An advisor’s website is his or her most valuable piece of Internet real estate.

First, it’s the only place on the Internet dedicated exclusively to your firm. There are no ads to distract people, no profiles or content from other financial advisors, no scrolling timelines competing for your visitor’s attention.

Second, you’re an owner -- you own the real estate that is your website. Everywhere else online, particularly social media, you’re a renter. Someone else owns the space. And they can change the rules on you anytime they want.  

Third, all roads lead to your website.  Everyone has a link to their website on their business cards, in their e-mail signatures, in their newsletters, on their social media profiles, and more. We’ve trained people to check us out by checking out our website. So it only makes sense that both you and your visitors get the most out of your site.

Here are five steps to a more effective website:

1. Capture visitor attention right away

When a visitor lands on your home page, they should be able to tell right away who you are and what you do.  This is often called the 5 second rule. Online, attention spans are short and choices are many. If it takes somebody more than 5 seconds to figure out what you’re about chances are they’ll leave and never come back.

Major violators of the 5 second rule include flash-based introductions that some advisers have on their sites. You know the ones, those slow loading animations you have to sit through before getting to the main site. People who visit your site want their questions answered quickly and simply. They didn’t come to watch a movie.

My advice: If there’s anything on your website that offers visitors the opportunity to “skip it,” kill it. Take it off your site.

Another good idea is to make sure your home page has a sentence or two that makes clear who you are and what you do.  For example,”ABC wealth management is a San Francisco-based wealth management firm specializing in financial planning for individuals.” It lets people know they’re in the right place.

2. Keep visitors on your site

A good number of financial advisor websites offer links to other websites. Sites like the Wall Street Journal, Smart Money Magazine, the Street.com and others. Some advisor websites even have whole pages of these links. They do nothing but take visitors away from your website. This is not a good idea.

The reason you have a website is so that people can learn who you are and how you can help them. Inviting visitors to leave your site (which is how these links are interpreted) doesn’t help people get to know you. Not to mention the fact that many of your major competitors advertise on those sites.

A better strategy is to link within your own site. Consider adding links to your home page that point to the interior pages of your website. This helps visitors explore your site and stay  engaged.

3. Stay on message

Remember that your website is the only place online devoted exclusively to you. If your clients and prospects are ever going to learn about what you can do for them, this is the place. Everything you put on your website should contribute to this outcome.

A common offender here is offering market data on your website. Visitors can get market data anywhere on the web. They come to your website to get information about you. (Or more specifically, what you can do for them).

Why not use the space on your website you’re currently using for market data to offer your visitors a chance to sign up for your newsletter? Or register for an upcoming workshop you are holding? There are a lot better ways to put that space to work.

4. Keep the conversation going

Even the best website can only go so far in educating clients and building relationships. This is primarily because, once people have visited your site, they rarely come back.  So how do you keep the conversation going once they’ve clicked away?

By asking for permission to stay in touch. You get this permission when a visitor subscribes to your blog or signs up for your email newsletter. When visitors do this, they are saying that they are willing to hear more from you in the future.

In fact, I would say, converting the casual visitor into a permission-based prospect is the single most important thing your website can do. With more investors than ever online, with more competition than ever for their attention, and a low likelihood that they will come back to your website gaining their permission for future dialogue is crucial.

5. Measure for Success

Just like a portfolio, your website performance can be measured and optimized for desired outcomes.  This process starts by setting up a measurement tool like Google Analytics (a free tool offered by Google)

With it you’ll be able to answer questions like:

-- How many people visited your website last week?

-- How long were they there?

-- Which of your website pages did they visit most?

-- What content is most attractive to visitors?

The point of gathering this information is to use it to improve your website results. For example, if one of your goals is to add more subscribers to your e-newsletter, use your analytics to identify your site’s most visited pages. Then make sure to get a newsletter subscription box there. You’ll be surprised at the difference this can make.

To get the most out of your website, treat it like a portfolio. Set goals, measure your progress, and optimize for your desired outcomes. Why settle for under-performance?