Technology, regulation and rising expectations are giving financial service marketers more than a few headaches. And their finance customers and clients are relying more on technology and search engines than branch locations when it comes to answering key financial questions.
On average, marketers of financial services dedicate nearly half of their website budgets to SEO, according to Brandpoint’s State of Content Marketing for Financial Services report. So, many marketers are already aware of the important role SEO plays in generating website traffic and new customers.
So how visible is your brand in search and how well do you answer your audience’s questions? In this post, we show you how to make your financial content more SEO-friendly and valuable to your audience, so you can grow your organic web traffic, increase wallet share and make your content marketing practice worthwhile.
[Related: 3 Ways Financial Marketers Create Value with Content]
Address the technical SEO elements
When we think about SEO, we often first think about using the right keywords to get us into the first search result. But a lot of SEO ground can be made up — or lost — due to technical aspects of your website.
In a blog about why marketers should care about technical SEO, Brandpoint front-end developer Catherine Jarocki states that “If your website is structurally deficient, it will bleed over into all other aspects of your web visibility and performance.”
She puts it bluntly: “The best content in the world may not be able to salvage a poorly performing site.”
The biggest culprit when it comes to a poor web experience is page-load speed, and it matters big time for financial brands. The 2017 Searchmetrics Finance Ranking Factors report shows us that the top results in finance load almost a second faster than general inquiry results. In internet terms, that’s a long time, and it means your financial service content needs to load quickly to rank.
Here are two things you can do to speed up your page that doesn’t necessarily require a coding background:
A redirect is when the URL you type doesn’t exactly match the URL of the site where you end up. You could type in “https://brandpoint.com/blog” but end up at “https://brandpoint.com/blog”. These kinds of redirects happen all over the internet, usually without anyone noticing.
However, too many can have a noticeable impact on how fast your pages load. Though one redirect only delays load time by mere milliseconds, they pile up quickly.
Optimize your images
There’s a very strong content argument for image optimization and its impact on SEO. But there’s another element at play.
If your file sizes are too large, they can have a dramatic effect on how quickly your pages load. If you find a page that’s loading slowly, take a look at the size of the images you have on that page. Shout Me Loud put together a great resource, including six free image compression tools, to help you simplify the process.
Digital audiences want fast answers, even more so in finance. Use Google’s free PageSpeed Insights tool to check your website and find places to make your website lightning fast.
Use the right finance keywords in the right places
When you consider the keywords to use in your content, it’s important to consider financial service keywords that have a high monthly search volume as well as understand the questions your customers and prospects commonly ask.
For example, you work for a bank and would love to rank for the keyword “banking.” It has a pretty impressive monthly volume:
But ranking for this keyword is incredibly difficult. It will take resources and a LOT of time to reach the first search results page.
A better target might be the longer-tail keyword “how to switch banks”:
The monthly search volume is substantially lower. But it’s an easier keyword for which to rank and has almost double the organic CTR potential. Long-tail keywords tend to have a higher conversion rate because they target a narrow audience that is looking for something specific.
Another unique thing about SEO for financial services is keyword density. Keyword stuffing has long been a no-no in Google’s eyes. But the Searchmetrics report found that the top financial service search results don’t use keywords nearly as much as you’d expect.
In a summary of the report, Netimperative highlights that keyword density is far less important than for general inquiries, citing that a financial service keyword is used only 2.1 times among the top 20 results, compared to 7.4 times among the same results for general inquiries.
They hypothesize that people searching for financial service information are often looking to clarify something they don’t quite understand. So it makes sense that the highest-ranking pages are more focused on providing an answer free of dense keywords and jargon.
Content relevance is critical
The most fascinating part of the Searchmetrics report is that high-ranking financial service content has a higher level of content relevance than that of other industries.
Think of your digital content like the branch of a bank. Those who physically make a trip to their nearest bank branch only go when they have a specific question or intended action in mind (make a deposit, take out cash, etc.). Like visiting a bank, a user will click on your article in search results if it answers their specific question or helps them with their intended action.
Your clients and potential customers come to your website for all sorts of reasons. Maybe they want to log into their account or need to file a claim. Maybe they’re looking for information on different types of retirement accounts or have questions about managing their debt. Whatever product or service your brand offers, answering a specific question that’s related to your business (along with long-tail keywords as we talked about above) will result in a better chance of conversion.
So how do you create relevant content? And how can you get it to appear on the first page of search results? We cover this in our Quality Content Series, which shows how Google assesses quality content and how you can get your pages to appear higher in search results.
One of the most important factors for financial brands is to produce content that displays a high level of expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness (a concept that Google turned into the acronym “EAT”). This aspect is important for financial brands because of the sensitive information they deal with.
You must commit to providing value to your audience in every piece of content you publish. Whether it’s a blog or a product page or a login screen, your content must answer the question(s) your audience asked to get them there in the first place.
[Free eBook Download: Content Marketing Strategies for Financial Services]
Think small with local SEO
Local SEO may not play a big role for financial service aggregators like Mint or NerdWallet or online banks like Ally or Simple that don’t have a local, physical location, but it can be a powerful SEO asset for financial businesses that heavily rely on local customers and in-person visits.
According to Google, over 80 percent of mobile and desktop/tablet searchers use local search to find services near them. The day after a local search, 34 percent of desktop/tablet users and 50 percent of mobile users made their way to a physical store.
If you haven’t ventured down the local SEO path, the easiest place to start is Google My Business. It’s the free Google directory that lets you put together a clean-looking business profile that pops up when someone searches for your business:
Completing and updating your My Business profile allows you to present local searchers with exactly the information they want to see when they do a search for your business, including hours, contact info and reviews.
Here are a few other things you can do to help boost local rankings and help people nearby discover your business:
Include a location in your meta descriptions
Whether you want to focus on a single city or an entire region, including your territory in your meta descriptions can increase your visibility in local search and increase click-through rate.
Be sure to include the location you want to appear in, the focus keyword you want to rank for and keep it under 300 characters.
Include local keywords in your header tags
While H1 and H2 tags aren’t the powerful SEO signals they used to be, they can still help your readers quickly understand exactly what your content is about, and that matters to Google.
Search Engine Watch argues that header and title tags still matter in local SEO and that these are great places to include an important locality to help you appear more often in local searches.
[Related: Financial Service Brands Winning with Content Marketing]
Quality content is the key
We’ve said it once, and we’ll say it again: The best way to climb up in search is to create high-quality, ultra-relevant content. This is important in any industry, but in financial service marketing in particular.
Make sure your site structure is strong, you’re using the keywords that match what your users search for and you have high-quality content that displays your brand’s expertise and helps your audience tackle the questions that matter most.