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SEO and SEM. What are they and why do you need both to grow your AUM?

Asset managers face a difficult landscape in today’s competitive environment. They need to stay ahead of their competition and stand out from the crowd in order to keep current advisors and capture new ones. At the same time, asset managers must effectively communicate their investment solutions and services in order to appeal to potential clients.

Financial services businesses have many opportunities to build brand awareness and attract new clients through search engine marketing (SEM). SEM has come to include paid advertising on various platforms such as Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. and is sometimes called pay-per-click (PPC) advertising though not all paid ads are PPC ads. One of the most common mistakes is interchanging SEM and search engine optimization (SEO). 

It’s important to distinguish SEM from SEO. SEO refers to the process by which search engines (like Google) “crawl” content on websites to assess its capacity to attract organic search traffic based on things like keywords, quality content, and links. While SEM costs money and allows you to target your audience, SEO ranking is free. And while you can post content you think will attract users - blog posts, white papers, educational videos - ultimately with SEO, the search platform bots determine where you will rank organically based on the search query and it’s relevance to your website content. 

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Confused Yet?

Many are when it comes to implementing and sustaining effective SEM and SEO strategies to attract and engage more qualified prospects. In fact, many asset managers view SEM marketing as a bottomless void from which nothing good happens. And they prioritize SEM last in their marketing tech stack since the pace at which search engines constantly change their algorithms makes it almost impossible for most internal marketing teams to stay ahead of best optimization practices. 

Fortunately, you have access to SEM and SEO expertise through a select group of specialized digital marketing agencies that have to stay on top of new and emerging technologies for their clients. This article addresses several of the key strategies GK3 Capital employs for its clients and illustrates why both SEM and SEO are so important to a comprehensive digital strategy.

Best Practices for Asset Managers

Before building your campaigns, it’s important to ensure that your campaigns are properly targeting your potential customers. This means understanding who your target audience is and tailoring your ad creative and keywords accordingly. A thorough understanding of the ideal prospect’s interests and motivations will enable you to create the most effective campaigns.

DRAFT - 26879 GK3 Blog Best SEM Practices for Asset Managers@2xMany asset managers create one or two “buyer personas” before embarking on a campaign. A buyer persona is a fictional representation of your ideal prospect that helps you understand their challenges, opportunities, and the topics they are searching for online.

Once you’ve identified your buyer personas, you can begin to fine-tune using several critical SEM and SEO tactics: 

SEO

Audit Your Website to uncover technical issues that could create a poor user experience and hurt your search engine rankings. Fixing broken links and 404 pages, along with minimizing redirects to enhance site speed. And speaking of speed, optimize your website with tools like Google‘s Site Speed tool to ensure your pages are loading at the fastest possible rate. A score of 90 or above is considered good. Anything below that and you could be penalized by search engines.

Define Your Target Keyword Strategy to improve your chances of not only showing up in search engine rankings but, more importantly, surfacing your site content with insights and expertise your ideal prospects are searching for. Your keywords may include a combination of short phrases that are commonly used in financial services, referred to as short-tail keywords. Longer phrases that are more than 3 words that are designed to address specific questions users need to be answered, are referred to as long-tail keywords. 

Optimize Your Content so that your site, blog, and landing pages speak directly to your ideal audience. Long-tail keywords offer you the best opportunity to reach your prospects as they target specific questions. Keywords should be incorporated in your URL, titles, subheadings, body text, tags on your images, and meta descriptions. But avoid keyword stuffing at all costs. Search engines have evolved to the point where they can sniff out and penalize companies trying to take keyboard shortcuts. Be authentic in your copywriting.

SEM

Paid ads are a valuable way to reach broad audiences, enhance your brand, and drive traffic to your website, landing pages, and blog. Paid advertising, however, can become very expensive, so it's important you conduct your research and identify keywords that offer you the most value for your investment. 

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Target Your Keywords

Google Ads offers its Keyword Planner tool to help you investigate the keywords you believe will be most relevant to your audience. It provides important data to help you make the best decisions, including search volume, bid pricing, and competition. Paid advertising can be highly effective as a bottom-of-the-funnel tool since it captures high-intent audience members who are actively searching for your offering and generate interest from only those prospects most interested in your service or solutions. 

Employ Ad Targeting

You should go a step further when developing your SEM strategy and narrow your searches even further. For example, if your buyer persona is the RIA independent advisor and you want to reach only those advisors who use private real estate investments with clients as part of their practice, you would include those keywords in your ad creative.

Focus on Landing Pages

Once a prospect clicks through on your ad, what do they see next? Best practices show that they should immediately be directed to landing pages that speak directly to the keywords your ad was highlighting. Consider using dynamic headlines that pull in the same keywords used in your prospect’s Google search to achieve this. By creating a highly customized experience, you will ensure the leads you just paid to attract convert.

Using SEM and SEO Together. A Systematic Approach

Integrating SEM and SEO into your digital marketing strategy can yield superior results, as the two methods complement and amplify each other in unique ways.

Immediate Visibility and Long-Term Presence: As SEM can provide immediate results, it's beneficial when launching new services or targeting competitive keywords. However, remember that this visibility lasts only as long as you are willing to pay for the ads. On the other hand, SEO, which is a longer-term strategy, helps you build organic credibility and rank higher over time, securing a spot in the SERPs that isn't tied to a daily budget.

Keyword and Conversion Data: SEM can provide valuable keyword and conversion data which can be utilized to refine your SEO strategy. For instance, you can identify which keywords have the highest conversion rates from your PPC campaign and incorporate those keywords into your SEO content strategy.

Double Visibility: By leveraging both SEO and SEM, you can dominate the search engine results, appearing twice on the first page – once in organic results and once in paid ads. This dual presence increases visibility and credibility, which can lead to higher click-through rates.

Mitigate Negative PR: In the financial services industry, a single negative review or news story can harm your reputation. Running SEM campaigns for your brand name can help push down negative listings in search results, while an effective SEO strategy can help you rank among the top organic spots which enhances your firm’s reputation.

Testing: SEM allows for easy and quick testing of keywords and landing pages due to immediate visibility. Once effective elements are identified, they can be incorporated into the SEO strategy for more long-term benefits.

Conclusion

SEM and SEO are powerful tools in your digital marketing arsenal, especially in the financial services industry. They may serve different purposes and work on different timelines, but their combined use is a holistic approach that can significantly benefit your online visibility and conversion rates. By understanding the strengths of each and utilizing best practices, you can maximize your reach, engage the audience, and achieve your marketing objectives.

For a free website audit, schedule a few minutes with me here, and we can help you get started.

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