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Financial Advisers: How To Make a Great Website

Gareth Thompson of [codepotato] outlines the essential steps to building--and maintaining--a great financial adviser website.

Jon Standring: I’m here with Gareth Thompson, Managing Director of [codepotato], a web agency that specialises in websites for financial advisers. They’re responsible for high profile adviser websites, such as Meaningful Money and Informed Choice. Welcome, Gareth. 

Gareth Thompson: Thank you for having me. 

Standring: So to set the scene, financial advisers, there are kind of polarised views on how technically savvy they are. There are elements out there that are using social media and Twitter, and on the other hand you hear statistics like up to 10% of advisers don’t even have a website. What’s the truth, where does it lie? 

Thompson: I think you’re entirely right. I deal with a lot of clients already connected on the social networks and can see the benefits of using the web. But, on the flip side, I do still deal with the occasional enquiry, where someone has never had a website and needs help in kind of education as to what they should be doing really. 

Standring: So worst case scenario, no website presumably. Next one up, there seems to be some websites out there that look very similar in photo, copy, et cetera. Is that a problem, or is it okay? 

Thompson: There is a problem with having the same content as other websites. From a search engine point of view, you’ll be penalised for having duplicate content, so you might think that you’re going to do well in the search engines by suddenly launching the site. But, unfortunately, it doesn’t happen that way. Also, consumers, kind of they do a bit of shopping around for other websites, and if they see two sites that look kind of similar and one site that’s completely different, my bet is they’ll go with the site that’s taken the time to be a bit different. 

Standring: And photos, it seems to be that there is a photo of a couple on the beach on a lot of these websites. Is that a positive thing? Does it resonate with investors? 

Thompson: I think there was a time and a place for the stock photos of the older couple on the beach with their pina coladas. I think, nowadays, you do a lot better to kind of use more unique imagery, maybe photos from your local town if you’re trying to attract local clients, or if you’re trying to attract a particular client—pilots or golfers—use photos that would resonate with them, but stay clear of stock photos, that’s for sure. 

Standring: So if you’re setting up a basic adviser website, what are the must haves? 

Thompson: Must haves: professional image; good custom content. It doesn’t have to be a lot, it just has to be unique. Certainly, information about the service that you deliver to your clients. 

Standring: Beyond that, what are the sort of bells and whistles that you can add to make it a more effectively lead generator? 

Thompson: Blogging is definitely  a good tool to kind of incorporate. From a search engine point of view it gives your kudos and gets you higher up the rankings. But, also to the consumer, it just makes you appear as though you’re relevant and providing content so others stay up-to-date. I would also say, there’s other tools like testimonials or case studies that you could bring in just to make yourself or to sell why people should be working with you. 

Standring: So, an adviser has got a website. How do they know whether it’s successful for them? What kind of metrics, benchmarks should they be looking at? 

Thompson: I’d hope they’re using something like Google Analytics to track the actual visitor numbers they’re getting to their site. If they are using that, they should be paying close attention to the bounce rate and exit rates of their site. If they’re not using web tracking, like Google Analytics, I would hope again as a firm, they’re kind of keeping track of all the enquiries that they receive through the phone or by email, because there will be some consumers that just go to the website and won’t fill in a form. They will just pick up the phone and give them a call. So it’s tricky to measure exactly how well your site is doing, but it helps if the firm is recording where all the enquiries are coming from.

Standring: So you mentioned the bounce rate. So what’s a bad bounce rate, and if they’ve got one, what can they do about it? 

Thompson: A good site has a bounce rate that is under 40% of all visitors to the site, and equally, pages should have under 40% bounce rate. You can get around, or you can reduce your bounce rate by making sure the content is a bit more relevant to the visitor or to the search that people might be doing to find that page. Ultimately, it’s all about making small changes, measuring it, and seeing what else needs to be done to improve it. 

Standring: You mentioned before, blogs. Sometimes you go to an adviser website and there is a blog on there, but it’s not been updated for quite a while. Is that a negative thing? How is that judged by, sort of, Google, et cetera? 

Thompson: It’s tricky, because I know a lot of people do recommend blogging, and I know smaller firms struggle with time mainly to provide unique content all the time. But there is an issue with having a site that appears like it’s not been touched for quite a while. Consumers could think that, oh, what are they doing with their time? They don’t quite appreciate that you could be busy. But I still think the fact that you have a blog is a good thing. You just need to find a little bit more time to update it maybe a little bit more often. 

Standring: So the other elements you can add in, sort of social media elements, so video—we’re doing one now—how useful is that for an adviser website? 

Thompson: Video is great. Again, there is a type of client that would be interested in not having to read your site, but just having to sit there and watch a video. Again, it depends on the quality of the video. If it’s shot on a crummy little iPhone or a device that wasn’t made for good video, then it could have a negative effect. But, I think, as long as you’re trying and you’re trying to come across as being a bit fresh and bit different, I think the benefits outweigh the risks really. 

Standring: And over the next year what are the new innovations that you’re hoping to build into some adviser websites? 

Thompson: Definitely live chat. I’ve blogged about this before, but the live chat, I think, is a very interesting tool that could make a big difference to adviser websites. Ultimately you’ve got to have the manpower to be able to sit there or be there ready for someone to kind of knock on the door. But it’s a great way of engaging clients or visitors before they’ve even got to the point that they are willing to get in touch with you. I do think it will make a big difference. 

Standring: So if you are a smaller firm, is there a way that you can sort of turn it off when you’re out and meeting clients or… 

Thompson: Yeah, there are various different systems out there. The one I’ve been using the most does have a kind of out-of-office or an away notice. But there is also a mobile app. So if you were just popping out the office to grab lunch, you can turn it on, on your phone and that way you’re still notified if someone’s there. 

Standring: Great. Thank you, Gareth. 

Thompson: No problem.

Standring: For Morningstar, I’m Jon Standring. Thanks for watching.