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Google Tweak Reminds FAs to Get Mobile-Friendly

By Thomas Coyle March 18, 2015

A change next month in how websites will show up in some Google searches could signal an opportunity for financial advisors to stand out from competitors in an increasingly mobile world.

As reported last week by FA-IQ’s sister news site Ignites Europe, Google plans to change its algorithms for mobile-search rankings so that mobile-compatible websites appear higher up in searches. The tweak is set to take effect on April 21 and applies only to Google searches on smartphones and tablets. Searches on desktop and laptop computers will be unaffected.

Here’s how Google put it in a Feb. 26 blog post to webmasters: “We will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.”

But the real “impact” may be relative. Mobile-friendliness will be one of over 200 criteria Google uses to determine rankings. And it will be trumped by bigger considerations such as target keywords, backlinks to the site and social-media buzz.

Still, Ignites Europe portrayed it as a potential game-changer for asset managers. One digital-marketing maven tells it firms like BlackRock, Allianz Global Investors and BNP Paribas Investment Partners are “risking their business” by not having mobile-friendly websites.

Mark Rose doubts that. But the head of InfluenceWave, a marketing firm in New York that specializes in online marketing, sees the Google tweak as a timely reminder to independent financial advisors. “Only about 30% of Google searches are done on mobile devices,” he tells FA-IQ. “But that’s going up quickly” as tablets and especially smartphones get more popular with consumers and become standard business equipment.

As a result, Rose counsels FAs to be sure their websites are mobile-friendly — in the name of plain utility as much as to conform to search-engine criteria. “You need to be seen on all three: PCs, tablets and phones,” he says. “It’s simply necessary” — and a potential competitive advantage over rivals who aren’t readily viewable on an iPhone or Android device.

In this sense, he thinks the news from Google may persuade advisors with old-line websites to join the mobile age. “That can be hard to do, especially if the website is only three years old and they think it should last seven,” Rose says.

Fortunately, while website design can set an advice firm back from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, not all sites will need a complete overhaul. “Some, you can make mobile-compatible,” says Rose — in fact, Google has a how-to for such cases. “But sometimes you just have to do it all over.”