Archive for August, 2012
For wealth managers who believe the most prudent path to investment success is broad diversification, periodic rebalancing, and choosing low-expense investments — while relying on the precepts of Modern Portfolio Theory — some good news: a scorecard from an authoritative, independent source documents the failed record of Wall Street’s top ranked strategists at picking the best and worst industry sectors.
Fritz Meyer, whose economic research is distributed by Advisor Products and Advisors4Advisors, has methodically tracked Barron’s annual interviews with Wall Street’s top strategists for over a decade. An article with details about Meyer’s findings will be published tomorrow on websites of advisory firms that license Advisor Products content for clients.
The table below compiled by Meyer, an independent economist, shows the picks and pans of 10 senior strategists from Wall Street largest firms in a Barron’s article from December 19, 2011. It tells a story of failed forecasts.
The telecommunications sector, for example, was favored by just two of the 10 strategists in the weekly magazine’s 2012 investment outlook. One strategist suggested avoiding the sector while seven — a majority — voiced no opinion on telecom.
As of mid-August 2012, telecom was the No. 1 performing sector, with a 19% return. “That’s a big miss,” says Meyer.
“If you think that even the smartest strategists on Wall Street can successfully and systematically pick the right asset classes, you’d be mistaken,” says Meyer, an independent economist with 30 years of experience in the investment world, including a stint as a strategist at one of the nation’s largest mutual fund companies.
Advisor Products provides content about wealth management for clients of investment fiduciaries. Its content platform can be added to any website and includes a social media dashboard enabling advisors to distribute content targeted to high-net-worth individuals to their social networks in less than five minutes a day. AdvisorVault, its secure online file-sharing system, is licensed by more than 400 RIAs and the company provides web development, brochures and creative services to independent advisors.
Advisor Products creates great financial articles for advisor clients and prospects. Should you copy and paste some of those articles and use them as blog posts? Here are some issues advisors need to know about when using other people’s content.
Content posted to many websites does you no good with search engines. To benefit from search engines, you need unique content. To be clear, Advisor Products articles about wealth management are posted on hundreds of advisor websites. They’re not unique. So they do not help you with search engine optimization. Nor do they hurt you. The point is, if you buy articles from a vendor and post them on your website and other advisors also post the same exact articles to their websites, the articles may be great reading but they do not help you with search engines.
Making Articles Written By Others Your Own. The way to use articles by written by other people to gain search engine benefits is to make them your own. That does not mean changing a couple of words. It means using the article written by someone else as the basis for your own story — pulling a few key facts but rewriting it to your specific audience.
For example, we recently posted an article for advisors to use on their websites about Section 179 deductions. Yesterday I was speaking with an advisor who specializes in working with veterinarians and suggested he rewrite that article and make it pertain specifically to vets. Write about the equipment they typically might be using a 179 deduction for. Write about a local vendor who sells that equipment and how it helps to document the purchases. Localizing the story will also help you with search engines.
Don’t game the search engines because they could penalize you for that. If you just change a few words in an article and try to outsmart the search engine robots that crawl your site, you put yourself at risk of being penalized. From my research, it seems there is no exact formula about how much an article can be duplicated without the search engines ignoring it. But Google and the other search engines are getting used and being relied upon on the Web because they provide authentically good information. So my personal take on this is to be honest and credible and rewrite an article written by others to really make it your own.
Ethical And Regulatory Considerations. Apart from the search engine considerations, using an article written by someone else on your website raises ethical and could raise regulatory issues. About 15 years ago, Bob Plaze, the outgoing Deputy Director of the Investment Management Division of the SEC, told me that RIAs should not take credit for writing articles that other people write. Ever since then, Advisor Products policy has been to post a disclosure on websites and newsletters we create for advisors saying that articles we provide are written by someone other than the advisor. For me, it was as much an ethical issue as a regulatory one.
Not all vendors serving advisors do this, however. Some vendors appear not to know about the regulatory risk that could be involved when an advisor posts an article written by someone else as it were written by him, and other seem oblivious to the ethical issues.
Advisor Products makes no compromises on ethical and regulatory issues. We tell advisors when we feel like they may be doing something that could land them in trouble. We also submit all articles made available on websites and in newsletters to FINRA for review — even though so many of our users are RIAs that do not need FINRA review of content — because it’s the prudent thing to do. FINRA’s advertising rules aimed at protecting consumers are similar in most ways to the SEC rules regulating RIAs, so it is good practice for RIAs to use FINRA-reviewed content. Since the SEC does not review content, the only way you’ll know when you’ve published advertising without necessary disclosures is when you’re being cited by the agency or a state regulator for a deficiency.
Taking positions like this has sometimes opened Advisor Products to criticism and we’ve probably lost some business because of it, but we don’t cut corners when it comes to ethics and compliance.
In 1997, when Advisor Products first started providing advisor websites (as AdvisorSites), there were no open-source content management software (CMS) systems. WordPress and Joomla were not founded until 2005. While Drupal was founded in 2001, it gained little traction until 2004.
Over the last few years, however, open-source CMS has flourished. WordPress, the most popular, is used by 16.7% of all websites, Drupal on 2.1%, and Joomla on 2.8%, according to W3Schools. Among the World Wide Web’s most visited one million sites, Drupal is the CMS reportedly used by 9.1%, Joomla by 11.1% and WordPress by 63.2%.
Open source CMS is popular because it’s free. Yes, free. These CMS apps are operated by not-for-profit organizations. The free software movement is an amazing phenomenon and books have been written about it. But the main thing most advisors probably care about is that, because they are free, Joomla, Drupal, and WordPress have spawned large communities of developers.
Tens of thousands of programmers around the world have built apps that extend WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla. Like add-ons for Firefox, apps in the Apple iOS App Store, and Play for Google’s Android operating system (formerly called Market), these extensions make it easy to make improvements to a website.
Say you want to add a rotating banner to your website, one that changes a graphic and text displayed in a big rectangular box across the top of your home page. In minutes, you can find a free or inexpensive extension on a CMS app store that does it for you. Web development is suddenly easier and you can come to market with the latest widgets and apps much more quickly by relying on open-source CMS.
Advisor Products chose Joomla because it is extremely versatile. While WordPress is simpler, it’s really a blog platform and is not as powerful as Drupal or Joomla. Drupal, while also more powerful than WordPress, is more complex and unwieldy than Joomla. Joomla is a happy medium.
Advisor Products has built a new “BackOffice” application that gives advisors control over their websites using Joomla’s powerful features. We’ve created components to add Advisor Products’ content to your Joomla-powered website. You can change text and graphics on any page, add new pages, and easily keep your site fresh with new content and tools. Because the system is so easy to use and renders beautifully designed Web pages with rich social, video and textual content, you are more likely to use the CMS system to keep your site fresh.
Many small independent Web developers use Joomla to develop websites for advisors, but they lack the support staff, content and industry knowledge necessary to create a successful financial advisor website. Often these developers will not give you access to edit the site yourself.
We’ve come across one advisor who paid $27,000 for a Joomla site and branding that we charge $3000 for, and he was given now way to change his website himself. And just yesterday I spoke with an advisor who paid $14,000 for a WordPress site and had little choice but pay $100 an hour for his web developer to make simple changes to the site. We don’t behave that way here.
We’re now able to add the most modern widgets and graphics to advisor websites and all of it is integrated with AdvisorVault, client portals, and our wealth management content.
Initially, the new CMS platform is available to RIAs only. It has not been integrated with our compliance tool for broker-dealer pre-approval of content. But that’s coming. We’ll keep you updated.
Please call us at 516 333-0066 if you would like to know how you can use this cutting-edge technology to improve your website marketing and client communications.
Do you see things from your ideal client’s perspective? To succeed in using search engine optimization to market your firm, that mindset is required.
After last week’s Advisor Products webinar about marketing, I spoke with one of the attendees about his search engine optimization and content marketing strategy.
While this advisor is a licensed professional, he’s not an SEO expert, and he was having trouble with the notion that using social media to engage a very specific type of investor could be more rewarding than marketing to the broad masses. So I explained that writing a blog about financial problems of doctors in LA would indeed bring him a smaller readership than writing a blog for all small business owners in LA, but that the doctors who found his blog about their specific financial problems would be more likely to appreciate his specialized knowledge, he got that.
But what would be his best niches? Is it plastic surgeons in LA, Amgen senior managers, beauty salon owners? He would give that more thought, he said. But the exercise we went through was helpful.
By definition, until you understand that marketing to a specific group is more effective than marketing to everyone, you won’t be able see things from your ideal clients’ perspective, and, therefore, you won’t be able to identify the key words your ideal clients will use to search for you on the Web. You will fail at SEO.
However, once you commit to specializing in a specific client-type — lobstermen in Maine, chiropractors in Kansas City, or airplane pilots in Atlanta — you can speak to them directly over the Web.
I do it. That’s why you’re reading this! I’ve defined my niche and I am speaking to you because you are a professional financial advisor. You are probably credentialed and hungry for growth. I provide you information you value. So you might click on my tweets, read my blog and follow me on social networks.
You can do it, too. You can host webinars for dentists in Denver, and share financial ideas addressing their issues, and they will find you via search engines. You can post tweets for professors in Pittsburgh, Slidecasts for senior executives at a local tech company, and videos for owners of diners in Long Island. If you post content that diner owners in Long Island need to know, they will find and follow you.
For instance, say you tweet, blog, and make videos targeted to owners of owners of McDonald’s franchises about the new 3.8% federal surtax. A year from now, when an owner sells his franchise, he’ll want to shield his children’s passive gain on the sale, and he’ll think of you because you’ve been sending him ideas on this very topic to him.
If you can define your niches, then think like hem and imagine how they will find you. What would wealth management problems might cause an Amgen employee to go on the Web and search for help? If you know senior managers at GM have a deadline to decide on what to do about their pensions, what search terms will they use to find help with making the decision? If you use those search terms in your blogs, tweets, and other content on your website, they will find you and follow you. Over a year or two, these people who are searching for a needle in a haystack will call you and become clients because you specialize in solving their financial problems.
Content marketing is utilized on the Internet by businesses, but few financial advisors implement an SEO program because it costs money or time. Doing it right requires knowledge of SEO and wealth management as well as the ability to write words people will want to read. It’s not easy and success depends on doing it right. But if you do it right, it works. The fact that you’re reading this proves it.
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