SEO has always had lot to do with building links and analytics. While that’s still important, website rankings has a lot more to do with content and social media these days. Modern optimization techniques are about publishing useful content and promoting it through social media and other channels. These elements are how B2B can drive leads and gain high-quality backlinks, which are the foundation of SEO.
The common problem for investment banking and other financial firms when it comes to social and content is SEC/FINRA regulations. No investment banking firm wants to be hit with a huge fine because an employee or third party shared the wrong content. Even so, financial websites can still strengthen their stature by touching on a few key technical aspects of on-page optimization.
Here are the best financial services SEO strategies that will improve online marketing efforts:
1) Competitor Analysis
Finding out the backlinks and ranking status of your competitors is good starting point to developing your own online marketing strategy. Financial is a competitive marketing arena and identifying your competitors’ successes will help save time and reduce campaign costs. To be clear, we’re talking about competitor analysis, not copying their strategy. Copying a competitor’s strategy will not help differentiate you and is a poor SEO strategy. But with a little bit of research, you can review their backlinks and content to learn what they’re doing, where the gaps are, and what sites link to them.
Using tools such as Ahrefs Backlink Explorer, you can perform a competitive analysis and identify news and online resources that are generating PR for your financial rivals. Google uses relevant links from other sources as an important factor when determining the rank for a website. Analyze the type of backlinks your competitor has, then determine if they are mostly coming from directories, blogs or ads.
With this data as your guide, you can form your own technique on how to advance. For example, if you noticed your rival company has a good percentage of backlinks from industry publications or blogs, you can choose to reach out to publications and blogging communities to gain exposure for your website.
2) Gaining Quality Backlinks
Backlinks are considered votes for your site, so building backlinks is like stuffing the search engine ballot box in your favor. They’re important for improving your site’s stature and rankings. Just be sure you’re gaining natural backlinks so you don’t run the risk of being penalized.
There’s a difference between “gaining” backlinks and “building” backlinks. Gaining backlinks is natural and authentic. It means that another site owner or journalist took note of your business and linked to your site. Building backlinks is a tactic of actually placing links on websites, and this can earn you a Google penalty.
Search engine algorithms over the years have become more about high quality content. Google specifically says building backlinks is against their guidelines and will devalue links that are unauthentic or provide little value to readers. Using black-hat SEO tactics to build huge numbers of links from sites that aren’t relevant will hurt your rankings over the long haul. But applying the right mix of on-page optimization, social media, and PR will help you gain backlinks from people who naturally want to share your content.
Here are a few awesome ways to gain authentic backlinks:
- Local listings and citations
- Generating authentic, sharable content such as ebooks, videos, podcasts and other downloadable content
- Image credits
- Mentions in high-profile news outlets such as Forbes.com
People love stories they can relate to, so this is where strategic storytelling helps. Content that strikes a personal chord will go a long way to getting more shares and backlinks. Try to stay away from formal writing that sounds like technical jargon. You want your writing to sound like you’re having a conversation. Showcase your content in the best format based on the platform you are using, i.e. videos for YouTube and quarterly insights on your website, and you will grow your backlinks naturally and authentically.
3) On-Page Optimization
Every website needs a structure that is both search engine friendly and gives users an experience they will love. On-page SEO focuses on the technical aspects of your site so you can do that. You may need to enlist the help of your web developer to assist with making changes to your site.
Here are some areas to help improve on-page SEO:
- Use short, keyword focused URLs. The first 3-4 words are the most important for search
- Add unique meta titles and meta descriptions for each page
- Include long tail or semantic keywords in your content
- Wrap headings and titles in H-tags
- Display social media links
- Link relevant pages internally
More than other industries, financial is all about building trust and credibility. Not paying careful attention to security and broken links will put you at a significant disadvantage with potential clients. Not only do broken links send a bad signal to Google, a broken or hacked site will make customers feel uneasy about entrusting you with their company or finances.
4) Going Mobile
Some businesses see up to 50% of traffic from mobile devices, and there are no signs of this trend slowing down. Having a responsive site is just as important for financial firms as it is for retail and ecommerce businesses. In fact, Google’s latest algorithm has made being mobile-friendly a vital ranking factor. Businesses with responsive sites and mobile apps are given priority on mobile SERPs. If you don’t already have a responsive website, your website is being excluded from mobile queries and may be losing quality leads and traffic.
Even though social and content play a big role in SEO, keywords are still important for ranking. Keyword research will give you insight into user intent, needs, and questions. Once you find keywords that are relevant to your business and that you will have a likelihood of ranking for, it will be easier to create content that drives quality leads and traffic to your site.
Here are some helpful tools for keyword research:
- SEMRush shows who you’re competing with for keywords and what keywords you should be ranking for. You can also see what keywords competitors are bidding on for paid campaigns.
- Google’s Keyword Planner will give you the overall search volume and competition for keywords. The landing page query also shows you what your competition is ranking for.
- Keyword Tool and Ubersuggest are great for keyword mining. You input your word and they’ll find additional keywords and long-tail phrases.
Content is the new creative, the new social, and the new SEO. A well-implemented content strategy establishes authority and builds your financial brand as a market leader within your niche. Not only that, content works hand in hand with search engine optimization. Content marketing not only establishes trust but also gives your website more opportunities to be found.
Don’t limit content to blog posts in your website. Repurpose content into video, Slideshare presentations, downloadable white papers and infographics. The number on cardinal rule is to provide valuable content that will help readers feel like they’re learning something, rather than selling. Insights and educational resources will eventually develop awareness and create advocacy for your brand. The more value you create for customers and prospects, the more you’ll see the rewards of your efforts.
7) Design That Builds Trust
Competitive positioning for financial websites is about creating stone-pillar trust in the online space, and the best SEO and content strategies won’t do much to counter a poorly designed website. Make sure your website tells a story and is up-to-date with trends such as scrolling, minimized navigation, larger fonts and graphic treatments. Incorporate colors, fonts, and imagery that support your value proposition and brand guidelines. Calls-to-action should be clearly distinguished from other elements so that visitors can find them easily and take the next step. Remember that driving targeted traffic is the first half of the SEO equation; building credibility and getting visitors to take action is the second half.
8) Social Media
We’re living in a social world. Not adopting social media can have a negative impact on your competitive advantage, even in the financial space. More and more firms are finding ways to comply with FINRA and SEC regulations and still gain visibility on relevant platforms. Links to your content from social help search engines understand that your website is credible and should be ranked for certain keyword phrases. As more people like, share, and retweet, more credible backlinks are built.
Here are a few of the risks when it comes to financial and social media:
- Social media content must be archived for a period of no less than 3 years.
- It can be hard to distinguish what constitutes a recommendation and what constitutes research (recommendations need to be suitable for everyone).
- Firms are responsible for third-party content such as links and posts.
- Static content is considered an advertisement and must be pre-approved. Social media profiles fall under this umbrella.
- Firms must have a documented social media policy on file.
Remember, these strategies are designed for long-term results—so you may not see obvious changes within the first few weeks. The trick is to smoothly integrate, monitor and adjust for the user experience. With the right combination of SEO tactics, any financial firm can enjoy measurable and sustainable benefits.