Time’s Up: Mobile-Friendly Websites To Be Rewarded, Others To Be Penalized

Here’s where the rubber meets the road.

For the last several years, Website publishers including mutual fund and exchange-traded fund (ETF) firms have been encouraged to focus on the mobile user’s experience. This includes reducing the time a Website takes to load on a mobile device and enabling the taking of action via call-to-click functionality. While Google has been leading the charge, Bing also is checking sites for “mobile compatibility.”

But yesterday Google made it all real with the announcement that it will be adding a mobile-friendly label to mobile search results. At the same time, it acknowledged that it’s experimenting using mobile-friendly criteria as a ranking signal.

Awesome And Not Awesome

If your firm has made your site’s mobile friendliness a priority, it's all good. As Google rolls out the mobile-friendly label in the next few weeks, you could conceivably benefit from the designation and possibly a boost in Google search engine rankings.

But a spot-check yesterday of the largest asset management Websites, using Google’s mobile-friendly test, suggests that many firms have work to do. Note that root domains were tested, I noticed that some firms with mobile-unfriendly sites have mobile-friendly blogs.

In addition to returning either an "Awesome" or "Not mobile-friendly" result, the tool's analysis provides specific reasons and information on how Googlebot sees the page. The tool is part of a developer's guide to mobile-friendly Websites. 

The Consequences

The desktop computer is no longer the leading way people access the Web. As reported by comScore, by July, 60% of U.S. digital media time was being spent on mobile devices. Financial advisors, in particular, use smartphones and tablets.

If there was any doubt before, it is now crystal clear that Google is serious about eliminating frustration for mobile searchers. When text is too small, links tiny and sideways scrolling is the only way to see all the content on a mobile device, a site will be penalized.

At the minimum, a ranking boost for sites that are mobile-friendly disadvantages the unfriendly. But also last month Search Engine Watch reported that Google was testing a mobile-unfriendly icon in search results. It’s unknown if a decision was made to eliminate the negative and accentuate the positive but OMG. No brand or Web team wants that badge of shame.

Here’s hoping you do whatever you canas soon as you canto avoid the unfriendly label and the resultant loss in ranking, traffic and relevance. I'm working on the same with this site.


Voice Search And Why It's Time To Show Bing A Little Love

Just because you ignore something doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

Take Bing, for example. If it’s been a while since you reviewed how your mutual fund or exchange-traded fund (ETF) Website ranked in the #2 search engine, you might want to get to that sooner rather than later.

While Bing is unlikely to ever topple Google on the desktop (and Google continues to enhance its own Google Now voice search capability), Bing is the search engine that Apple’s Siri sources for voice search results.

Of course, you care how your site performs for all searchers. But a quick look at your Web analytics will likely show that most of your financial advisor mobile (smartphone and tablet) traffic comes from Apple products. Heightened advisor adoption of voice search—including on the Apple watch coming next yearmay mean that Bing could lead advisors to more search results.

I’ve had reason to research the topic lately and thought you might be interested in a few questions I’ve had and the answers that I found.

Q. Are people really searching with their voices?

A. More than half (56%) of adults now use a personal assistant, up from 30% over the prior 12 months. This is according to a Thrive Analytics report, “Is the Personal Assistant the Successor to Search?”, published in October. Usage of personal assistants such as Siri, Google Now and Microsoft’s Cortana, have increased by 87% over the past 12 months, the report says.

Google’s own Mobile Voice Study, released last month, reported that 41% of adults and 55% of teens use voice search more than once a day.

Market or investment-related topics failed to rate among the more common searches reported. A likely scenario that I could imagine would be advisor voice searches when they're leaning back, during after-hours iPad use, for example.

Q. Are voice searches relevant to non-local businesses?

A. According to this article by David Cato of Covario, mobile voice-related searches are three times more likely to be local-based than text. That makes sense.

But non-local searches—such as those that would conceivably lead to asset manager sites—using voice do take place and they’re different from text searches.

“Voice search users typically search in more complete sentences or questions. Additionally, the user tends to complete more searches on a faster basis, adding more words around their main query,” Cato wrote in September of last year.

“Brands can optimize for conversational or long tail queries by deploying an FAQ or Q&A content strategy. A Q&A strategy would not only improve customer service by answering common questions, but it may increase search presence by ranking for more long tail keywords,” Cato concludes.

Helpful but, again, think of the context of the device. FAQs may be overkill on a watch.

Q. How different are the Bing and Google search results?

A. The prevailing opinion has been that if you optimize your site for Google, you should rank similarlywithout any additional specific work—in Bing. But there is plenty of commentary online about the differences between the algorithms used by the two.

At the highest level, Google’s indexing is more mature, typically more thorough, more text-based and relies more on linking authority. Bing does better with images, flash and social. You may find this Ultimate Guide To Optimizing Your SEO for Bing from July helpful.

And, you’ll definitely want to check out Bing’s SEO analysis tool and get going with Bing Webmaster Tools

Your firm and Rock The Boat Marketing have very little in common. But I can tell you that when I forced myself out of my own all-Google world to confirm that all was showing as expected on Bing, I was shocked to see that Bing located my business at an address from six years ago. A trip to Bing Places remedied that.

More helpful for you, probably: See the difference between the results of a Siri search on the iPad for “retirement planning” and a Google voice search on an (Android) Samsung Galaxy S5.

In this search you can see one possible byproduct of searches shifting to Bing: If you’re a Google AdWords advertiser hoping to snag some searching advisors, you may be headed for a decline in volumes. Then again, you might consider the Yahoo Bing Network. An AdGooroo study (here’s a link to the PDF) conducted a year ago reported that Yahoo Bing led in ad impressions in the financial services category, probably due to the popularity of financial news on the Yahoo! and MSN portals.

For a more exhaustive analysis, see the results of a comparison by Stone Temple Consulting of the search results returned by Google Now, Siri and Cortana. As of October 2014, the firm concluded, "Google Now has a clear lead in terms of the sheer volume of queries addressed, and more complete accuracy with its queries than either Siri or Cortana."

The video below illustrates some of the points made. Note that a few searches are answered on the spot, without leading to an additional Web page. That's a discussion for another day.

Q. How can we spot voice searches in Web analytics?

A. Don’t expect to see a pronounced rise in traffic sourced by Bing. Voice requests are encrypted so they can’t be intercepted and no one can listen to them, according to this LocalVox post.

That being the case, voice searches aren’t distinguishable in Google Analytics, for example. Sessions that initiate via voice search are lumped in the “direct traffic” bucket. To see this for yourself, use voice search to go to your site and check out your real-time traffic sources. The source for your session will be listed as Direct.

Your thoughts, or experiences, on any of the above? They're always welcome below. 


Content, Deep Linking And Marketing Tools—6 Recent SlideShare Faves

Just because SlideShare isn't one of those needy (as in follow me, RT me) content sharing platforms, that doesn’t mean you should overlook it, either for research or for sharing your own firm’s work.

What follows is a random collection of six SlideShares (if that’s a thing) that I’ve been liking lately.

What Content Costs

Are you planning 2015 or a content strategy, in particular? This "2015 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends" report from Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs will save you time and enlighten. I sometimes find as much value in the questions being asked as I do in the data.

Don't miss the graph on page 15, which shows B2B metrics for content marketing success. Website traffic may still hold the top spot but note the prominence of three sales-related metrics. Increasingly, marketers are linking what they do in content marketing to sales results. 


How Your App Content Gets Discovered

Search engine search of app content has to be of interest to any mutual fund or exchange-traded fund (ETF) marketer—most fund company apps are loaded with rich keyword content that deserves to be found. Enter "Deep LinkingA Fundamental Change In The Mobile App Ecosystem."

This Growth Hackers deck is a solid presentation of the case for deep linking, how to implement it and best practices. It's a terrific guide, even if you take one look and pass it on to your development team.


Rebel At Work

Well, sure, I’ll admit that I came for the title of the presentation but I stayed for the content in this "Rocking The Boat Without Falling Out" deck from Rebels At Work.

If there’s anybody who’s perfectly positioned to be a rebel in an asset management firm, it’s the digital and social marketer. Your job is to be disruptive in the name of communications progress.

This isn’t as designed as some of the other decks but the message is spot-on.


For Your Toolbox

You may know 89 of these 127 marketing tools but there are quite a few gems in this deck. From TrackMaven, it's organized in 14 categories that include SEO, social, data and interactions and productivity.

This deck and a browser ready to open multiple tabs is all I need for my idea of the perfect Saturday night.


But Then Again, You Probably Knew That

From the Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves School of Humor comes "20 Signs You're Probably Not Working For a Social Business." To be precise, the deck was created by Paul Bromford, an innovation coach at Bromford Lab in the UK.

I suspect that you will join me in chuckling at a few of these. Or, to quote another poster, misery loves company. (Just kidding—see Rebel At Work above).


How To Do This At Home/Work

Did you know that there’s a trick to creating presentations for uploading to SlideShare? If you’re thinking about the platform as a way to extend your firm’s reach, you’ll want to check out this post by Dave Paradi, presentation expert, author and consultant at Better yet, see the SlideShare.


Say Yes To Google Analytics Benchmarking*

Mutual fund and exchange-traded fund (ETF) companies work together on all kinds of issues (see the operations agendas of the Investment Company Institute or NICSA, for example).

But except for the occasional conferences and other get-togethers, asset management marketers don’t have continuous access to one another, least of all their data. Well, here’s your chance. 

What would you give to know how your Website performs against its peers?

Google Analytics has resurrected its benchmarking capability (discontinued in 2011), and since September has been rolling it out to accounts. The most excellent news is that two of the 1,600 verticals are Exchange-traded Funds and Mutual Funds.

To find, just start at Channels, Business & Industrial, then drill down to Finance, Investing and then Funds.

Other sites, notably SimilarWeb (see post), provide free competitive data. Since this service is straight from the source itself, ostensibly it should be even more reliable. A comparison of traffic sources, location and devices across six metrics that include sessions, percentage of new sessions, new sessions, pages/session, average session duration and bounce rate is being made available.

In order to access benchmarking data, you need to opt in. Participating is as simple as checking a box in the Admin settings of your account. This effectively grants permission to Google to remove identifiable information about your site, combine anonymized data with similar sites and report benchmarks.

If you work on a mutual fund or ETF site with 0 to 100 daily sessions, you’re in luck! The data is right there and waiting, thanks to the fact that 20 Web properties are contributing to the benchmark.

However, traffic on the vast majority of fund company sites exceeds 100 sessions. Unfortunately, there’s no peer data for you because an insufficient number of firms are contributing. 

I suppose you could benchmark your site against all Finance sites, but that might just confuse things.

(Note to the financial advisors who pop in here from time to time, you’ll be able to benchmark your Financial Planning Management sites up to 5,000 daily sessions.)

Why The *

Data in exchange for data is a common benchmarking model but in your particular case, conditions may apply. My advice: Don’t make a unilateral decision to turn benchmarking on.

Early on, I had a few go-rounds with managers of IT departments who were opposed to relying on a free service for business analytics.

Still today, despite the high number of companies that rely on Google Analytics (70% of the top 10,000 Quantcast Websites and most of the competitors you care about, according to BuiltWith), some enterprise IT people continue to have their suspicions. Web analytics is data that can provide a particular view into a business. How can we be sure that it's secure or that it will always be there for us? For that matter, what could or might Google do with it?

I am not the one to try to explain these objections or whether participating in benchmarking if you’re already a Google Analytics user elevates the risk. To be sure, just check in with your own IT management. There may be no pushback, probably won't be.

It’s going to take more than a little old blog post to get some data flowing into the benchmarks but maybe if you tell an asset management marketing friend and that friend tells a friend…we’ll get there.  


Asset Managers Dominate #FixedIncome Tweeting Post-Gross

After this post, I’m going on a PIMCO/Bill Gross/Twitter diet, I promise. But, I was looking at some data this week that was too rich not to share.

First, the September 26 announcement that Bill Gross was leaving PIMCO to go to Janus spiked interest in “Bill Gross” as a search term but not so much fixed income. This is according to the Google Trends U.S. data shown below (click on the image to see the data more clearly on the site).

Interest in Janus was far above average search interest while still lower than "Bill Gross."

On Twitter, where Gross' early use of the @PIMCO account influenced how other asset managers began to use Twitter to deliver timely, relevant micro-insights (see post), the news gave a healthy bump to the use of the #fixedincome hashtag.

In the period between September 29 and October 22, 189 users sent 310 tweets with the hashtag, according to

The RiteTag graph below of tweets and retweets shows a rush to #fixedincome, relative to its average volume, that has since petered out. 

Competing With Content

Here's what I was interested in. We saw some opportunistic fixed income advertising from fund companies in the days immediately following the news. And, of course, the email factories were working overtime. Did asset managers figure among those jockeying for what would be a burst of fixed income attention on Twitter?

Why yes, they did. The screenshot below from shows the 32 accounts that used the #fixedincome hashtag most frequently. Twelve belong to asset managers, with @FidelityAdvisor, @NuveenInv, @WFAssetMgmt and @PutnamToday four of the top five accounts. Other firms participated at a lower level. 

In all @FidelityAdvisor sent 37 #fixedincome tweets, most in support of Fidelity Advisor Total Bond Fund. 

@BlackRock takes the honors as the account producing the top #fixedincome tweet (shown below), drawing 18 retweets and 38 favorites. @FTI_US, Putnam and @HartfordFunds were #2, #3 and #4 ahead of @SquawkBox. Sweet.

Everybody Gains

What did the news do to @PIMCO’s enviable follower count? It's happy news all-around.

After a dip—there’s likely some correlation between fund flows and Twitter followers—@PIMCO is back on the rise again, according to

Meanwhile, @JanusCapital experienced a growth spurt in followers, although still trails @PIMCO by about 174,000.

You Got This

There are very few lightning-in-a-bottle moments for mutual fund and exchange-traded fund (ETF) companies using social media. There’s been no equivalent of seizing the opportunity of a dark stadium to promote dunking an Oreo cookie and watching the Twitter account grow by thousands overnight, for example.

But communications windows open and close on Twitter, and there can be opportunities for alert and agile investment brands. 

On this single hashtag over the last four weeks, more than a dozen fund companies showed up and dominated in a way that rarely happens elsewhere online. (Unfortunately, paying for placement is the only way for many firms to get on page 1 of search rankings of key terms. Other brands got to most of the premium terms first and they’re not budging. See post.) 

For some perspective, fund companies use other hashtags and many to a greater extent. Event hashtags get lots of pick-up, as Morningstar's Leslie Marshall has documented. And, it’s not as if @BlackRock hasn’t been retweeted 18 times before—its maximum is 155 RTs. 

Still, this was a collective demonstration of the communications possibilities for asset managers:

1)using somebody else’s platform

2)and a lightweight, quick turnaround medium

3)to access an "audience" that others helped build and maintain

4)without being constrained by a frequency cap (i.e., Fidelity could have never sent 37 emails in the same time period)

5)to be relevant on a topic

6)that targeted others (financial advisors, media and other influencers) had hyper-interest in and were seeking commentary on.

For those of you in the mix, I hope something good came out of your participation. As for those of you still on the fence about Twitter, does this episode make you any more interested in chiming in?