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SEO for Financial Services – Marketing for Finance Companies

SEO for Financial Services – Marketing for Finance Companies

The financial services market is one of the single largest in the world. In 2018 it represented more than 7% of total U.S. gross domestic product, comprising tens of millions of jobs and trillions in revenue.

Marketing for financial services means robust and competitive multi-channel marketing campaigns to keep up with competition across sectors like banking, wealth management, insurance, accounting, stocks, mutual funds, and more. One of the biggest forms of digital marketing includes finance SEO.

SEO for financial services is an important first step in internet marketing since it represents the single biggest segment of internet traffic. Research from BrightEdge suggests that 53% of all internet traffic comes through search engines, and that it generates more than 40% of all online revenue. For business-to-business traffic the share is even higher.

Internet marketing and even SEO for finance companies is set to become crucial as now 71% of FSI organizations indicate they intend to increase their digital marketing spend; plus more than 1 in 3 want to prioritize better customer targeting, and more than 3/4ths of all FSI companies are more likely to emphasize the “customer journey” in their marketing – meaning that finance SEO and the “SEO sales funnel” will be core to sustained online growth and finding marketing qualified leads (MQLs).

Since customer experience and personalization is so important to FSI brands – being able to tailor SEO for finance companies means understanding the psychology and search habits that people use.

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Why SEO?

Examples of SEO strategies for finance

Search traffic is the single largest source of web traffic there is – so it’s no wonder that SEO’s return on investment is the highest of any type of digital marketing.

Google alone gets nearly 6 billion searches every day – and improving rankings for high-value search terms means more clicks and more traffic for every business. The average click-through-rate for the #1 position on Google is 19.3% and that CTR drops to nearly half for the #2 spot with just 10%. It’s the most popular method of internet marketing on the planet, and accounts for close to half of all online revenue.

3 out of 4 marketers claim that improving their SEO is their primary goal. So brands that ignore search engine optimization will be the first to lose out.

Keyword research and targeting

The most important first step to search optimization. This step sets the path for other optimization techniques as well as the foundation for content creation, keyword optimization, site design, and even social media content.

SEO for financial service companies means being able to discover the right keywords and to incorporate them into other areas of SEO including meta-data, on-site content, anchor-links, h-tags, and all areas of inbound marketing. It will also help businesses increase the performance of their “cornerstone” content with head-keywords that work best for top-level/nav-bar pages and medium/short-tail keywords best suited for low level pages, blogs, info-pages etc.

Being able to find and target relevant (and accurate) keywords is key to creating a well-done on-page SEO campaign.

  • Valuable FSI related head-keywords are competitive keywords that perform best as ways to catch people at the top of their search funnel – and to make top-level content perform best.
  • Medium-tail and long-tail keywords are longer keywords that are more descriptive that come from searchers that have a better idea of exactly what they want – these are best for lower level content like blogs.
  • “Information queries” or even “transactional queries” are search phrases which strongly imply an intended goal. For finance SEO, blogs or information pages can help businesses with Google search intent marketing that tries to catch potential customers at this stage.

Head keyword search results

On Google, high-level and broad search terms (head keywords) will often show more informational results and fewer actual business/brand results. Like the results below for “business accounting software”

Google search results example for "business accounting software"

This is just an example, but very broad and sort of vague top-of-the-funnel searches like this have much less clear intent – so search engines will show broader results with the hope of getting searchers what they want. This is why “search intent” is so important – and it means, in the world of SEO marketing for financial services, businesses will have to think about what sort of content they can create to get themselves here – since their nav-bar/conversion pages are less likely to show up for these search terms.

Marketing with SEO for finance companies means relying on much broader traffic – specifically for long-tail keywords that match not just your conversion focused landing pages – but also low-level blogs and info pages.

In the example below, Intuit was able to focus instead on keywords involving “small business” “online” accounting software for traffic that’s easier to get and more likely to convert.

SEO with “EAT” content

Content is king, especially in marketing for financial services where brand authority and perceived legitimacy are very important.

SEO for finance companies hinges particularly on high-quality content – simply having content isn’t enough. Businesses should aim to have EAT content – which stands for “Expert, Authoritative, and Trustworthy.” There’s no exact definition for what EAT friendly content for Google is – but their search quality evaluator guidelines help give guidance on what makes content good for SEO.

Content that is expert, authoritative, and trustworthy is not only better for search performance, but it can help improve brand reputation, plus – when the customer’s end goal is in mind – it can help move visitors through the funnel toward conversion. Google describes this idea as “needs met” where high-quality content can be described as meeting the needs of visitors based on their “search intent” and which will get them where they want to go.

With SEO for finance companies and FSI websites – content is particularly important since websites tend to be smaller, and they feature fewer landing pages. Otherwise blog posts, info pages, multi-media content, press releases, and white papers can help trickle in important organic traffic. In fact these are often most important.

For nav-bar pages, guide pages, and long-form blogs – EAT should be the main goal to help improve customer satisfaction and to increase shares.

Google’s webmaster guidelines for content

Content meant for finance SEO should also follow Google’s webmaster guidelines. Their guidelines are key to understanding what makes good content for search, as well as warnings on what sort of bad-practices can lead to penalties.

  • Write content that is meant primarily for users, not for search engines. Again, the best content will actually help your customers get where they want to go, and hopefully guide them toward conversion (like a download or to creating an online account.)
  • Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you’d feel comfortable explaining what you’ve done to a website that competes with you, or to a Google employee. Another useful test is to ask, “Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?”
  • Think about what makes your site or content unique, valuable, or engaging. SEO for finance companies specifically, means making the website stand out from competitors.

Blogs and inbound marketing

Many experienced marketers see info content/blogs as their own stand-alone styles of marketing. 70% of marketers are investing in content marketing, and nearly 1/4th actually want to increase their content marketing output.

Blogs are one of the single best ways of driving trafficking to your site. As part of marketing for financial services, blogs/info articles should be based on long-tail and specific keywords from the keyword research phase – and combined with concepts like “EAT” and “search intent” brands can create content that is high-quality, educational and detailed.

They are also one of the best ways of doing “inbound SEO” which means marketing to individuals that are already interested in your brand’s services/content and just need to find it easily. That can mean a finance SEO strategy with greater conversions and greater ROI.

Here are some ideas for how blogs might help gain traffic from search:

  • Blogs that explain and define FSI terminology
  • Guides for helping customer with tax implications
  • Which sort of services work best for individuals and which work best for B2B companies
  • Answering FAQs for processes, documents, business, savings, investments, and more
  • How to create accounts, close accounts, transfer funds, etc.
  • Helping to understand what sort of service they actually need, for which specific goals
  • Explaining breaking news and industry events
  • Etc.

Search keywords on these topics are a great way of capturing “inbound” interest by focusing on searchers with clear intent, for topics that matter to your brand.

What is YMYL and why is it so important?

YMYL is super important to understand for finance SEO. In Google search, YMYL refers to websites based on “your money or your life” topics.

This means websites that are heavily focused on topics regarding people’s wellbeing, their finances, their health, safety and more. SEO for YMYL websites is especially important in FSI marketing since it applies to financial sector topics like investing, banking, finance-legalities/taxation, certifications, etc.

Although there’s no direct algorithm “ranking signal” for YMYL, the search engine’s algorithm can treat specific topics differently if it knows they are finance related – all with the goal of making sure searchers see only the most accurate and honest results in the search results page (SERP).

Quality, accuracy, authority and freshness are even more important for financial search marketing if Google decides to categorize your site as YMYL.

This is why brands and businesses that fit into “YMYL” topics should focus on important SEO best practices for finance SEO:

  • Avoid “thin content” or lazy, low effort content that can be ranked lower in search, or even penalized.
  • Make sure that content is focused on the best possible user experience – make content understandable, honest, and accurate (like EAT content). Content that is misleading with the intent of monetization or only driving revenue can backfire.
  • Make sure that important industry content and official info is up-to-date, some YMYL topics are affected in SEO by Google’s freshness algorithm update.
  • Avoid intrusive advertising like interstitial ads and “top heavy” ads which Google has condemned.

Meta data optimization

Meta data optimization is one of the most important and successful strategies in SEO. Meta data like title tags and description tags in site HTML are not only used by search engines for rankings – but they also play a huge roll in click-through-rate (CTR) as well as appealing to shopper psychology through search “snippets.”

Especially in the case of optimizing title-tags (like in the square in the image above).

Creating accurate search optimized title-tags is part of why on-page SEO is important in marketing for financial services. Title tags are one of the most important algorithmic ranking factors – and search engines use them to determine keywords, for that reason a good finance SEO campaign should combine keyword research, content writing, and meta data.

Good title tags should:

  • Feature target keywords for better ranking on common target-audience searches.
  • Be accurate and honest about what the page is about – inaccurate titles mean worse SEO and a higher bounce rate.
  • Should be unique and written with natural, human like language (don’t write for algorithms).
  • Clear and concise, too long and they can be truncated by search engines (about 60 characters).
  • Avoid keyword stuffing.
  • Don’t repeat or use boiler-plate meta data.

Title tags that are the correct length or that are optimized for finance SEO have the highest CTR.

Meta descriptions should be written with the same strategies in mind, they should indicate what the page is about, provide the info that people might be looking for – and they should feature important keywords. Afterall, pages with custom meta descriptions have about 5.85% more clicks than those without.

Google gives some insight on why title tags are so important – in SEO for finance companies, it’s a good idea to make sure they also fit with concepts like YMYL and freshness. Accurate, descriptive, and not misleading.

Technical SEO and indexing

There are also technical parts of SEO for finance sites that mean making sure their URLs can actually be found, understood, and indexed by the search indexing “bots.”

It’s important to make sure that there are no issues in the site’s HTML, code or even design that could cause issues leading to bad search engine performance.

  • For content – one of the most important ranking signals – it’s crucial to make sure that search engines can even see it. Site’s should make sure that their content isn’t hidden to Googlebot or Bingbot with “noindex” or “nofollow” commands that prevent indexing (except where wanted).
  • Audit performance metrics like site-loading speed, mobile-friendliness, site-structure, and even Google’s new Core Web Vitals. These sort of technical factors play a greater role in UX focused search optimization and are a big part of customer experience as well as digital marketing for financial services/FSI brands.
  • Build a site that works on smartphones and tablets. Mobile SEO is a complex topic, but involves key elements such as meta viewport tags, page-load speed, mobile friendly UI, and indexability for mobile-first indexing.
  • Make sure a site is crawlable with proper sitemaps, URL canonicalization, proper meta-robots’ commands, and accurate robots.txt files.
  • HTTPS protocol security and mixed content. In recent years Google has emphasized the importance of site security, which means that in SEO for finance companies in particular, making sure that your site (both desktop and mobile) is secure, is very important. It’s especially important for FSI businesses that are considered “YMYL.”
  • Repairing broken site links and 404 pages that can cause a loss of SEO URL ranking authority.
  • Check for bad practices or “black hat” strategies that can lead to “manual action” penalties.

Many marketers use tools like Google’s Search Console to monitor their domain for technical indexing issues or warnings from the search engine. Monitoring and auditing technical SEO can help prevent errors and deindexing problems that can hurt rankings.

What about SEO for Bing?

Thankfully, Bing/Yahoo search engines function largely the same way that Google does – with a few differences.

Part of SEO for finance companies and FSI focused websites means that marketers that build out an optimization campaign for Google will still likely perform on Bing as well.

Bing’s ranking/indexing algorithm uses the same main factors as Google, including: content, HTML meta tags (like <title> </title> tags, and <meta name=”description” tags), backlinks (for example, <a href=”url“></a> links), and even internal anchor text links (ATLs). Plus, Bingbot reads sitemaps and HTML robots commands the same way that Googlebot does.

The biggest differences are that Bing’s algorithm supports Flash content (Google does not), it puts more weight on domain authority signals – and it’s algorithm uses social media popularity/shares as a ranking signal. That means that social presence is a possible strategy in SEO for finance companies, but otherwise Bing does not require a different strategy.

Backlinks are one of the single most important ranking factors in search engines – and “link neighborhoods” are crucial to building rankings for important industry related keywords. The only problem is that there’s no way to manually or intentionally grow backlinks.

Google has specifically condemned link building schemes (strategies like private blog networks, paid-backlinks, and even guest blogging in some cases) and these strategies can even lead to manual action penalties.

For natural backlink growth, Finance SEO strategies should use tried and true methods like high EAT content, blogs, and social media content.

A thorough and high-quality social media presence can help grow brand recognition, content shares, and backlinks by expanding the visibility of brand content. Plus, for FSI SEO, being able to build traffic to low-level pages for long-tail keywords hinges on building backlinks to content like blogs, guides, videos  etc. For algorithms on Bing, social presence is even a minor ranking signal.

B2B marketing for financial services

A lot financial services organizations and companies focus on business-to-business services and commercial site traffic. But this doesn’t make SEO any less important, afterall 57% of business-to-business marketers believe that SEO generates more leads than other marketing strategies.

In this case, the keyword research phase of search engine optimization is the most important since it means finding keywords that are specifically B2B focused and that demonstrate intent from business/commercial searchers.

In B2B keyword research it’s important to pay attention to industry language/terminology, search behavior, and search intent – but also to not ignore “common language” search traffic that you might otherwise miss out on.

Companies can improve their finance SEO strategies by:

  • Doing competitor research to find high-value keywords or to identify niche marketing opportunities
  • Avoiding competitive keywords that are not worth the trouble
  • Isolating uncommon language, synonyms, and keyword variants that can lead to increased traffic margins
  • Combining keywords with EAT content that is detailed, thorough and helpful for professional readers and customers
  • Combining keywords with professional meta-data creation

Data and Analytics

Data is crucial to search optimization and digital marketing. The go-to analytics tools include Google Analytics (including the new Google Analytics 4), Google Tag Manager (GTM), and Google’s Search Console – the data from these tools can be used to measure results that can then be fed back into SEO for a more fine-tuned strategy.

The Analytics Landing Pages reports let’s businesses measure how visitors are arriving to their site, and too see info on new visitors, bounce rate, conversions/CR, and even goal completions (like creating an account or filling out a form) – all with the matching URLs.

Plus the Search Console Performance report gives info on search results impressions, click-through-rate, and average keyword rankings.

All of this is crucial for finance SEO where brands want to focus on removing barriers to conversion, and on easing people along the shopping funnel. Analytics data for SEO lets marketers know which keywords perform well and which ones don’t.

Hiring an SEO agency

A lot of brands build and adjust their own SEO, and many find that the time and effort feels like too much. As search algorithms evolve it can be challenging to keep up with competition and edit on-site content.

Why hire an SEO company? The numbers and the strong ROI of SEO means it’s not really optional, search traffic is so important that it shouldn’t be ignored, but a lot of businesses don’t have the time, expertise, or resources to keep up with it. In the past year alone there have been 10 major Google algorithm updates, with dozens of minor ones – usually only experts can keep up.

The downside of outsourcing is the cost that comes with it for smaller businesses – though even in SME digital marketing it might be worthwhile.

Plus strategic SEO service companies offers a lot of other benefits that companies and webmasters might struggle to get on their own with SEO for finance:

  • Dedicated teamwork for the time-consuming processes of keyword research, content, and implementation on-site.
  • Monthly reporting, KPI tracking, and measuring growth for MQLs.
  • Account management and liaisons that can help create and explain the campaign to match the brand’s goals.
  • Experience with similar clients and industries.
  • Knowledge and expertise in analytics and data analysis.
  • Certification for common search tools – like Google Analytics certification, Search Console, Google Ads partnership, Bing Webmaster Tools, etc.
  • Consultation on technical site optimization and monitoring for errors/warnings.

This option is more involved – but many FSI companies will find that search traffic is so important, and the ROI so tempting that it makes good business sense to hire an agency for finance SEO.

Learn More

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