According to HubSpot, it’s estimated that more than 5.6 billion searches are conducted on Google every day. And while there are other search engines, including Bing and Yahoo, there is no denying that Google reigns supreme as the leader for 70%+ of online searches.
However, Google is more than a search engine. It is rapidly becoming the one-stop destination for anyone looking for services, products, or information. It has truly become the superhighway for all things digital and it would be very foolish to ignore its impact on the relationships between investors and the financial advisors who serve them. And, it is expanding its presence with new services that create more ways for investors to connect with advisors.
Google offers dozens of free and paid advertising services that provide financial advisor businesses and brands with a variety of ways to build online visibility and generate traffic for their websites. One of the newest services that is offered by Google is the Google Screened certification as part of a Local Services Ads listing.
Google’s Local Services Ads (LSAs)
To understand Google Screened for financial advisors, it’s necessary to first understand Google’s Local Services Ads Listings, known as LSAs. These listings are paid listings for businesses ranging from home service providers to professional service providers such as financial advisors.
Originally, only local home services businesses were permitted to advertise in LSAs, but now financial advisors and a number of other service providers can use this Google service to market what they sell - as long as they have the marketing budget to afford the service.
These LSA listings will appear in relevant local Google searches at the very top of the SERP (Search Engine Results Page), trumping even the highest-ranking organic results as well as paid search results from the Google Ads service.
What Financial Advisors Should Know About Google Screened
LSAs are a way for financial advisors to become Google Screened. This Google service validates certain information about financial advisors that should be important to the investors who use their services. Google is betting investors will trust its brand to help them select higher-quality financial advisors and avoid lower-quality advisors. Think of it as the Google Seal of Approval. The vetting process is limited, but it may be more than many investors are willing to do on their own. This validation process also has important marketing implications - it can help financial advisors differentiate themselves from other financial advisors who have not been vetted by Google.
1) Becoming Google Screened is a Process
To ensure they’re endorsing ethical advisors, Google requires professionals to pass the following checks. Once they have been vetted, financial advisors receive a green checkmark next to their listings to indicate they have been screened by Google.
- 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
For financial advisors, this process may seem like it’s not worth the effort. And perhaps for some advisors, it won’t be. However, there are no additional fees to become Google Screened, and the payoff in the number of quality leads will likely make up for the extra effort required to be Google verified.
2) Financial Advisors Can Include Headshots
Unlike other categories included within LSAs, professional service providers have the ability to include a headshot in their listing. Combined with a Google Screened green checkmark, having a photo included can make a digital marketing process more personal.
As financial advisors are well aware, money and security are very personal endeavors. This makes choosing the right advisor one of their most important financial decisions - for many it is the most important decision. It is not like they are choosing a plumber who is installing a new faucet. Matching faces with names and credentials is an important feature of this service. It is one more way for financial advisors to differentiate themselves and personalize their services.
Pro tip: If it’s been a while since a professional headshot was taken, it would be a good idea to invest in a new one to look your best.
3) LSAs Can Be Costly
Because of their prime location and the fact that they deliver leads directly to advertisers, Google’s LSA listings don’t come cheap. They also work a bit differently than traditional Google search ads. For example, when a visitor clicks on an LSA listing, Google sends that “lead” directly to the business.
The business is charged per lead, no matter how qualified or legitimate the lead may be. And, to the best of our knowledge, there are very few filters, for example, a financial advisor’s minimum asset requirement. The bottom line, financial advisors may be paying for leads that do not meet their requirements. Consequently, financial advisors with low requirements may receive more leads. And while there is no advertising-based service that guarantees 100% satisfaction, this service does have the Google brand behind it.
That said, the upside of this billing method is that it can work within any budget due to the flexibility and ability to start and stop and adjust throughout the campaign.
4) Understand The Competition
While those searching in LSAs are meant to find local service providers, that doesn’t mean that all listings for financial advisors are businesses with a local office. The requirement for inclusion in these listings is that a financial advisor must be willing to conduct business in that geography. This may be a marketing opportunity for virtual financial advisors.
That means competition for financial advisor listings can be the financial advisor down the road or the national firm that serves the entire country. Because of this, it’s recommended that financial advisors put in the time and money to enhance their local SEO by having a completed and updated Google My Business (GMB) listing in addition to advertising on Google’s LSA platform.
5) LSAs and Google Screened Work Best as Part of an Overall Digital Marketing Strategy
As detailed above, financial advisors can benefit greatly from becoming Google Screened and getting their business in front of local investors who are looking for financial advisors near them. However, because of the cost and potential for national competition for local businesses, it’s recommended that this advertising be part of a larger overall digital marketing strategy.
This may mean there are times when Google’s LSAs are the focus of a campaign and other times when it is on the back burner while other SEO and SEM marketing efforts take center stage. In any case, understanding how Google Screened LSAs can help financial advisors attract new clients by being visible for local searches is beneficial for local financial advisors.
And for those looking for help, seeking the support of a digital marketing agency can help make that overall digital marketing strategy that much more effective.