Many financial professionals have been misled when it comes to being found on Google. High cost search engine optimization strategies just aren't paying off.
Financial firms that have artificially worked their way up to Page 1 of Google search results are either not there today or won't be there for long.
That's to be expected. Google has come a long way in identifying the trickery of the SEO industry and squashing any advantage gained.
A potentially positive upshot because of this: Unique, authentic, high quality content that comes from you as the author is your best opportunity for getting found by the right potential prospects on Google.
Back in September 2013, Google implemented its Hummingbird algorithm update. Hummingbird is all about the “context” of searches, or the searcher, I should say. Google is attempting to apply some “common sense” to a person's search request in understanding exactly what the person means when searching for a specific term. It's not perfect, but it's beginning to work. This update for the most part has killed the SEO strategy that focuses on keyword optimization or keyword stuffing within your content.
Most recently, Google's Panda 4.0 update has had the biggest impact yet. Websites and blogs that have spam content or non-original content have been hit the hardest. This means if you're relying on industrialized, “canned” financial content to drive your blogging efforts, you won't be getting any Google love.
Given this new reality, here are five steps you can take to work within the new Panda environment:
1. Write unique, original content for your blog
Strive to become the authority in your niche. Positioning yourself as a specialist online will carry you much farther than trying to be a generalist. If you don't have the time to write, or writing is not your thing, use audio podcasting or video and have your content transcribed into blog posts.
If you outsource your content creation, make sure you are driving the themes, concepts and topics so that all you are outsourcing is the editing and formatting of your posts. To be clear, I'm not an advocate for purchasing content or outsourcing content. It's much better to work with an editor who understands your business and your voice instead, if you're going to go this route.
The best performing blogs we've seen from financial advisers are those for which the adviser is the content creator. Your personality, style and perspective will shine through, and this is how relationships are formed with potential clients. It's also how they are strengthened with existing clients.
2. Make sure your content is written for your target audience, not for search engines
Think about the top questions and problems your ideal clients are experiencing today and address those in your content. Also, build a solid base of content around a specific subject aligned with your expertise.
And if you really start listening intently to clients and colleagues, for example, on social media, you will have more ideas to write about than time to write!
3. Focus on longer, more in-depth posts
Although shorter posts (under 500 words) aren't detrimental in any way, longer, more in-depth posts tend to perform better in Google searches. Even if that means you are posting to your blog less frequently, in-depth posts provide a better experience for your visitors, typically.
4. Claim your Google authorship
Evidence shows that Google is tying verified author profiles to authentic content. This simply means that those who produce the content and verify their authenticity with Google will be rewarded in search results. The true content creators will be much more relevant in Google's eyes.
Go claim your Google+ profile and make sure it is tied to your blog. (Learn more about how to do this here.)
5. Evaluate your analytics
Analyze your top blog posts in Google Analytics. Which ones have performed well for you? Are they up-to-date? Could you improve those posts in any way? Can you create ancillary posts related to the topic?
Overall, if you want to be found by Google and have your site respected, you're going to have to do the work to get it there and not rely on short-term SEO tricks or fixes to do the job for you.
It's also a pretty good idea not to obsess about ranking on Page 1 of Google and instead diversify your content marketing efforts. Today there are many more opportunities for getting found online by your ideal clients.
Stephanie Sammons is founder and CEO of Wired Advisor. Find ongoing blog tips for building digital influence at blog.wiredadvisor.com.