Why Google, and your website, might stop referrals getting in touch

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I’ve just spent an enjoyable couple of weeks presenting to Sense members about how advisers can improve their websites.

We started each session with a bit of fun, by getting delegates to review the websites of their competitors. We simply searched for ‘financial advice’ followed by the name of the location we were in and then selected the first three adviser sites we found in the natural search results.

The exercise was a useful reminder of an often overlooked concept; that the Google search results are effectively your homepage. With the results impacting, both positively and negatively, your website traffic, as well as the number of enquiries you receive.

Confused? Allow me to explain.

Put yourselves in the shoes of Sarah for the moment.

Sarah and her friend, Aimee, had a very pleasant dinner last Friday night. Conversation turned to Sarah’s impending retirement and she admitted to feeling nervous about making the right decisions. Aimee, a very happy client of yours, suggested she contact you for advice.

Of course, you don’t know this conversation took place and can do very little to directly impact the chances of Sarah calling you on Monday morning.

Wrong. You can.

Next morning Sarah reaches into her handbag, pulls out the napkin with your name and that of your business on it. She decides to look up your telephone number.

The answer is simple, she Googles your business name.

She’s only looking for your telephone number, but being an inquisitive person, Sarah decides to do a little more research, using the results she got after Googling your business name.

If what she sees on the search results page and your website, confirms and preferably enhances the positive impression given by Aimee, Sarah will probably get in touch. Conversely, if what Sarah sees either on the search results page, or your website, leaves her with a lower opinion of you and your business, this reduces the chances of her calling.

So, can you impact the chances of Sarah getting in touch? Yes, you need to do everything you can to make sure the Google search results page, and your website, build a positive impression in the mind of the visitor.

Google search results

Ideally you will dominate the homepage when searches are run for you and your business.

If you don’t, or the results of the search don’t reflect well on your business, your website traffic will be reduced and potential clients, who have been referred to you, may never get in touch.

Before you read on, open another window on your browser. Google your business name, now compare the results to the following.

At the top of the natural results, below the adverts, you should see your website address. As an aside, if you don’t have a website, I’d suggest reviewing that decision; your referral strategy, and use of directories such as Unbiased and VouchedFor, will be less effective without one. In fact, I believe most people we view a lack of a website as a negatively, some will even be suspicious.

The Google My Business listing, which is free to all UK businesses should also be displayed. This is free and provides the searcher with useful information about your business. You need to claim it and then complete your profile; both are relatively easy to do, and vitally important.

If you’re not sure what I’m, referring to, here’s a screen shot of the search results page for a Sense member, I’ve highlighted their Google My Business listing.

google my listing

So, that’s your website and your Google listing, what else should a visitor see?

In no particular order, because you can’t control the Google algorithm (if only you could!) you should ideally see:

  • Site links, as shown on the left-hand side of the above image; these are very powerful, keep reading for more information
  • Social media profiles
  • FCA Register entry
  • Unbiased and VouchedFor profiles (if you use them)

If you have been featured in the press, links to these articles may appear too.

If you’re not dominating the first page, what action should you take?

Unless your website is very new, at the very least Google should find and display your homepage.

I would also recommend you claim your Google My Business listing; it doesn’t take long, isn’t complicated and is definitely worth it.

You could also consider running an Adwords campaign targeting brand searches. The cost of each click will be relatively low as the competition will naturally be minimal. It all but guarantees you will rank at the top of the page, all be it in the adverts, for searches for your brand.

Finally, sitelinks.

There are no hard and fast rules which will guarantee Google displays them. However, following good SEO practice will increase your chances.

For example, you or your developer should build a XML sitemap and submit it to Google. It’s also sensible to include only the most important sections of your website in your main navigation menu, whilst making the structure logical and clear.

Finally make sure your page titles and descriptions are fully completed; again, your developer can help.

It’s worth the effort

All of this might sound complicated and frankly a bit difficult, especially when you have a million and one other things to do.

However, I firmly believe the effort is worth it, both in terms of converting more referrals, whilst improving the effectiveness of other marketing, such as Unbiased and VouchedFor.

As always, if you would like any more information about this blog or help implementing the concepts I’ve explained please do not hesitate to get in touch.

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