As an advisor, your website is your most important piece of Internet real estate. It’s the first stop for people who want to learn more about you.  In fact, it's likely that your website now makes more first impressions than you do.  As such, it plays a significant role in shaping people’s opinion of your practice and your services.

How did this happen? The truth is we’ve trained clients and prospects to check us out by checking out our websites.  Most advisors have a link to their website on their social media profiles, newsletters, business cards, and in their email signature. We make it pretty clear that we expect people to visit our sites. 

Given this reality, it's no surprise that making the most of these visits is a key part of succeeding on the web.  To help you with this, here are five ways advisor websites go wrong (and how to fix them.)

The 5-Second Test

A visitor to your website should be able to tell exactly who you are and what you do within five seconds of arriving at your site.  On the web, attention spans are short and choices are many.  If you make people work to understand your site you‘ve already lost them.

Major offenders here are flash-based intros that people have to sit through before getting to your site.  People who visit your site are interested in learning how you can help with their problems.  They want to learn that quickly and with as little effort as possible.

My advice: If you have anything on your site that offers visitors the opportunity to “skip it”-- just kill it. Also make sure there is at least one tagline or subject heading on your home page that clearly states what you do, for example, “Comprehensive Financial Planning for Individuals." It tells visitors they are in the right place.

Sending Visitors Away

I’ve noticed a fair number of advisor websites include links to other websites.  Often times these links go to places like The Wall Street Journal, Smart Money Magazine, The Street.com and others.  Some advisors have even gone so far as to create entire pages or sections on their site made up of these links. Don’t.

The reason you have a website is so that visitors can learn about you. Or, more specifically, it tells them how you can help them (the website visitor) with their financial challenges. Sending someone off to the WSJ site doesn’t help your cause. Not to mention the fact that many of your major competitors advertise on those sites.

Better to have links that allow clients to access their accounts from your site. Even better, have a link on one page of your site that points to another page on your site. It helps visitors explore your site and stay engaged.

Offering Market Data

Over the years, I’ve heard many advisors talk about the importance of setting goals, having a plan and investing for the long-term. I’ve never heard an advisor talk about the importance of knowing what the market or a particular stock is doing right now. Yet that’s the message you send when you include market data and quotes on your site.

Remember that the goal of your site is to help people understand what you can do for them.  How you can help them solve their financial issues. There are a lot of places online to get quotes and market data. There is only one place online dedicated to your business. Make the most of it.

Ending the conversation

Most advisor websites offer a “contact us” option that asks for name, address, phone number and more. The majority of your visitors aren’t comfortable giving you that kind of information right away. That leaves them with only one choice: click away and never come back.

A better option is to offer visitors a free download in exchange for subscribing to your email newsletter. This gives visitors a chance to learn more about you in exchange for a lot less information. They get something of value (your download) right away and you get the ability to stay in touch.

A good download offers valuable information, is branded to your firm, and contains your website and contact information. Whitepapers and ebooks are great options for any advisor download. Each time someone refers to it, they are reminded of your firm. 

Lack of Measurement

Much like an investment portfolio, your website can be measured and optimized for desired outcomes. The process starts by tracking the number of visitors who come to your site and what they do while they are there. 

Google offers website owners a free tool called Google Analytics. With it, you can easily answer questions like:

-- How many visitors came to my website last week? 

-- Where did they come from? Search engines? Links from other sites?

-- What web pages did they view?

-- What content proved most attractive? 

If you haven’t already, make sure to install Google Analytics on your site.

As an advisor, your website is likely to remain your most important web presence for some time to come. By following the above best practices you can make sure that both you and your visitors get the most out of your website.

Feel differently? Have a different experience? Speak up!