The Right Way to Use Google Reviews to Attract Prospects

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The following information was provided to us by the author on September 10, 2019, at approximately 3:30pm ET:

Previously, I published my opinion on whether online financial advisor reviews were allowed under SEC and FINRA rules.

While the SEC’s version didn’t, to my knowledge, include language prohibiting the solicitation of reviews, an astute observer pointed out the presence of the word “unsolicited” in FINRA rules here:

“(FINRA) does not regard unsolicited third-party opinions or comments posted on a social network to be communications of the broker-dealer or the representative for purposes of Rule 2210, including the requirements related to testimonials in
paragraph (d)(6).”

…and that caused me to dig deeper. When I did, I found a recent case that occurred after my original research that seems to show the SEC forbids solicitation of reviews as well.

I am still of the opinion that online financial advisor reviews benefit both the public, and advisors; and the rules around that seem to be evolving, but it’s clear that, for now, soliciting such reviews is off-limits.

The original article follows:

One of the most exciting online marketing opportunities for financial advisors is online reviews. But when I broach the topic with my clients, there’s often confusion around whether they’re prohibited by FINRA or the SEC.

The short version: It’s okay to encourage and receive online reviews, as long as certain guidelines are met.

Here’s a brief summary of the most recent guidance in regard to Google reviews (I’m limiting the discussion to Google because they have the most favorable risk-reward profile for advisors):

It’s okay to:

  • be reviewed on Google;
  • request Google reviews from clients;
  • run ads on Google that may appear alongside your reviews, as long as it’s clear that the ad is sponsored content; and
  • direct people to the reviews in newspaper, radio and television ads.