The finance industry is by far the most competitive sector on the internet. Premium search results are littered with high street banks, superior websites and black hat ninjas. When it comes to finance, dominating page one on Google can be a frustrating minefield. However, get it done right and you can reap the rewards of a highly profitable campaign.
The pressure for financial companies to generate leads has never been greater. Being found on the net for premium terms is essential. The financial sector is extremely ‘online savvy’ and the consumer is prepared to do their research. However, they want quick answers and a natural listing on Google is the quickest way to do this. Rank for the right term and you can generate high converting traffic with an excellent return on investment.
With potential profit comes great competition. If you’re thinking about competing in the finance sector be prepared for blood sweat and tears. Profitable searches will include comparison websites, high street banks, online banks, affiliate domains, one week wonders, brokers, private lenders, black hat gurus and anyone crazy enough to have a punt.
Depending on the sector, you could also be up against some brutal tactics including site scraping, page one domination, DOS attacks and link sabotage. Still want to compete?
You Can Still Achieve Results
Although the market is extremely competitive you can still get remarkable results with the right SEO strategy in place. This does not include short cuts or quick gains. To achieve sustainable results you need to focus on the following:
As with any SEO campaign you need to carry out thorough research. My suggestion would be to focus on conversions rather than volume. If you have access to your AdWords or Analytics then look at the ‘all time highest converting keywords’. Nine times out of ten the highest converting keyword will be a long tail phrase rather than a generic term.
On Page Foundations
In an industry balanced on fine margins it is imperative you tick all the on page boxes. It’s amazing how many players fall behind simply because they don’t adhere to the Google Webmaster Guidelines. Make sure you have:
A finance site needs to be quick. Does it need to be quick for search engines? No, it needs to be quick for users. This knock on effect will be rewarded by search engines. Users enquiring about industries like PPI Claims, Insurance or Loans want an instant decision. If you have a slow form this will have a negative impact on your bounce rate, which is a ranking factor.
Broken links are an issue in any industry, but when it comes to finance you can experience quick drops if you don’t keep on top of this regularly. Make sure you have a dedicated 404 page to redirect any lost customers.
Content is by far the most important foundation of SEO for the finance industry. You are going to need top established writers who can put together comprehensive content. Writers who can research a sector and become an industry expert.
If you have a solid writer who knows the industry inside out you are one step closer to achieving your goal. A top writer can provide sales copy to convert visitors. They can churn out up-to-date blog content to entice search engines. Most importantly, they can create unique articles that can be used to create quality inbound links to your domain.
Having a well run blog is imperative for SEO in the finance industry. If you do your research there are thousands of un-answered questions that YOU can answer. Topics like:
Can I get a same day loan if I only work part time?
Have I been miss-sold payment protection insurance?
Is car insurance cheaper if you get your pass plus?
You can find out what people are asking by using tools like Wordtracker Questions, Yahoo Answers and Ask ‘Q&A’. If you can answer questions and give feedback on current topics you will harbour appropriate traffic. This in turn can boost internal relevance as well as featuring your site in Google news.
Of course, you need link building but not any old links will do. To compete with mature domains and superior link profiles you need a varied approach.
Directories are still a great way to build a range of valuable backlinks to your site. The more industry related they can be the better. I would include a range of free and paid submissions but try and stay clear of sitewide proposals. Below are three finance related directories to get you started:
Articles / Hubs
Good quality articles and hub pages are an excellent way to gain referral traffic and quality inbound links. Reaching out to the financial community and providing useful ‘How To’ guides is the best way to harbour new visitors.
As well as using a variety of article sites, the following Hub sites are useful resources:
Being a finance company, you always have newsworthy stories. Do you have a new service? Have you updated part of the site? Has the domain had a redesign? Do you have a special offer? All these topics are worthy of distributing a press release which in turn can be a valuable link building source. However, the bigger the news, the better the coverage is likely to be, so never hold back a good story. A good example would be the recent Barclays Pingit release which includes anchor text and social links.
Infographics are an excellent way to answer customer queries. If there is a common question that keeps cropping up answer it with a detailed diagram explaining the process. Embedding a link and sharing through social media can be extremely effective.
Mint.com have recently published an excellent example of an infographic: Are Parents Open With Their Kids About Financial Matters?
Guest Blog Posts
It will help to have a dedicated account manager who has access to industry publishers. The more you can network with journalists and reach out to appropriate web properties, the better chance you will have of gaining great links and referral traffic from valuable domains. Offer great free content to finance blogs and receive links in return.
For more information on the benefits of guest blogging check out our video guide:
Bookmarking your content can be a great way to build additional authority around your backlinks. Submitting your blog content and articles to sites like www.oneview.com is an excellent way to reach out to different networks.
If you want a sustainable SEO campaign you need to establish a reputable brand. This means securing all the top web properties and managing successful social media projects. Engaging content and newsworthy press releases can help grow a brand and sustain trustworthy return visits.
The more you can gain the trust of users, the more you will gain the trust of search engines. Encourage reviews from your customers. Natural reviews on sites like www.reviewcentre.com can be linked to your rich snippet rating. This will increase your Click through Rate which is also an important ranking factor.
Some may think finance is not a very social topic but there is certainly a lot to talk about. Be proactive with your social media and you will reap the rewards. If you have a blog it is worth populating your social platforms with the content. Building a sustainable list of followers and ‘likes’ shows both users and search engines that you are a trusted brand.
Facebook is an excellent way to interact with customers and answer frequently asked questions. If you can give users an incentive to ‘like‘your page i.e. a discount then you can build up a community with the potential to remarket. Our guest blog post on ‘How to set up a business Facebook page’ will help you get started.
The Wonga Facebook page is an excellent example of a financial company using Facebook to encourage social signals. They encourage likes with unique competitions like Joyce’s Jubilee Raffle.
Twitter can help you connect with potential customers in real time. Again, populate this with your blog content and you will start to achieve a valuable user-base.
If you are new to Twitter we have some quick guidelines to help set up a Twitter Account for a Business.
While Google Plus is not on the same level as Facebook and Twitter it imperative to current SEO projects that you create a fee business page. Social signals and brand citaions through this network will be a very important indicator as search develpos in 2012. Again, populate with your latest blog content.
If you want to make the most of Google Plus for your business why not download our free white paper.
Adhering to industry guidelines is just as important as adhering to the Google Guidelines. Make sure you have a comprehensive FAQ section. Make sure you list the correct company number. Is the WhoIs data correct? Certain financial sectors will require different things. A few examples include:
If you are unsure what to provide I would contact the industry body or have a meeting with the local trading standards officer.
When working in the finance sector you want to gain the trust of users and search engines. Don’t hide in cyberspace; show off your physical address. Register a Google Places profile and create pages on local sites like Yelp, Qype, Brownbook and HotFrog. You will be rewarded for your openness and this will also encourage customer reviews.
If you’re entering this fierce market you need to be prepared to make regular checks. Part of your SEO strategy will be to research external influences. This could be anything from a competitor site scrape to intentional links from a bad neighbourhood.
Regular web log reviews will help you identify any unusual activity from similar IP addresses (i.e. the threat of a Dos attack). If you do spot a large amount of unnatural traffic from a particular geographic location you can block by region.
Weekly or even daily duplicate content checks with tools like Copyscape will help you see if any competitors have used your content. It will also help you stay on top of internal issues.
Regular link analysis with sites like Opensite Explorer, Google Webmaster Tools and Majestic SEO will ensure that you stay on top of any potential risks. If you sort your links by IP address, anchor text and volume you can quickly spot unnatural patterns. With the recent Penguin update in mind I would suggest a variety of anchor text leading towards at least 40% brand name.
If you do spot suspicious backlinks we would suggest removing from the web property.
Not sure what links to remove? Try our quick guide.
So there you have it. The finance sector is extremely competitive but with the right strategy can be extremely rewarding. If you focus on all of these areas you will have a strong case to compete for some premium terms.
For more information on our financial SEO please take a look at our award winning case studies.
Financial graphs and charts via BigStock
Hey there… Realy good post and super informative which I like!
A few years on and this post is still very relevant, thanks a lot Oliver. The largest issue we’re currently dealing with is trying to manage a large set of insurance products with limited resources and budget.
Regarding Google + though, would you say that this has become even more important for SEO since originally posting?
Thanks again, Tom.
A great post Oliver. This industry is so mega competitive and being watched so closely by Google that only a very high standard of SEO will work in the long-term. Great guide, thanks, James
On the topic of FSA compliance, it all depends on the type of site your run. If your site is a journalistic site then of course there is no need. If however you are offering financial advice, that’s a whole other ball park.
Oh by the way though two of the directories listed are down. ;-)
Great article, Oliver.
My biggest ‘challenge’ (read: problem) with building links in the finance industry is the whole issue surrounding FSA compliance. What’s your advice to SEOs on how to handle something that can cause a lot of grief: limiting keyword use, causing delays (e.g. while compliance officers check things over), and overall potentially killing creativity?
This is a pretty solid guide !
I have worked in quite a few competitive industries and think that your guide has pretty much covered everything that one can do to compete in such fierce marketplace.
Competitive research is another important aspect that one should look into while doing optimization. It can help you a great deal to see the competitors strong and weak points (aka SWOT Analysis). I have found it to be very effective while doing optimization for my clients.
For link building, you have already covered quite a few methods but for me, I had some good success with ‘ broken link building’ and managed to get high quality links from sites such as BBC using that technique.
That sounds interesting Yasir – what did you do? Point out a broken link to a reference in a story, and offer yours instead? Very interested to hear how you persuaded the BBC to link to you this way!
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