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A Primer on SEO and SEM for Financial Professionals

Rachel Eccles April 20, 2023

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Updated on: January 10, 2024

It’s hard to imagine a time when you couldn’t go to the Internet to search for solutions. And while there is endless information available to help people answer their questions about money, financial professionals can position themselves online to reach those who are seeking additional support.

The key is ensuring you and your business show up when consumers are looking for financial advice. Even with limited marketing experience, there are steps financial professionals can take to raise their online profile.

SEM and SEO for Financial Advisors

Let’s start with the definition of some terms you’ve likely heard while researching online marketing for your practice.

SEM stands for Search Engine Marketing, and it is a type of paid online marketing that focuses on delivering advertising tailored to a particular search engine keyword or phrase. You may have also heard these ads referred to as PPC or pay-per-click. In this business model, marketers pay each time someone clicks their ad. It’s generally a low-cost option when compared to more traditional marketing such as television or print. SEM relies on keyword research to optimize PPC ads.

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and refers to the process of optimizing a website, so it rises to the top of search engine results pages organically—meaning without paying for it. This optimization also focuses on keywords but relies on the placement of these keywords within the content of a website. Organic results are achieved when a user searches for the keywords that the site has incorporated into its content and metadata—encoded information that users can’t see.

Steps to Identify Keywords

Effective SEM and SEO for financial advisors rely on finding the best keywords that match the search intent of your potential clients.

To begin your keyword research, you can use a variety of third-party tools—many of which have a free option. Once you’ve decided on a tool, create a list of topics that directly relate to your practice. Think of products, services, or questions your ideal clients might have in mind when looking for a financial professional. This is where having a niche practice can be particularly valuable as a differentiator.

Perhaps you offer planning to next-gen consumers and specialize in working with clients with student loan debt. If because of this specialty you have earned a designation as a Certified Student Loan Professional (CSLP)®, this is a great place to start in establishing your online positioning.

Topics related to this specialty practice might include:

  • student loan forgiveness
  • financial planning with student loans
  • student loan repayment planning

Now that you have your list of topics, look for search terms based on those topics. Use your SEO research tool to generate a list of keywords, organized according to their search volume, difficulty, and estimated conversions.

Thinking again about user intent, determine the keywords that would be relevant enough to use as the subject of a blog post. If a keyword you chose doesn’t match up to an ideal client’s intent, eliminate it and find another that more closely matches what that client might be searching for.

Based on this analysis, here are some keywords based on the above:

  • student loan professionals
  • clsp certification
  • can a financial advisor help with student loans

Finally, position yourself as an authority by using keywords that reflect general informational articles demonstrating your value as a knowledgeable source on the topic. Keep in mind that your keywords are meant to draw a searcher to you so you can provide valuable content that entices them to contact you.

PPC For Financial Advisors

If you decide to try some pay-per-click advertising, Google Ads are a cost-effective way to raise the awareness of your firm and drive qualified leads to your website. While focusing on SEO for your website is free, it can be difficult when you are competing with other financial professionals. A PPC strategy can give you faster results, as well as more control over the appearance of your listing in the search results.

Advertisers use Google Ads to bid on keywords that will trigger their sponsored ads. Google determines which ads to display and where they are positioned based on the ad’s quality score (the relevance of the ad, usually determined by click-through rate) and the advertiser’s bid (the amount they’re willing to pay for each ad click). It’s a system run similarly to an auction.

To enter the auction, take your list of identified keywords and organize them into ad groups and campaigns. Then create PPC ads that will entice searchers—your ideal clients—to click. A high click-through rate improves your quality score, raising your ad rankings and lowering your advertising costs, so creating strong ad copy is time well spent. Google Ads is a key digital marketing tool for any financial professional trying to reach a target audience.

Manage Your Firm’s Online Presence

Another way to aid new clients in finding your business is to manage your online presence with Google Business Profile. It’s a free service that allows businesses to create an online profile that includes their location, contact information, and client reviews across all Google services including Google Maps.

The first step in taking advantage of this free service is to claim your business and complete all pertinent information, such as location, hours, website, phone number, and other contact details. There is also the option of adding photos and describing products and services. This will all appear on your Google Maps listing, so be as specific as possible.

A critical step in this process is to get your business verified on Google where by they’ll validate the authenticity of your business. Once completed, there will be a little blue confirmation icon next to your listing.

The Basics of Google Featured Snippets

Google featured snippets offer another opportunity for your website to be recognized when you improve its SEO. A featured snippet is the first search listing that appears after ads and sponsored posts but before the first organic result. They give users a quick answer to their search by providing more information and are created by pulling that information directly from high-ranking websites.

There are several types of featured snippets, with the four most common being paragraphs, bulleted or numbered lists, tables, and videos. Google can pull out any piece of content from the top-ranking web pages for any search and display it in one of these forms as a featured snippet.

There are many ways to optimize your website content for featured snippets, but the reality is your page must already rank in the top 10 for this to happen. As you work on your site’s SEO to gain that high ranking, be sure to incorporate these tips so you have snippet-ready content available should you achieve it.

  • Use high-volume, long-tail keywords (phrases generally consisting of three to five words), such as “financial advisors for student loans.”
  • Provide short informative answers to query-based searches such as “what is,” “how to,” or “how many” that could trigger a snippet. For example, “What is holistic financial planning?”
  • Format your content using headings and bulleted and numbered lists whenever they make sense. This could include a list of the steps in your firm’s financial planning process.
  • If it works for your content, place the most important statements at the beginning of content formatted in paragraphs.

Improve Your Firm’s Google Rankings

To make the most of online client prospecting efforts, financial professionals must establish a strong digital marketing strategy and then work through the tactics that will yield the best results. As your business grows and prospers, you’ll have the opportunity to hire or partner with third-party marketing professionals that can help you take your efforts to the next level.

For more on the importance of marketing in building a financial planning practice, read our blog post Content Marketing for Financial Advisors: Why it Works and How it Creates Influence.

DISCLAIMER: The eMoney Advisor Blog is meant as an educational and informative resource for financial professionals and individuals alike. It is not meant to be, and should not be taken as financial, legal, tax or other professional advice. Those seeking professional advice may do so by consulting with a professional advisor. eMoney Advisor will not be liable for any actions you may take based on the content of this blog.

Image of Rachel Eccles
About the Author

Rachel joined eMoney in 2017 with an extensive background in B2B marketing, leading high performing teams and delivering differentiated brand experiences. She has more than 15 years of experience working with organizations of all sizes to design and execute integrated and performance-driven marketing strategies that connect audiences, elicit emotion, and drive growth and market share. As Senior Vice President, Marketing, Rachel oversees all areas of the company’s brand awareness and demand generation initiatives with a focus on driving customer acquisition, retention and revenue growth.

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