SEO 101, Part I: Branded Vs. Unbranded Search
Lots of times, people will ask us, “How do I get my website ranking higher in Google?”
Already, this implies a slight misunderstanding about search-engine optimization (SEO) and how it works. Because websites as a whole don’t rank high or low—they rank for specific terms or phrases (for example, “financial advisor in Houston” or “estate planning”).
So when it comes to improving your rankings, you first have to decide which search terms or phrases you want to show up for—and then you can determine which strategy is right for you.
To do that, it’s important to understand the difference between branded and unbranded searches and how they play into the referral process.
As an advisor, when someone visits your website, they’re typically there because someone referred you to them, and then they googled your name (or the name of your practice) to learn more about you. That’s called a branded search—when someone looks for a specific person or business.
This is important to know because financial advising is always going to be a referral-centric industry. Very few people (especially those in the HNW space) search for an advisor by googling “financial advisor near me” or “financial advisor specializing in estate planning”. Instead, they ask friends or family members they trust for recommendations.
From there, their next step is not contacting the advisor—it’s googling them to vet them and decide if they should. That’s why branded search rankings are so important for advisors. When someone is referred to you and they search for you online, it should be easy for them to find you—and once they do, everything they find needs to send the right message and inspire them to get in touch with you.
When it comes to SEO goals, in most cases, the important thing for a financial advisor is to make sure your website shows up in branded searches (e.g., “John Doe advisor” or “ABC Financial”). As long as you build a website that aligns with modern, best-practice standards (with a comprehensive bio and relevant, compelling information about your company), you’re generally going to be in good shape for a branded search.
Unbranded searches, on the other hand, are when someone searches a topic, a question, or a general inquiry to find a person, business, or information. Here are some examples:
- “financial advisor near me”
- “special-needs planning”
- “life insurance for a trust”
- “are fee-based advisors better?”
Ranking for these kinds of terms requires a much more aggressive (and ongoing) SEO strategy. It’s doable, but it requires a long-term commitment and a decent budget. So you need to ask yourself, “Is it worth it?”
If most of your clients are high-net-worth or ultra-high-net-worth or they have complex planning needs, it’s important to know that the amount of people in that market who are going to use Google (or another search engine) as a “referral source” is extremely low. Most of them will not hop online and search for “financial planning in Dallas” or “HNW advisor near me.”
So you have to determine if you want to invest your time and money in order to show up for the few people who will search for those terms and find an advisor that way. This goal is possible with the right strategies and time commitment, but it’s not the right approach for every advisor.
If you’ve evaluated your goals, done your target-market research, and determined you want to rank higher for unbranded searches, you’ll need to implement both onsite and offsite SEO strategies, which we’ll cover in our next blog.
If you want to review your goals with a team that understands the world of advisor marketing, we’d love to chat with you. You can contact us here, and in the meantime, follow us on Facebook for more marketing and branding tips.