Marketing Madness

How to Optimize SEO for Financial Websites

Search is a valuable tool for consumers seeking knowledge, guidance and insights. That makes it a powerful engagement driver for brands — especially in the information-intensive financial-services vertical.

As a marketing channel, search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) offer both reach and relevancy. By leveraging both paid and organic search, banks and credit unions can not only deliver their sales and marketing messages at scale but engage consumers in times of need.

Reaching people when they are asking a question — what Google calls “I want to know,” “I want to do,” and “I want to buy” moments — builds trust and points the way to a particular product or solution. And because many web searches have local intent, search marketing can be of specific benefit to the brick-and-mortar side of banking.

While search can drive significant business impact, brands must tread carefully to ensure Google’s algorithm rewards their efforts, rather than penalizing them.

Take a holistic view of your customer journey: Where can it be impacted the most by search? Ask yourself about the moments of consumer need where you can answer a question, provide a solution, or add value in some other way.

“Start with your customers’ decision journey. Work backwards to identify the end goal of any campaign.”

These moments may be generic searches like “personal loan” or searches for your institution’s specific product. In both cases, investing in SEO and SEM will improve your ranking, increase click-through rates, and drive more traffic to your site. The challenge is to invest wisely.

The best approach is to start with your customers’ decision journey. Work backwards to identify the end goal of any campaign. For example, if consumers looking for personal loans typically visit a branch, one of your loan division’s search marketing key performance indicators may be branch visits.

Adopting this as your high-level goal will then inform the rest of your digital approach. In this example, local SEO tactics — such as adding reviews to your branches’ websites or adopting a new URL hierarchy — may provide the best ROI by making your branches more visible in search.

Meeting your customers at their point of need via appearing in their search results will build long-term relationships and ensure you are top of mind for their financial services needs.

Keywords are fundamental to SEO and SEM because they determine the search results in which your brand will appear. The customer journey can drive your initial keyword research. But to take keyword strategy to the next level, look for synergies between your paid and organic search efforts.

“Understanding the terms driving organic search to your site can also inform your paid strategy.”

Should conversions be one of your primary SEO goals, for example, look first at your highest-converting paid keywords. Results from paid campaigns can be determined in a matter of days, allowing you to test new ideas and compare strategies. Once you have a high-level understanding of how paid search drives conversions, you can create an informed SEO program that will limit risk. It will also help you avoid the worst-case scenario of running an SEO program for months with misaligned keywords and KPIs.

Paid-organic synergies can drive more traffic to your site, as well. Focusing your on-page SEO on high-volume paid keywords will improve the relevance of page content and increase your search ranking overall. In time, it could drive down your cost per click.

Understanding the terms driving organic search to your site can also inform your paid strategy. Look for long-tail keywords. These are three- and four-word phrases that are very specific. Your competitors may be neglecting such keywords and you can gain an edge by making them part of your search strategy.

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Pesach Lattin

Pesach "Pace" Lattin is one of the top experts in interactive advertising, affiliate marketing. Pace Lattin is known for his dedication to ethics in marketing, and focus on compliance and fraud in the industry, and has written numerous articles for publications from MediaPost, ClickZ, ADOTAS and his own blogs.

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