Note: This case study was originally written in October 2012 and updated in March 2013 to show the continued improvement. As of March 2013, Meridian Financial Advisors is receiving over $1,500 worth of leads from search engines each month.
Firm Name: Meridian Financial Advisors LLC
Firm Type: Fee-Only Registered Investment Advisor
City: Holliston, MA (Boston metro area)
AUM: $26 Million
Total cost of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) services:$2,150 initial cost + $1,500 follow-up hourly support package= $3,650
Update: Meridian also signed up for an annual retainer in March 2013 for $800/quarter.
Case Study Background
Meridian Financial Advisors is a small fee-only financial advisor firm in Holliston, Massachusetts that serves clients in the Boston metro area and Cape Cod, MA. The firm is a registered investment advisor (RIA), regulated by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Boston Magazine named Meridian Financial Advisors founder Georgia Bruggeman, CFP®, a Top Financial Advisor in Boston for 2010, 2011, and 2012 based on client satisfaction surveys, but before working with SEO4Advisors, the firm received little-to-no new business from the web and was only ranked in top search engine results for its company name.
SEO Success Summary
In 10 months, we more than doubled Meridian Financial Advisors’ average monthly website traffic and gained top-20 Google rankings for the majority of the firm’s most important keywords. The firm is now receiving regular leads from the web and has closed new business and grown its AUM. Before completing the SEO optimization, Meridian Financial Advisors’ monthly website traffic was around 128 visits. After optimization, it rose to 343 and continues to grow (168% growth rate). (Source: Google Analytics)
**Update: One year after the control data, visits are up to 442 per month (245% growth rate). We’ve also started tracking conversions by measuring how many visitors make it to the contact page each month. Last month, 48 visitors reached the contact us page (12.2% of unique visits).
Unique visitors also grew during the same time period, from 103 U.S.-based visitors in early 2012 to 279 in September-October 2012 (171% growth). A growth in unique visitors is often indicative of search engine optimization success as opposed campaigns to boost client engagement through email newsletters and social media, which would often increase visitors to a website, but not necessarily unique visitors.
Similarly, the number of organic searches that brought visitors to the website grew from 88 to 249 (183% growth). **Update: One year after the control data, US-based unique visitors are up 365 per month (254% growth) and traffic from organic searches is up 218% to 280 visits per month.
The estimated value of this quantity of traffic if it were to be purchased via Google AdWords is over $1,500 per month (see cost-per-click data below).
Top Search Engine Keyword Rankings
At the time of the initial website optimization, Meridian Financial Advisors didn’t want to promote a particular service area niche, so we mostly targeted geographical keywords. While we recommend advisors expand their chances of success by also targeting niche keywords, in this case we were able to succeed in only targeting geographical and national keywords. Our top-15 ranking keywords are highly competitive as demonstrated by the high cost-per-click rates to purchase traffic for these keywords via Google AdWords:
Here are the keyword rankings and number of average monthly searches as of 2/17/13.
Before SEO Optimization Despite over 20 years in business, Meridian Financial’s web presence was still in its infancy. The firm received nearly no new business from the Internet, and total traffic to the website averaged less than 100 visits per month. Occasionally, prospects found the firm through the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) website, but Meridian received no leads from search engines. The firm’s primary generator for new prospects was client referrals. After attending the 2011 NAPFA Social Media Bootcamp in Brooklyn, NY where she heard a presentation from SEO4Advisors Founder Brien Shanahan and Marie Swift of Impact Communications, Bruggeman decided to hire SEO4Advisors to help the firm gain new business from search engines.
How SEO4Advisors Helped
As one of SEO4Advisors’ first clients, Meridian Financial received reduced rates for search engine optimization services, including a discount for NAPFA members that attended the conference. Here are the services that we provided.
We began the engagement by adding Google Analytics to the website so that we could track the before-and-after website traffic, and later learn about visitor actions and improve call-to-action steps. We then moved on to keyword research. Using the Google AdWords Keyword Tool, we compiled a list of a few hundred possible keywords to target and prioritized by traffic volume and competitiveness.
Focus on targeted website content:
We re-wrote Meridian Financial Advisors’ website content around the most important keywords, being sure to use proper page titles, Meta descriptions, and SEO-friendly markup and linking techniques.
We also targeted local keyword phrases through Google Places. We created and optimized Meridian Financial Advisors’ Google Places listing to target web searches in the firm’s geographical areas. By creating profiles on a number of the top online business directories, we improved the firm’s rankings for local search terms both for its website and its Google Places listing.
As we do with all client engagements, we began tracking and sharing the results of the SEO campaign. We regularly provided clear reports that highlight Google and Bing rankings for our keywords, website traffic growth, and competitor comparisons. Based on those reports, we tweaked our optimization to maximize our search engine rankings and push some of our top keywords into the first page of search results.
Why You Can Expect Similar SEO Results
Meridian Financial Advisors isn’t the only firm that we’ve helped to succeed in our first year of business. We are having similar initial success with our other clients. In fact, we have yet to have a client that didn’t land top-10 rankings within 6 months of optimization for at least one or two primary keywords that we’ve targeted. The time frame for success will greatly depend on the level of authority that you already have on your website. Longstanding sites with a strong social media or blogging presence and/or a few high-quality inbound links may be able to land top rankings almost immediately following the initial optimization of the site. Less authoritative sites (like Meridian Financial Advisors) can take 6 to 8 months to obtain top rankings for moderately competitive keywords. But it’s important to remember that strong SEO won’t guarantee you new business. It will get you in front of new prospects, but it’s up to you to close the deal. Work on your initial presentation and make sure you have a strong value proposition. We’ll get you up to bat, but you still have to hit it out of the park.
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