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The (other) mis-selling scandal in financial services

So here it is: individuals are investing large sums of money and plenty of their time in return for supposed high gains (that aren’t guaranteed), because someone has said you’ll get a great return on investment. The unwitting customer doesn’t quite understand what they’re getting, but the people promoting the product seem like nice guys, the argument is pretty convincing, and the topic being talked about is familiar, in a popular sort of way. How long until the media get hold of this one….

We are of course talking about our decades-long obsession with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

Somewhere along the line someone (everyone?) was talking about it. We were convinced. We thought we’d come top of the rankings for ‘pensions’, ‘investments’, ‘most friendly IFA’. The problem was that the many of us knew very little about SEO. We knew it existed, we knew it was good, we knew we wanted it. A flood of new clients coming through the door was only weeks away. Or maybe not.

In our rush to get to the very top, we forgot that coming top isn’t everything. As this article shows, focus on getting to the top too much and you can actually end up at the bottom.

Here’s my position on this. The vast majority of clients are not searching Google for a financial adviser. They choose an adviser by being referred or introduced by those they trust around them, by engaging in tentative conversations, by looking for evidence to see who they can trust, who is authentic, skilled and knowledgeable.

If they are searching Google for a financial adviser, are they really going to sign up with you, just because you come top of the results?

Just yesterday I had a great conversation with Abraham Okusanya of FinalytiQ on his AdviserHangout, about several topics, of which this was one. My argument is that clients who do find you ‘cold’ – maybe through Google, maybe not – then still need something more, something that shows how good you are at giving financial advice, rather than how good you are at manipulating Google rankings.

The main aim of your content, of your website in general, shouldn’t be to be found on Google. Use your content to show how knowledgeable you are, how up to date with the industry you are, how informed your advice will be. A client cares about those things. They don’t care that you were 871st in the Google rankings twelve months ago and are now 232nd.

As a general rule, and I accept it doesn’t apply in every case, I believe there are better ways for an advisory business to spend their time and marketing budget than on SEO. Not least making your website look good and your content sound authentic and authoritative, so that those who are referred to you and who find your business in ways other than through Google (those ways are increasing), feel assured enough to give you a call.

The Internet itself is a great platform for building authority, relationships and brand awareness, if done in the right way and in a way that works for you. Although there are a few caveats, in general SEO isn’t the right way for our industry to do any of those things.

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