Like it or not, in today's digitally connected world, you are judged largely by your online presence or lack of it. Studies have shown that the vast majority of internet users make judgments about the credibility and quality of a business based on the appearance of its website. And they don't waste any time in doing so. Researchers have found that the average length of time it takes a visitor to make that judgment is just a fraction of a second. If people can make the decision to move based on a quick look at an advisor website, what do you think goes through their mind when they can't find your website?
Having an online presence is about establishing trust and credibility, two requirements that are foremost in the minds of investors in search of a financial advisor. They look for credibility in the way the business exerts its expertise, reputation, and authority through its blog, published news articles, and interaction in social media. Without a way to establish trust or credibility, a website will be relegated to the trash heap of a browser's history archive.
Until now, your online presence may or may not be the result of an intentional plan. The key issue is whether it is simply a collection of posts and pages scattered throughout the vast internet cloud or a deliberately created portfolio of interconnected online properties designed to optimize your visibility and ensure that the first impression people get is not the last.
Premium Advisor Websites
Your business website is the gateway into your practice. Its look and feel will be the basis of impressions formed within milliseconds and it will determine whether a visitor stays or leaves. With so much at stake, it is essential that your website be attractive, dynamic, and compelling; otherwise, why should anyone stay? Within a minute of easy navigation, your visitors should be able to learn about you and your firm, what you offer, and what separates you from other advisors. To that end, it should be customized to reflect your firm's unique culture and style with a professional overtone.
Should they decide to stay a little longer, they should be led to a bounty of resources and interactive tools that allow them to discover more about your methods, your clients, and the experience of working with you. If they like what they see, they should be able to fill out a contact form, schedule an appointment, ask a question (that will be answered), and "follow" you on your Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook site. By the end of their visit, they should get a strong sense of how and why your practice is different and why they might do business with you.
Build It Like Your Practice Depends On It - Because It Does
Ask yourself these 7 questions:
- Does your website reflect the prestige of your profession and command the attention your practice deserves?
- Does its technology and quality match the offerings of your practice?
- Does it instill trust, credibility, and authority?
- Does it reflect the same high standards that you hold for your practice?
- Does it create an expectation of superior service and uncommon value?
- Does it clearly differentiate your practice in a compelling way?
- More important, is it achieving your minimum objectives of raising your visibility and increasing lead traffic?
Sadly, the internet is filled with advisor websites that were developed with serious intentions but are woefully inadequate in their ability to keep visitors from quickly clicking through to the next site. The difference between a compelling website and anything else lies in some very basic elements of website development:
- Visually appealing, logical design reflective of your profession
- Crisp, professional appearance including a high-quality logo
- Proper font selection and mix
- High-quality, engaging, continuously updated content
- Well-conceived individual and firm profiles
- Ubiquitous contact information and easily accessible Contact Us page
- Explicit description of services
- Use of trust logos from professional associations and industry affiliations
- High-resolution photos of your facility and staff
- Optimized graphics for maximum page-loading speed
- Simple, intuitive navigation
- Interactive tools and resources to engage your visitors
Creating a highly successful website isn't inexpensive. However, done correctly, it can lead to lower overall marketing costs, and it could pay for itself with the first incremental increase in revenue that it generates. However, if you go down the wrong path initially, it can consume more of your resources than you planned, and the results will probably be very disappointing.
SEO - Increasing Your Website's Visibility
Wouldn't it be great if all you had to do was build a website and then people would come? This fallacy is the primary reason why millions of websites are rarely seen by the public. The fact is that 90 percent of the time, internet users will utilize one of the major search engines, such as Google or Yahoo, to find a website. They may search for a site using the domain name or if they are looking for information, they may just type in some keywords, such as "financial advisor," allowing the search engine to do its work to find the most relevant and most popular websites based on the search query.
If your website isn't "optimized" for such queries, it may not be found or at least it won't appear in the first few pages of search results, which means it is not likely to be found. In fact, 75 percent of users never get past the first page of results. Fortunately, there are ways you can improve your search engine ranking using Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tools and techniques.
Your search engine ranking can also be improved dramatically by strategically linking your online properties, including your website, blog, social sites, and any business listing sites, which increases the authority of your website. The more websites and social sites that link back to your website, the higher the ranking it can earn from the search engines.
Web Traffic: The Lifeline Of Your Practice
Having your website optimized for search engines is like having a traffic generator on autopilot. Except for the need to continuously add fresh and relevant content, you can practically set it and forget it, and let the search engines do the work. You can expect a fair amount of traffic to your website from the search engines, but for small businesses and practitioners, the need for self-generated traffic that originates in and around the borders of the communities or geographic areas they serve is of the utmost importance. By marketing and promoting your website, you will have more direct control over the amount of traffic you can generate as well as the quality.
Traffic Generation For Financial Advisors
You can think of website traffic generation in the same terms as you would in driving actual traffic to your business location. It's no different than putting up a bunch of signs and billboards that lead from the freeway exit to your front door, except the information highway is packed with people searching for shortcuts to their information needs. If you want your online property to be found, it must be located where the traffic will find you.
Once your site is found, you need to give visitors a reason to come back. Essentially, your website needs constant energy in the form of solid traffic volume to keep the search engine bots coming back.
Calls To Action
When your website receives visitors, the value of your web property increases in value. The more visitors, the more valuable it becomes. But, if your visitors are allowed to leave without giving them an opportunity to take some action, your website is as valuable as vapor. It's important to engage your visitors to keep them on your website, but it's also essential to include a call to action that will move them a step further in your business development process. This can be as simple as a "Contact Us" or "Schedule an Appointment" button. Other calls to action include:
- E-newsletter opt-in
- Text update opt-in
- Request for more information
- Client review request
- Invitation to join your social networks
- Seminar or webinar registration
Not only do these calls to action move your visitors closer to business development opportunities, they enable you to collect valuable contact data. It is important to utilize an autoresponder service that will generate automatic responses of acknowledgement. An autoresponder will generate responses that are specific to the type of request.
Working With A Website Developer
As with most technological endeavors, the time and money invested in building a website don't always translate to immediate success. As quickly as the tools and applications are changing in the internet world, trial and error along with a little patience are what results in the biggest advancements. But if you're looking for the quickest ROI, it usually pays to hire an expert who can guide you through the thought process and then have you wired for the web within a matter of days or weeks.
Working with a web developer can also ensure that your website is optimized for the best results and that it is keeping current with the latest advancements and trends in digital marketing. Choosing the right provider can make all the difference as to whether your website project is a success or failure.
Make sure your provider understands your business and the challenges of a practitioner. A good provider acts more like a partner in your digital strategy and helps you customize your site based on your vision and your target market. Leverage their expertise and consider any advice they give you. Because you work in a specialized niche, firms that concentrate on web development for financial advisors may be your best solution.
Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.
I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.