Developing and implementing an effective SEO strategy in the financial services industry can be a real challenge. SEO for any business can be tough, but the financial services sector brings even more complexity than most and there are some unique areas to consider.
In this blog post, we look at several of the biggest challenges that financial service brands face when it comes to SEO, and how to overcome or work around them successfully. We also look at the other elements needed for an effective financial services SEO strategy to help drive increased highly relevant organic traffic to the website.
- Common problems with SEO for financial services
- Other elements needed for effective financial services SEO
- Setting your financial services business up for SEO success
Common problems with SEO for financial services
The UK financial services sector is highly regulated and it’s a constantly evolving industry. Trying to please the regulators, while building trust with customers and offering consistent service is not easy. We dig into some of the major issues that marketers face when trying to implement SEO for financial services brands.
Getting buy-in for financial services SEO in the first place
For some more established or traditional financial services brands, some aspects of digital marketing can be still somewhat new territory and it isn’t always easy to gain the necessary buy-in for SEO from stakeholders.
Doing your research and understanding exactly who you need to convince that SEO is going to be a valuable channel is essential. Working out what the barriers are means that you can formulate a strong business case and pitch for SEO that will answer any questions and concerns, while using real data to support your points.
Take a look at our blog post on getting buy in for SEO to find out how to construct a solid plan to get the ‘votes’ you need.
Ineffective keyword research and mapping
The search terms that people use to find the information they are looking for is always going to be an important part of SEO, but choosing which keywords to target as part of your SEO strategy isn’t always as simple as it might first seem.
Looking at keyword research through the lens of search intent and taking into account not just search volume but how competitive a term is organically will help ensure that you choose keywords to target that will actually make a difference to your financial services business.
Achieving first page rankings for a generic search term that stands virtually no chance of converting into a customer is generally not a good use of time or resource, but identifying commercial or transaction-focused terms and targeting them on the right pages of your website can be a total gamechanger in terms of achieving your business objectives through SEO.
Read more about conducting intent-led keyword research.
Compliance bottleneck for optimised content
A common frustration when it comes to implementing an SEO strategy in this sector is that much of the activity is likely to be content-led and all content for financial services brands tends to have to go through a strict compliance process. Whilst the reasons for this are sound; the regulation of financial services in the UK makes it necessary for content to be checked and sometimes amended before being published, it often results in a major bottleneck forming. This can be the case both for the optimisation of existing content as well as the creation of new content to help achieve SEO objectives.
Our key advice for getting around this includes:
- Having open lines of communication with the compliance team so optimised content can be planned and queued at times that work best for them
- Create strict content guidelines at the start of the project (in coordination with the compliance team) that all new content will adhere to, so the time spent checking and any amends required are minimal
- Give the compliance team a heads-up if any high-priority or urgent content is needed by a specific deadline.
Slow implementation of technical SEO fixes
In a similar way, the implementation of technical tweaks required for SEO will often need a developer to action. In many financial service businesses, this web development support needs to be planned well in advance, sometimes even months in advance, which can significantly delay the benefits and SEO results.
Our advice for navigating this kind of issue includes:
- Ensuring that communication with the development team is clear and agree a process e.g. if they work in sprints, how far in advance will they need your recommendations and in what form should the requests be?
- Attributing a priority level to every action, so that the development team can focus on the tweaks that will make the biggest difference first.
Other elements needed for effective financial services SEO
Along with dealing with issues like those already mentioned that can be quite particular to financial services SEO projects, there are many elements that help make sure a strategy in this sector stands the best possible chance of success. We look at these below:
A comprehensive SEO audit
We’ve already mentioned technical SEO tweaks but determining what needs to be done in this area in the first place means that an in-depth audit will be required of the existing website. Having a good grasp of where things stand currently and historically provides essential context to the strategy you’ll develop.
Using SEO research and audit tools, such as SEMrush and Screaming Frog, can take some of the manual data gathering burden and are a great starting point, but being able to gain actionable insights from audit data and prioritising the resulting actions is where the real value lies.
Competitor SEO analysis in the financial services sector
Knowing where your website currently sits in the context of your competitors (and why) is a crucial part of any financial services SEO strategy. Knowing what keywords they are targeting and how well they are ranking for these, how they are gaining backlinks, what content marketing activity they are doing and how their website is structured are all important pieces of information that you can use when developing your own strategy.
You might choose a completely different approach to theirs, because you can see parts of their activity that aren’t working so well, or find opportunities that they haven’t yet utilised. However you decide to proceed, understanding your competitors and their approach to SEO is always useful for your own strategy and measurement of success.
Content audit and strategy development
Search engines continue to place huge importance on high-quality, useful and expert content that is geared towards the target audience and optimised for search intent. For this reason, content plays a significant role in effective SEO strategies and it’s important to evaluate existing content and performance before starting to create anything new.
As with SEO audits, there are content audit tools that can help with some of the data gathering, but content auditing includes checking quality and various usefulness criteria as well as how a specific page fits into the user journey and the function it performs. This means that a certain level of manual review is needed, combined with on-page factors and performance data to highlight if changes are needed and whether a page needs updating, removing or consolidating.
Take a look at the guidelines included in Google’s Helpful Content Update to find out what every page of content should aim for.
A multi-faceted link earning strategy
Gaining backlinks to your financial services website from other relevant and authoritative sites is something that has long been part of effective SEO strategies, but in an industry such as financial services, where trust is a huge factor in whether a customer chooses you, it’s of even more importance.
A link from an authoritative website is basically like them giving you a vote of confidence, but earning links isn’t always easy or straightforward, especially in the financial services sector. This is why having several facets to your strategy can help gain more links of different types. Some of the areas to look at include:
- Content marketing – creating a linkable asset or using unique data to become a source of stats that people will link to
- Digital PR – generating news coverage (including a link) of relevant stories on media websites that your target audience are engaged with
- Expert comments and interviews/podcast appearances – with a named expert acting on behalf of your brand offering thought leadership insights
- Link reclamation – discovering brand mentions on relevant websites that you can ask to be updated to a link. The same principle goes for relevant broken links on other websites that could point to yours instead.
Having robust tracking and reporting set up to monitor performance and evolve your SEO strategy
An often-overlooked aspect of an SEO strategy in any industry is ensuring that the right SEO metrics are being measured for your specific needs and business objectives. Not only can these be used for reporting, but also for highlighting areas of the strategy or activity that are not contributing as they should to the overall business goals. You can dig into this to discover why and can adjust the plan if needed. This helps you to evolve the strategy as you go, rather than just ploughing on and hoping for the best.
Setting your financial services business up for SEO success
While this blog doesn’t contain an exhaustive list of every single thing that could be included in a financial services SEO strategy, it does provide a robust framework on which you can build a plan that’s right for your needs.
By researching, planning and preparing properly before you start to implement any SEO activities, you can help smooth the path and save time later, helping to ensure that your strategy can start to deliver results without running into frustrating bottlenecks and delays.
If you’re looking for some help with your financial services SEO strategy or performance management, we’d love to hear from you. Get in touch using the form below.