When deciding on a marketing strategy to pursue, one of the key factors for financial advisory firms to consider is efficiency. Different strategies have different Client Acquisition Costs (CACs), in terms of both hard-dollar marketing expenses and the cost of the advisor’s time spent on the strategy, and an efficient market strategy is one that can effectively attract new clients while minimizing the amount spent to acquire them. According to the most recent Kitces Research on Advisor Marketing, one of the most efficient marketing strategies is Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which involves taking a series of actions meant to get an advisor’s website listed at the top of the rankings of a search engine like Google for specific search terms. And yet, despite costing only a fraction of the amount to acquire each client that other marketing methods like paid advertisements, podcasting, or social media do, fewer than a quarter of advisors reported using SEO as part of their marketing strategy – which is more than likely a function of the perceived cost and/or complexity of deploying SEO effectively that often leads advisors to avoid SEO in favor of more familiar (but potentially less efficient) marketing strategies.
However, advisors don’t need to become an expert in SEO themselves or hire an in-house expert to do it for them, as there are a host of outsourced SEO providers who have the technical expertise needed to effectively leverage SEO. And when deciding between providers – which have a wide range of skills and reputability – having a basic understanding of fundamental on-page and off-page SEO principles and the type of work that SEO providers typically do can be useful for advisors to find the right SEO provider to work with. Furthermore, knowing how to gauge the effectiveness of the provider’s past work (as well as their performance for the advisor over time) by assessing keyword ranking reports, consulting with existing clients of the SEO provider, and asking about the provider’s experience in the financial services industry can help advisors pinpoint providers who will provide the best and most cost-effective strategies to make the best use of the firm’s marketing dollars.
Notably, the point of an SEO strategy is to drive users to an advisory firm’s website so that those visitors can eventually be converted into paying clients. But to do so, it’s necessary for the website itself to be designed to drive conversion. Importantly, the focus of most outsourced SEO providers is not on client conversion, but rather simply on getting them to the advisor’s website. In other words, if the website isn’t properly set up beforehand to convert visitors into clients (e.g., by including calls to action, tools to contact the advisor and schedule meetings, or newsletter signup forms), there’s a good chance that any money spent on SEO will go to waste if there’s nothing encouraging visitors to take steps towards becoming a client!
Ultimately, the key point is that despite its reputation as a black box, there are concrete ways to measure the success of an SEO strategy, and hiring a third-party SEO provider doesn’t need to be a guessing game. By creating a process to identify the key data, monitor and discuss progress regularly with the SEO provider, and test different SEO techniques for their effectiveness (e.g., by using paid ads) before committing to a bigger and more expensive strategy, advisors can better capture the potential of SEO as a gateway to connect with a broader audience, amplify brand presence, and drive unprecedented business growth!