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Why I’ve changed my mind about SEO

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) has been turned on its head – and that’s good for financial adviser marketing, says Jon Pittham, MD of ClientsFirst

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) to me has always posed two risks for advisory firms, which is why we as a firm have normally stayed away from it in all but a handful of cases. Now though, I’ve changed my attitude and approach as I’ve watched SEO change its attitude and approach, as I’ve talked to others and as I’ve learned what can be achieved by something we’re labelling ‘New SEO’. First though, the past risks.

Old SEO

The two broad reasons we have always stayed away from SEO are a scepticism that the market you wanted was there and a scepticism about what SEO actually was. Both of these, I believe, were very valid concerns and, to a point, remain as such.

Firstly, your market. SEO is a very broad net to deploy, where actually many advisers want only the very finest catch. Clients with significant funds to invest may be out there and you may be able to attract them using SEO, but how do you attract them specifically, rather than the clients with only small sums to invest? It used to be that you couldn’t and SEO, for those that used it as a tactic, became a very scattershot approach.

Secondly, SEO in its old form is something I can now quite comfortably label SEM, or Search Engine Manipulation. Firms who promised you they could get you to the top of Google were often engaged in suspect link building activity, swapping or buying tactics, many of which Google have now effectively stopped, penalising the sites involved. It was dishonest, dangerous for the clients of these companies and, as a whole, provided uncertain results at best. These firms and tactics are still out there, peddling SEM as SEO.

The change

The reason for my change of heart is again related to the above two threats of SEO and how they’ve been combated by more progressive marketing thinking.

Firstly, for firms who have a very targeted proposition, it is possible to attract your ideal client through what is known as long-tail searching. Instead of pursuing high search rankings for ‘financial planner’ for example, or even ‘financial planner Watford’, it is possible to target ‘financial planners who specialise in sports professionals’, or even ‘financial planners who specialise in sports professionals in Watford’. There are of course fewer people who carry out those searches but those people are also exactly the people you want to be speaking to. It’s an approach that takes a volume game – SEO – and turns it on its head, looking for the needle in the haystack of search, rather than asking for the entire haystack. One of our clients adopted this approach and has recently added a client who found them through Google, with very significant funds ready to invest!

Secondly, there’s the work Google has done to stamp out SEM and reward what I would call just good marketing. It’s because Google wants to reward good content: content that gets shared around the web, generates good reactions from searchers and inspires others to produce a similar level of work. Google is actively trying to stamp out ‘Old SEO’ and reward ‘New SEO’, which happens to be exactly the sort of marketing we and other marketing companies have been doing for clients for years.

Pursuing SEO

For those of you who are currently pursuing SEO as a marketing tactic or are looking to in the future, therefore, my change of heart leads me to recommending you ask a number of questions before you start. SEO has changed and we’re embracing SEO but is it what you’re doing and is it right for you?

Are you doing old SEO or new SEO? Be really sure it is the latter, because Google has already started and will continue to penalise the former.

Are you writing great stuff? Google loves great content. If you’re writing it, you’re halfway to new SEO already.

Who are you targeting and does SEO help? If the answer is that you don’t know then I’d still recommend spending more of your resources in other more targeted areas.

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