WHAT THE FINANCIAL INDUSTRY NEEDS TO KNOW ABOUT SEARCH IN 2018

Darren Fullerton, Head of SEO at Forward3D

Monzo, Atom, Starling – these are all brands that didn’t exist 10 years ago. It’s hard to ignore the power of these new ‘app only’ banks that offer consumers something different to the traditional high street bank. They pride themselves on excellent service and easy to use apps that mean consumers no longer need to go into a physical bank. This doesn’t mean that high street banks are going to disappear altogether and with brands such as Metro entering the high street, they clearly still have a place in the market.

Darren Fullerton
Darren Fullerton

With so much competition in the market, banking brands can continue to thrive by looking at the retail industry for inspiration on their search and social strategies. So, what should be the main focus points for banking brands in 2018?

Slow mobile pages will hurt your ranking

Two major factors are in play with the move to mobile; quality of the content and the speed in which a page loads. Google has ranked desktop sites for page load speed for a few years now, but is due to introduce the same guidelines for mobile search. The rollout is set to begin somewhere around July 2018 – it is unclear at this point in time how many business will be affected by this but it is though that only the slowest websites will see any drops. It is important to note that Google are not pushing faster page load times as a way to drop ranks, it’s more about forcing a change in the industry that will ultimately improve overall customer experiences. .

Analysis on a website can be done to establish the issues that may be causing the page load delay. For brands, the sooner they address these issues the better, as it will create a better user experience as well as assisting with page rankings. Also, for some Brands correcting barriers to faster page load speeds may not be an easy process, it could take months to finally getting things implemented.

Social is a vital tool

Search is no longer confined to traditional search engines like Google and Yahoo, and now includes Amazon and social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Brands need to be aware of these behavioural changes and ensure they develop a strategy that will engage existing and potential customers on all platforms and media types.

It is important that a well defined and consistent social media strategy is created to provide value to the customer in the most relevant manner for each platform. By measuring the impact of each social channel and incorporating this into the overall results to inform future planning. Banks such as Santander are trying to utilise their social channels by ensuring that it creates an environment where consumers can build a relationship with the brand. Rather than measuring success based on engagement, it considers the value of the insight it can gather into consumer behaviour, and then uses this when developing or improving products.

The responsible use of data

Reporting in a cross-channel (online and offline) way is key to making sure all activity is taken into account for future planning and strategy development. Focusing only on journeys where conversions occur is missing out on important insights such as engagement factors, content triggers and other potential audience variables that could assist with targeting.  Digital has been around for a long time, and we continue to push the boundaries and look for new ways to create a better user experience. In fact, our ability to gather data at every touchpoint is far superior than any other traditional media format.

Reporting cross-channel is the only way to be able to understand the impact of the various campiagns and assess how the overarching strategy is performing.  For retail brands, tracking the customer journey is vital, and affects the overall marketing and advertising strategy.

Technological advances including AI have made data processing easier and now it is possible to make sense of the information that brands are collecting. This can then allow brands to optimise campaigns in real time, which is extremely difficult and not efficient to do manually. Despite the challenges involved with the implementation of GDPR, data will remain hugely important to brands.

Learning from retail

Retail brands have been using these practices for a number of years and build their businesses based on customer engagement and loyalty. Although banking brands don’t necessarily engage with their customers through exactly the same touchpoints, there are advantages to taking the same approach. Understanding these trends will allow banking brands to build a relationship with their customers, with the opportunity to build brand loyalty in the longer term. With over 900,000 people switching banks in 2017, these factors are going to be more important than ever.