SEO for Financial Planners

Thoughts from a writer and content strategist on search engine optimization (SEO) and content strategies for financial planners, fiduciaries and Certified Financial PlannerĀ® professionals.

A Quarter Century of SEO

Search Engine Optimization, SEO, has been around for more than a quarter century and still seems a mystery for many. There continue to be services and professional networks that have the nerve or, perhaps the naivete, to continue selling stock content to their professional networks. I continue to see this in industries, in particular financial planning, so it’s time now to dispel at least one misconception about SEO for financial planners, to save you a little money and some effort.

An SEO Backstory

I’d first like to establish where my perspective and understanding come from. I’ve worked in SEO since inception. I have, in my years, facilitated much of the deeply shrouded secrecy around search engine rankings. The work wasn’t on the inside, with Microsoft or Google, but performed from the outside. We tested and gamed the system, learned and captured search results. I’ve seen some incredible and astonishing traffic successes, been penalized and found my way around and out of the rankings sandboxes. I, along with many other marketers, writers, developers and content strategies, have stymied and confounded search engineers, which may have led to much of the SEO and search ranking mystique we now live with.

There was a time when engineers spoke more freely about search optimization strategies. A time when you could pose a question on a forum or message board and get a flood of enthusiastic responses from a cadre of engineers and thought leaders, on the inside. We held conferences, chatted SEO over drinks and the internet still held something of the spirit egalitarianism. It was a wild west of sorts. We had fun and made wild money in industries like auto-insurance, pharmaceuticals and adult content. The exploitation had just started. We were exploring and sharing what we could learn and do with content, code, data sets and machine learning. Through all of it, what worked and what continues to work to this day, is original, thoughtful and well-crafted content. This holds true even in SEO for financial planners.

Certainties About SEO for Financial Planners and Everyone

Regardless of what else anyone tells you. Content is and will remain king. Quality, original content that humans actually read, watch or listen to, with good insights that engage or inspire connection, works. If you can write well, are an expert in your particular field, are comfortable in front of a camera, skilled with editing software or at least willing to pay someone to do these things for you, you’re most of the way to a competent and performing content and SEO strategy. The rest is on-page optimization, a regular content cadence and a little social networking.

This concept of original content is of particular importance for financial planners who still, for some reason, continue to fall prey to canned financial planning content as a supplement to their website contracts or their professional network affiliation. What do I mean by canned content? That’s the stuff your network or web hosting provider offers you as blog or e-newsletter content; the articles delivered to you every month which you can modify and publish on your blog. If you’re doing this, I can assure you, it’s garbage. Quit paying for it. You are wasting your money and seeing zero benefit, zero search traffic. Even if you aren’t paying for it as an add-on, it’s not worth the effort to post with the exception of making you look like a financial blogger.

Professional Financial Network Content Mistakes

I’m sure you appreciate the collegiality and opportunities of your professional network. You should. You’ve worked hard to be in the company of other financial planning professionals. There is value to a collegial network, an entry in a searchable professional directory, conferences and all that. But, if they are selling you content for your blog or newsletter, it’s crap. Previously published, indexed content won’t get you any organic search traffic or improve your domain authority. The content is indexed and canonicalized before you even see it. This means that the original article, the first instance it was published and indexed, likely the professional network itself, gets the ranking SEO value, the “juice” for the content. What you get is nothing. No ranking value. It’s unoriginal content, repackaged and republished across the web with every other financial planner who has purchased the content package add-on in an effort to drive easy traffic without the work. I can prove it to you in seconds, with a quick Google search strategy.

Writing Original SEO Content

The work, the writing or producing original content which adds value to conversations. Content can inform clients or potential clients, about details relevant to life planning, family planning or retirement solutions. This is the useful content, this is what’s going to rank, get you site visitors and, eventually, new clients. Republishing content from your network, plagiarizing previously published work or, and I am going to say it, “letting” an artificial intelligence “write” for you isn’t going to get you organic search results. The crawlers, the robots investigating and indexing your web content already know that it’s previously published content.

Search indexes are massive repositories of indexed content. Artificial Intelligence trains on a fixed amount of existing content. If you use AI to “write” your financial planning content, even if it was your idea, it’s derived from a fixed set of information. The language model used to generate AI content is all previously published content.

Your first SEO content hurdle is the writing or sourcing. This is before we even consider basic metadata, minimum SEO thresholds, keyword analysis or user intent strategies.

Busy Financial Planners Don’t Have Time for SEO

This is an age-old challenge, the cobbler with no shoes; SEO for financial planners. As a writer, content strategist and SEO specialist, I have to deal with the same challenge. We all need to satisfy our billable workload before writing optimized content. It’s a balancing act of billable time and business development. It’s kind of like writing optimized content, a balancing act between readability and index value. This is why I would urge you to contract with a content strategist to deliver original monthly content. Better yet would be finding a qualified content strategist and collaborating with them.

Even if you don’t have time to write, you can find an hour a month to discuss trends and develop a content strategy. You can align the conversations you have with clients or prospects and craft content around these topics. Your writer can research and produce original content that informs and delights. This is a great place to start. If done effectively and strategically, this approach can afford you numerous opportunities to scale and learn more about your clients, potential clients and their buying cycles. But, this is a topic for another time.

Search Engine Content Minimums

Google “minimum SEO content requirements.” You’ll quickly find that the recommendation for optimal content word count is somewhere between 300-700 words. The minimum optimal word count is around 300 words. That’s one type-written page. If you took one detailed client email a week and combined them each month, it’s likely you’d exceed your minimum word count by at least a few hundred words. It’s not an insurmountable number of words, even for the busiest of professionals. You could try it, for a month, and see how it goes. In all likelihood it won’t make much difference, particularly if you don’t know how to incorporate keywords into your content structure, images or metadata. You will get the idea, though. Contracting with a qualified writer skilled in financial planning, insurance, financial services and optimization does help, immensely.

There Is Much More to SEO

I’m just scratching the service of the potential and pitfalls that remain in search engine optimization and SEO for financial planners. We haven’t discussed anything of metadata, hierarchies, structured query language or myriad strategies and resources that exist for search engine optimization. The aim of this post was simple, to inform and advise those working in financial planning and professional services networks to avoid the fees, add-ons or monthly costs of “canned” or pre-made content. Some networks, believe it or not, are still trying to convince you that this canned content is “extremely beneficial” to a content strategy.

To reiterate, if it’s a content repository, even if it’s customizable, it’s already been published. You’re truly just throwing away your money. I’d be happy to talk more about this and the potential for original, evergreen and cornerstone content and how to scale your content strategies and improve your understanding of your site visitors and behaviors for an increasingly refined content strategy.

There’s a lot involved in SEO, so much that there are even sub-specialties around particular strategies. But, just as there’s a lot to know, there’s also an incredible amount of potential, and opportunity to be had, in an increasingly competitive financial planning marketplace.

If you’d like to discuss an SEO strategy and content publishing collaboration, or would like to see some examples of high-performing SEO content for financial planners or other industries, schedule an introductory call or email us for more insights.