The importance of nurturing your SEO strategy in a competitive financial services market
It’s not news to state that the Financial Services space is more competitive than ever
Last year, a report from Citi Bank predicted that up to 30 per cent of current employees in banks across Europe and the US may lose jobs to technology by 2025, challenger banks like Metro Bank have shaken up the landscape in recent years, and Fintech firms are continually entering the market with new offerings for customers.
Challenges exist in the digital space as well as on the high street – independent research online and the prominence of financial aggregators like Money Saving Expert mean that consumers no longer have to rely on financial advisers when considering products and services. In today’s market, when it comes to getting in front of consumers looking for financial products, the important of Google search rankings cannot be overstated – it is how people research and make financial decisions in the modern age.
The Financial Times recently reported that mobile advertising made up more than half of US digital ad spend last year, underlying the prevalent and increasing use of smartphones to find news and consume media. Google has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the growth in the digital advertising market and the increase in ad revenue could signal a further shift from a ‘mobile first’ strategy to a ‘mobile only’ one, emphasising the importance of developing and sustaining a Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) strategy to improve ranking results.
In such a crowded and competitive space, how can banks ensure that their businesses and products are easily discoverable through Google? There are a few key things to consider, and we have recently conducted research over a nine month period for our white paper Has Google breathed new life in financial services SEO?by analysing the rankings of the 3,077 most commonly used insurance and financial services search phrases to see which brands are performing well and which ones need to revisit their strategy to improve results, across eight financial services categories. We compared these before and after Google’s Penguin algorithm update to see how the top 20 natural search ranking on Google across the eight categories had changed.
Here are some of the key learnings from our findings that will help you ensure your business and products are easily discoverable through Google:
Migrate to an https:// site and make sure your SEO basics are in order
First, if you haven’t already done so, you must plan your businesses’ site must transition to an https:// domain as it is the now the preferred protocol for security reasons. Not making the change and/or conducting a poorly managed migration can have a negative impact on rankings. In the insurance rankings, Sainsburysbank.co.uk rose five slots over the period of our research, likely thanks to a well-executed migration.
Preparing for a site migration is also a good opportunity to conduct a site audit and make sure all of your SEO basic best practices are up to standard e.g. remove dead pages and links from your site to improve credibility and make sure you do not have duplicate pages live under different URLs. Neglecting site basics such as these will send confusing signals to Google.
Develop useful content for consumers looking for financial products
Once your site is fully transitioned, the single most important thing you can do is develop a healthy content strategy. The way that people employ search has changed, instead of just searching for ‘mortgage providers’ people are now more likely to search for a specific question like, ‘What is the best high street mortgage lending rate?, or ‘Compare interest rates.’
Your content should be informative, rooted in answering the implied need of searches and provide the answers that your prospective customers are looking for. It should also be original to your site and products, as Google will downgrade pages with duplicated content. This is why aggregators like Money Saving Expert and Money Supermarket perform so well in search rankings – their sites are content rich and take cues from specific search terms e.g. ‘best rate savings accounts.’
A solid development strategy does pay off; Tescobank.co.uk gained visibility in the ISA market over our research period thanks to a strategy designed to answer users’ queries and provide valuable information by creating specific landing pages for niche search terms like ‘fixed rate cash ISAs.’
Trial paid for activity
It is also worth considering incorporating a paid-for element into your content strategy to boost brand and product related searches throughout the customer journey. When implementing paid-for components into your marketing strategy, it is important to adopt a ‘test, analyse and learn’ approach. Google analytics is an effective tool, helping you to determine how your investment will benefit your business and the results of paid for campaigns can show where consumer interest lies and further inform your content development.
When testing paid-for activity it is important to monitor search trends and keyword changes as well; these need to be reviewed regularly so that your business can create new content to answer changing consumer needs. In the mortgage rankings, change was likely driven by searches for terms like ‘help to buy’ and other first time buyer schemes.
Amplify your content via social platforms
Once you have established a solid content strategy for your website, then it is time to think about how your content can be amplified via social media. Social engagement from moneyadviceservice.org.uk increased their ranking during our period of research, likely due to their informative content attracting those researching financial products to their site.
In practice, your content strategy and social media profiles must work hand in hand to boost your products’ visibility and broaden the availability of your content to attract both customers’ eyes and Google’s algorithm’s attention.