Do you want to grow your advisor business? Does your growth strategy rely heavily on referrals? What will referrals find when they search for you online?

For financial advisors, referrals are a major driver of business growth. The referral system for advisors was more or less the same for decades: a referral hears about an advisor from a current client, gets the advisor’s contact info or maybe a business card, then they call or come into the advisor’s office to discuss doing business.

Maximizing the effectiveness of your referral system requires staying up to date about the way prospects go from being referred to making the decision to do business with an advisor.

The modern referral process includes search engines Search engines have added a critical step in the referral process and advisors must adjust their strategy accordingly.

Now prospects want to research an advisor online before making the decision to contact them. This is true for prospects who are referrals from current clients or those that the advisor met briefly. Eighty-six percent of American adults have researched another person using Google or another search engine.

Prospects and referrals are using Google, Yahoo!, and Bing to learn about someone they are considering doing business with. Forty-two percent of people who have researched another person online did so before doing business with someone.

There are millions of searches each month in the financial services industry. Examples of financial services industry searches on Google include:

  • Financial advisor: approximately 638k searches per month
  • Financial planning: approximately 456k searches per month
  • Financial services: approximately 122k searches per month

Source: Google analytics search, February 2015.

Prospects and referrals are using search engines to learn more about advisors. Advisors need to make sure they can be found easily and in a way that will represent them in a professional manner.

What is your search engine reputation? What do your clients and prospects find when they search for you and your business online? Is it positive or negative?

After researching someone online, 45 percent decide not to do business with someone because of something they found in the search results.

Have you searched for your name or your business online? Do the results represent your business in a professional manner? Can you find anything that would provide value to clients or prospects?

If you find something negative, you are not alone. Forty-eight percent of Americans who have researched themselves online found that most of the results are not positive, and 30 percent don’t find any results. Negative results or not finding anything is a problem for financial professionals that are trying to build a business.

Gain a competitive edge with search engine marketing To compete in this new environment, you need to take advantage of all the tools at your disposal. Do everything you can to be found online starting with having a professional website that is optimized for search engines and has an easy-to-remember website address.

Many of your competitors are already doing these things, but they are not all doing search engine marketing, which can give you that edge.

Search engine marketing (SEM) is the process of advertising on search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo! SEM includes sponsored search listing ads, local business listings, and content marketing.

Many people give up quickly when searching online and assume that if they don’t immediately see something after a quick scan of search engine results, they won’t find anything at all.

Sponsored search listing ads should be part of your strategy to make sure you appear at the top of the search engine results as often as possible. This will give you the best chance of being found by prospects.

Understanding the role search engines play in the modern referral process is crucial for financial professionals. Armed with this knowledge, now there are simple steps you can take to make it easier for prospects to find positive information about you and your practice online.

Visit http://www.emeraldconnect.com/marketing_tips/ to read more marketing tips for financial professionals.