Why Facebook’s New Search May Prompt A Review Of What You’re Posting There

Facebook, the behemoth social network known for being a “walled garden,” has been an object of mystery and curiosity.

It’s easy to understand its appeal to financial advisors as a friction-free way to communicate with clients. And, most of those interactions may be none of the mutual fund or exchange-traded fund (ETF) marketer’s business.

But Facebook is also an estimable platform for discovering and passing along content—investment-related content included. (See this post for an analysis of the level of financial services content currently being shared, and the dominant brands.)

Financial advisors use content as their social currency. Putnam’s latest social media research reported that Facebook plays a “very significant role in current marketing efforts” for four out of 10 advisors (see post). Almost three-quarters (73%) said they posted business content to Facebook.

Exactly what content is being posted and shared, and by whom? Each Facebook account sees its own feed, of course, but to date there has been no view into the content collection. Those garden walls were too high to peer over.

Facebook’s decision last week to make all of its 2 trillion public posts available via a tabbed search capability changes that. It instantly makes Facebook a whole lot more interesting for the search-aware content marketer.

Market Volatility Search

With billing no less than "find what the world is saying," Facebook Search FYI is a new, rich resource to become familiar with.

I’ve previously mentioned the value I get out of Twitter’s Advanced Search, in part because it enables a filtering of tweets only “from people you know.” The new Facebook search one-ups that. 

A Facebook search will now produce a results page personalized based on 200 factors including what you like and engage with, what you’ve searched for, and information they've collected about your identity. The Top tab (which is the default) produces the most relevant results for the account.

According to a TechCrunch post, the results are organized “to highlight posts from trusted news sources, followed by people in your network, lists of the most popular links or quotes about a topic, and then strangers.” The images below were prepared by Facebook to illustrate the search results on a smartphone. 

Here's a quick review of where I see the added value.

Listening And Learning

Now you can plug into what’s being said on Facebook, and what you learn can influence your content positioning and development, including search engine optimization and pay-per-click keyword planning.

Example: Facebook claims to process 1.5 billion searches a day (that's about half of what Google handles) and that’s the basis for its assisted search. When I typed in the most generic of terms—“mutual funds”—Facebook reveals that “mutual funds vs” is a frequently searched term. Hmm...

Mutual Funds Assisted Facebook Search

The Latest tab is where Facebook takes Twitter head on. Twitter has been the go-to source for tracking what people are talking about right now, and that is what’s now delivered in the Latest tab. I find these results much less relevant on broad terms. Hashtag searches can get you to what you want to see, but keep reading. 

For Demonstrating Topic Relevance

Previously, posting to Facebook truly has been like dropping a teaspoon of matter down a black hole—good luck to anyone ever finding it. In fact, the joke’s been made that even those who aren’t diligent about their privacy settings have enjoyed "privacy through obscurity."

(This Search changes that and if you don’t want your own past posts showing up in search results, head on over to Facebook's Settings/Privacy/Privacy Settings and Tools.)

Assuming content-sharers make use of the new functionality and financial advisors in particular come to rely on it too, Facebook could be a powerful place to post on a fast-breaking topic and be noticed.

For asset management marketers, this may prompt a review of what’s being posted to Facebook.

Not Just The Soft Side Of What You Do

It’s a best practice to select content appropriate for each social network, and Facebook has tended to attract asset managers’ soft-side community posts. But things change.

For example, Cogent Reports reported in August that Facebook is the top business and financial news source for millennials. 

If users begin to rely on the Latest tab to search for investment-related updates, you are going to want your firm to be represented. 

But here’s the hitch I found in limited testing this week. I maintain a custom list of Asset Managers’ Facebook pages, which is a signal to Facebook that your content is important to me. While my keyword searches surfaced mutual fund/ETF firms’ updates in my Top tab (personalized to me), I don’t see your updates in the Latest tab.

For example, my search for #ETF produced this AdvisorShares post, along with posts from Scottrade, Investopedia and Wyatt Investment Research, in the Top feed. 

“@PeritusAsset: #HighYield softer again despite >$800M of inflows & only 2 new issues. Equities, oil, gold, treasurys all higher. #ETF”

Posted by AdvisorShares on Wednesday, October 28, 2015

None of those posts from "Financial Planning" or "Business/Economy" Websites appear in the Latest tab search results, however. Do a search for #ETFs and you’ll see a collection of unrelated updates about tattoos and such—not relevant, not helpful.

As a second example, a hashtag search of #BudgetDeal is a timely topic that asset managers might have produced content on and may even be tweeting about. In fact, I saw a few posts from Allianz's Mohamed El-Erian.

Good morning.FYI, the Wall Street Journal on “tentative deal” between White House and congressional leaders on “...

Posted by Mohamed A. El-Erian on Tuesday, October 27, 2015

But overall the #BudgetDeal discussion on Facebook is being dominated by what I'll call posters representing the fringe—it and the discussion of other investment topics could use the contribution of mainstream investment firms’ and Main Street financial advisors.

As has been well documented, Facebook is notorious for trimming the free publishing capabilities of brands. They have no intention of giving away what they could charge businesses for.

You could achieve your objective to get in the Latest tab feed if you could post updates from an individual’s (strategist or portfolio manager) account. This Kevin O'Leary (O'Shares ETFs founder and Shark Tank host) post from August appeared in a Latest search for #ETFs, for example.

Learn about O'Shares Investments and my newest #ETFs @ my live webinar. 11 am on Aug 26th, exclusively on ETFdb.com &...

Posted by Kevin O'Leary on Friday, August 21, 2015

But wrangling to get access to an individual's Facebook account may be a whole ‘nother hornet’s nest—see this post for a discussion of related issues.

If brand content won't appear in the Latest tab, the opportunity for content discovery via Search shrinks. Even then, though, the option may be to resume "Follow us on Facebook" campaigns to assure that your firm has a place in followers' Top tabs.

An Opportunity For Investment Videos?

As I mentioned last week, investors say they’re being influenced by videos but whose videos and how are they being discovered? In the testing I did, there seems to be ample opportunity for asset manager or financial advisor content to surface on investment term searches in the Videos Search tab. Evidently, the Videos tab doesn't filter brand content.

For example, I searched for "rising interest rates" via the Videos tab. It was good to see a month-old Franklin Templeton video show up on top. Now that’s more like it!

Franklin Templeton Rising Interest Rates Image

Check out Facebook Search and see what you think the potential is. 

Just 5 Sites Command Almost Half Of All Finance Keyword Search Rankings

May I just say how much I love a free online tool?

The latest object of my affections is Ayima Pulse, which is a visualization of Google search rankings on more than 50,000 non-branded keywords. It offers “share of voice” leaderboards on the top Websites in 10 verticals, including Finance. (Insurance gets its own leaderboard, which is a refreshing departure from tools that track finance and insurance under one big ole financial services bucket.)

You’ll want to go and check it out yourself, but here’s what I’ve gleaned after spending some time on the site.

Search Ranking Volatility

Ayima provides a look at daily ranking changes over the last 30 days. According to the latest data, Finance search rankings are not volatile.

This has particular relevance now. We are just past the April 21 start of the rollout of "mobilegeddon," when Google said it would change its search algorithms to remove non-mobile-friendly sites from searches conducted on mobile devices. The expectation was that rankings would be significantly re-sorted as some sites would drop, the result of a Google penalty.

However, the Ayima data suggests that it was a non-event for Finance search leaders, judging both from the flatness of the volatility graphs and from a comparison of the leaders on desktop and mobile search. This looks to be the case, incidentally, for all the verticals except Gambling.

Finance Search Ranking Volatility.png

Search Leaders

What Ayima calls "Visibility (share of voice)" is calculated from the search volume, ranking and estimated clickthrough rate (CTR) of all sector keywords, converted into an overall percentage. Arrows indicate site movement within the leaderboard from the previous day.

Finance Search Ranking Leaders.png

To the right are the top 10 Websites ranking for Finance keywords. I've been watching this daily updated ranking for several days, by the way, and CNN and Yahoo frequently trade places between #1 and #2.

No investment product providers have broken into the top 10. Just two investment company brands—Fidelity at #34 and Schwab at #61—are on the larger list of 100 sites that Ayima makes available. Each site has less than 1% of share of voice. Related: Morningstar.com ranks #31.

Below is a look at how Fidelity and Schwab search visibility on mobile devices has fluctuated over the last 30 days. Fidelity has been more up and down, but both are labeled as mobile-friendly by Google and neither appears to have suffered from the algorithm change.

Schwab Fidelity Search Rankings.png

Search Concentration

The top five Finance Websites command 48%, or almost half, of the top finance keyword search rankings. That leaves every other finance site to slug it out for the other top keywords.

This is second only to the Jobs vertical—the top five Jobs sites snag 64% of their keyword rankings. There’s the least concentration in Education, where the top five leaders in that vertical attract have just 19% of all organic search rankings.  

Finance Desktop Search Ranking Concentration.png
Finance Mobile Search Ranking Concentration.png

Fear Of Missing Out?

So, what's to be made of the fact that mutual fund and exchange-traded fund (ETF) firms are nowhere to be found on the list of the top 100?

Buck up there, SEO-aware and socially-savvy asset management marketer, it's not a certainty that your sites are missing out. This is not necessarily a reflection of investment companies’ search performance because there are at least two pieces of information we don’t have:

  • We don’t know what the top 50,000+ Finance keywords are (an email I sent to Ayima has yet to be answered). In its April 20 introduction to Pulse, Ayima explained that “at midnight each day, we take Google’s top 100 organic search results for the most popular non-branded keywords relevant to our top 10 industries and add them to our database.” For a general idea of the top 1,000-ish Finance keywords, of course, you can always consult the Google AdWords Keyword Planner.
  • We don’t know what individual firms are seeking to rank for. Your keywords are probably long-tail. But...in an array of 50,000 keywords, there are likely to be words you want.

If you’re feeling competitive, I wouldn’t look at the top of the list where it can be no surprise that the media sites dominate. I’d look toward the bottom of the list. What do Visa’s PracticalMoneySkills.com (#94) and the American Finance Association Journal of Finance site (#62) do that you don’t? Should OurFreakingBudget.com (#83) outrank your site? Hmm, who knew that Pinterest.com (#27) was ranking for finance keywords?

On the topic of being anti-competitive, let’s take a moment to consider Google.com’s #3 ranking. Finance keyword searchers use Google, only to be taken by Google search engine rankings to a Google property (Google Finance or even just an inline result—see this post) almost 10% of the time? Interesting. 

If you spend your days thinking about how to effectively use Search to draw people to your business online, the visibility and volatility data provided by Ayima is all pretty interesting. It's another valuable tool to add to the digital marketing toolbox.

A First Look At Fund Website Benchmarking Data

Digital marketing success isn’t defined in terms of Website traffic. There’s so much else to consider.

However, benchmarking data on the overall level and composition of your site traffic vis-à-vis your competition can be useful. You’re appealing to the same broad audiences, and their behavior on related sites should have some meaning for you.

This is a follow-up to last October’s post about the return of benchmarking to Google Analytics. Now there's data to analyze! Here's a first look at it.

The graphs below reflect 12 months of activity (April 15, 2014-April 15, 2015) on 426 fund Websites whose firms have opted in to share anonymized data to enable benchmarking.

The sites are grouped by number of daily sessions, and the data in the graphs are based on three groups: 0-99 daily sessions (sample=377), 100-499 daily sessions (sample=29) and 500-999 daily sessions (sample=20). Google doesn't yet have a large enough sample to report on fund sites with 1,000 daily sessions and more.

All data can be found in your Google Analytics account. Just go to Audience/Benchmarking. I looked at data at the Funds level (including mutual funds, exchange-traded funds [ETFs] and hedge funds), exported in Excel spreadsheets to be able to work with it.

This is more real (not based on user panels but on actual data that Google is collecting on sites) and more granular (most free benchmarking services stop at Finance or Investing in general, which includes brokerage sites).

Still, the benchmarking will be even more useful:

  • When mutual fund and ETF site benchmarking data is able to be reported separately. That can’t happen until a sufficient number of properties agree to contribute data. If your firm hasn't yet opted in, you might want to consider. More on that in my previous post.
  • When some category inconsistencies are addressed. Google has no trouble recognizing direct, search (organic and paid), referral and even social traffic. But if site publishers aren’t using tracking code to distinguish between display and email traffic, Google may mis-categorize it as direct traffic data. You’ll see below that Google benchmarking data is being reported for paid search, other paid traffic sources and email for the less trafficked sites but not for the most trafficked sites.
  • When you isolate your own peer group and delve in. I’m presenting the three groups together to get a high level sense of fund company Website traffic in 2015. Compare your site's traffic to your peer group and you’ll learn more.

A Few Takeaways

1. Overall, it looks as if the most that a fund site can hope for are a couple of minutes of the visitors’ time and a couple of pages viewed. This data suggests—let me amend that—makes the argument for easy-to-find content on sites that anticipate the task-oriented visitor. They come, they get, they go. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

2. Finally, we have data on the contribution being made by social efforts and by email—two areas that there is great interest and investment in.

In fact, see the growth in the total number of sessions driven by social in the most recent 12-month period over the previous period. Benchmarking data is available only from August 28, 2013, so the earlier period comparison is from 8/28/2013-4/14/2014, eight months versus 12.

3. Direct traffic (a reflection of brand awareness and product familiarity), organic search (a measure of content availability, quality and accessibility) and referral links drive the better trafficked Websites. Less trafficked sites rely on paid search, other advertising and organic search.

4. There’s a difference in the traffic sourced by each channel: Direct traffic, organic search and referrals lead to more longer-duration sessions, with more pages viewed.

5. Just about one out of four visitors to fund sites comes from non-desktop devices (e.g., tablets or smartphones). This is a remarkable change that has undeniable implications for sites created for desktop use.  

6. Desktop sessions last longer than mobile sessions, which is to be expected. But, there isn’t a big difference in the number of pages viewed across devices. Here too, it’s few pages across the board.

Drilling into your firm’s analytics will help you understand whether this is a good or bad thing. It’s good if you can see that visitors are immediately finding what they need and then moving on. Not so good if the short visits point to visitors—even more frustrated because they're on smaller screens and possibly on the go—who give up.

An Over-The-Shoulder Look At Advisor Sites

Out of curiosity, I also looked at the benchmarking data of sites that are in the Financial Planning & Management category, which together represent about 6,800 Web properties. Nine out of 10 of these attract fewer than 100 daily sessions. Google reports data on sites attracting as many as 10,000-99,999 sessions.

Make no mistake about it—many financial advisors are turning to the same content marketing and paid search tactics that asset manager sites use to build awareness and drive interest. I spotted certified financial planner Jeff Rose ranking for "Roth IRA" searches back in 2010, and more advisors have gotten more serious about inbound marketing since. (In fact, see FMG Suite’s 2015 Inbound Marketing award winners—there are some impressive marketers on that list of financial advisors.)

Few advisory firms may enjoy the brand recognition of your firms or the marketing budgets. The benchmarking data gives us an idea of the organic search strength among financial planning sites.

And there's more—but I'll leave the rest for you to explore.

An Armchair View Of The Digital Decisions Underlying The Schwab/Wealthfront Dust-up

Pull up a seat to one of the more captivating online brand-to-brand exchanges we’ve been in a position to witness in the investment industry. Although the interaction happening this week between Charles Schwab and Wealthfront is fascinating on many levels, I’ll limit this post to just observations on the decisions underlying the digital communications. RIABiz, InvestmentNews and plenty of others will keep you up to date on the substance.

This evolving communications case study has to do with the emergence of robo-advisor services and controversy surrounding their claims. But, there’s potential for plenty of other contentious discussion this year (can you say smart beta?) that hits even closer to home for mutual fund and exchange-traded fund (ETF) firms.

So much of investment communications is planned, scripted and timed, leading marketers to believe that they have things under control. My question for you, prompted by the interactions discussed below: To what extent do your communications plans anticipate not just what you have to say but how others might respond?

Early on, firms may have been apprehensive about chaotic social platforms filled with trolls waiting to take money managers on. Thankfully, that hasn’t materialized.

Instead, what we are increasingly seeing are informed commentators, including product and distribution competitors as well as financial advisors themselves, publishing thoughtful counterpoints and challenges on their own blogs and content platforms.

Asset managers know they need to respond to the random tweet. That's so 2012.

But a precious few are 1)demonstrating that they’re paying attention to what’s being blogged about 2)posting a response, whether on their own blogs or in a comment to the original posts. Blog posts can be forever. Whatever stance your firm takes—to acknowledge, respond, ignore or be ignorant of them—will have consequences. 

The saga playing out this week may help frame your firm’s preparedness, including where, when, how and to whom to respond. 

What Happened

By way of background: On Monday morning, Schwab announced “a fully automated investment advisory service,Schwab Intelligent Portfolios, the only investment advisory service using sophisticated computer algorithms to build, monitor, and rebalance diversified portfolios based on an investor’s stated goals, time horizon and risk tolerance—without charging any advisory fees, commissions or account services fees.”

In response, on the same day, the CEO of Wealthfront, one of the startups expected to be most impacted by this service, wrote a scathing blog post. Adam Nash accused Schwab of falsely stating that its service was free because the firm will extract net revenue earnings from interest on the cash allocation of the recommended portfolios. Nash went on to say that “hidden fees" are contrary to the history of Schwab, concluding that the firm has “broken values.”

“Charles Schwab has become Merrill Lynch,” writes Nash, not intending it as a compliment.Less than 24 hours later, Schwab published what RIABiz described as a “rapid-response-counter-punch” reply to Wealthfront’s response. The piece called out Nash's "very loose interpretation of facts" and presented a three-point clarification. 

What follows is what this geek noticed and wondered about as all this interaction was taking place online.

The Wealthfront Post

Ladies and gentlemen, what we have here is a classic case of “newsjacking” on Wealthfront’s part. (See the David Meerman Scott site for more.)

This is not to take away from the import of its message. It’s to acknowledge that Nash’s fast-acting response assured that his perspective would be part of the conversation at the precise moment when Schwab would be getting attention. Nash successfully grabbed some of that attention for his view and business. 

What helped this succeed: A strong value proposition (there’s no time to crystallize your story when news is breaking), compelling visual assets (including two borrowed from Schwab—ouch!) and Twitter followers/supporters. This program has been in the works for a while, and Nash was prepared for the announcement. 

Most of the readers of this blog will be in Schwab’s position. Although once a challenger itself, Schwab today has almost $2.5 trillion in assets. Count on the fact that this launch (big and good news from the company’s perspective) was carefully orchestrated, including a national online, print and television advertising campaign, media outreach and finely crafted talking points. Yet within hours, a single blog post from the CEO of a firm that manages $2 billion (gained in three years) became part of the story and threatened to disrupt the best laid plans.

Did offense need to switch to defense? One can only imagine the drill that took place within Schwab’s communications team. For starters, how did they hear about the post—via their social media monitoring or did they get a heads-up? At the center of the discussions must have been this: “Do we dignify the post with a response?” The implication being that acknowledging the post could call more attention to it.

In fact, here are a few of the choice headlines that resulted:

Where The Responses Took Place

The first mention I saw of Adam Nash’s blog post was in a Schwab tweet. To read the post, I naturally headed to the Wealthfront blog—where there was no sign of what Wealthfront’s CEO said. That’s because the post was published under Nash’s byline on Medium.com.

Interesting. I assumed that a calculation was made to go where there was a larger absolute audience, probably to position the topic at a higher level than one company CEO griping about another company’s strategy. In fact, RIABiz reported that Nash’s “blog offensive is being waged on a personal level, which is why it appeared on his own blog..." Nash's blog, yes, but on another company's domain. 

Understood, and maybe there were compliance issues to consider, too. But there will be those who will come to Wealthfront’s site, looking for the post, and they will be lost. Conversely, those who go to the Medium post won’t see anything else about Wealthfront’s services. 

And, to make the point that any digital marketer would, the decision to use Medium results in a surrender of Wealthfront.com attention, site traffic and analytics. Links, especially from authoritative sites, still have value. And yet all the linking to Nash’s post on Medium will help lift Wealthfront’s search visibility not at all. Medium does make some viewer stats available but they’re not as robust as what Wealthfront would get from its own Google Analytics.

A Google search Wednesday for “Adam Nash Schwab blog post” required the searcher to hop over the Schwab response to Nash’s post (which doesn’t contain a link to it).


Compare the page titles and URLs used for the posts for a partial explanation of Schwab’s higher ranking—that and the fact that Google results favor better-trafficked Websites.


Schwab is unusual in that it already maintains a section of its Website for Company Statements “in response to timely news and topics of interest. Statements are generally removed from this site after one year.” This is where it chose to publish its all-text response to Nash.

A few tweets have made some generational references to the old school way in which Schwab responded—via “a press statement” that used double spaces between sentences (really!). While much of the response is straightforward, it lets itself condescend in a few spots. I wonder how much thought was given to referring to Nash as “Adam” inasmuch as the response ostensibly came from the company and not an individual. 

There’s no provision for comments on the Company Statements pages, which is unfortunate given the statement's closing line: "We encourage transparency and dialogue and that is why we encourage investors to learn more at intelligent.schwab.com and review the facts."

Did Schwab consider commenting on the Medium post, as well, I wonder? As is, both firms have taken to their own corners to comment, leaving readers to their own devices in piecing the commentaries together. 

Getting The Word Out

Having published their respective messages, Nash and Schwab then took to Twitter (only) to make sure the word got out. The first tweet flew from Nash’s own account but soon the Wealthfront account also was pressed into action, to drive traffic to the Medium post as well as retweet supporting tweets of which there were many.  

You and I don’t know the total traffic to either post. From the sharing data counted by BuzzSumo, it looks as if the sharing done of Nash’s post through Wednesday far outpaced the sharing of the one-day older Schwab rebuttal. Note that the Nash post was shared on LinkedIn and Facebook, too. 


By Wednesday, Bitly reported about 2,900 clicks on bitly links to Nash’s post, and traffic to non-shortened links would be additional.

As of Wednesday, the @CharlesSchwab Twitter account (the @Schwab4RIAs account has not been involved) had not sent a mass distribution tweet with a link to its company statement. This seems to have been an effort to “contain” the discussion. 


However, Schwab reached out to Twitter accounts who tweeted about the Nash post. Specifically, through Wednesday it sent 15 individually addressed tweets (tweets that start with the @accountname, limiting the reach of the tweet to only mutual followers of both accounts). You can see the tweets under the Tweets & Replies Tab of the account.

It's possible that Schwab’s original communication plan included influencer marketing, which involves brands reaching out to identified influencers with the hope that the offer of early information or special access will yield positive coverage.

But these individually addressed tweets were not that. An account that tweeted about the Nash post is not likely to be open to any kind of perceived “manipulation” on Schwab’s part, not at that point. As stated, the purpose was to make sure that the account saw Schwab’s side of the debate.

Many of the accounts tweeted to in fact belong to those influential in the space, including Josh Brown, Michael Kitces and Paul Kedrosky. The net effect of that for those who follow these influencers is that multiple identical Schwab tweets showed up in the Twitter stream. A series of Schwab tweets is what first caught my attention.

Did the target account even click on the link? Better yet, did the target account retweet it, as many might feel obliged to do if they’d previously tweeted about Nash’s post? How many clicks did each attract?

Because Schwab provided each Twitter account with a unique shortened link (bitly), bystanders can see the effect of the outreach by account. Just by adding a plus sign to each bitly, we can get a look at where the outreach worked best. Through Wednesday, it looks as if there were nearly 1,500 total clicks to the page. Two bitlys were tweeted to The @ReformedBroker (Josh Brown), and together they drove almost 900 clicks or 60% of all. The most effective tweet is shown below.

By comparison, the bitly link to the press release announcing the Intelligent Portfolios attracted 118 clicks. Of course, there's no doubt Schwab is collecting more data on its outreach than we have access to. 

In Conclusion?

How to wrap this up? It can't be done, it's too soon. Can we agree to just adjourn?

Join me in watching how the substance of the debate unfolds and—particularly relevant for communicators—where and how it takes place. If nothing else, the jockeying by these two firms is demonstrating the importance of real-time listening, reacting and acting.

Maybe not on this scale or at this emotional pitch, but it’s reasonable to expect that your firm will be the subject of online discourse at some unknowable point. It’s an eventuality that cool heads, including those belonging to digital marketers, need to prepare for. 

Why Your Site May Be On The Verge Of Losing Lots Of Traffic

Here’s a quick test for you: Search for the ticker symbol of one of your firm’s funds, a big one, a small one, it doesn’t matter.

What’s the top search result? A big ole chart, right? The screenshot below shows the results of a Google search on a desktop and on a smartphone. (Incidentally, note how simple and clean the data display can be when not weighed down by the pesky disclosure that’s required on your site.)

How many searches do you suppose your site loses to Google Finance, Morningstar and Yahoo Finance, the sites linked to at the bottom of the ticker symbol graphs?

There’s no need to guess—just check your Webmaster Tools account (Search Traffic/Search Queries). You’ll likely see that your site is being displayed in search results for ticker symbol searches (Impressions) but that you’re not getting the majority of the clicks.

In all likelihood, the information that Google is providing to ticker symbol searchers right there on the search results page is either 1)satisfying the searcher or 2)driving the searchers to Google, Morningstar, Yahoo fund or (for ETF ticker searches) even MSN Money profile pages.

Ouch. This especially hurts because ticker symbol searchers are the most qualified site visitors you could ask for—no doubt you’d prefer them to come to your site, sign up for an email newsletter, ask for more information, check out other funds… Opportunity is being lost because Google (and Bing, too, by the way) siphons interest in the ticker symbols of your products and reroutes traffic.

Now, competition for organic search rankings is one thing. If the authority of your domain is lacking or if you haven’t taken the appropriate SEO steps to lift the visibility of your fund pages, well, then, you’ve had your fair chance and didn’t step up.

But this extraction of structured fund data from a third-party database is different because it’s completely beyond your ability to appeal.

The publishing of fund prices on the search results page has been going on for years. My sense is that asset management digital marketers are desensitized to the traffic/attention that’s being lost. Do you remember that parable about the frog in the water? As long as the water boils slowly, the frog won't jump out because he doesn’t perceive danger. 

The Knowledge Graph And Its Impact

As it turns out, asset managers have had an early taste of what many site publishers are now experiencing due to Google’s implementation of what it calls the Knowledge Graph.

The Knowledge Graph, according to Google’s 2012 introduction of it, enhances search by narrowing search results, summarizing relevant content around a search query, and facilitating deeper and broader searches. "It currently contains more than 500 million objects, as well as more than 3.5 billion facts about and relationships between these different objects. And it’s tuned based on what people search for, and what we find out on the Web," Google wrote three years ago.

Knowledge Graph-driven search results have become more prevalent in the last year. The goal of Knowledge Graph information, whether displayed in answer boxes immediately below the search box or in a panel to the right of the search results, is to instantly provide an answer that’s relevant to a search query. Relevant answers delivered on the spot are increasingly important as more searches take place on mobile devices. The fewer clicks required on a smartphone, the better.

This is an expanded role for Google. As opposed to just directing search traffic to the most relevant Websites, it’s now taking it upon itself to try to answer search queries. For a current overview of the various search-related initiatives underway at Google (i.e., Voice Search, Knowledge Graph, Google Now), see this Medium post, part one of a series. About 25% of search queries today produce Knowledge Graph answers, according to author Steven Levy.  

While fund sponsors never made a peep about Google effectively hijacking searches for ticker symbols, many Website publishers who explicitly monetize their sites are upset and confused about the rise of Knowledge Graph.

Some object to Google’s “scraping” their sites to extract a result to show in a Knowledge Graph answer box. It’s a backhanded compliment—Google thinks enough of the site to extract answers from it, but that results in a loss of visitors to revenue-producing pages.

It’s easy to see the value that’s being provided to the searcher. If all a searcher wants is a basic definition of ETF, this Knowledge Graph extract from Nasdaq.com might be enough. If the searcher wants to dig further, Nasdaq is in an advantaged position to get the click from the added prominence on the search results page.

Consequently, some search engine optimization experts are pivoting into Knowledge Graph Optimization. Sources of the Knowledge Graph include Google+, Wikipedia, Freebase and Schema, which is structured markup added to Websites to clearly identify standard elements that Google may want to lift. Following the markup standard for Customer Service phone number, for example, can result in Google extracting the number and publishing it with the search results.

Knowledge Graph Optimization prepares Website content for what is effectively syndication of granular content.

But not all SEO experts or Website publishers approve of this appropriation of content. Many are product manufacturers, like fund companies, and they’re insisting that they should be able to be both the authoritative source of information and a search destination. For two perspectives, see Knowledge Graph 2.0: Now Featuring Your Knowledge and Knowledge Graph: Does it Make Sense to Optimize for the Google Scraper?

We live in interesting times.

So, where does this leave the asset management Website and Web strategy?

Next: Converting Searches For Fund Names

I remember how shocked my team and I were back in the day when we saw the first analytics that revealed that our site’s Daily NAV pages were the most popular pages. That made sense then for two reasons: 1)This predated the fund data aggregators and 2)advisors habitually used multiple funds from the same fund family—a late afternoon or evening visit to the fund sponsor’s Daily Prices page was all they needed.

The bleak future of sites that relied on single-page visits to pages whose data could be found elsewhere didn’t dawn on us until later.

Let’s turn now to your Web analytics. How much of your traffic goes to your product pages? Today, you may be missing out on ticker symbol searches, but my guess is that you’re still getting the traffic from people who are searching for your products by their names. This includes a long tail of searchers using a creative mix of how they spell, remember or type fund names. 

Such keyword searches are increasingly giving way to semantic searches, in which Google considers user search history as well as other contextual signals. It’s just a matter of time before Google looks at those incomplete, hastily entered fund names, automatically does the translation and understands that the searcher is looking for a fund. The fund data graph will be what's displayed as the top search result for all those searches, too.

The goal is to provide information fast, remember, and displaying the graph with the table of basic return, expense and asset size data is faster/more useful than just offering links to an asset manager fund page or, God forbid, PDF of a fact sheet. The implication for your site: More traffic (opportunity) lost.

This is your risk today. I make the assumption that traffic to your domain is something you want to protect, if not build, for a multitude of reasons that start with brand awareness and lead right up to lead scoring and predictive analytics initiatives.

A Few Recommendations

Here’s what the proactive asset management digital marketing team should be doing, at a minimum: 

  • Use the data available from Webmaster Tools and your Web analytics to get a handle on what’s what. Make sure you understand the sources of traffic to your fund pages and their value to you. How many anonymous visitors convert to newsletter subscribers or registered advisor site users, for example? How much of the traffic that Google sends to Google Finance, Morningstar, Yahoo Finance and MSN Money finds its way back to your site—how much as a result of the editorial versus advertising? 

Track all changes in your volume of search traffic and sources over time.

  • Confront the obvious: Why would a fund searcher be better off coming to your site as opposed to another site?

If you’ve researched a car in the last few years, you know that there are some automobile manufacturers that deliver superior, differentiated experiences on their Websites. Car buyers who rely exclusively on an Edmunds.com or other car review site are missing something if they don’t check out the configuration capabilities and other bells and whistles offered by the manufacturers.

What information can you uniquely offer and attractively/interactively present for product tire-kickers?

By the way, I had the “So, what’s so special about the fund information that appears on your site?” conversation with someone recently, and she answered, “We’re the only source of our capital gains distributions.” Well, OK, that’s a start. Those pages command a lot of eyeballs at this time of year. And yet, very few firms use the margins of those pages to cross-market or otherwise communicate.

There’s no stopping Google so control what you can control—give the site visitors you attract better information and a better experience, and that includes when on a mobile device. 

  • If you think your site offers worthwhile, appealing features and data that deserve the attention of fund data searchers, promote it. Don’t sit back and expect site visitors to find it. 

Make sure your wholesalers are versed on the depth of the fund data available on the site. Promote it on the home page, throughout the site and consider targeted pay-per-click ads. As of now, you can still buy your way to the top of the ticker symbol search. 

As Google gets more grabby to protect its own value proposition, you need to be more aggressive, too.  

  • Finally, if you can’t fight them and win, join them. Google’s evolution of the Knowledge Graph (whose answers are extracted from only the first page of search results) gives you just one more reason to commit to publishing authoritative mobile-friendly content that’s optimized for search.   

Your thoughts?