In our world of voice search in Google, personalised search engine results and results tailored to your specific device and location, do keyword rankings in Google still matter for financial advisers?
It’s a great question and its one that we are going to address here.
To do so, we first need to take a brief look at what SEO is and how it has changed over the last 6 years.
Next, we will look at whether financial advisers can, in fact, accurately determine their search rankings.
Specifically, we will look at the place of keyword rankings in light of recent – and projected – changes in digital technology.
From there, we hope to show you that keyword rankings do, in fact, still matter – even if the approach you might need to take today with your SEO will probably have to differ from before.
SEO: A Journey
SEO (or search engine optimation) – just to recap – is the process of increasing your financial website’s position in search engine rankings for particular keywords, or search queries.
Six years ago, SEO used to be simpler in many respects. First of all, there were fewer devices available with internet access. So really, financial advisers could justifiably focus on more optimising their websites for search engine results viewed on a desktop computer.
In addition, financial marketer’s also had access to much more SEO information.
For instance, have you checked your Google Analytics Queries report recently? If you look in there now, you might see something which looks a bit like this:
What does this shift mean?
Previously, SEO’s had access to this kind of keyword information.
Today financial advisers and their agencies are more restricted, as this can sometimes limit financial marketing agency’s abilities to accurately report on keyword data.
Does this make keyword tracking irrelevant?
Not really. As you can see from the table above, there are still plenty of keywords you can still identify and track in Google Search. It just means you need to be a bit smarter with your SEO tracking strategy.
Another important Google development to consider concerns its Keyword Planner tool.
Previously, this tool could be used to identify the near-exact volumes of searches for a specific keyword within a defined geographic area.
For instance, if you wanted to know how many times “financial adviser manchester” was searched for within the Greater Manchester area, it would give you a specific number (e.g. 100). Today, however, the tool gives you an estimate – for instance, 10-100.
This was obviously a frustrating change for financial marketing agencies such as ourselves – and also for financial advisers who were using the tool. Estimates are still useful, of course, but everyone would prefer an exact number!
This development does mean that you need to take a slightly different approach to how you target and track your chosen keywords.
In particular, rather than just focusing on individual keywords (which was the strategy before), it is now important to include a topic-centric content approach into your marketing strategy.
Essentially, this means finding a primary keyword which you can build associated, secondary keywords around. For instance, if you want to target the keyword “pension advice” in Oxford, then you should also work to include as many other relevant keywords as possible which are associated with it (e.g. “pension transfer specialist”, “can I cash in my pension”, “how much pension will I get?” etc.).
What about keywords and device, location etc.?
If you have access to keyword tracking software (as we do), then you will know that one of the challenges faced by this software is the fact that search engine results can vary from person to person.
In particular, there are three main factors which can make your search engine results different from someone else’s, even if you both search for “financial adviser cambridge”:
Let’s look at devices and location, for instance.
Suppose you searched for “financial adviser cambridge” in 2010. You would likely get a list of websites which perhaps included IFAs based in Cambridge, and perhaps some websites which talked about these firms (e.g. media articles).
Compare that to when you make the search today in 2018. Google will look at the device that you are using when you made that search, where in the country you were when you did it, and offer search engine results based – in large part – on that information about you.
In other words, you might well have simply typed “financial adviser cambridge” into Google. What it sees, in fact, is something closer to:
“Which financial advisers are open at the moment, within reasonable walking distance from where I am currently standing?”
A similar thing is going on when it comes to personalisation. Google will tailor your search engine results based on your previous search history, for instance.
As an example, it might offer more news articles to you when you make the above search compared to someone else, perhaps because you are a local journalist and you and mostly interested in what the media is saying – not necessarily where the nearest IFA is!
Clever, isn’t it!
What does this mean for keyword rankings and tracking?
Of course, this presents challenges in tracking your search engine rankings for your target keywords. It means that you do have to take your keyword tracking software’s data with a grain of salt.
However, these solutions are still useful in giving you a broad idea of where your financial advisory firm is positioned within the search engines – even if the data is not entirely accurate.
What does all of this mean? Does a financial adviser’s search engine rankings still matter?
Certainly they do still matter, but there are new challenges to overcome with regards to measuring your SEO performance over time. Particularly when you factor in the influence of mobile devices and restricted keyword information (e.g. in Google Analytics).
A strong way forward, as already mentioned, is for financial advisers to start thinking about using Topic Clusters in their digital marketing strategy.
In other words, rather than focusing obessively over your search engine ranking for one particular keyword, look at your online visibility for user searches pertaining to a particular topic.