Jonathan Moore, head of SEO, equimedia
Google is a continually changing beast, one which we must continue to stay ahead, or at least on top of, to reap the rewards. Although as a sector, the financial services industry is continually competing with aggregator sites for a high ranking in terms of page results, investment brands come off particularly unscathed compared to the other products of this industry. The investments market is actually one of the ‘easiest’ to be in (for SEO purposes), as very few aggregator brands appear in the top given positions, on average. This also means there are significant opportunities for new market entrants, demonstrated by the rise of newcomers to the industry such as thebalance.com and cisi.org in the results of a recently completed 9 month research project by equimedia. Within the research we analysed 3,077 key search terms, comparing the top investment brands’ rankings in April 2016 with those at the beginning of this year.
However, despite not having to compete with aggregator sites like many of the other financial brands, investment brands do have independent third party publications to contend with as Google particularly rewards good content creation that addresses users’ information needs. This was highlighted when looking at the top ranking sites within the investment market including providers of extensive content such as telegraph.co.uk and moneyobserver.com. Forbes.com was ranked at number one at the point of our research finishing. However, there are still a number of opportunities available to investment companies looking to improve their SEO ranking. We have listed here the way to create an SEO strategy for your investment brand, drawing on the findings from our report.
For those just starting out on their SEO journey, preparation is key:
- Technical SEO excellence
Interestingly, several large brands, particularly in the insurance and loans market, have fallen foul of badly implemented migrations to https:// or poorly executive technical SEO. Ensuring technical excellence in the management and maintenance of your site can make or break an SEO strategy, so attention to detail is fundamental to your ability to benefit from your investment in content creation and amplification.
- Do keyword research
Before you can manage on-page optimisations, you need to have a clear idea of what you want to rank for. Although it is important to identify what areas you want to be visible, you need to be realistic. Research on the keywords that customers are using at every stage of their search journey is vital to understand where you can make content improvements which deliver value.
- Customer profiles
Build your ideal customer profiles for your specific products or services to help you understand more about their specific portfolio needs, characteristics, habits and preferences. This can help your search content strategy inform each stage of a customer’s purchase decision journey.
- Analyse the content you have
Once you understand your customers, you can review your existing content with the knowledge you have gathered, to identify any gaps and understand whether your current site and its content is fit for purpose. It is also vital you regularly assess and reassess your content compared to that of your competitors, to spot weaknesses and identify new opportunities for your offering.
Once you have completed the preparation phase, or if you already have an SEO strategy in place, below we highlight the key components of an SEO strategy.
- Content development
Once you have conducted the research laid out in the preparation phase, it is important to prioritise the content that now needs to be created. Identifying key market events, business events, product launches and seasonality helps to align relevant content to key periods across the year and allows you to map out what needs to be created, and by when. Just remember, online content must demonstrate expertise, authority and be trustworthy. Above all, it must be search engine optimised to ensure it is indexable by the search engines.
- Content amplification
The key to a successful content campaign hinges on how well it is made visible and broadcast, and how well it is able to generate organic links from authoritative third parties. Ensure your content is readily shared across social channels, incorporated into your paid search strategy and considered for display campaigns to target relevant audiences. Remember, it’s not just about search engine visibility, people are actively looking for education and information on investments, and your brand can help!
The ethos of control, test and learn, still applies to content marketing. Understanding content performance allows insights to be built around your audience and how they are engaging with your content, which should then inform your future strategies.
In conclusion, the financial services organic and paid for search market is highly competitive, but as our analysis reveals, there are still opportunities to rank well in every sector. It is still possible to grow organic site rankings and visitors through an SEO strategy paying particular attention to detail at the preparation stage. This is fundamental to a financial services business’s ability to benefit from investment into content creation and amplification.