While it may have taken a while, digital marketing opportunities are steadily expanding to include financial advisors in ways they were never able to participate in before. While the SEC’s recent ruling has made a big splash for financial advisor marketing (and rightly so) there are additional opportunities that have recently become available for financial advisors.
In particular, Google has opened LSAs (Local Service Ads) to select professional service providers – which now includes financial advisors. This is a big move for Google since previously the only listings were for home service providers. Underneath the LSAs are two different types of listings, Google Screened and Google Guaranteed.
Read on for the differences between these types of listings and how they impact digital marketing for financial advisors.
What Are LSAs?
First and foremost, it’s important to understand that Google’s Local Service Ads are a form of paid advertising. Different from traditional Google Ads, these listings appear at the top of relevant SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) above both paid search ads and organic results.
This means that there is no way for a financial advisor to organically appear in these LSA’s, no matter how sound their SEO strategy. This is definitely a pay-to-play service from Google.
Can a paid listing in Google’s LSAs increase organic SEO page ranks by increasing visibility across multiple Google’s platforms? The answer may be yes, but it is a secondary benefit and arguably not worth the cost and effort of participating in LSAs to possibly get some marginal SEO benefits.
Where the real value lies for financial advisors appearing on Google’s Local Service Ads is in the visibility that produces leads for financial advisors. To learn more about how this process works and for financial advisors to understand the benefits, it’s important to understand the processes for financial advisors to become Google Screened and what it also means to become Google Guaranteed.
In order for financial advisors to have a paid listing on Google’s LSA platform, they must meet certain requirements and pass verification checks. Without meeting the following requirements, financial advisors are not able to purchase a listing in Google’s LSAs.
This not only makes the position more exclusive for advertisers since not just anyone can appear, but also gives consumers more confidence when reaching out to a financial advisor who has already been given the green light from Google’s team of researchers. More specifically, financial advisors who are Google Screened get an actual green checkmark next to their name to further instill consumer confidence. The requirements to become Google Screened vary by industry, with the following being specific for financial advisors:
- Business-level background check
- Business-owner background check
- License check for every professional in the business
- Background check for every professional in the business
- Professional liability insurance verification
Once a financial advisor becomes Google Screened, they can start purchasing listings and generating leads. However, there is an additional step that Google offers to select service providers who have already been Google screened and that is Google Guaranteed.
As the name implies, Google offers a money-back guarantee to customers who aren’t satisfied with the Google Guaranteed advisor and also meet the criteria set forth by Google to qualify for the up to $2,000 reimbursement that Google offers.
The goal of this certification is to produce even more confidence in consumers when they use Google to find and select financial advisors. Becoming Google Guaranteed essentially means Google is putting its money on the line to give consumers’ additional peace of mind when choosing a services provider. The screening process is the same as becoming Google Screened, and then there are some additional requirements. In order to become Google Guaranteed, a service provider must:
- Pass all of the screening and verification to become Google Screened and
- Have a Google rating of at least 3.0
- Provide their EIN or tax identification number
Financial Advisors and Google Guaranteed
While it’s helpful to understand the difference between Google Screened and Google Guaranteed, as of this writing the Google Guaranteed option is not available for professional service providers, such as financial advisors. This is because the Google Guaranteed program was not designed for financial advisors who may be investing thousands or millions of dollars for their clients.
It was created with home service providers in mind, such as electricians, plumbers, and other providers who provide a home service and are held accountable if that work does not meet the requirements of their customers. When it comes to financial advising, this money-back guarantee would be difficult to quantify, especially due to the fact that financial advisors are unable to guarantee rates of return that are produced by their advice.
While Google Guaranteed is not an option in its current form for professional service providers, it’s important for financial advisors to understand the differences between Google Screened and Google Guaranteed to understand how these Google services work. And, they may be asked questions about the two programs.
How Financial Advisors Can Make the Most of Google Screened
For financial advisors, getting established with Google Screened can definitely make an impact on their ability to meet potential prospects. Here are some best practices for financial advisors for getting started with Google’s LSA listings and Google Screened:
- Budget Carefully – because Google’s LSAs charge per lead, it can get costly if leads are coming in that aren’t qualified and ultimately don’t bring in business.
- Best Used as Part of a Digital Marketing Strategy – as with most digital marketing, Google LSA listings should be used as a significant part of a more comprehensive marketing strategy, but not as the sole focus.
- Take Advantage of Headshots – Unlike home service providers, professional service providers are permitted to have a headshot as part of their LSA listing. This personal touch can be the difference between a lead choosing that advisor’s listing, or the one above or below it.
- Coordinate with GMB (Google My Business) – While not officially connected, it’s no surprise that Google integrates information from GMB listings to enhance Local Service Ad listings. This is one more reason to keep a current, relevant GMB profile.
Armed with the above information on Google Screened and Google Guaranteed listings, financial advisors should make the choice on whether to participate in paid Google LSA listings as part of their overall budget and digital marketing strategy and if it makes sense for their unique business requirements. Two of the biggest - are the right types of investors contacting them and do these investors meet their minimum asset requirements. We are not aware of any filters at this time.