal­ize your rank­ings if you stuff your con­tent with key­words at the ex­pense of qual­ity


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